Archive for 08/09/2014


The very pretty 15th century Château de Chaumont, high on a cliff overlooking the Loire river, is the setting for the annual Festival des Jardins.

Chateau de Chaumont Chateau de Chaumont

The Castle itself has an interesting history – inhabited by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century, she entertained astrologers here, including Nostradamus, and took a great interest in the Arts and Architecture. On the death of her husband, Henri II, she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who had exerted great power at court, to relinquish her Château de Chenonceau in exchange for Chaumont.

View of the Loire from Chaumont View of the Loire through the old windows of the Chateau

The Castle has extensive parkland and here one can visit the 20 or so gardens which form part of the Festival. Each year a Theme is chosen – this year it was Jardins des péchés capitaux or “Gardens of the 7 Deadly Sins”. Unlike many…

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One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

headerimgHeld over 5 days from the 1st September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Union’s annual Africa Green Revolution Forum this year was centred on the AU designated ‘Year of Agriculture and Food Security’ and the political will needed to achieve sustainable food and nutritional security across the continent.

In conjunction with the 2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security, a report from the AU Commission, presented as a feature issue of the AU ECHO newsletter, highlights stories and experiences from member states of the African Union and from regional institutions as they have worked to implement the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) over the last 10 years. For example in Rwanda the joint Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) and National Nutrition Survey of 2012 showed that the proportion of households failing to meet minimum food requirements declined from 35% to 21%, in part…

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Lancelot Capability Brown

I recently made a visit to the National Trust property of Wallington, situated in Northumberland and not very far from the birthplace of our man ‘Capability’ Brown. I was intrigued and keen to follow-up the connection between this impressive estate, Lancelot’s older brother George and our man Brown.

Wallington+Hall Wallington’s East front. © Gary Webb 2014

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While holidaying around Cambridge earlier in the year we stopped off on our travels to have a wander around the gardens at Cliveden, the one time home of Nancy Astor. She was an English MP even though American born. Her second marriage was to Waldorf Astor who inherited to a peerage and entered the House of Lords. Nancy was the first ever woman to be a member of the House of Commons, but also gained notoriety as a Nazi supporter.

Her garden turned out to be a garden planted in a style we do not actually like but definitely “of its time”. We are definitely not fans of formal gardens or bedding schemes and here we found both but viewed from an historic perspective they were interesting. Classical figures, topiary and “grand fountains” are also not my style but Jude the Undergardener, being more of a history buff doesn’t mind…

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Jardin en al Casar, Madrid by Fernando Martos Perez de Ayala

Jardin en al Casar, Madrid by Fernando Martos Perez de Ayala


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