Archive for 19/10/2015


The Alcobaça game

Source: The Alcobaça game

WP_20150909_12_43_35_ProFollowing our ‘Hebridean Hop’ we went on to stay for a week in Northumberland with 6 old friends, in a house we’d been to before (we rent out a house for a week in different locations every year – this was our sixth consecutive holiday together). It is usually a stay involving (too) much food, drink as well as trips to interesting places and walks on beaches and in the countryside.

On one of the days we travelled south towards Morpeth to a National Trust property I’d wanted to visit for some time- in fact the last time we were here, but for a mistake in reading the road signs, we would have visited then. Anyway, despite a couple of wrong turns this time (including using Satnav) we eventually made it.

Wallington Hall was gifted by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, Socialist MP and ‘illogical Englishman’. The Hall features huge pre-Raphaelite paintings around the Central Hall, beautiful furniture, treasured collections and quirky curiosities; and it was great seeing volunteers baking in the kitchens (free samples) and on hand to explain things. I also loved seeing some old letters and newspapers out on display- these added a real sense of time and place to the house. There was also a well crafted exhibition in one room on utopias. My own contribution to the personal ‘visions’ wall?- ‘Globalisation= collective responsibility’

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The 13,000-acre estate was too big to explore in one day, but we made sure to see the hidden walled garden, nestled in the woods.  It was beloved by Lady Mary Trevelyan and remains a beautiful haven whatever the season.  Entering through Neptune’s Gate, you sweep down a stone staircase, by the Mary Pool and soak up the tranquil atmosphere; this is special place for our friends John and Ann, who, along with Richard and Ann, were with us on the day.

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We wandered past colourful borders, which because of its northerly location, gave late summer ‘oomph’, even though it was September when we visited. The planting combinations in the herbaceous borders and further afield in the walled garden, are a triumph. This was once a productive kitchen garden but is no almost entirely ornamental. It slopes gently and a natural stream meanders through it, which creates a wide range of planting and design opportunities. There is also an elevated terrace walkway with a splendid glasshouse to one side, full of tender specimens and beautifully presented.

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This is definitely another of those ‘Garden of Smiles’- almost at every turn there is a feature or planting group that just works.

WP_20150909_12_25_57_ProFurther information: National Trust website

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