Tag Archive: devon


I’ve loved Castle Drogo in Devon for many years. A classic Lutyen’s design, the house is as imposing (forbidding?) as the entrance suggests. The gardens are relatively modest for somewhere so grand, I guess partly because of the site perched on a granite outcrop overlooking Drewsteington and Dartmoor beyond.

Our recent visit coincided with a long standing and major renovation project on the house; basically re-roofing to stop water penetration. The story goes that Lutyens used a relatively untested asphalt covered flat roof system when the place was built, and over time this has broken up and so water is getting in where it shouldn’t. It’s a multi million pound project and we were able to climb an external stairway (my other half very warily), to see the work underway, beneath a huge ‘tent’ that encases the whole of the roof and must make for a resonably comfortable work space, notwithstanding the site’s exposed position.  We had a very interesting guide to the works, which are imposing some limits on the areas of the house open to the public, but heh ho, never mind. There was a rather interesting ‘installation’ of many many different kids of clock in one of the rooms!

We concluded our visit with a stroll through the split level gardens,a nice mixture of herbaceous perennials giving a late summer boost of colour and some grasses just coming into their own.

Old School Gardener

Further information: Castle Drogo- National Trust website.

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Our second recent Devon garden trip was to the beautifully located Overbecks- a house full of curiosity and a garden of sub tropical exoticism. The house itself is perhaps nothing special , but it contains a panoply of collected items and interesting artefacts accumulated by the original owner, a German inventor called Otto Beck. A room of dolls houses (witha lowered door opening to make the point that this is a room for youngsters), and dispays of bird eggs, stuffed anumials rocks and so on, make this a house of wonder.

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The gardens- another example of a Devon valley being used to great effect in creating a sub tropical microclimate- is wonderful, with a winding path taking you around the wide range of interesting plants , and the occasional view across Salcombe Bay. It was a sunny day and we had a delicious meal on the terrace.

Further information: National Trust website

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On a recent trip to Devon we revisited a couple of favourite National Trust properties on the south coast. The first, Coleton Fishacre, is an arts and crafts house and garden originally owned by the D’Oyly Cart family of ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’ musical fame. The house, built in the 1920’s, is furnished in period style and provided an interesting example of a homely scale house, in contrast to so many huge ‘vanity projects’ of the pre First World War age.

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But even more impressive is the garden with its typical valley microclimate providing the opportunity to grow some rather exotic species. I was especially impressed with the borders near to house with the array of Echiums in full flower and a splendid alpine raised bed. The wider estate is a rich mix of trees and shrubs with some wonderful views towards the sea. Well worth a visit.

Further information: National Trust website

 

I’m a Bellever

A few pictures from a recent walk to Bellever Tor and back to Postbridge, Dartmoor. Glorious day, interesting walk, stunning views and fascinating ‘clapper’ bridge at Postbridge.

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On a recent visit to Tavistock, I went over to see how the extended ‘Devon Wall’ I’d seen some months ago was looking…though mainly shades of green now, as most flowering is in the spring time, it was looking superb. Well done that gardener!

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Ingra Tor, Dartmoor...a favourite place

Ingra Tor, Dartmoor…a favourite place, visited recently

My wife and I had Sunday lunch at a pub (‘The Trout and Tipple’) in Tavistock, Devon a couple of months ago. It was hot and sunny, so we decided to sit outside in a secluded courtyard…with its own magnificent Gunnera plant providing us with some welcome shade.I was amazed by the close up of the leaf structure, which resembles an aerial shot of an urban landscape…

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Old School Gardener

Plant Fest

WP_20160529_10_37_40_ProWhilst down in Devon recently, one sunny Sunday morning I wandered into Tavistock Pannier Market to the Tavistock Garden Festival. It was busy.

There was a lovely range of displays by local nurseries all vying for our trade, as well as some other trades people with garden ornaments and practical garden items. I was tempted…and succumbed, buying three rather unusual plants, all of which now adorn the pond garden here at the Old School: a beautiful white Camassia (I’ve already saved seed from this and hope to propagate further plants), a Sanguisorba with a mix of red flowers and nicely cut foliage and a rather nice Geum, with golden yellow flowers nestling on pinkish red bases.

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En route to West Devon recently we had time for a brief afternoon stop at this wonderful National Trust property just outside Tiverton.

The house was built by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, creator of the mechanised bobbin lace making machine and owner of a lace factory in Tiverton.

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The foundation stone was laid in 1869, but it was not until 1873 that the elaborate interior designs were completed. William Burges, designer of Knightshayes, had a rocky relationship with the family and was fired half way through the project, leaving his imaginative vision incomplete.

Burges was replaced by another reputable designer, John Dibblee Crace, who turned out to be another ill-fated choice. Much of Crace’s work was covered up by the family, but later restored by the Trust.

We only had time to see the ‘Gothic Revival’ house and its colourful interiors (the Trust has imaginatively opened up some of the unrestored rooms too)  and quick tour of the formal gardens. These were originally designed by Edward Kemp (1817-1891), a reputable landscape gardener, but it fell into decline by the 1920s. Rescued by Sir John and Lady Heathcoat Amory, after the Second World War, the garden became one of the finest in England, winning the highest horticultural awards, with more than 1,200 species unique to Knightshayes. This garden has a very strong structure created by extensive Yew hedging and some amusing topiary animals scampering along the tops!

The restored Walled Garden was also an interesting spot, with its steeply sloping site being used to grow vines the ‘French Way’.

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Knightshayes is certainly worth another, longer visit, when we can also explore the woodland garden… on the way out we stopped at a new ‘natural play’ site which cleverly uses three huge toppled oak trees to create a series of walkways, swing points, tunnels and other features.

Further information: Knightshayes National Trust website

Old School Gardener

WP_20150721_12_59_38_ProI’ve posted about Buckland Abbey in Devon (the former home of Sir Francis Drake), before. I thought I’d add a few pictures from a visit a couple of months ago, when the gardens (especially the Cider House) were looking very attractive.

I also loved the combination of different textures on stone floors and walls…

Oh, and I found this Magnolia seed head (I think it’s from a grandiflora), and brought it home with a view to trying to harvest seed and growing my own…it could be a few years before I have anything to show for it!

Further information:

The gardens at Buckland Abbey, Devon – National Trust web site

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