Tag Archive: national trust


Our second trip to a notable Lake District house and garden was Sizergh Castle, an imposing house standing proud at the gateway to the Lake District. Still lived in by the Strickland family, Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs. The exceptional wood panelling culminates in the Inlaid Chamber, returned here in 1999 from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

‘A true patchwork of styles, taking a stroll through the House will lead you from the base of the medieval solar tower, through the Elizabethan interiors, into the French regency-styled Drawing Room and beyond. Cherished family photos sit alongside precious antiques, linking the past with the present day. In a house full of contrasts, fine craftsmanship can be seen throughout, from the impressive collection of Gillows furniture, to the stunning Italian-designed ceilings. They all have stories to tell, not least of all the splendid Victorian dining table, which awaits your uncovering of its tales and secrets. From the Battle of Agincourt, to the fight for Malta during the Second World War, the Strickland’s involvement in over 700 years of national history can be uncovered first-hand at Sizergh. ‘

The 647-hectare (1,600-acre) estate includes limestone pasture, orchards and semi-natural woodland. Its rich and beautiful garden includes a pond, lake, a national collection of hardy ferns and a superb limestone rock garden.

Unfortunately an urgent medical need meant my visit was shortened, so some areas of the gardens I will need to return to. But I managed to meet the Head Gardener and compliment her on the quality of the planting in the herbaceous borders (with some clever twiggy supports) and the ‘square foot gardening’ in the kitchen garden. I also loved the Stumpery which shows off the ferns to great effect.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

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

Old School Gardener

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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

 

Check out this article about the Walled Garden Project, which is now half way through its project development phase.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate/news/a-jewel-in-the-blickling-crown

We were very lucky to have a morning to spare before travelling home from seeing friends in Cheshire, recently. Tatton Park was a half hour drive away, so we headed off. I was eager to see this garden which is a prominent National Trust property (though run by the local Council) and features in the annual round of RHS Flower Shows. I wasn’t disappointed…

Our friends took us straight to the most talked about area here, the Japanese Garden. WOW! It was a delight, especially as the various Maples were newly in leaf. The sun was out and the garden, with its changing levels, water and Japanese feature buildings and monuments, was breathtaking.

After this we had an hour to get round as much of the rest of this beautifully kept estate, including fernery and palm houses, bothy, walled garden, tower garden and wider woodland areas with some superb early Rhododendrons. You could easily spend a day or two here exploring the wider parkland as well as the 50 acres of richly varied gardens…enjoy the pics!

Further information:

National Trust website

Tatton Park website

Old School Gardener

Travelling back from our recent trip to Hull, we stopped off at a National Trust property in Derbyshire, the north midlands- Hardwick Hall. The Hall itself wasn’t open on our visit, but promises to be a fascinating example of high 18th century bling, so a return visit is in store….meanwhile how about the gardens?

After a pleasant lunch, sitting outside in the sunshine, we made our way around the rather splendid house (picking up a brief history from a very helpful guide) and explored the interesting entrance gardens and walled gardens that sit alongside the impressive pile.

The gardens are kept in good condition, as you might expect, and provide a wonderful opportunity to diversify and create areas of interest in what might otherwise seem to be an underdeveloped layout. Certainly the mixed herbaceous borders surrounding the House looked to be firing up for a wonderful summer show, but I was left thinking that more could be made of the walled garden….maybe I’ve been spoiled by my experience of regenerating the Walled Garden at Blickling! However, it was a very pleasant walk and I was very impressed with the various neat and interesting ways of interpreting the gardens and what’s currently of interest…something Blickling could do more of…

We didn’t have time to explore the wider estate, but it would seem to be packed with interesting walks (including a sculpture walk), complete with roaming herds of deer and other animals.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

We took a mother’s Day trip out to this super National Trust Hall and Farm in Cambridgeshire. I loved the parterre with it’s combinations of Box and Euonymous and the Folly tower with some wonderful skeletal trees…

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wp_20161130_13_30_12_proWhilst in Devon recently we paid a visit to Cotehele House, just over the border in Cornwall. This is a favourite place; granite walls set in an ancient landscape of trees covered in lichen and a terraced garden that looks over the Tamar valley to Calstock and beyond.

The day was sunny after a frosty start and we took a stroll around the wintered grounds where the sounds of gushing water and the smell of wood smoke blended together as the low sun cast fingers of shadow.

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I ventured up the nearby Prospect Tower which was built in the 17th century but whose origins are obscure. After a dark, winding stair climb I emerged into the sun and some wonderful views.

We made our way into the house to find the famous Cotehele Christmas Garland

‘Every November gardeners and volunteers… create a 60ft long Christmas garland using thousands of flowers grown on the estate. The giant swag … hangs in the Great Hall throughout the festive season.

Preparations for the garland begin months earlier in February when the flower seeds are sown. The first flowers are ready for picking from late April and are then dried in the loft over the summer and autumn before the garland is put together over two weeks in November.

Tens of thousands of flowers go into the garland each year. ‘Ideally we’d like 30,000 but some years we get as low as 20,000,’ explains head gardener Dave Bouch. ‘How many we get is completely down to the summer – we need sunny days and low rainfall – that’s the joy of gardening…..’

‘Each year the garland is different, depending on which of the specially grown flowers have done well,’ adds Dave. The garland often includes ornamental grasses, everlasting sand flower, straw flower, paper daisy, paper rose, statice and garden thrift.

Creating the garland is a task which involves team work and Cotehele’s gardeners and volunteers use scaffolding to add flowers into the growing festive display.’ (courtesy National Trust)

This year marks 60 years since the first garland was created…a real example of ‘modern heritage making’…. When the residents of Cotehele first hung a modest, floral, Christmas display in the Tudor Hall six decades ago, little did they know how their simple decoration would turn into the magnificent garland it is today. To make it an extra special celebration, this year the gardeners grew flowers specifically to give it a ‘diamond’ anniversary look:

  • 31,200: number of flowers in the garland

  • 7,920: number of flowers in the swag around the door

  • 120: number of kilograms the garland weighs

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

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On a recent trip to see our friends Dave and Jen in Sussex we stopped off to visit Standen House and Gardens, near to East Grinstead.

This ‘Arts and Crafts’ family home has a lovely range of interiors, dressed for a weekend stay in 1925, so you can imagine you are a guest of the Beale family. There is excellent attention to detail in the furnishing of the rooms. James and Margaret Beale chose an idyllic location with views across the Sussex countryside for their rural retreat. Designed by Philip Webb, the house is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship, with Morris & Co. interiors creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

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After a stimulating tour of the house we enjoyed a light lunch before venturing out into the gardens. A major restoration of the 5-hectare (12-acre) hillside garden showcases year-round seasonal highlights and an award-winning plant collection. On our visit the autumnal colours of the many Acers was a highlight. On the wider estate, footpaths lead out into the woodlands, Ashdown Forest and wider High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

WP_20160714_15_36_50_ProJuly in the Garden- by volunteer Sue Prutton

‘Yesterday was an oh so special day for me in that while I was wandering round the garden without a tour (the school summer holidays have begun and the customer-base has changed) I was overwhelmed with a wave of nostalgia. That perfume, redolent of romantic holidays in France, really took me back some 25 years …. and all because the lime trees were in blossom. I just stood still and invited anyone and everyone who passed me on their way to the Walled Garden to pause and enjoy it. One or two could not appreciate the perfume as for some scientific reason they were unable take it on board – similar to my late husband who could never smell my favourite freesias – but by and large the universal enjoyment provided by these small flowers really made my day.

The Walled Garden continues to be a source of amazement to our visitors – some have never seen it before but increasingly we have those who are returning to see the progress being made. A few weeks ago I noticed a “Walled Garden Salad” on offer in The Stables and now outside the restaurant door there is a list of the varied produce items which have made the rapid journey from the garden to the plate and are available each day. Surplus produce is regularly on sale from a table just inside the garden doorway and last weekend I was able to enjoy broad beans the way I like them – young and tender, rather than the larger, coarser version the supermarkets offer. I see that runner beans are coming on too, so I hope to be able to indulge in some of those soon.

On the far side of the garden, beyond the second greenhouse, the whole bed alongside the wall is devoted to dahlias. An excellent show is getting underway and is well worth investigating as it is not immediately visible from the entrance. So much has been achieved in less than two years but there is a great deal more still to come in the shape of the apple and pear trees now in place and which are destined to line the paths. It is lovely to see the visitors as they enjoy wandering up and down, their attention drawn to several varieties of lettuce, the chard and beetroot area, the courgettes and squash plants, the soft fruits and the many flowering plants. The new bothy is well used as it is quite a walk to and from the old one beside the double borders. As well as secure lockers for valuables there is a microwave and a dishwasher (no more excuses for grimy mugs, mercifully) and also a substantial set of tables and chairs so that the room could double up for meetings and similar. Back in the main garden a great deal of hard work is under way to re-take control of the boundary hedges in the ha-ha.

Elsewhere everything is at full peak blossom-wise. Five Tuesday evenings were set aside at the end of June and the start of July for “late night opening” when it was hoped that, weather permitting, families would bring picnics and enjoy a peaceful end to the working day. The weather did not always cooperate but on the evenings that it did, particularly on the final one which came at the end of an extremely hot day, it was lovely to see friends and families kick off their shoes, lounge in our deckchairs (we could do with a few more) and sip something cool and bubbly.

I had to smile a few weeks ago: in spite of the huge lake at their disposal I came across a pair of ducks giving their five well-grown offspring a swimming lesson in the Shell Fountain. I stood and watched as they calmly climbed out and waddled off back to the far larger “pool” which is always available for them. They had come on quite a stroll for their swimming lesson!’

ducks

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