Tag Archive: somerset


On our way home from a recent trip to Devon, we diverted to one of my all time favourite gardens; Hestercombe, just outside Taunton, Somerset.

I remember coming here many years ago, when the local Fire Service were headquatered in the house and the work to restore this classic Lutyen’s – Jekyll garden design was just getting underway. Even then the strong structural elements- though in a poor state of repair-  shone through. Since then, several decades later, the Charitable Trust that owns the place has done a marvellous job in restoring not only the gardens but much of the surrounding parkland too, so that you can wander through a very interesting ‘designed landscape’ reflecting earlier design styles harking back to the’ landscape garden’ school.

The main garden is what you come here for.  Sunken and surrounded by a series of strong pergolas and with two stone rills descending either side, it is a joy to behold. We were fortunate in arriving early in the day and had this wonderful place of quiet and reflection virtually to ourselves.

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The restoration story is a fascinating one, including a quest to find a series of plants that were in the original Jekyll planting plans but which were no longer readily available. This is most notable for a number of gladioli varieties, one of which was discovered by accident as one of the historians associated with the garden was giving a talk..only to be approached by someone who thought he had one of the missing gladdy’s! Since then this rare plant has been nurtured and propagated to get to the necessary scale for mass planting…and the display of gladioli is certainly impressive..

This is a real story of horticultural dedication; a trait seen in abundance all around the gardens. The house, though perhaps less of a priority, is gradually being brought into beneficial use, but it does require some renovation. We finished off our tour with a rather nice lunch in a very classy restaurant overlooking the gardens.

Old School Gardener

Frther information: Hestercombe Gardens website

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Grand Pier

On a trip to Devon recently we stopped off to visit Clevedon, Somerset, which lies on the Bristol Channel and was once a port for the summer steamers that took day trippers across to Wales and other places. The pier was nearly lost in the late 1970’s but a huge community effort has resulted in it’s rebuilding. It’s a gem and the day we visited the veiled sun provided some interesting lighting effects…

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WP_20160525_12_17_11_ProOn a recent trip to Devon, we stopped off en route to visit this Neo Gothic ‘pile’ in Somerset, former home of the Gibbs family, who made a ‘pile’ of their own, trading in a rather large ‘pile’ of Guano, or South American bird excrement, favoured for its value as a fertiliser in 19th century Britain.

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Making our way from the impressively equipped visitor reception and restaurant we passed by a delightful formal parterre garden set some way away from the house, and then toured this amazing mansion, with its glorious colourful decor and richly carved woodwork. Much of the house is in need of renovation, but the National Trust has made great progress in restoring some of the most important rooms.

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‘… An ordinary man with an extraordinary fortune, a man of vast riches but simple pleasures. Antony was the second generation of the Gibbs family to live at Tyntesfield. He epitomised the Victorian age, fascinated by art, technology and travel….After buying Tyntes Place for his growing family in 1843, William Gibbs went about making it his own. He remodelled the exterior of the simple regency house into the Gothic extravaganza we see today….Four generations of family life, a love of beautiful things and the accumulation of useful bits and bobs made Tyntesfield a treasure trove of objects. Almost  60,000 objects have been catalogued including everything from priceless paintings and ornate furnishings to ice skates and picnic sets. It is the largest recorded collection owned by the National Trust and tells the story of a wealthy family’s life over four generations….’

From here we made our way through some lovely formal gardens near to the house and then to the Walled Garden, where some gardener must have been a little the worst for wear when he/she planted the lettuces…

WP_20160525_13_32_54_ProSeriously, this series of wobbly lines was done as a bit of light relief in what might otherwise be the normal regimented lines of fruit and veg; I loved it.

And the rest of the garden was interesting, too, though I thought it lacked some variations in height to give it structure.nearby was a rather nice play area with lots of carved and country-themed play features; I especially liked the large slug (which doubles as a nice seat).

There was also a stall selling fresh veg and bulbs so I spent a little on buying some orange Tulips for next year…now where have I put them?

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

IMG_8624The second and final stop on our trip home from Devon recently, was Montacute House, Somerset. Surrounded by beautiful, formally laid out gardens, the warm, honey-coloured stone of the house glowed in the spring sunshine. There was a splendid display of tulips and wallflowers and a magnificent ‘cloud’ yew hedge reminiscent of those at Blickling House, near our home in Norfolk. We were fortunate to meet  a gardener in the ”orangery’, which, she explained, was not really in the best spot for this and had in the past been more of a shady water feature, with its tufa – clad grotto. This and it’s surrounds are gradually being replanted with ferns and other suitable species. Pots of standard Bay trees line the terrace outside where once orange and lemon trees would have been placed in summer.

‘Montacute is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. With its towering walls of glass, glow of ham stone, and its surrounding gardens it is a place of beauty and wonder.

Sir Edward Phelips, was the visionary force and money behind the creation of this masterpiece, which was completed in 1601. Built by skilled craftsman using local ham stone under the instruction of William Arnold, master mason, the house was a statement of wealth, ambition and showmanship.

Come face to face with the past in the Long Gallery, which is the longest of its kind in England. The gallery houses over 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

Beautiful gardens surround Montacute, constantly changing, filling the house with scent in summer and providing an atmospheric backdrop for a winter walk…’

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Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

IMG_8605On the way home from our recent break in Devon, we took the opportunity to visit a couple of National Trust houses and gardens just off the A303, a road that’s conveniently ‘lined’ with some great gardens. First stop was Barrington Court, Somerset.

A large walled garden was lined with displays of wallflowers and tulips which were  wonderfully vibrant. Much of the rest of this area was bare earth- or so I thought until I noticed it  had been covered with landscape/weedproof fabric and then mulched with compost- one of the gardeners explained how they create planting holes through these layers and so restrict the amount of time they weed- a very useful idea that looks attractive as well as being practical.

I was also glad to see the ‘bones’ of the other gardens (it was rather too early to see the borders in all their glory). To my surprise I also found a Melianthus major in flower! I was told how the gardeners usually give this a protective winter mulch and cover and in the season to follow it puts on lots of leaf growth but no flowers- it must be due to the mild winter that this glorious plant (which smells like peanut butter when you brush the foliage), had managed to put on an early spring show. Having just pruned mine at home to the ground I’m wondering if I would have been better leaving it alone! We shall see if it manages to complete its growth cycle this summer.

‘Discover the haunting echoes of the past at Barrington Court, a Tudor manor house free from collections and furniture. Explore using your imagination and your senses to discover a house full of memories, where light fills the rooms and you feel you can almost touch the past.

The property was saved from ruin and restored by the Lyle family in 1920s, when the court house resembled a barn rather than the proud manor house that it is. Close your eyes and you’ll almost be able to hear the sounds and see the sights of the glamorous parties held in the great hall during Barrington’s hey day. On the first floor listen out for the voices resonating from the past, of the young evacuees who called Barrington home during the Second World War.

 Stroll through the Gertrude Jekyll inspired gardens, which with their focus on plant varieties and colours are a delight for all the senses. Be spurred on in your own garden or allotment by the stone-walled kitchen garden that produces a variety of delicious fruit and vegetables. Don’t just take our word for it, why not stop off in the Strode House Restaurant to taste these home-grown delights.’

Oh, and yes, we had a lovely lunch in the afore said restaurant….

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Further information; National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

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