Tuesday, August 23, 2011


In February 2001 our planned trip to Egypt, Jordan and Israel was canceled due to the civil unrest. With the return of our trip costs we planned a last minute trip to sail across the Atlantic and visit English gardens. I joined the Royal Oak Foundation which represents Americans in alliance with the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We would be visiting the famous houses and gardens of England now in care of the National Trust.

May 19th -20th 2011

Our flight from Lisbon brought us in over the white cliffs of south England and a patchwork of green fields. We landed at Heathrow, picked up a car and drove to spend the first night with friends in North London.

For most of our visit we would be staying in B and Bs, chosen for their proximity to the National Trust properties we were to visit. The first, Little Tidebrook Farm, which I had booked for 3 nights was in the hamlet of Wadhurst. I always book farms, if at all possible.

Arriving in the late afternoon we took a walk in the surrounding countryside before heading to the local pub for dinner.

May 21st 2011


The next morning we visited Nymans in West Sussex. The 600 acre Nyman estate was purchased by Ludwig Messel in 1890. From first glimpse one might think the house was built during the Tudor period. In fact it was built during the 1920s.

In 1947 the house caught fire and although some of the rooms were restored, much of the building is a ruin. The estate was given to the National Trust in 1953.

The right hand side of the house is just a shell.

Beautiful clipped topiary and long views seen in so many English Estate gardens.

One of the finest herbaceous borders in the country.

The wisteria walk.

Fields of Oxeye daisies overlook the surrounding Sussex countryside.

A perfect stand of lupins.

Stunning dogwood trees.

The pinetum.
One could easily spend a whole day here, but we had to move on. Two more gardens to visit today.


Wakehurst place is known as the country estate of the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew. It is also the home of the Millenium Seed bank. The seed bank is a plant conservation project which currently holds 10% of the world's plant specimens. The seeds are cleaned, dried and stored in the underground vaults. It is a world wide project with partners in many countries, including our own Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where Flo Oxley heads up the project.

The center is part research, part conservation and part indoor garden.

Visitors can follow the pathway that the seeds take once they arrive at the center. The laboratories, where the scientists work, are open for viewing, although as this was a Saturday no one was working.

Unfortunately we arrived with only 15 minutes to look around as the building was closing for a private function. Still, our visit gave us enough of an appreciation of all the work that is going on here to save the world's plants. Apart from storing seeds for the future, research is being done on how best to preserve the seeds. Not all seeds take well to being kept in the freezer vaults. One example is the seed of the cycad . Extensive study on this plant is a result of the extreme pressure being put on the species by illegal harvesting of native populations and the resulting extinction of some species. Recent research has discovered that the seed remains viable if frozen in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196 C.
The great plant hunts of long ago are on again as scientists travel to the four corners of the globe to collect seed. Some of the seeds are saved and some propagated to plant in the great botanical gardens for others to enjoy.

We hiked the cool shady woodland trails to the Himalayan Glade, the Southern Hemisphere Garden, the Winter Garden, and finally into the walled garden by the house.

This garden was created in 1973, inside the old walled garden, as a tribute to Sir Henry Price who was the last owner of Wakefield.

Our last stop of the day was Sheffield Park and Garden. Now I have to admit that I love the English cottage garden look, the garden rooms with their clipped yew hedges and walls, best of all. There are no garden rooms here and yet I have only one word for Sheffield Park. Magnificent.


The gardens at Sheffield were laid out by 'Capability' Brown to showcase the house, which had been remodeled in 1791, in the then, popular gothic style. Later Repton added his touch by landscaping the areas closer to the house..

I never cease to be amazed by the vision these landscapers had.

The rhododendrons and Japanese maples framed against a backdrop of green.

Later additions to the garden, in the 19th and 20th centuries, included an arboretum and plantings of rhododendrons, azaleas and many exotic plantings.

We may have missed seeing the spring show of daffodils and bluebells but the maples and rhododendrons made up for that.

Huge swathes of gunnera along the water's edge.

At the end of a long day we picked up Indian take away to take back to our B&B. Tomorrow we visit Batemans, Scotney Castle and Sissinghurst

May 22nd 2011

Sunday morning, following a 'bang up' English breakfast, we drove just a few miles down the road to Batemans, the former home of Rudyard Kipling, given to the National Trust in 1939 following the death of his American wife, Carrie. I have always loved Kipling's verse from the time I learnt 'The Glory of the Garden", at the age of eight and which I can still recite word for word today. George Orwell wrote about " the powerful seduction of his colorful and most rhythmic verse"


Before we venture into the gardens let me first take you into the Jacobean house, which Kipling purchased in 1902.

Yes, the house really was built that long ago.

The front door leads into a large entrance hall with well used fireplace.

Kipling's study is just as he left it on his death in 1936. It is filled with memories of his colorful life in India and the things that inspired him to write so many books.

A portrait of Carrie hangs over the fireplace.

The Kiplings entertained many guests and this bedroom would have been used by guests during the visit. They would have to take notice of these rules pinned on the bedroom door! And woe betide if they overstayed their welcome. Kipling would then take them out into the garden to show them the sundial, which bore the words, 'It's later than you think'

When in 1907, he received the Nobel prize for literature he spent the 7,700 pound prize money on building the rose garden and pond.

On the right you can see the pleached lime allee which was in place when the Kiplings bought the house.

The pear arch is over 80 years old. I read somewhere that the pears were no longer producing so I think they must have replanted. They would, of course, have to be the same variety as planted originally.

View looking towards the old oast houses.

Oast house with one cowl converted into a dovecote. Many oast houses in the Sussex and Ket countryside have been converted into homes.
Twice a year the National Trust visit the property to make sure that all the plantings are contemporary to the time the Kiplings lived there. I'm sure this is a little frustrating for the head gardener.


There are really two houses at Scotney; the one at the top of the hill built in 1837 and the medieval moated, ruined castle. We toured the upper house first but were really more interested to see the old castle and the gardens which surround it.

A path leads down the hill through enormous banks of rhododendrons.

We had missed the height of the bloom but there were still some later flowering varieties to enjoy. England had an unusually warm spell in April which brought on flowering rather early.

When the gardens were being designed the old castle was selectively ruined to produce a more romantic scene.

A sky had looked threatening for some time and a sudden downpour made everyone run for cover.

A perfect time to use the camera.


Here I am looking to capture that perfect shot before we head off to Sissinghurst.


You might expect that one of the most popular gardens in the country would be busy on a Sunday. After all Sunday lunch is a big event in Britain with restaurants all over the country offering great prices on their carvery. Then, what better thing to do than to take the family along to one of the Trust properties. There are hundreds of them, from stately homes to castles, abbeys, churches, coastlines and of course gardens. Sissinghurst is a favorite. We arrived around 3:30pm when many people were leaving and a sudden rain shower had people running for cover indoors.

It is really magic to walk past the row of oast houses and in through the arch way.

This part of the main house and the tower are all that remain of a manor house that was built in 1480. For the time it was unusual for houses to be built of brick. The estate had many lives and owners until it fell into serious decay. It wasn't until 1930 that Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicholson, bought the estate to fulfill Vita's desire to build a garden. The couple had different ideas about design, Harold preferring the more classical , structured look and Vita the flamboyant and romantic planting. Harold designed the layout of the garden which Vita then planted.

Here is a plan of the property. After the deaths of Vita and Harold the Nicholson sons decided that the property would best be cared for by the National Trust. Ownership was transferred in 1967.

The best overview of the property is from the top of the tower.

Vita's white garden.

The herb garden.

I left with the impression that this property must have a big endowment. Everything was immaculate.
We had dinner plans with an old college friend in the evening so we did rather rush around the garden. We had to drive down to Eastbourne for dinner.

May23th 2011

Monday morning we left our B&B and headed out towards Hampshire on the A272. I had planned the trip with opening days in mind, as many places are closed on Mondays. Fortunately one of the gardens I was anxious to visit, Hinton Ampner, was open Monday. On the way we decided to visit another stately home, that of Petworth House. We were not particularly enamored by the tour of the house, save for the kitchens which were really amazing. The gardens consisted solely of parkland. We continued on our way.

Ralph Dutton is largely responsible for the house and garden as they are today. When the house was largely destroyed in a fire in 1960, he re did the house in the simple Georgian style and replaced all the destroyed furniture and paintings with Regency style furniture and Italian paintings. He was a knowledgeable gardener resulting in one of the finest shrub gardens in the country.

The view from the south terrace takes in the chalkland downs.

The steps down to the lower terrace are softened with erigeron.

In this lower garden yews have been clipped into regimented topiary.

What a fun garden in which to play hide and seek!

Yews stand guard at the grass pathway leading to the Saxon church.

Ornate gate with coat of arms.

We were to see the lumpy, dollopy yew clipped like this in many gardens on this trip.

The eye is drawn down the yew avenue to a statue at the far end.

It seems Monday is a great time to visit. Very few people around. A perfect place to visit. Now it was time to drive to Romsey to find our B&B for the night.

We were delighted to find that Ranvilles Guest House was all that a B&B should be. Period Grade 11 listed house which had been tastefully modernized inside.

We strolled around the garden before heading into Romsey for dinner.

May 24th 2011

Next morning it was another English breakfast. This time kippers were on the menu. Who could resist!

On day 5 we planned to visit Mottisfont and Mompesson House.

I had chosen the B&B in Romsey so that we could visit the gardens of Mottisfont close by.


For more than 1000 years people have used this spring fed pool as a meeting place.

It is believed that the origin of the name Mottisfont came from a combination of the word moot, meaning meeting place in Saxon times, and font. In 1201 an Augustinian Priory was built here and many pilgrims came to visit its ancient relics. Following the dissolution the priory was converted to a tudor house which was later remodeled to resemble the current buildings. The estate was given to the Trust in 1957. The property is renowned for its collection of old fashioned roses grown before 1900. During his lifetime Graham Stuart Thomas, who was employed by the Trust, collected hundreds of roses. When the owners of Mottisfont gave up using the walled garden it seemed to be the perfect place to showcase his collection.

The gate house.

Thomas designed the garden himself, dividing the enormous walled area into four quarters with lawns and herbaceous borders.

He mixed many of his one time blooming roses in with perennials to give added interest throughout the season.

As the day warmed the heady scent of musk and tea roses perfumed the air.

Souvenir de Mme Auguste Charles, Bourbon rose 1886.

How perfect to sit in a corner of the garden and enjoy this magnificent garden.

A second garden was created in the late 80s, just outside the walled garden. Here, in a graveled area, roses trained on 4x4 posts make a striking display.

We continued our walk around the property, past the pleached limes and onto the lawns.

The yews are clipped once a year with hand shears.

Inside the house we went down into the cellarium which dates back to the 12th century and likely underpinned the prior's house. This is all that remains of the original priory and would have been used for storing all the provisions for the priory.

In a corner of one of the rooms in the house the wall has been removed to expose a section of the original building.

As we drove away from the property, over the fast flowing River Test, David looked longingly at the lone fisherman on the bank.

Would he be lucky enough to catch one of the many trout we saw under the bridge?

We continued on our journey stopping in Salisbury to visit Mompesson House.


If you saw the movie Sense and sensibility you may recognize the house as the one used in the movie. Built by Charles Mompesson in 1701, the elegant Queen Ann town house is situated in the Cathedral Close in Salisbury. Step through the door and you will step back in time. The house is decorated and filled with furniture of the period. A collection of 17th century glass fills a display cabinet in the dining room.

Behind the house is a walled garden with central lawn surrounded by herbaceous borders.

In the far corner, behind a yew tree is the privy which drained into the back lane!

We strolled over the green to walk around the cathedral. We had no time to go inside as we needed to get to Ilminster, and our B&B for the night.

Leaving Salisbury late in the afternoon we drove to Ilminster, in Somerset. I had booked us in at a B&B just outside of the town and on the edge of the village of Broadway. I had planned for us to visit several gardens in the area. The following morning, after another ample breakfast, we drove through the country lanes of Somerset to the the privately owned garden of the late Margery Fish in East Lambrook.

May25th 2011


Margery Fish, gardener, plantswoman and author didn't take up gardening until the age of 40. It became her second career. She and her husband Walter moved from London into this 15th century manor house in 1938. She then took on the design of the garden which she planted from then until her death in 1969. The house remained in the family for some years before it was purchased by Robert and Marianne Williams. Neither had any experience with gardening and here they were with this Grade1 listed building and a garden and nursery they must open to the public. They set about restoring the gardens to their former glory. In 2008 the house was sold again to Mike and Gail Werkmeister who agreed to keep the gardens open to the public.

Mrs Fish favored a relaxed style of gardening, growing old-fashioned annuals, perennials, shrubs and roses along with more contemporary plants in close proximity; the quintessential cottage garden. Following the World War 11, people could no longer afford to pay gardeners to take care of their formal gardens and they turned to this more approachable style of gardening. She became renowned for her style of gardening which is considered to be the home of English Cottage gardening. The garden is known for its collection of snowdrops and geraniums.

The garden proved to be not the easiest garden to photograph in the bright morning sunlight.

The once malthouse has been converted into a tea room and gallery.

Wicker-work is something you see a good deal in English gardens.

Astrantis everywhere. With a reputation as a promiscuous self seeder it sounds perfect for my garden! I wonder if they would grow here?

Lots of unfamiliar plants.

The ditch and pathway running alongside the malthouse.

The top lawn. To complete the visit we admired the paintings of Lambrook garden flowers by Kaye Parmenter and purchased a small watercolor of snowdrops as a reminder of a pleasant early morning in the garden.

The gardens of Tintinhull were the creation of Phyllis Reiss during the last century.

A plaque on the side wall of the house suggests that this house has been in the hands of the National Trust for some time.

The brick walls must have been added to enclose the house and gardens. The front door, which is now at the back of the house, leads to the gardens.

The lichen covered steps, by the now front door, which step down into the garden.

From the steps looking down the path...

and then back to the house. The formality of this garden is evident by clipped boxwoods and yews.
The fountain garden lies at the far end of the path.

The pool garden.

I thought the vegetable garden was one of the best I had ever seen.

Beds lined with catmint.

Neat rows of broad beans, onions and beets, to name a few.

The plant stand.

By now it was lunch-time so we bought a sandwich in the cafe, which we supplemented with fruit and chocolate biscuits, and ate at the picnic tables in the field by the car park. We were to visit Montacute House next.


It had not been in our original plans to visit Montacute but we were in the vicinity, so why not?

The house as built by Sir Edward Phelips between 1588 and 1601. The house and estate have been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1931.

From the entrance to the estate a gravel path leads alongside a gothic inspired wall. A gate in the wall leads into the East Court.

The inside of the court is taken up by a large expanse of lawn with gravel paths all around and planting beds along the edges. Originally a driveway would have led up to the front door.

Visitors would have entered up a long driveway and though the gates flanked on either sides by these 'pudding houses'. This strange name comes for Tudor times when it was the fashion for guests to retire to these houses for their pudding or dessert.

Inscription over the front door.

Original glass windows.

I was fascinated by the latin poem etched into the window and dated 1776.
Montacute is famous for its Elizabethan and Jacobean portraits which are located some of which are to be found int he long gallery. They are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. No photographs allowed.

Clipped Irish yews.

The wobbly hedge, a creation of nature. Following a severe snow in the winter of 1947 parts of the hedge collapsed and never recovered.

As it was only 3:00pm we decided to drive on down to the coast, to Lyme Regis. I really wanted to go look for ammonites on the beach. This stretch of coast line, know as the Jurassic Coast, is a World Heritage Site, and know for its fossils.

The pebbly beach at Lyme Regis.

Above the promenade a beautiful rock garden.

Now if only....

We were going to walk to the far end of the beach in the hunt for ammonites.

This is where you find them on the tidal flats. How lucky we were that it was low tide.

Lots of other people looking too.

Here's a nice one.

and hundreds more.

We then walked out along the harbor(harbour) wall known as the 'cobb' The same one that Meryl Streep walked out onto in the opening scene of The French Lieutenant's Woman and also used by Jane Austen in Persuasion.

Looks like the thing to do for dinner tonight. I wonder if they will be in newspaper, like when we were children.

Oh! Very fancy, and a glass of wine too. We certainly packed a lot into this day. Now it was time to beat it back to Ilminster in time to watch the Chelsea Flower Show on TV. Perfect end to a perfect day.

May 26th 2011

Barrington Court was on the first list of gardens to visit this morning. It is known for its Arts and Craft style gardens which were designed by Gertrude Jekyll. A Tudor house built in the 1500s, it was almost derelict when acquired by the trust in 1907. Whenever the National Trust met to discuss whether to undertake a renovation of an ancient house they said, 'Remember Barrington Court' The renovations were far more difficult and costly than anticipated. The house was leased to the Lyle family in the 1920s, who undertook to further refurbish the house and gardens.


It was raining when we arrived at the Court. Taking the long pathway around the wall we entered through a gate into the first of the gardens, the kitchen garden.
The first courtyard held the tables of plants for sale.

The vegetable gardens were extensive and well planted.

The espaliered fruit trees were impressive. Apples are used to make cider.
As was this huge pile of compost.

The next gate took us through into the flower gardens.

I finally got to know the name of this airy white plant, we had seen in so many gardens, in one of the gardens we visited later in the day.

The interior of the house is currently without furniture and the Trust will need a good deal of money to furnish this house in the period.

We had picked up lunch earlier in the morning at this very English shop. We ate in the car before moving on to garden number two. Unfortunately we had trouble locating this garden and went round in circles before we finally found it. We were expecting to see one of those nice National Trust signs pointing the way. One of the things that confused us was having to pass through some private gates, into an estate. The lane got narrower and narrower but there at the end was this medieval manor house


Built in 1480 the house was restored between 1905 and 1912 and presented to the Trust, along with the furnishings, in 1943. It is cared for by the grandson of the last owner, Robert Floyd and his family, who live in the house. The gardens were designed by Alfred Parsons.
Come through yet another garden gate.

The gate leads into what is called the family garden. Yews have grown together and been clipped to form a pavilion.

The archway leads to the wedding bower planted with this unnamed white rose.

Looking back towards the house.
A perfect combination of plants and color against the honey colored Cotswold stone.


The Court Borders with catmint spilling over the edges of the pathway.

The two topiary pavilions, on either side of the lily pond on the expansive lawn, were designed by Alfred Parsons. Planted in 1910 they provided a perfect place to shelter during a brief downpour. The lawn was used for a tented feast in the film 'The Other Boleyn Girl'

Work must go on, even when visitors are around. I asked the gardener if he could identify the masses of airy white flowers we had seen blooming in so many gardens.

He identified them as Crambe cordifolia seen here in the church border.

The Paved court with center well. The roses are a Nathalie Nypels, a small shrub rose with delicate perfume.

An ancient espaliered pear.
We were now racing against time to visit The Courts Garden, close by in the village of Holt, before finding our B&B for the night.


The formal gardens of the Courts lie behind a high wall on the village street. Entering through a simple wrought iron gate we found ourselves walking alongside the entrance lawn. We followed the pathway around the side of the house, which is not open to the public.

Until the 1880s this peaceful garden was the site of a woolen mill. Following the decline of the British woolen industry the property was sold to George Hastings. He was responsible for the layout of the garden.

The garden rooms are much larger than those seen at Sissinhurst, although the influence of that style is still there.

An immaculately maintained grassy path draws the eye down the herbaceous borders to the temple.

The rill.

Standing guard.

Gossiping yews, created by the action of the prevailing wind.

Espalierd fruit in the kitchen garden.

Square foot gardening.

And traditional rows.

By the time we left the gardens had closed. The sun was out and it was time to head off towards Lacock Village and our next B&B, Damson Cottage.

Damson Cottage, the B&B where we were to spend the next 2 nights was within walking distance of the village of Lacock. We headed off to the village to find the George Hotel, where our landlady had booked us a table for dinner.

Just a few minutes away, through the kissing gate, and across the fields of grazing sheep.

If you are a fan of British TV productions, then you would be familiar with the village. It has been used on numerous occasions in such period productions as Pride and Prejudice, Cranford and the film Wolfman.

May 27th 2011

To step onto the streets of Lacock is like stepping back into the past. No sign of the trappings of the 21st Century; telephone wires, satellite dishes, modern lamp posts. Cover the streets with sand and straw and you could be back in medieval England. The only thing that rather spoils the image is the motor car. Of course, people live in these quaint rose covered cottages and there are no garages, so they must park on the streets.


British gardeners have mastered the art of growing plants on walls.

Walking around the cloisters, to the sound of a Gregorian chant, was very emotive.

Then seeing these ancient paintings on the wall. They were found by accident when part of the wall fell down. Layers of time.

Inside the house we were to learn about the Oriel window, subject of the first photographic negative made by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1835. Using the camera has become so important in my life that, in the museum, I was to learn the whole history of this instrument.

The British are also masters at using bits of this and that to pave.

Once again we ate lunch in the car. This time a Melton Mowbray and a glass of cider from the bottle of cider we bought at Barrington Court.

Following lunch we set off through the Wiltshire countryside, only stopping to snap a picture of one of their white horses on the hillside. Probably not as ancient as most people think. Maybe around 300 years. This clearly shows the underlying chalk.

We were on our way to the ancient megalithic henge at Avebury. It came as a complete surprise to us that there was a garden here too. That of Avebury Manor, once the site of 12th Century Benedictine monastery.

The current manor was built in the 16th century and is well know for its clipped topiary and boxwood hedges.

We were to see this honeysuckle in many of the gardens we visited.

Leaving the gardens we walked around the stone circle which is the largest in the world and believed to date back 4,500 years. The man made trench surrounding the henge is over 30 ' high. The stones were toppled at some point in their history and it was only in the last century that they were righted.

Now sheep graze peacefully and shelter beneath the massive stones.

We walked the whole of the circle along the top of the earth workings. The grass over underlying chalk has been worn away by the countless footsteps.

We returned to Lacock for a very nice but expensive dinner, at The Sign of the Angel. Tomorrow we were to head north to spend the night with friends on their farm and then on to our old home town to stay with friends for the bank holiday weekend.

May 28th 2011

No point getting off too early in the morning. Most NT places do not open until 11am There is always time for that leisurely English breakfast. I have to admit I am starting to flag a little, opting for only a boiled egg some mornings.

The dining room at Damson Cottage.

Wow, cards from Prince Charles and Camilla.


We were on our way up north and we were to visit Packwood House on the way. Packwood was built in the 16th century, although there have been many changes to the building. The original Elizabethan wood structure has been covered over with stucco.

Yes, another garden gate into another garden wonderland. This one is really impressive.

Although Packwood is renowned for its yew topiary, the flower garden rooms are pretty spectacular. This was one of my favorites but then I always love sunken gardens.

This is the wallflower, Bowles purple. I did once buy this but it just didn't like Texas.

Yew buttresses along the high brick wall. No doubt this idea was copied from the cathedrals. I have often seen it used in herbaceous borders to divide groupings of plants.

It is hard to imagine that this aeonium survives the English winter but maybe it was in a pot sunk into the ground.

Looking through the gate to the yew topiary. The yews are said to represent the sermon on the mount. A single clipped yew on the mount surrounded by 12 'apostles' and many more clipped yews, scattered around the large lawn, representing the multitudes.

The mount, with its single clipped yew, had been invaded by badgers, who were doing serious damage to the yews. The idea behind these little trapdoors was to allow the badgers out but only in one way. Finally the way out would be closed and a trail would lead them to a manmade badger set. We never did find out if it was working.

The vegetable garden.

Bee boles, alcoves in the wall where the bee hives were kept.

In one corner of the walled garden was a small room with a fireplace. It was lit to heat the brick walls so that espaliered fruit trees could be grown.

The interior of the house was no less impressive with its great hall, long gallery, period furniture and 16th century tapestries.
Leaving Packwood we decided we had time to visit another trust property which was really close by. That of Baddersly Clinton.


Built in the 15th Century, this moated manor house was the home of the Ferrers family for over 500 years. Being a Catholic house, continuing to worship as Catholics during the reformation, it was necessary for them to build hiding places for the priests who lived and worshiped with them. They have found at least three priest holes in various parts of the house. Some of them not very pleasant!

This priest would have been lucky, he had bread and water and may have been able to last out for a few days if the people who were searching the house stuck around for a while. Many were not so lucky.

The gardens were delightful, even if the weather was rather threatening.

It held off just long enough for us to walk the grounds. I love these thatched summer houses.


Tall delphiniums and lupins.

Fruit bushes.

Neat rows of vegs.
Our next stop would be outside Chorley, where we were to spend the night with friends on their dairy farm. A restful Bank Holiday weekend with family and friends before heading back down the motorway and more visits.

May 31st 2011

Following the Bank holiday weekend, spent with friends and family, we continued southward again, first visiting Quarry Bank Mill. I was particularly interested to see a cotton mill as it was during the Industrial Revolution. Many of my ancestors worked in the mills. My GG Grandfather was an copper plate engraver for a Calico printing works. Others ancestors spent their days weaving and spinning the cotton. At the end of the tour we were really glad to get away from the terrible noise of machinery and head towards our next B&B for the night, Yew Tree farm, in the Cheshire country side.


Next day we were to visit Biddulph Grange and Little Moreton Hall.

June 1st 2011


Biddulph Grange is a Victorian plant collector's garden. From 1840-1897 James Bateman and his artist friend Edward William Cooke, created a world of plants, filling the gardens with plants brought back by the great plant collectors. The early 1800s brought a huge demand for exotic plants. As a result the Horticultural Society sent plant hunters to the four corners of the world to search for new species. The value of these specimens was so great that sometimes whole species were stripped from their native home in order to prevent others from also having them. Collecting and propagating plants was big business.

One plant collection trip netted over 2 million plants and another time 3000 seeds from the monkey puzzle tree were collected. That explains the frequent sightings of these trees in our visited gardens. Although methods of transporting improved as the years went by hundreds of plants were lost during the often treacherous trip back to England.

MAny of these plants were to end up int he gardens at Biddulph Grange.
View from the terrace of the house. Faint patches of pink in the background are rhododendrons.

Bateman divided garden into many different rooms, based on the countries of the world; Italianate, Chinese, Egyptian and Himalayan to name a few.

The stumpery. I think we could create quite a stumpery on parts of our property. In the 1950s a fire raged through our lot taking down many trees. The stumps of cedars are everywhere. Growing ferns, however, would be a problem. I think the deer would enjoy the delicacy of fiddleheads.

Chinese garden.

leaving the Chinese garden.

The lime avenue

There were lots of dark tunnels through the rocks. I didn't care for these but I'm sure children would have a great time playing hide and seek in the gardens.
Our visit to Biddulph was an add on to our planned itinerary. It happened to be close by Moreton Hall. I'm glad we visited but we were in a hurry to move on.

How could you not fall in love with a house like this. This timber framed, moated house is a perfect example of a 'magpie' house.

I think Little Moreton has to be one of my all time favorites. It looks as though it might topple down at any moment. The original house, begun in 1504, by Richard de Moreton, was just a single story to begin with. Then another floor was added, followed by the then fashionable addition of the long gallery. The foundation was never meant to carry these additional floors and the Trust in recent years had to install a structural basket in order to prevent the whole house from tumbling
The Elizabethan knot garden, recreated in 20th C, from plans taken from Leonard Meager's book The Complete Gardener, published in 1670.

The original windows.

In the parlor these hand painted wallpaper panels were discovered when doing some electrical work in the room which required the removal of some later added paneling.

The privy or garderobe. This latter name came from the fact that clothes were hung in here to protect them from insect damage. The ammonia in this room acted as a natural insecticide!

This photo shows what a higglety pigglety house this is.

Etchings in the window glass.

Spinning and weaving exhibition in the long gallery.

This tea cozy was spun, dyed and knitted by the lady above. It now graces my morning teapot.
Every day brings new and exciting visits. We were now heading into Wales to spend the night at Tan Y Graig in Meifod, Powys. Tomorrow we would be visiting Powys Castle.

June 2nd 2011

Fortified by the previous night's dinner of delicious Welsh lamb shanks, prepared by our hostess Eleri, and the morning's breakfast, which turned out to be just the same as the good old English breakfast, we headed off to visit Powis Castle. Little did we know that we were about to enter the yew hedge capital of the world. I would hazard a guess that you will find it in the Guinness Book of Records. If not, then surely it should be in there.

Among gardeners, who does not have Artemisia x 'Powis Castle'? Here is the castle itself built in the 12th Century.

and here are the yews.

Built on a hill top with terraced gardens overhung with magnificent clipped yews. Imagine the work that must go into maintaining such hedges, their bizarre shapes formed by wind and weather. They were planted in 1640. At that age they really deserve to grow any way they like.

And the view from the top of the many terraces.

The more formal gardens lie below

A stunning arched arbor.

The Orangery sheltered below the upper terrace.

This striking combination of lime green Euphorbia and Parrot's beak, Lotus maculatus, in the front of this herbaceous border.

One last look at the amazing view over the green Welsh countryside and we hurried back to the car. We had planned an early morning visit to Skomer Island off the Pembrokeshire coast.


June 3rd 2011

Arriving the previous night at our B&B on the Pembrokeshire coast, we were to learn the true meaning of being 'farmed out' It seems, despite our booking, because we were only staying for one night, we were to be 'farmed out' to a relative a couple of miles away. Although the accommodation was not really 'up to scratch' I have to say our hostess was delightful. She didn't mind at all the early breakfast at 6:30am and even went so far as to make us a packed lunch.

Destination Skomer Island, to view the puffins. We couldn't have picked a more perfect day. It made the wait for tickets down at the cove all the more tolerable.

This is the scene that met us when we arrived at 7:30 am hoping to get on the first ferry at 9:30am. Knowing full well that each trip across to the island would only take 50 people, it seemed pretty unlikely that we would be getting on that first ferry. By the time our turn for tickets came we found ourselves with tickets for the second ferry of the day at 10am. (There is a limit to the numbers of people they allow on the island to protect the nesting birds.) In the meantime we took a hike across the headland.

and beautiful it was. I photographed the flowers growing in what normally is a very harsh climate.


Sea pinks.

Here's our boat arriving. Make no mistake fitting 50 people onto this boat was a squash. As we neared the island we started to see puffins flying out to catch the small eels and fish they feed to their waiting young.

Taking the steps up to the cliff top where we were greeted by representative of the Wildlife Trust who briefed us on what to expect, where to go and what to see.

We then headed out on the trail.We took the route towards the Wick. We were here to see puffins!

The cliff top was a sea of red campion and bluebells.

We knew we had arrived at the spot when we saw this group ahead. The puffins were nesting in holes in the ground just above the edge of the cliff.

This one had just landed and was waiting to go down into its hole.

It was so easy to get close-up photographs of them. They were very willing subjects only keeping a watchful eye out for the Great Black-backed gulls who would really like to make a meal out of them. We also saw nesting Razorbills, Fulmars and Kittiwakes. No Manx Shearwaters. They were safe in their burrows. The Shearwaters ride the ocean winds all day, only coming ashore under the safety cloak of night. They are unable to walk well, crash landing on the ground, and must hurry to their burrow to avoid becoming the meal of the marauding black backed gulls. Moonlit nights are a problem for them and we saw much evidence of those who had not been so lucky to make it back to the nest.

Our visit was short but we saw what we came to see. Now we must get back to the mainland and get on the road to Worcester. We had dinner plans with the friends with whom we were staying.
The last time we visited was in 2009 and I posted about their beautiful garden. It is still as beautiful today as it was then.

Friday June 3th 2011

Their greenhouse rivals any that I have ever been in and it is chock full of plants.

I think his cactus are happier to be in England than over here.

So many people in England have conservatories built onto the backs of their homes. The climate is perfect and one corner of the greenhouse provides the perfect place to enjoy morning coffee and read the newspaper.

The bright afternoon sun made photography difficult so I was out the next morning taking advantage of early morning cloud. There was just in time to take a quick look around the garden before we set off for the day to visit Coughton Court.

Every English garden must have its trough with alpine plantings. Years ago kitchen sinks were rectangular porcelain. When they went out of style they were converted into troughs by covering with a hypertufa mix. Today people are probably chipping off the coating in order to put the sink back in the kitchen, such is the popularity of the country sink in today's kitchens!

Time to leave.


The Hall has been in the same family since it was built in 1409. Can you imagine having a family home that had been passed down through so many generations.

We first went inside the house learning about the history of the Throckmorton family. This Catholic family were connected with pre-reformation plots including Gunpowder plot. They were one of the few Catholic families to keep their estates intact throughout those turbulent times, and keeping their faith intact, members of the family became leaders in the emancipation of Catholics in the 18th and 19th centuries. From the rooftop the view is down over the formal garden.

Oh, how very English. The Sussex trug with a collection of old pots, string and well kept tools. The current family is responsible for the walled garden which we were to visit after a stop for lunch at the stable courtyard cafe.

The walled garden with the C of E Church of St Peter.

On the way home we passed a gypsy encampment on the roadside. It seems they have now reverted back to their old style of caravans.
Sunday we would leave to spend a couple of days in the Cotswolds with return visits to Snowshill and Hidcote.

Sunday June 5th 2011

Our next stop, on the Sunday, was to pay return visits to Snowshill . We had last visited in 2009. So many Americans visit the Cotswolds and enjoy the pretty villages with their thatched roofs. Few find their way to Snowshill. You don't even need to be a gardener to marvel at what the eccentric Charles Pagett Wade created at Snowshill. It's not just the garden but the contents of his house. Its a museum.

Although the house is on the main street in the village of Snowhill, access to the house and garden is along side the edge of the property and the orchard and then up the long pathway to the house. We chose to visit first the gardens taking the path along the high wall. Entrance to the house is by timed ticket.

Entering through the gateway at the bottom of the garden, painted in Wade Blue.

The garden was not quite so colorful as the last time we had seen it, which had been in July, the peak of English summer. Nevertheless Snowshill will never disappoint. We sat on a bench tucked under a hedge and ate our snack lunch.

Looking back to the gate through which we had entered.

The well garden.

The Armillary Court

"The plan of a garden is much more important than the flowers in it" So said Mr Wade. He certainly knew how to design.

Then it was time to go inside. Here's a little bit of background on Mr Wade and his unusual collection. It began when he was 7 years old. His Grandmother had an 18th Century Cantonese lacquered cabinet. On Sundays Charles was allowed to open up the doors to the cabinet. He was fascinated by all he found in drawers, nooks and crannies.

He began his own collection, which in the end amounted to 22,000 pieces. At the end of the First Word War he purchased the derelict Snowshill property with the intention that it should house his collection. He was never to live in the house but lived instead in the Priest's cottage.

Mr Wade was interested in collecting items of exquisite craftmanship and design. He was a treasure seeker traveling from market town to village, to the watchmaker's shop, the smithy, the scrap yard, the ship chandler's yard, mills, barns, cellars and attics in search of treasures. He was fortunate to have the where with all and to be searching at a time when money was short and people were selling their collections and anything they had in order to make ends meet. How fortunate we are that this collection is there for all to see. One really can't take in everything at one visit. The house is a treasure chest of beautiful objects. Here are just a few of the many items he collected.

A beautiful work box.

Rows of leather pails.

I doubt any of us slept on a bed like this but I'll bet most of us heard our mothers say "Goodnight, sleeptight" Now you can see why.

On our way to our B&B in Bourton-on-the-Water we walked in the lavender fields near the village of Snowshill.

Monday June 6th 2011


Before leaving home I had been in touch with Katie Lukas the owner of Stone House Gardens. Located in the village of Wyck Rissington which was just a few minutes from where we were staying. Open by appointment only the plan was to go over on Monday morning.
Behind high stone walls Katie Lukas has designed and planted one of the most delightful gardens I have ever visited.
Come with me through the garden gate.

You might expect this view of the house to be from the street but it is actually the side view of the house. The lawn is surrounded by deep perennial beds overflowing with color and form.

In one corner of the garden clipped topiaries lead the way to the summer house, a must in every English garden.

Which way to go first! We took the pathway along the stone wall. It led into the tennis court garden.

Another summer house, festooned with climbing roses, had a second life as a storage room for garden equipment.

We passed through into the pool garden.
The high stone walls divide the garden into a series of rooms. They are also used to create raised planting beds. This incredibly fragrant rose is Gertrude Jekyll. I wonder if I could find it over here. Her cerise pink color and fragrance are reminiscent of my Zephirine drouin.

Along side the pool garden a gravel pathway broken by diamond shaped stone separators.

Creative use of stones and broken tile.

An archway leads to the open fields and meadows.

Aubretia and campanulas everywhere.

A surprise view through a window in the tall hedge reveals a water feature.

Raised vegetable beds

In the meadow garden someone has crafted a dog from chicken wire.

More beautiful stonework.

In contrast to the Cotswold stone a brick paved garden with miniature topiary bushes. Geraniums were in flower all over England and here they flank the pathway.

View from the lawn down into the pool garden.

The stone wall arches are exquisite.

A corner of the pool can be glimpsed through the archway.

I was sorry not to meet the creator of this wonderful garden. Unfortunately Katie Lukas was away from the house when we visited on the Monday morning. As this was a private visit we had the whole garden to ourselves, save for the Lukas' little dog, and it was easy to pretend that it was our own garden!

Level changes add interest, the stone steps leading us back up to the pathway which leads back round to the front of the house.

As we left we glanced back at the house to the roses flanking the stone mullioned windows. Simply gorgeous.

Driving through the picturesque village we stopped to photograph this stone structure. I am told it is a Victorian drinking fountain, no longer functional.

And this pretty Cotswold cottage. The English seem to have the knack of pruning their roses flat against the wall. Something I have never mastered.


With such wonderful memories of this garden when we visited in 2009 we were excited to have opportunity to visit once again.

You always wonder when you go back to a garden what will catch your eye this time. For me it was this stone work.

I'm wondering if these are old slates but they are commonly seen n paving both in England and in Europe.
My eye was also drawn to this paving. Irregular stone circles with small irregular pieces of stones filling in the spaces.

I though it made for an interesting and unusual path.

I don't remember the clipped boxes the last time we visited but then there was so much to see.

Tuesday June 7th 2011

Today we were to drive across country to Royston, in Cambridgeshire, where we would be spending the night. On the way we stopped at Upton House.


They have a novel approach at Upton to the house vsit. Before entering we watched a film where actors tok the parts of Lord and Lady Bearsted, family and friends as they entertained at a country weekend. Several things of interest happened during the play and we were invited to find these things as we toured the house. A letter in a pocket, a box of matches. It made the visit rather fun although someone had taken the box of matches! Must have been for their collection as no doubt it was a 1930s box.
We then moved out in to the gardens.


A stunning row of wall flowers. Possibly 'Bowles Mauve'

The sloping site was terraced in the 30s, by Kitty Lloyd Jones, and a bog garden created at the foot of the hill.

A perfect place to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Terraced steps and landings lead up tot he house.

Espaliered gooseberries. My favorite fruit for pies and crumbles.

The final visit of our vacation was to Wimpole Hall. It wasn't originally on the plans but as we were in the neighborhood and had an hour to spare we decided to visit.

A grandiose house like this would surely have an incredible vegetable garden.

and it did.

The walled garden was the largest I have ever seen.

Espaliered fruit trees on the south facing wall.

Yes, keep those rabbits out.

Leaving we drove past these delightful thatched cottages.

And this house being re-thatched.
Our wonderful three weeks of visits was coming to an end. It really has been one of our best visits to England. With so many more NAtional Trust properties to visit we will be sure to go back with our Royal Oak membership cards in hand.


  1. What lovely pictures with just the right amount of commentary... makes me want to pack and leave New Delhi for England NOW! Thank you for sharing these beautiful gardens with us.

    1. Thank you Nikhil. I am glad you enjoyed the tour. My husband and I visited India several years ago. We had a wonderful trip. What I would like to do now is go back and do a garden tour of India. The Galloping Gardener has shown us some beautiful places she visited there.

  2. Outstanding! Thank you for taking the time to share your trip with us. The pictures were a pleasure to view and your comments interesting in showing us your perspective. I plan to direct several firends to your blog to enjoy and the well identified sites you visited will be helpful in the future when my husband and I begin planning our trip.

  3. Hola from Spain,
    I found your blog by searching for the dactylopus as it has become a big problem for us out here in Spain.
    I then delved into your UK photos which are stunning and had given us a desire to see more of the beautiful country that we left behind. Unfortunately visits to family mean we never see further afield.
    I am Chair of the Expat Gardening club and we are participating in an Anglo Spanish day and hope to recreate a mini Chelsea Show garden so I have just been inspired! Regards. Ken

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  5. I've just spent a really enjoyable hour on a freezing cold, dark December night- reading your post and planning a trip with my Mother. I've got the map out now and I'm searching for places to stay en-route. It was really interesting to see how you managed to pack so much into three weeks. Thank you for the inspiration and beautiful photographs.

  6. Forgot to say, if you do come back to the UK, do let us know, as we have a new National Trust property open in our area, called Stoneywell, which I am sure you would love. And also I work at Easton Walled Gardens which is truly the most glorious place. I would be glad to show you around.

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