Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Baltic North

Just got back from a trip to the aptly named ‘frozen north’ but did have a few good days.

Had to pick up a package from Workington on the west coast. We were going to have a wander there but it was cold and, to be honest, Workington is a bit down at heal. So drove back up the length of the Solway coast road from Maryport to Silloth. Very picturesque and brought back many happy memories from when we went to Allonby and Silloth with Mam n Dad. Had a great snack at the wonderful Fairydust Emporium Silloth – if your ever out that way (I know it’s pretty remote :) do drop in, really (dog) friendly and wonderful little touches. 

At the weekend, just before the big freeze, we ventured along the river at Wetheral. We used to cycle out here from Carlisle when we were kids. I also used to go skinny dipping with my mates here.

 The Viaduct is famous for its 99 steps hewn out of sandstone leading from the bottom road to the top of the viaduct.

This path leads along to the Monks Caves, an easy path today but back then a well dodgy mud path, and the Priory ruins. The 15th-century gatehouse, beside a narrow lane to the south of Wetheral village, is almost all that remains of the Benedictine priory of Wetheral, founded in the early 12th century when Ranulf Meschin, first Norman lord of Cumberland, gave the manor of Wetheral to the abbot of St Mary’s, York. Only a few years earlier, in 1092, William II of England had gained control of the region from the Scots, and had put Meschin, brother of the Earl of Chester, in charge of this strategically important Border area. The Priory was probably the earliest post-Conquest monastic foundation in this area, and its establishment formed part of the Norman colonisation of northern England.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Harbinger of Spring

When it comes to snowdrops we are twice blessed in Gloucestershire. We have Mr Elwes’s national collection at Colesbourne Park and carpeted acres at the Rococo Gardens Painswick.

The current estate at Colesbourne comprises 2500 acres including four farms and 900 acres of forest. A lake was created in 1922 in a deep wooded valley near the house to provide hydro-electric power. The striking blue colour of the lake is believed to be caused by the colloidal clay in the water.
The estate tends to be open to the public for snowdrop weekends each Saturday and Sunday in February and/or early March.

In 1874 Henry John Elwes discovered Galanthus elwesii while travelling in western Turkey and he became one of the prominent snowdrop collectors of his day. The present day collection is the result of the renewed interest of Carolyn and Henry Elwes, who have devoted much time to replanting and expanding the groups. New varieties are added each year, with the collection now totalling some 250 varieties. Also at this time of year, inter mingled with the snowdrops you can find hellebores, fritillaria, wood anemone, leucojum and cyclamen. 

The estate also houses a sizable arboretum In 2004 the arboretum was visited by Owen Johnson of the Tree Register of the British Isles, who measured many of the most notable specimens found that eight of our trees were British champions, though as is the way with such things, several of these are now superseded by later discoveries. They include the tallest fastigiate hornbeam, Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ at 24 m, black oak, Quercus velutina (28 m), both in the Ring Neadow, and the beautiful Thuja plicata ‘Semperaurescens’ (23 m) by the lake steps.

Painswick’s Rococo Gardens was designed in 1740 by Benjamin Hyett. It is the only surviving garden of its type open to the public in this country. Rococo describes a period of art fashionable in Europe in the 1700s, identifiable particularly in furniture and architecture.  Some of the key features include highly ornamental decoration, the use of pastel colours and asymmetry.

Today Painswick Rococo Garden Trust is a registered charity and exists to restore the Garden and to educate the public about it. It has many fun and quirky structures, nooks and crannies and is a popular wedding venue.