As part of Fowey Festival some local owners open their gardens to the public on a couple of days. This year there were a lot less gardens but different ones from last, so off we went. Luckily for us we managed to park in the street for free. On our way into town where we usually park they had been re-surfacing the road for quite a long stretch, with plenty of ‘No Parking’ signs. However one idiot had left his car in the middle of all this so that the car and its surrounds were ‘unmade’. Ah well. Wherever you park it’s a steep descent on foot into town.Our first destination was The Royal Fowey Yacht Club. We aren’t members but during the Festival the Waterstones Bookshop and Booking Office are there and you are made welcome. We had fish and chips and a nice glass of Pinot Grigio. A great facility and it must be nice to be a member. Patron the Duke of Edinburgh.This is their yard…nice and tidy.After lunch we decided to do our usual stroll through town before visiting any gardens, always a nice experience and interesting to see what’s going on. A posh restaurant with rooms closed (so difficult to last), and a restaurant that we thought was doing well, still not re-opened.We liked the hawk kite attached to one roof to scare off the seagulls…The Old Grammar School Gardens (which very few seem to visit) was as delightful as usualand we spent some time sitting there enjoying the view, and marvelling at the friendliness of the robin..Two of the gardens were near each other on a street we hadn’t really visited before, probably because it is a dead end – St Fimbarrus Road. It really was a lovely terrace of Victorian buildings. Wrought iron balconies on a lot, with just a few ‘modernised’ apparently without authorisation, according to one of the owners. Again fantastic views, and it was great to relax after climbing the steep path, and talk to one pair of owners on their top terrace.At the other house on St Finbarrus Road we were encouraged to go inside (love the rack of hats), and view the art of the daughter of the family Jane Cooper of Bristol. She spends half of her life in the mountains all over the world. She was even the first ascender of one mountain and got to name it after her mother – quite a feat!I just absolutely loved this oil of Snowdonia…..outside our reach unfortunately at £800+ and apparently I am told we have no wall space….On leaving Fowey on our way to The Duchy Garden Centre, the lanes were a glorious green, or else absolutely saturated with the white pink and blue of wildflowers…
as do the lanes….
The bluebell has many names: English bluebell, wild hyacinth, wood bell, bell bottle, Cuckoo’s Boots, Wood Hyacinth, Lady’s Nightcap and Witches’ Thimbles, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, according to the NT and amazingly (to me) almost half the world’s bluebells are found in the UK, they’re relatively rare in the rest of the world. So, we look forward to seeing them. We’ve noticed them gradually replacing the primroses in our lanes, so we thought high time to visit our local bluebell wood.
We set off on our walk in Treworgey which is a charming but strange village, seemingly owned by one holiday company, one family in fact, with lovely riding stables, animal compounds, a rural play park and pretty cottages and houses. It doesn’t appear there is a single dwelling that isn’t a holiday cottage, and yet it still feels like a traditional untouched village.
Anyway, a beautiful spot, beautiful day (hotter than Ibiza apparently), and……. we were soon climbing out of the valley up a lane full of wild flowersand with a super high hedge….good views back towards the sea….and reaching Tredinnick a very pretty hamlet indeed.across a couple of fields then hugely busy with ploughing tractors, we entered the woods, to be greeted by sweeping vistas as far as the eye could see of wild garlic and bluebells….A new camera, well mobile Samsung S7, which I haven’t quite got the hang of, so with huge contrasts of light and shade in the woods I wasn’t able to get the pics which the walk deserved. On emerging into the daylight on our way back to Treworgey we had distant views of the River Looe and the deep blue sea (not quite ‘wine-dark’, but still an impressive colour.Seeing a rather beautiful horse chestnut F was reminded of a verse which she composed as an eight year old…..The chestnut tree has fingers five, and near these hands some candles thrive, the candle flames are pink or white, and dance so prettily in the light
Well I thought it was Keats anyhow….Treworgey had rather a spectacular rhododendron as we re-entered…A lovely spur-of-the- moment walk late on a May afternoon…very worthwhile.
Our garden is becoming more colourful by the day too…..
Home-made fish pie for tea…white wine obligatory!
We were really looking forward to visiting Powderham Castle on the banks of the lovely River Exe. This trip didn’t for once live up to our expectations. First of all we visited the cafe, not a great experience. I overheard the next table saying their coffees were virtually cold. The waitress didn’t offer a good explanation, just that they could have asked for the setting on the machine to be turned up. How are you supposed to know whether you need a higher setting?! Sure enough our coffees were tepid, virtually undrinkable. I then heard another table complain about the bread with the soup, the waitress gave them a baguette instead. I had unfortunately already struggled with mine…it was tough and virtually uneatable. I did mention this when paying. The soup itself was the smallest portion you could imagine. No aristocratic generosity here. F’s baked potato with tuna was ‘underwhelming’, potato not crisp on the outside and inside fluffy, tuna not seasoned, really just a mush.
We then went on the tour of the ‘grand rooms’ as opposed to the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ tour. The guide unfortunately was, what can I say, not well-trained. I don’t blame her, it is a difficult job. But anyway she didn’t have much knowledge or authority. So, whilst some of the rooms, particularly the Library and the Music Room, were impressive, the tour itself was an enormous disappointment. As usual with it being a private house, no photos….from the net, here’s the beautiful sequence of rooms forming the library.
and the splendid Music RoomThe formal dining room, a Victorian addition, was very much High Victorian…We wandered outside to the chapel and there some pretty impressive wisteria adorning the outside of the buildings.and the views down to the river were nice enough…although by no stretch of the imagination would you call the gardens impressive.Looking for something else to do we wandered up quite a way to the walled garden and Victorian glasshouse where we immediately had to shelter from a heavy downpour. Again a great disappointment. There were two fig trees inside plus some very scruffy tables and chairs. The huge walled garden was entirely given over to petting areas with ponies, birds etc and a children’s play area. All very well but I think some token acknowledgement of what the garden was originally used for would have been nice.The dash through the rain to our car virtually summed up the whole experience unfortunately. What a disappointment for what should be one of the premier houses and experiences in Devon.
However, we were cheered up by a diversion over to the opposite side of the river to visit Topsham, a lovely village with a character all of its own. The houses and shops all quirky, Dutch gables reflecting its maritime heritage, the riverside very interesting and the pubs and cafes all looking good. We had a quick coffee in The Globe an excellent establishment with a fascinating history. We would certainly go again. And as for Topsham itself, we will be back.
When you have lunch in such a colourful setting, it’s hard to leave…But we had decided to visit two local gardens in Liskeard which were open in the NGS scheme We’d passed them many many times but it was interesting to see what was behind the garden gates..The views from the gardens were beautiful too here looking towards a Brunel viaduct… another pic for my ‘Signs’ folder…and in one garden the armillary sphere reminded us of our empty plinth…and outside the garden is one of our local milestones. There is a site that records milestones I must make sure our local ones are on it….
Great news that the village shop is now open again, and seems just as good. We were here to do the walk to St Winnow and back as it was such a nice day. First you pass one of the lime kilns round about. There are three others (one now converted into a house). It is quite astonishing how many lime kilns were needed in rural localities. Basically the limestone was brought up from Fowey by sailing barge, and transformed to quicklime in the kilns…
‘The Romans developed the burning of limestone to make lime for use in building as a mortar, although there is little evidence of their kilns in the country. During the Middle Ages, with the increase in building, the demand for lime again increased. However until the middle of the eighteenth century most lime kilns were temporary structures near to the site where the lime was required. These were either left to collapse after use or dismantled. In some places the limestone was simply burnt in clamps or pye kilns, in which coal slack and limestone were burned in an enclosed heap.
It was the agrarian revolution of the eighteenth century, when vast areas were enclosed for farm land, that created an enormous demand for lime which would reduce the acidity of the soil and make it more fertile. Vast numbers of lime kilns were built and many farmers had their own. Elsewhere large blocks of kilns were built and run commercially so that farmers could buy their lime.’
Nice cloudless sky crossing over the bridge…Don’t often see ‘Impracticable’ signs or ‘Mpracticable’ in this case!We used the bridge…F. not good with stepping stones having failed to negotiate one in the Lake District!
There are some really pretty cottages in Lerryn with lovely gardens, behind built into the steep slope or on the other side of this lane sloping right down to the river…On the opposite side of the river I believe this is the boathouse used by the Prince of Wales (not the present one) for secret assignations…The first two thirds of the walk is entirely tree-shaded right by the side of the river – nice. It is the River Lerryn at first and then this runs into the main River Fowey.What could be nicer?Only the occasional obstacle…and some really great places to take a break….From here you can just see Golant, down river and on the opposite bank, with its plentiful moorings, another village we like very much.Bluebells and wild garlic were the main plants today…and the views are pleasant looking occasionally away from the river….I have thought many times that I would like to write a booklet in the terrific Shire series (which covers every subject under the sun) on the huge variety of gates and stiles you encounter in the English countryside…here’s a new one on me. Ah yes, the Shire series we used to sell….amazing. From ‘Roodscreens’ to ‘British Microcars 1947 – 2002’, from ‘Bells and Bellringing’ to ‘Victorian Fashion’. You couldn’t make it up.Nearing St Winnows church just visible in the trees…This boat has got a bit close!and now our real objective, just by the side of the church…and why not? In fact we both agreed this salted caramel cone was the nicest ice cream we have ever tasted – apart perhaps from Brymor’s ‘Top Gold’ which we used to sell in our sweetie shop in York, now I see with sadness no longer available. That was just too good.If you stop and look at the verge often enough you are certainly rewarded…The steepish climb out of the settlement gives a real flavour of the superb setting of St Winnows.Not far to go now, over a few fields with happy cows, through the fringes of a wood, and we are back to the River Lerryn. A truly delightful walk.
Tavistock is one of the nicest market towns in the West Country, and five minutes from Dartmoor countryside. The centre is heavily influenced by the works of the philanthropic Duke of Bedford in the Victorian era, massive solid buildings such as the town hall as well as the many, many Bedford cottages built for miners. It sits on the lovely River Tavy where trout and salmon glide or sometimes fight their way up river past Tavistock, and is full of independent shops such as you wish were in your town. It is also the home of our favourite pub at the moment The Cornish Arms. We called here with Katherine and Aiisha the other day just for a drink. This time we were intent on its food.
We therefore got the express bus from Liskeard to Plymouth and then a pristine double-decker from there to Tavistock…surprisingly they run every fifteen minutes or thereabouts. Once we had left Plymouth, calling at the hospital etc etc, we were on our journey proper, soon into wooded roads, Dartmoor ponies, sweeping views of the moorland all round, a really enjoyable journey. After disgorging at the bus station, we made our way to the river where we had a leisurely stroll between the old abbey walls and the river itself, looking for fish along the way, and stopping to examine the more impressive bits surviving of the abbey precinct….for a very impressive write-up of what remains of the Abbey do see Johnie’s Meanderings…the so-called ‘still tower’ is perhaps where the monks used to distill their herbs into medicines, but almost certainly part of their infirmary..sketched by Turner incidentally….we walked onto Vigo bridge (the name worthy of more research)…took in a delightful little brasserie on the side of the river…and then made our slow way up the main shopping streetto our destination which didn’t disappoint…..a beautifully cooked 3-course meal and glass of Pinot Grigio for F. and a more prosaic haddock and chips for me (and a couple of pints…how nice to be on the bus)…just time for a couple more pics of Tavistock’s characterful buildings (these the upper floors of shops)……then time for the buses home – this time via the Tamar Valley, lots of villages and a change of bus in Callington. Another interesting day out – with fine food.
Our garden is probably at its most colourful just now, I nearly said at its best, but the weather has been too wet to mow the lawn, so this detracts.and the lanes continue to change, a lot of ransom now mixed with primroses and bluebells…and weeds… fine as long as they are not in your garden!….…..talking of weeds, this is why Wordsworth’s favourite flower, about which he wrote three poems is, not the daffodil, but the lowly celandine…..
There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!
For some reason, gardening inspires reading. The two go together nicely. But even if I can only look through the window at our garden through April downpours it still somehow makes me want to read. A couple of books I have devoured recently are to do with Caravaggio. Andrew Graham Dixon’s ‘Caravaggio : A Life Sacred and Profane’ is terrific. We have always enjoyed him on television, particularly the splendid series ‘Italy Unpacked’ on BBC with Giorgio Locatelli where he finds the art and Giorgio the food (another two things that go seamlessly together), but I don’t recall reading any of his books. The amount of knowledge and research that has gone into Caravaggio is stupendous, and much of it original. But who would have thought that I would enjoy a book about a painter of high Counter-Reformatiom religious pieces. The point about Caravaggio however is that he totally altered the way of religious representation from formal classicism to a realism based very much on the underworld in which so much of his life was to pan out. He was really the first person to show biblical stories in a dark, modern setting. He used the prostitutes he knew as models, as well as people picked off the streets of Rome who had ingrained dirt in their skin and filthy nails and feet. But more than that he was a master of dark and light, his paintings being hugely dramatic. Two thirds of some are black, black, black. Caravaggio threw himself and his world into the paintings sometimes literally as he often figured in the background.
But as much about the way Caravaggio changed painting for ever, this book is about the world in which he lived, the world of pimps and prostitutes, of honour woundings and killings, of extreme wealth and poverty. We learn how the things Caravaggio did, including his infamous killing of a man with whom he had quarrelled, made his life take turns which were indeed on the one hand sacred, and on the other profane. It is an exciting story riven with gory detail which engages you to the last. marvellous. In conjunction with this biography I picked through ‘Caravaggio : The Complete Works’ one of the marvellous Taschen Art books published in Germany at insanely cheap prices. The complete works, and analysis, for £7.99, a-ma-zing!
Last year we had our first visit to this fascinating house in May and, as it is well known for its dazzling display of camellias and rhododendrons, we caught them just past their best. Much better this time round, although we could try even earlier next year. Because you have to go on set-times guided tours of the house we settled down, whilst waiting, for a cup of tea in the Peacock cafe…… said peacocks were very much visible..We learned more in the tour with a different guide this time. I was desperate to take some interior photos but you can’t, and this is not because the family object, but because the insurance company won’t allow it. Not surprising really I suppose, especially when you consider that the family has probably the finest collection of Reynolds portraits anywhere in one place. One room was indeed stuffed full of them! Interesting to see historic artefacts mingled with the day-to-day bits and pieces of family living. One little story I liked (could be true) concerns the Meissen swan. Apparently the daughter, when very young obviously, overheard a guide telling visitors about it and reported to Daddy that the guides were telling stories….the problem? when told about it she had thought it was mice and swan, and no mice! Some visitors now bring china mice to hide behind the swan.
Catching sight of one particularly magnificent rhododendron through the windows, I was itching to go and see it in all its glory. However immediately our tour had finished, a vicious downpour and hail drove us to our car for some time. Clear skies followed…as often in Cornwall, and out we went………We then started on the circular walk round the whole grounds, about two and a half miles….first looking back at what used to be the main entrance (and still should be in our opinion)…then past the ancient Cornish cross…we were told it is the largest of its type. I was expecting something about twenty feet high, but the head is impressive!all along the walk you pass beautiful camellias and rhododendrons ….and magnolias too at this time of year…and then you go along Moles garden a living memorial to the current inhabitant’s husband, and prettily laid out with absolutely lovely views back to the house..next, past the Palm House, it looks as though said palms outgrew their house!a beautiful lake next….and then, very exciting, well to me, you walk through the Iron Age hill fortThis survives to a height of 3m in places and has terrific views all round as you would expect….then through an area the family call the cathedral……before carrying on down the one mile long main carriage drive lined all the way with mainly camellias and rhododendrons, some spectacular…plenty of woodland plants underfoot only add character at this time of year…bluebells as well as the wild garlic…then just before reaching the house again, two signs to add to my collection….you couldn’t make it up….
After dropping off Katherine, Nasar and Aiisha at Exeter airport for their flight home today Saturday, with all their accoutrements including Nasar’s lovely new leather holdall, we left the car at the Park and Ride and travelled into Exeter on top of the double decker. Exeter’s suburbs are ok…we passed neat mainly Edwardian houses. First stop, lunch at JLP’s roof restaurant where the weather was so nice that we sat outside – brilliant! Next, to Waterstone’s which was opposite JLP. Unlike the Truro branch, This seemed to emphasise its books rather than ‘non-books’. Since I chose a couple of good non-fiction titles, F. felt obliged to choose two fiction. We had a nice chat with the guy behind the counter who was pleased that our 2 bookshops are still doing well and told us that one of their best categories of customer now is teenage, the group we had always found so difficult. Good news. We then wandered along Exeter’s main shopping street stopping to admire the umbrella ‘installation’…and the upside of some of the buildingsbefore dipping into a back street where we examined some old almshouses..preserved after destruction in the Second World War..then onto Cathedral Closewhere we admired the many old buildings of different ages……. including the doorway of Number 11 which used to be the residence of the Archdeacon of Barnstable, a medieval house modified during the seventeenth century….. We then decided to explore the city walls which we had glimpsed on past visits, but reading that around 72 per cent of the circuit still survives, we were keen to compare with York where we used to live….what we found was quite remarkable….the more we walked the more astonished we were that so much has survived, and a lot of it Roman (generally the purple stones in the fabric, as opposed to the soft red sandstone which was used to repair it in later ages)…..For a terrific write-up on the walls (and many other things) see Wolfpaw’s blog Whilst walking we came across a nice little group of houses….colour has an important role to play in architecture as our friend Alan pointed out…As we were getting rather warm on this glorious day we decided to call in to the Prospect Inn on the Quayside for a quick pint…much enjoyed!We weren’t following a route as such but we saw more wall on the way back and so reckon we must have see the most of it…the only thing to say about the wall which is a bit of a disappointment is that you cannot walk on it unlike Chester or York…However, it would be nice to have some Roman/Medieval wall as your garden wall! Which reminds me we very nearly bought a house at one time at Cawood in Yorkshire which had a piece of Cawood Castle at the bottom of the garden. Cardinal Wolsey lived there for a while and he is believed to be the inspiration for Humpty Dumpty. A great day out. We like Exeter a lot.