Tulips Raising The Roof At Attingham

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We thought we’d make the most of the sunny day and popped over to Attingham Park at lunch time. Half the world had the same idea and the place was alive with happy families and happy dogs roving over the parkland. There were fallow deer to see, bluebell woods, trees burstingly green, stream banks golden with marsh marigolds, and in the walled garden’s frame-yard these very shouty tulips. My goodness but they had a lot to say for themselves.

Six Word Saturday

#SixWordSaturday #6WS

Marvellous Magnolias ~ And More From Bodnant Garden

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You could say that one of Britain’s loveliest gardens grew from a cosmetic nicety – the means to make white soap from brown. This new Victorian product was invented by one Henry Pochin (1824-1895), an industrial chemist who developed a process to clarify rosin, a brown resin that was used to make soap. He then sold the rights to white-soap-making to fund a new development: the production of alum cake from china clay, so creating a vital ingredient for the manufacture of good quality paper.

After that it was full steam ahead for Mr. Pochin, and literally too. He bought up china clay works in Cornwall and South Wales, and the Cornish Gothers works had its own tramway system on which ran a fleet of small steam locomotives, known at the time as Pochin’s Puffing Billies. And so he became a major industrialist, with further interests in iron, steel, and coal. He was also an all round pillar of the community, including serving for a time as a Liberal Member of Parliament. His wife, Agnes Pochin, was also politically active and a passionate suffragist.

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In 1874, Pochin bought the Bodnant Estate in the Conwy Valley, North Wales. The estate included Bodnant House,  25 farms and 80 acres of gardens, and for the next 20 years Pochin set about acquiring specimen trees from around the world.  He employed the notable landscape gardener Edward Milner, and together they re-landscaped the steep gorge below the house, planting American and Asian conifers along the banks of the River Hiraethlyn that runs through the gardens.

Some 140 years on, you can see the astonishing results – towering Douglas Firs, Giant Redwoods, Japanese Umbrella Pines. This part of the garden, known as The Dell, has over 40 champion trees, now on the UK list of notable and ancient trees.

As we wandered through the pinetum we wondered at the vision of these men – to plant trees whose full glory in that setting they would never live to see. It struck us too, that the world could well do with more of this forward, long-term planning, the creation of a living legacy for future generations.

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When Pochin died, his daughter Laura McClaren inherited Bodnant, and since that time the gardens have been developed by successive generations of the McClaren family, in particular Pochin’s grandson, Henry McClaren, who created the more formal gardens and the astonishing laburnum arch. (We were too soon to see it in bloom.) It was also he, who in 1949, gave the garden to the National Trust, although it is still managed on behalf of the Trust by a member of family. And it is still growing and expanding, with new areas being planted and opened to the public this year.

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This is the view from the house (still privately owned) – the Carneddau mountains of Snowdonia as a backdrop. What a setting. And what a garden. Here are a few more glimpses:

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A Dreaming Of Daffodils ~ A New Collective Noun?

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I promised more views of Bodnant Gardens, and here is one that took our breath away. So many daffodils. They sparked instant euphoria, impelling us to rush as one towards them. Who had thought to create this daffodil extravaganza? Was it real?

As we drew closer we saw that the lovely plants people had provided random pathways between the bulb crowds so allowing for natural childhood exuberance, and the desire of small persons to race hither and thither amongst them. Their excitement was electric. I almost joined in. Instead I took a photo of my sister, Jo.

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And then two much smaller sisters came running in:

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Who needs Wordsworth?

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Daily Post Photo Challenge: DENSE

Traces Of The Past ~ And Who Do You Think Lived In This Little House?

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Well, I’d never seen one of these before.  There it was outside the walled garden at Attingham Park, one of Shropshire’s grandest historic houses.  Closer inspection and the spotting of an information panel inside one of the half-moon ‘windows’ yielded the knowledge that it was in fact the bees knees in accommodation – a grand house commissioned specially for the Second Duke of Berwick’s bees.

The house was originally sited in the Duke’s extensive orchards to encourage the pollination of the fruit trees. Behind each opening there would have been a traditional hive or skep – an upturned, domed basket made from coils of straw. This apian ‘des res’ apparently dates from the early 1800s and is only one of two known Regency examples in the country. The great landscape designer Humphry Repton and architect John Nash were both employed at Attingham around this time, and so either one could be responsible for the design.

The hall and park are in the care of the National Trust, and it is currently one of their most visited properties – over 400,000 visitors last year and growing. Millions have been spent on the house, and the next huge project is the recreation of Lord Berwick’s pleasure grounds. Nor have the bees been forgotten. There are a quarter of a million honey bees in the Park, and the Trust has recently established a large, new apiary in the Deer Park. There is also a National Observation Hive in the orchard where you can watch the bees coming and going. Attingham honey may be going on sale soon. So a big cheer to the National Trust for championing the bee cause, this in the face of determined eradication of the species by the Big Unfriendly Pesticide Giants. We’ll all be very sorry if bees become ‘a thing of the past’.

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The walled garden in winter: a restoration project in progress. You can just glimpse the orchard beyond the far wall.

Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past Now visit Paula for her fine entry.

Thursday’s Special: Double Trouble?

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I was in the formal garden of Erddig stately home, thinking of photographing the avenue of shapely yews when these two young men walked into the frame. They lingered, clearly wanting to be photographed in their costumes as 1900s serving lads. Then the kitchen maids arrived  to send them back to their duties, and they were gone. On the other hand I could have captured a time slip: a  pair of fleeting Edwardian ghosts?

Now here’s the yew avenue I was aiming to snap.

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Thursday’s Special: Double

#ThursdaysSpecial

Traces Of The Past ~ The 330-Year-Old Hedge

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It’s hard to imagine that this gigantic bastion of ancient yew trees began three centuries ago as a formal terrace row, each tree cut into a neat, small cone or obelisk. Back then in the 1680s, when these trees were first planted, the taste in grand garden design was for the linear and geometric, following the French notion of strict plant control.

A hundred years later it was all change.  In keeping with the new romantic landscape style of English gardening, the yews were allowed to grow as they pleased. The aim was to create vistas of idealized nature.

But this more liberal attitude did not last either. Around the time of the yews’ two-hundredth birthdays, Victorian garden men armed with sickles and step ladders intervened, and began creating this  arboreal rampart of free-form topiary. Both fascinating and overbearing, I feel. The gardeners apparently hung onto to their ladders with one hand, while pruning and shaping with the other.

Today, the effect is still maintained by National Trust gardeners, now using electric hedge trimmers. Every year four of them start work in late August, and keep on trimming until mid-November – three months’ toil.

The yews are to be seen at one of the National Trust’s outstanding properties – Powis Castle, near Welshpool in Powys, just over the border from Shropshire. We called in there on our way home from our recent stay on the Mawddach Estuary in mid Wales. I’m afraid that on this occasion it was more for a good cup of coffee than for culture.

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The castle dates from around 1200 when it was the stronghold of the last Welsh princes of Powys. In the sixteenth century ownership passed to the English Herbert family who acquired the title Earl of Powis. Indeed, they appeared to have acquired it on three separate occasions through history until the title eventually stuck fast to the family.

One of the Herbert daughters married the son of Clive of India (Robert Clive 1725-1774) – he who plundered the subcontinent under the auspices of the British East India Company. The Clive fortune paid for repair and development of the castle, and Robert Clive’s collection of valuable arts works gathered during his India days are on display there. You can tell I have very mixed feelings about this. But scruples aside, the house is well worth seeing and it contains many treasures.

The garden, though, is the best part. The setting is magnificent, with stunning views of the Welsh borderland. A whole day (and indeed several days at different seasons) could be spent exploring the many layered terraces, the lawns and woodland walks. The planting is on an epic scale with many unusual herbaceous varieties deployed. Specialist garden history talks are also available, and when energy flags (and as intimated earlier) there’s a good restaurant-tea room for re-charging purposes. Although to be on the safe, take your own picnic as well. It’s a long way from the grand lawn to the courtyard refreshment station.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

Please visit Paula at Lost in Translation for more traces of the past. This theme is going to be regular every-other-month challenge on her blog, which is good news. Thank you, Paula. I have lots more traces in my archive.

A Five Hundred-Year-Old C.V. ~ And All Kinds Of Timeless Connections…

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THIS TOMB

IS TO THE MEMORY OF

SIR RICHARD CROFT . KNT .

SHERIFF OF HEREFORDSHIRE

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FOUGHT AT MORTIMER’S CROSS 1461

TEWKSBURY 1471

M.P. FOR HEREFORDSHIRE 1477

GOVERNOR OF LUDLOW CASTLE

CREATED KNIGHT-BANNERET

AFTER THE BATTLE OF STOKE 1487

DIED JULY 29 1509

ALSO OF ELEANOR HIS WIFE

DAUGHTER OF SIR EDMUND CORNWALL BARON

OF BURFORD SALOP

WIDOW OF SIR HUGH MORTIMER OF KYRE

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Sir Richard Croft (born 1429) lord of the manor of Croft Castle in Hereforshire was advisor to Edward Duke of York during the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. The Duke was eighteen years old and had recently succeeded his father, Richard third Duke of York, to the title. Richard had been killed in the previous year at the Battle of Wakefield. Lady Eleanor Croft’s first husband had also also killed in that battle. These were Wars of the Roses times wherein the Houses of York and Lancaster vied bloodily for the British crown. The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross was fought on Croft land not far from the castle (and in the English Midlands nowhere near either York or Lancaster) and was a turning point in the conflict for reasons I’ll get to in a moment.

First I should say that this week’s theme at Paula’s Black & White Sunday is TIMELESS. And the reason I’ve chosen these photos is because there is quite another timeless connection – i.e. the words of William Shakespeare whose 400th memorial anniversary is being celebrated this year. In Henry VI pt 3  Act II scene i,  he makes reference to a strange meteorological event that occurred before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, although the actual battle does not feature in the play.

This is Shakespeare’s version of what was seen, expressed in an exchange between brothers, Edward 4th Duke of York the soon-to-be Edward IV, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III:

Edward: Dazzle mine eyes, or do I see three suns?

Richard: Three glorious suns, each one a perfect sun; Not separated with the racking clouds/But severed in a pale clear-shining sky. /See, see: they join, embrace, and seem to kiss,  /As if they vowed some league inviolable./Now are they but one lamp, one light, one sun.  /In this the heaven figures some event.

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The phenomenon described here was a parhelion or sun dog, a refraction of the sun’s rays through ice that created the impression of three separate suns rising simultaneously. According to historical accounts Edward decided that this extraordinary vision was a great portent promising victory, while his opponents were filled with terror. Thus inspired with holy certainty, Edward’s army won the day. A few weeks later Edward was crowned king. The sun thereafter featured as part of his personal emblem.
I’m afraid I have only one sun in my photo of Croft Castle and the chapel where Sir Richard and Lady Eleanor have their magnificent tomb, but then there are other interesting signs in the sky. Incidentally, Sir Richard served in his various official capacities (quoted in the memorial plaque above) under four successive monarchs, including Richard III.

Also to coincide with this year’s Shakespeare celebrations, the BBC is currently airing its own ‘Game of Thrones’ version of Shakespeare’s War of the Roses history plays, The Hollow Crown; proof of the timeless quality of good yarns, even if a few liberties have been taken with the playwright’s text. But then ‘the bard’ was nothing if not a past master at recycling other people’s tales and historical accounts, and giving them his own particular gloss; even during his own time players of his works apparently changed the words. It was ever thus with the art of good storytelling…

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

The Tale Of A Hidden House That Once Hid A King

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It’s something of a puzzle. When you first encounter Moseley Old Hall with its Staffordshire brickwork you feel sure you are looking at a Victorian building. And what’s more, rather than saying historic country manor, its looks suggest something urban and industrial, as if this might have been the home of some nineteenth century mill or mine owner.

Take another look from a different angle:

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Now consider the side elevation coming up next. There’s an important clue here that all is not what it seems (a bit like Peter Greenaway’s film The Draughtsman’s Contract):

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Yes, here beside the house we have a restored knot garden of the 1600s. So what’s going on?

Time to put on the reading specs, and study the next three images:

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/oldhouses/oldhouses2.htm

Fig. 1

Source: Allan Fea Secret Chambers and Hiding Places

Now look at the photos again, and you have it. Moseley Old Hall, a timbered building of 1600 has been encased in a brick skin. This apparently happened in the 1860s, presumably as the easiest means of preserving the building. These drawings date from around 1850 before the cladding operation. Even though I have stared at the evidence, I still find it hard to accept that these are the same building. It’s like a variation on a ‘spot the differences’ puzzle. But just look at the placement of windows, eaves and bays. They are all pretty much the same whether in brick or half-timbering.

And now for the hiding of a king – and the year of 1651 when the house in timbered form played its part in British history, and sheltered Charles II after his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Worcester on September 3rd.

You can download the whole story in a free book at the following  link: Allan Fea The Flight of the King 1908  But the gist of the tale is this.

Moseley Old Hall is on the outskirts of Wolverhampton in the English West Midlands, and around 30 miles north of Worcester. After his army was crushed, Charles fled with a group of officers, and was guided to the Boscobel estate, not far from Moseley, by Colonel Charles Gifford who owned Boscobel. His properties there were in the care of servants, the five Penderel brothers.  This area on the Shropshire-Staffordshire border was a Catholic stronghold, and therefore most families were supporters of the king, although not necessarily brave enough to help a fugitive monarch. The stakes were far too high. Death being the likeliest outcome.

The cavalier officers who had been accompanying Charles left him in hiding at White Ladies Priory on the Boscobel estate, and carried on to Newport in Shropshire. It was thought the king would be safer travelling alone, and it was left to the Penderel brothers to effect the monarch’s disguise and scout out an escape route. The king wanted to get to London, but the roads east out of Boscobel were blocked and Cromwell’s militias were everywhere. He decided instead to head west into Wales where he had strong support.

Being over six feet tall, way above average height at the time, Charles was something of a challenge when it came to disguises. The Penderels cut his hair short, gave him coarse labourer’s gear, patched stockings, and a ‘greasy’ tall hat to wear. The shoes had to be cut to fit the king’s feet. These last were to cause the monarch much agony and multiple lacerations. Finally, after some lessons in local dialect and labourer gait, he was mounted on a farm horse. This beast was also to cause him much grief, and almost did for him when it stumbled. After that Charles had to walk cross-country tortured by the ill-fitting shoes.

The attempt to cross the River Severn into Wales failed. The crossings were all guarded, and Charles was forced to return to White Ladies. This was extremely dangerous. There were soldiers searching the woods all round, and Charles had to spend one whole day hiding inside an oak tree (the now famous Boscobel Oak). Meanwhile the Penderels were out searching the district for safer quarters.

So it was that Moseley Old Hall came to provide a safe haven. At the time it was lived in by Thomas Whitgreave and his widowed mother. Thomas was a Royalist but had not fought at Worcester due to ill health. Other occupants of the house were Father John Huddleston, a Benedictine priest, and his three pupils, who included two of Whitgreave’s nephews. The hall also had a priest hole, a relic of the earlier Catholic persecutions.

Charles was brought exhausted, and with bleeding feet to the hall where Father Huddleston set about tending to the king, and giving him fresh clothing and sustenance before showing him to a  comfortable bed. Meanwhile everyone else in the house was charged to keep a look out for the militias. (Can’t you see glimpses of those fearful faces peeping from every window around the hall?)

Thomas Whitgreave describes what happened next:

“In the afternoon [the King] reposing himself on his bed in the parlour chamber and inclineing to sleep, as I was watching at the window, one of the neighbours I saw come running in, who told the maid soldiers were comeing to search, who thereupon presentlie came running to the staires head, and cried, ‘Soldiers, soldiers are coming,’ which his majestie hearing presentlie started out of his bedd and run to his privacie, where I secured him the best I could, and then leaving him, went forth into the street to meet the soldiers who were comeing to search, who as soon as they saw and knew who I was were readie to pull mee to pieces, and take me away with them, saying I was come from the Worcester fight; but after much dispute with them, and by the neighbours being informed of their false information that I was not there, being very ill a great while, they let mee goe; but till I saw them clearly all gone forth of the town I returned not; but as soon as they were, I returned to release him (the King) and did acquaint him with my stay, which hee thought long, and then hee began to bee very chearful again.

“In the interim, whilst I was disputing with the soldiers, one of them called Southall came in the ffould and asked a smith, as hee was shooing horses there, if he could tell where the King was, and he should have a thousand pounds for his payns… This Southall is a great priest-catcher.”

After this episode the king no longer felt safe at Moseley. Another refuge had to be found and the means to get him there safely. It was at midnight, one week after the defeat at Worcester, that Thomas Whitgreave led Charles into the orchard of Moseley Old Hall where it had been arranged that Colonel John Lane would meet him with horses, and thence escort him to his home of Bentley Hall near Walsall.

This next stage of the escape was safely accomplished. Over the following weeks, and using various stratagems and much subterfuge, Charles dodged his enemies. Many attempts to find a boat and passage to France proved fruitless as he moved through Devon and along the south coast. There were even days when he hid at Stonehenge. Finally, on the 15th October, after six weeks on the run, he set sail from Brighton for France. It would be another nine years before he returned to claim his throne.

Now for more views of Moseley Old Hall. Another visit will be required before I can show you the interior. When we went on Sunday the weather was far too glorious to go indoors. So please enjoy a stroll around the gardens while imagining a battle-weary king with very sore feet arriving here secretly one September night. Look out, too, for Cromwell’s militia!

 

I’m linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Earth Day From The Shropshire Hills, Some Of The World’s Oldest Rock Formations

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Not so much Monarch of the Glen as Sheep on the Long Mynd,  a hill so old that it has some Pre-Cambrian geology named after it. I’m talking here of Longmyndian shales, siltstones and sandstones (sedimentary rocks) that were laid down in shallow seas at a time when this part of the earth was moving up the planet from Antarctica.  This would be around 560-550 million years ago.

The Long Mynd (mynd means mountain in Welsh) lives up to its name too. It is a very long plateau with steep valleys, and was formed by a very big CRASH when sea levels fell and the seabed deposits collided with a plate of volcanic hills to the east. The result was the folding, tilting and compressing of the Longmyndian shales, siltstones and mudstones along the Church Stretton Fault. This was around 550-400 million years ago.

The Longmynd then continued to be knocked into the shape we see today by the following Ice Ages when glaciers shunted around its flanks, making it an island amongst frigid wastes. When the ice finally began to retreat around 30,000 years ago, rain and melting snow fed streams that cut steep valleys or ‘batches’ into the Mynd’s sides.

Isn’t geology wonderful when you forget about the hard words, the mind-boggling quantities of time, and just admire the consequences?

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One of the Mynd’s best known features is Carding Mill Valley where these photos were taken. Since Victorian times it has been one of Shropshire’s most popular countryside resorts. Generations of Salopians (Shropshire folk) will have fond childhood memories of spending Bank Holiday Mondays picnicking there, feeding egg sandwiches to the sheep, getting soaked in the stream, and going home with green bottoms from sliding down the hillsides.

Today both valley and Long Mynd are in the guardianship of the National Trust that not only manages the landscape, but provides very excellent homemade refreshments in the Edwardian Pavilion tea-room  that’s coming up next.  If, while you are looking at that, you also scan towards the top of the hill, directly above the pavilion’s main roof, you might just discern the verge of a very hair-raising single-track road that takes you over the top of the Long Mynd to the small village of Rattlinghope, known locally as Ratchup. I have a grim memory of driving down there in a car with dodgy brakes, and only intermittent passing places beside precipitous drops.

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Unlike the geology, the landscape you see in the shots is not natural, but man-made. The valleys would once have been wooded. Archaeological finds from c 3,500-2000 BC indicate that Late Stone Age (Neolithic) people were travelling along the open top of the Long Mynd ridgeway, an ancient trade route between Cumbria in the north, Wales to the west, and Cornwall in the south-west. Earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherers came this way too. But the main clearance probably took place during the Bronze Age (c.2,000-1,000 BC). These people farmed in the Shropshire Hills and buried their dead in cairns and burial mounds all along the ridgeway.

In the next photo you can just see the green ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort Bodbury Rings. It is lying right along the hilltop skyline towards the summit, and ending directly under the moon. This was a summer herding camp of the Cornovii people, and dates from around 400 BC.

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We may not know very much about the past peoples who lived and died in this landscape, but they did leave behind clues that showed us that they honoured it in significantly sacred ways. That would be a good thing to remember on this Earth Day. Much of the world is in dire need of loving care. We are lucky in Shropshire to have so many people, and charitable bodies who do take care of the place for everyone’s pleasure and inspiration.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

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Earth  Daily Post Prompt

I’m also linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk for when she’s regularly back with us. I think she would like this walk up Carding Mill Valley.

#ShropshireHillsAONB  #NationalTrustShropshire  #CardingMillValley

The Cotehele Christmas Garland

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Even on the dreariest, dankest of days Cotehele is a magical place. For nearly 600 years this medieval-Tudor house was the home of the Edgecumbe family who aquired it through marriage in 1353. In 1947 it passed into the ownership of the National Trust in lieu of death duties.  Naturally, December is not the best time to visit, not if you wish to see the main house, or wander in the gardens. But from mid-November to 31st December Cotehele does have one very special attraction that makes it well worth the trip up winding, narrow lanes and into the mysterious Tamar River hinterland.

Every year in the Great Hall, and with a log fire flickering in the grate below, an epic swag of dried flowers is hung from the rafters to brighten the festive season.

The garland comprises one hundred feet of rope dressed with 46,000 dried flowers, all of which are grown on the Cotehele estate.  When you step into the Hall there is the faintest scent of summer hay, all of which puts one in mind of old English Hardy-esque midsummer relevry, and brings on a fit of nostalgia for the rustic yesteryear that probably never was.

But it does not matter. As invented traditions go (and the notion for it began in 1956), the garland is beautiful, and a darn sight more picturesque than that other English invention of similar vintage – the Ploughman’s Lunch that is still found lingering dolefully on most pub menus.

The garland takes staff and volunteers two weeks to construct. The base is made up of cuttings from 60 evergreen pittosporum trees. Added to these are statice, grasses, helichrysum, pink pokers, xerochrysum, acrolineum and helipterum. The whole creation lifts the spirits, and in the darkest days of the year, what more could one ask for, that and a delicious bowl of homemade soup in the National Trust tea room?

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Cotehele Great Hall

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell