Monday 31 July 2017

Beautiful Britain - Hidcote Manor Gardens NT, Gloucestershire

A few weeks ago now I literally had the loveliest of days ... meeting up with an old friend at Hidcote Manor Gardens, a National Trust property in Gloucestershire.

We chilled, we chatted and we ambled the day away, it was a real treat.

We were so lucky with the weather, it was just glorious, which made everything look so vibrant and colourful ... and feel just sooooooo relaxing.

I had been to Hidcote before, but at a different time of year, and it is just one of those gardens you could visit every month and see something different.

It is tucked away down narrow country lanes in the heart of The Cotswolds, with an old manor house made of honeyed cotswold stone surrounded by the loveliest of gardens, being divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The formality of the ‘rooms’ melting away as you move through the garden away from the house.
We started our visit with cups of Earl Gray and flapjack for me and a scone for my friend in The Barn Cafe.

It had been a while since we'd met up so we had a good old chinwag over our cuppas, catching up on all the news of becoming grandparents and aunties, garden projects and just life in general
We started our visit in the laundry room garden, listening to a short introductory talk about the history of the garden, its owners, and the work that the National Trust is doing to help restore it back to its heyday of the 1930s.

We then spent a good hour or so having a really good wander around exploring every corner.

We started our meanderings by wandering through the Pine Garden, past the Lily Pool to the Plant House.

  The border at the front of The Plant House just looked amazing ...

We spent a good while in The Plant House, taking inspiration for what to do with a stack of succulents that Martin and I bought recently for our own garden, knowing we wanted to do something with them, but not quite sure what.
We made our way through The Plant House and into The Long Borders, where the summer planting is just starting to go over but there is still plenty to catch the eye.
It was then on to the Kitchen Garden, with plenty of fruit, veg, herbs and flowers for cutting, being tended to by what seemed like an army of Gardeners. 
It was then on to the myriad of garden rooms, with shady doorways and gaps in the hedging just drawing us in, wanting to see what was hidden beyond.

Hidcote just does this absolutely brilliantly, each area feels so self contained and separate from the rest of the garden but it all flows on beautifully from one room to the next, each with something unique to wonder at and to set it apart from the rest.

There are some lovely views of the manor house, looking back through the planting from The White and The Old Gardens ....
I was well chuffed to find some Franco Sonchifolia in The White Garden, having just bought some of this on a recent visit to Canons Ashby, another NT property near Daventry. It was good to see how it would look in situ.
From The Old Garden we made our way through to The Circle and The Fuchsia Garden, passing more beautiful views looking back at the house on our way.
It was then down the steps made of old roofing tiles laid edge on, to The Bathing Pool Garden.
We lingered a fair while in The Bathing Pool garden, both desperate to catch a good picture of the steps, framed by topiary, with no other visitors just poking their heads into the shot from behind the hedges. I think it was worth it ...
As well as the old bathing pool we found the tallest delphiniums that either of us had ever seen and and, through the hedge under the cover of the rain shelter, a fabulous mural of how things must have looked in days gone by ...
We then headed down through The Wilderness, via The Upper Stream Garden and Hydrangea Corner ...
... to the extremity of the garden on this side, where there were wonderful views of the bordering open countryside to be had ...
We made our way back up The Long Walk, desperate for people-less photos, but having no luck whatsoever ...
The Red Borders were looking very impressive in The Summer Sunshine and, as access was closed off, it was nice and easy to get some good shots ...
Having covered nearly every inch of footpath and seen all that there was to see it was time for lunch and we were lucky enough to bag a table outside in the courtyard.

Lunch was a very chilled out affair. Quiche, salad, coleslaw and new potatoes, with lots of produce coming from the kitchen garden, followed by our second helping of cake for the day.

Time to exchange photos of new babies and projects under way, enjoying the warm sunshine, before heading for the shop and plant sales.

The plant sales area is laid out beautifully and we were reliably informed, by the ladies responsible for displaying them, that Hidcote has one of the best plant selections of all of the National Trust properties and in our experience we were both in complete agreement.

Everything was laid out creatively, giving lots of inspiration for what could be replicated back at home. There was a huge variety of plants, all looking very healthy and all displayed beautifully and imaginatively. 
I just couldn't help but treat our newly renovated garden with a rustic metal plant display stand, which I am hoping will be just the job for displaying some of those succulents that we don't quite know what to with. 

Here's how its looking now ...
I only wished, after I'd got home, that I'd also purchased some of these pots, which are the prettiest I've seen in a long time and are nowhere else to be found at all on the World Wide Web.
By the time we were ready to head for home it was about 4pm, so we had easily managed to spend a full day at the gardens, so we would both definitely recommend a visit.

There is another garden just down the road ......, which one of the nice plant ladies told us was completely different to Hidcote, but beautiful too and well worth looking at, so definitely one to add to the list for another day.

A big thank you to The National Trust for yet another lovely day out.

Monday 24 July 2017

Beautiful Britain - Balmoral - Royal Deeside

Hi there Everyone

It's back to Scotland for this week's post for the next big day out we had on our week's holiday, with mum and dad, back in June.

This time we are back to Balmoral for a second visit, having also visited on our previous holiday back in 2015.

It was as impressive an arrival as we remembered, walking from the car park, across The Dee to the gatehouse, where we caught the trailer for a ride up the drive.

We had a good look round the exhibitions, seeing all of the photographs used for the royal Christmas cards dating right back to the beginning of the Queens reign.

It was the gardens we had really come back to see again. We had purposely come a bit later in the year this time, in the hope that there would be more to see in the gardens and we weren't disappointed.

There was a lot more colour than there had been on our previous visit and we spent a lot more time exploring the gardens and took lots more photographs.

It was surprising to see how far behind us things are in flowering, our allium came and went back in April/May time, but they are still giving a really good show here ...
The same is true of the laburnum arch, which is still to reach its best. Ours always has its best show in May time ...
We managed to get some more good shots of the castle, though we couldn't manage the full building without any people in at all, however long we waited.
We had a little more luck from the side...
There was a lot more to be seen in the sunken garden this time too. 
This time we walked down to the river and we are so glad we did. It was absolutely beautiful. What an amazing spot to have at the bottom of your garden.

We had another look round the exhibition in The Ballroom, which was completely different to our last visit, and we came away knowing that we had to visit both Glamis and Mey Castles, which have both been added to my list of 50 things to do before I am 60.

There was just time for a quick visit to the cafe for a piece of cake, shared with some of the locals, before heading off.
Mum and dad had really enjoyed their first visit and we were no less happy with it being our second. It's definitely worth visiting at different times of the year 😀

Monday 17 July 2017

Beautiful Britain - Canons Ashby NT - Northamptonshire

I still have plenty of posts to share from our recent holiday in The Cairngorms but I thought I'd have a bit of a change this week to let you know about one of our recent  National Trust visits.
We were meeting up with Sue and Ken, family from Peterborough, for lunch and we tend to try and find a meeting point about half way between us. The last couple of times we have met at Foxton Locks but this time we just fancied a change. As we are all National Trust members, we decided to see if there was anywhere that met the bill.

Canons Ashby near Daventry seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. It was Ideally placed, about an hours drive for all of us, and none of us had visited before, so it would be a bit of an adventure.

The Trust describe the property as "A tranquil Tudor manor house set in rare terraced gardens, with the 'antient' Dryden family at its heart." I won't lie, I had to look up what on earth 'antient' meant. Apparently it's an obsolete way of spelling ancient ..... Who knew?

Anyway, the main thing was that there were tea rooms, so that was lunch sorted and there was somewhere to hang out if we were early.

We had a really good run along the A5, though it does look like there are some serious roadworks under way, which I would guess would make for a heck of a journey when they are in full swing, though, being a Sunday it was nice and quiet.It took us just over an hour from Tamworth so definitely doable for a nice day out from our part of the World.

We were a bit early so parked up and headed for the tea rooms, via the plant sales area, which would definitely be getting a good look at later. 
The weather was lovely so we managed to sit outside and chill whilst waiting for Sue and Ken to arrive. We didn't have to wait long and after a good catch up, accompanied by drinks and snacks, it was time to explore.

The house doesn't open till 1.00pm so we had plenty of time for a good wander round the gardens first.

We all loved the gardens, there is definitely more to them than first meets the eye, and we all took lots and lots of photos, especially of plants that we might like to try and find for our own gardens back home.

When you first enter the garden you are at the top of, what seems like, a very formal terrace.
There were some great views to be had of The Priory Church beyond the garden wall.
Wandering down the slope, from the formal part of the garden, into the vegetable patch, the formality completely disappears, with lots of fruit and veg growing alongside cottage garden plants all watched over by Mr and Mrs Scarecrow.
We made our way down to the bottom of the garden, through the middle of the vegetable patch ...
... past the most beautiful of sweet peas ...

... and then came back up along the wall of the garden, where we found plenty of photo opportunities within the herbaceous border. You know you are getting old when you know what the majority of the plants are, though there were a few that none of us had come across before.
Back at the top of this part of the garden we headed left around another patch of garden, where we managed to dodge a quick shower by taking cover in the rain shelter.
The view of the house itself was really good from this side of the garden and I did manage to catch a shot with no people in ... result!!
Once the rain had passed it was back out and up to the back of the house, where a gateway draws you into yet another part of the garden - Green Court. This court originally served as the main entrance to the house until 1840, when it was turfed over.
This part of garden is at the far side of the house and was completely different to what we'd seen already. There are two fabulous borders to admire. One with more herbaceous planting leading your eye to the side view of the house ...
The border on the opposite side of the garden was completely different. The fern border contains over 31 different varieties of fern and there is lots of lush greenery ... and as you can see we had to break out the brollies again ...
In between the two borders were rows of neatly clipped yew hedges, framing a statue of a shepherd boy which apparently honours the actions of a shepherd during a Civil War skirmish at Canons Ashby.
We followed the fern border, along the wall and back to the gateway leading us back into the main part of the garden.
There was then just one more bit of garden to admire as we made our way back, past the croquet lawn and along the side of the house, where there were more fabulous views of the church, across yet more herbaceous borders.
We found more plants that we had no clue as to what they were, but took pictures in the hope that all may become clear via Google once we returned home.

We'd spent a good hour wandering around the gardens and the house was now open. We decided to miss the initial rush and headed back to the tea rooms for lunch. There isn't a massive choice on the menu but we all made do very well with jacket potatoes and a good opportunity to shelter from another rain shower.
Refreshed, we headed back to the house to explore.

It's what I would call a medium sized property with a good few rooms to explore.

There wasn't much opportunity for photos inside, but there was plenty of evidence of the garden fulfilling its role for providing cut flowers.
After our look around the house it was a short walk across the road to have a look in the church, which was very simple and calm, with plenty more flowers from the garden.Other than our last call at the gift shop and plant centre, where we couldn't resist the tall spiky flowers of the Francoa Sonchifolia, that was the end of our visit today.

So that's another NT property off our list and another that we would all be more than happy to recommend as being well worth a visit for a lovely day out.