Bodnant Garden

Returning home from my break in North wales I decided to stop off at Bodnant Garden, a National Trust site in the Conwy Valley. It’s known for it’s extensive gardens spanning 80 acres of hillside and includes formal Italianate terraces, informal shrub borders, ornamental ponds, lakes and riverside walks, with plants from all over the world.

The site was gifted to the National Trust in 1949 by  Henry McLaren, Lord Aberconway. However, the family still own the estate and Michael McLaren inherited the estate in 2003 on his father’s death and plays an active role as garden director. The house is “out of bounds” as it’s occupied by the family and the large shop/Garden Centre is owned and run by the estate and not the Trust. Personally, I’m never comfortable with these arrangements, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the gardens.

View from the terrace over to the Carneddau

Most National Trust properties have a reasonably priced guide which will explain the history of the site. This wasn’t the case at Bodnant where the guide was a hardback costing, if I remember rightly, £30. Being rather stingy I decided against purchasing a copy, so was going to do some research online after my visit. However, Eunice posted an excellent detailed account on her blog just a short while after my return so she’s saved me some work!

I spent a couple of hours wandering round the gardens and more or less following the riverside paths in “The Dell” down to, and round, the Skating Pond, before making my way back through the Glades and Yew Garden to the house.

Pwll Trochi – (The Bath)
The Pin Mill – brought from Woodchester in Gloucestershire to Bodnant in 1939
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Looking down to Hen Felin (the Old Mill)
Hen Felin (the Old Mill)
The canyon
The skating pond
The small boathouse on the Skating Pond
Y ‘Poem’ – the family Mausoleum
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Pont y Rhaeadr (Waterfall Bridge)
Stepping stones
“Pwll Trochi”

Returning to the house I visited the Craft centre and bought a rather attractive small porcelain hanging sculpture decorated with impressions of local flowers by Charlotte Bellis an artist who studied in Cumbria but who had grown up in Snowdonia.

Checking the pedometer app on my phone I found that I’d walked just over 2 miles exploring and wandering around the grounds. There were long queues in the two cafes on the site so I decided to give them a miss before returning to the car. The drive home along the M56 and M6 was not fun, but then it rarely is! I was surprised how busy the motorways were as it was only early afternoon and the roadworks “upgrading” the M6 to a so called “Smart Motorway”. didn’t help. Still, it would have been worse later in the afternoon.

I’d had an enjoyable solo stay in North Wales and was pleased that I’d managed to get up on to the Cardennau. I’d also been surprised on just how nice the coast was here and how my enjoyment hadn’t been affected by the proximity of the Expressway, which I hardly noticed at all. Arriving home I decided I needed to return to this stretch of coast, the mountains and the Conwy valley before too long.

Lingholm

The weather forecast for the Sunday of our holiday in the Lakes was for heavy rain all day. It didn’t quite turn out like that. We had a lazy morning and a late cooked breakfast (a holiday treat) but in the afternoon I had itchy feet. The skies were grey but it wasn’t raining, so some of us decided to go out for a short walk to have a look at the Lingholm Estate.

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After the Lake District had become a popular holiday destination, particularly after the arrival of the railways made travel there much easier, many wealthy Victorian businessmen (many from Northern England) had holiday homes built on, or close to, the shores of the various lakes. Lingholm, on the north west shores of Derwent Water is one of these. It’s a large house built in 1873 and designed by the prominent Victorian Architect Alfred Waterhouse (who designed many notable buildings including Liverpool University Victoria Building, Manchester Town Hall, Strangeways Prison, the Natural History Museum in London and Wigan Library)for Lt Col. James Fenton Greenall of the brewing family. Financial problems meant that he had to sell it and it in 1900 it ended up owned by the family of George Kemp, 1st Baron Rochdale.

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Beatrix Potter spent her summer holidays at Lingholm between 1885 and 1907, and she wrote some of her best-known stories while she was staying here.

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Today the house has been converted to holiday accommodation with several apartments to rent, but there’s also a garden and café that’s open to the public. It wasn’t possible to get round to have a proper look at the house so I was only able to get some snaps from the back.

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The octagonal garden is only a few years old, but sits on the same spot as the old Lingholm kitchen gardens which Beatrix Potter credited as her original inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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The garden contains a mix of vegetables for the kitchen and ornamental plants

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There’s a path down to the lake where there’s a jetty where it’s normally possible to catch the launch over to Keswick and other locations around the Lake. It’s closed at the moment due to the construction of a new boathouse, but it was still possible to access the lake shore.

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The estate also own a herd of alpacas and you can hire one out to take for a walk if you feel so inclined!

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After a coffee and an ice cream we walked back towards Portinscale. I decided to have a wander through the meadow to the lake side where I stopped for a while to watch competitors participating in the second day of the swim-run coming ashore.

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There was only a relatively short run for them to the finish line.

I had a chat with one of the race officials and he told me that the race had started in Buttermere and they’d swum in the lake there, run over the pass, along Derwent Water before another swim. Crazy!

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The Melbourne Botanic Gardens

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One of the things we enjoy on holiday is taking a stroll in the evening after we’ve eaten – if the weather permits. Well that wasn’t a problem while we were in Melbourne. A couple of evenings we took the opportunity of a warm, pleasant evening to cross over the Yarra and have a wander in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The gardens extend over 36 hectares, just south of the river and were established in 1846 on what was originally a mix of rocky outcrops and swampy marshland. Today it’s a “picturesque” landscape of paths meandering along ornamental lakes and beautifully kept lawns, trees, flowerbeds  and other “botanical features” with a collection of over 50,000 plants from Australia and other parts of the world, including rare and threatened species.

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Being early summer and close to Christmas (feels weird writing that!) during our first stroll, on a Saturday evening, there were a number of Christmas parties taking place in the various buildings in the park used for events, and there was outdoor theatre showing current films.

We spent a couple of hours or so wandering around on both our visits and the sun was beginning to set by the time we left – in both cases by the gate facing the Shrine of Remembrance. We climbed the steps to take in the view

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before heading back through Kings Domain (more pleasant lawns and gardens), back a cross the river to Federation Square for a nightcap.

Fitzroy Gardens

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One of the attractive features of Melbourne were the extensive public parks and gardens in the city centre. Fitzroy Gardens, on the south eastern edge of the Central Business District is one of them. The park was created in the mid 19th Century on what had previously been swamp land just north of the Yarra river. It’s named after Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy who was Governor of New South Wales (1846-1851).

It’s laid out like a British park with lawns, tree lined pathways, fountains and flower beds – although the plants are somewhat different from what we’d find in Britain.

One of the avenues is lined with magnificent elm trees – a rare sight in Britain due to native trees being savaged by Dutch Elm Disease. Unfortunately I neglected to take a photograph 😦

But here’s a few shots I did take

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St. Fiachras Garden

Who is Saint Fiachra you may ask. I certainly did when I visited the Irish National Stud at Tully near Kildare last Sunday. Well, he was (is?) the patron saint of Gardens and the Stud created a garden in his honour in 1999, designed by landscape architect Professor Martin Hallinan, and officially opened by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.

Paths take visitors through wooded areas surrounding a number of small lakes

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Autumn colours dominated

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In the centre of the garden, a medieval monk’s stone hermitage has been created.

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Nearby, in the lake, there’s a statue of the saint.

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An internet search took me to the CatholicIreland.net website which reveals that Fiachra is also the patron of taxi-drivers. The Hôtel de St-Fiacre, in the Rue St-Martin, Paris, in the middle of the seventeenth century was the first to hire out coaches.

Dunham Massey – a walk in the park and gardens

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It had been nice all week while I’d been working away. Sunday afternoon looked promising so we decided to make the most of a fine autumn afternoon before the weather turned, so dove over to Dunham Massey to take a walk round the park and gardens.

Despite being late in the year, the gardens were still very colourful, with autumn hues breaking out and some plants still in bloom.

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We had an enjoyable walk around the grounds.

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There were plenty of deer to be seen.

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and some recent wood carvings

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Museum Van Loon

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(Picture source: When in Amsterdam)

The Museum Van Loon is a rather grand canal house standing on the Golden Bend section of the Keizersgracht. Designed by the architect Adriaen Dortsman, it was built in 1672. With 5 bays, it’s double the width of the standard sized canal house, reflecting the wealth and stats of the owner. The first resident was a successful painter, Ferdinand Bol, who was a pupil of Rembrandt, and who lived there until 1680. In 1884 the house  was purchased by Hendrik van Loon as a wedding present for his son Willem. It’s still in private hands and the top two floors, the former servants’ quarters, are still used by the owners. Visitors can explore two floors plus the kitchen (in the basement), the garden and the coach house.

It’s furnished in 18th century style and gives a good impression of how a wealthy family would have lived in a canal house during that period.

The Blue Drawing Room is on the ground floor to the right of the entrance lobby. It was noticeable that the ceilings on the ground floor rooms are very high compared to their horizontal dimensions, in this case almost five and a half metres high. No doubt another way of showing off.

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The dining room is  also on the ground floor at the front of the house and is sometimes used by the family as well as being hired out for functions.

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The Garden Room, as the name implies, overlooks the garden.

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The grand Rococo staircase has exceptionally fine ironwork.

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The rooms on the first floor were originally used as bedrooms. This is the Sheep Room, named after the wallpaper design.

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The Bird Room is also named after the motifs on the wallpaper

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The Red Bedroom

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The kitchen is in the basement, the usual location in a canal house.

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The garden is accessed via the basement and replicates the style popular in the seventeenth century. We were surprised to see the substantial garden at the back of the house. I’d commented that I thought that the canal district and old town lacked green spaces. But here was one. We later discovered (when visiting the canal house museum) that there are many gardens hidden away between the houses, but in most cases they were private spaces inaccessible to ordinary residents.

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The building at the back of the garden is the coach house.

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Rather like Chatsworth, the Museum holds art exhibitions with art works positioned in the rooms amongst the furniture. During our visit there was a display of Contemporary Art works – an exhibition entitled Something thrown in the way of the observer – in the Bird Room and Red bedroom.

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Something Thrown in the Way of the Observer aims to take the objects themselves as a starting point, in order to question their impact on our lives. How do perspectives on ourselves and the world change when we imagine the relation between people and things as a more equal partnership? Each in their own way, the artists move things from the background to the foreground – also bringing the still lives at the Museum Van Loon irrevocably into motion.

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I particularly liked the crumpled papers on the table in the Bird Room (Biz by ingRichtje Reinsma) and This is where the magic happens by Uta Eisenreich where a black tent with a spy hole was installed on the four poster bed and by peering through this hole visitors were able to observe dust particles illuminated by a light (this is the Tyndall scattering effect I’m very familiar with in my work) – a case of a scientific principle being used to create a work of art. The orange polyester blocks, which looked rather like bars of soap, scattered in several locations in the rooms (Zouden zijn zullen (volumes 1) by Rosa Sijben) were also interest

I suspect that the exhibition was not to the taste of all the Museum’s visitors but we found it stimulating and it is good to see modern art works taken out of the gallery into different surroundings  and for artists to respond to the  spaces where their works are to be displayed. I think it is both brave and enterprising for Museum’s to be prepared to do something different and bring an aspect of the 21st Century into what could otherwise become a fossilised display. It’s something that Chatsworth do well and the Museum Van Loon are attempting something similar, albeit on a smaller scale.