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One of the nicest places we visited this August in Scotland was the Crarae Garden, next to Loch Fyne. In fact, it was probably one of the nicest National Trust properties we have visited, whether in Scotland or England.

Much bigger and more varied than its name suggests, it offers everything from a gentle walk by a stream to high level "Himalayan" walks for more than an hour through a wonderful variety of trees and plants.

It is also a very peaceful place. I took this photograph of the stream coming down through the gorge, and also recorded its soothing sound, which was the only thing we could hear. I turned the recording into a 10-minute MP3 file which you can play or download if you click the photo. I play it looped on my phone, and find it great for relaxing, sleeping or just turning off the world. Maybe you will too.

These gardens (near Philadelphia) look like a great place to visit. For those who can't make it (like me) their web site is a particularly attractive second-best.

Thanks again to my friend overthetrail (the other Sandy) for this one!

(She hasn't posted here much for a while, but click her overthetrail tag to see some really nice stuff that she has sent my way over the years.)

Parham House and Gardens, Sussex, July 22nd, 2015

My photoblog of our July visit to Parham House and Gardens appears below (or click the image to go there).

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Devon and Somerset (Knightshayes Court and Cothay Manor) April 2013

A beautiful willow sculpture in the gardens of Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton, Devon

Click the picture if you would like to see some posts about our recent visit to Devon and Somerset

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Knightshayes Court, National Trust gardens, Devon]
[Cothay Manor, privately owned with beautiful gardens, Somerset]

Knightshayes Court, Devon, April 2013

Knightshayes (near Tiverton, Devon, not far south of Exmoor) is one of the nicest National Trust properties that we have visited, even with the English seasons about a month behind normal and the weather distinctly iffy.

Click any picture below to visit the Knightshayes Court web site.

Descending from the terrace - a magical trip for a small girl

Some of the garden's many beautiful willow sculptures...

...and hedge topiary

Truly beautiful...

More willow sculptures here on the Knightshayes Facebook page

I loved the textures of bark, tile and stone...

...and these owls in the garden shop!

You will find many more photos of Knightshayes at all times of year on the Knightshayes Facebook Page.

[Devon and Somerset visit continues in Part 2]

Cothay Manor, Somerset, April 2013

[Devon and Somerset visit continued from Part 1]

Cothay (postcode TA21 OJR) is said to be the finest example of a small medieval manor in England. It dates from the 14th century, and is still privately owned and lived in today. The gardens are open to the general public, and the house can be visited by arrangement. It was the first property to feature in Channel 4's Country House Rescue series.

This place is a hidden treasure, very peaceful and secluded. Finding it is best done using a real paper map and a good navigator, since GPS apparently doesn't always work in narrow deep lanes and the local council forbids direction signs!

(Click any picture below to visit Cothay Manor's web site.)

Walking in from the car park on the east side (which had only one other car in it), we felt a glow of achievement as the Manor came into view. The café, which we visited later, is reached by continuing along the front of the building to a large grass area out of sight to the left of this picture.

We had the whole place virtually to ourselves...

Walking around the south side... this block looks like it has been here forever, but the owner told us later that it was built in the 1920's

From the west side of the Manor, looking east

This must look really beautiful later in the year - the seasons in England are about a month behind at the moment (25th April)

Walking along the west side of the Manor, with the "hedge rooms" gardens to the right

Looking away from the Manor, towards the River Tone

These lovely yew hedges have been used to create many garden "rooms" each with different contents and colour schemes. We were too early (this year) to see the colours, but you can find many nice pictures of the gardens here

A splash of colour on top of an old wall...

...and in the angle of the old steps...

...leading through a gap in the yew hedges to this beautiful area behind the gardens, by the River Tone

View from a garden seat on which I sat for a long time, listening to the sound of water (otherwise it was completely silent today)

Continuing around the north side of the Manor...

A group of old staddles (one with a missing top), once used to keep stored food off the ground and away from rodents, now just for decoration

Continuing around the north side of the Manor...

...there is more to be found ...

The café terrace... these are hitchhiker hens, by the way, you may need to evict them from your car when you drive away!

We suspect that the muzzle is an anti-snack-feeding device, as many visitors probably can't resist this dog's pleading brown eyes!

One of several good reasons to come back in June!

Driving out... we saw more animals than people here today (but I'm told that it does get busy later)

If you like this...

[Click the chevrons (>>) below to see my other photoblogs]

"In The Garden", a wonderful fractal image (author unknown) available as desktop wallpaper
(needs to be seen full size)

BBC4 recently repeated Monty Don's Italian Gardens, a series of 4 one-hour programmes of which we caught the last three. The gardens are all wonderful, but I particularly enjoyed the programme on gardens in the South of Italy, which are less formal than the others.

The screenshots below are of Ninfa, in Lazio, a very ancient town with a really interesting history (a good brief description here). It was sacked, beset by malaria and finally abandoned to the elements, but has now been transformed into a unique botanical garden.

Nonsense writer and painter Edward Lear described it in 1840 as one of the most romantic visions in Italy...

...and the New York Times called it "The most beautiful garden in the world". The views up and down this river (seen in the programme, but hard to reproduce here) are quite something.

The garden is intended to look like a ruin that has been beautifully reclaimed by nature, but Monty discovered that even details like this have been carefully cultivated.

The programmes are available on DVD, and Monty Don has also written a book called Great Gardens of Italy. Either would make a great present for a lover of gardens and/or Italy!

If you like this, you might like these photoblogs...

[Isola di Garda]
[Cannero-Riviera on Lake Maggiore, including the Villa Taranto]

and also ...

[More great stuff from the BBC]

Tintinhull Garden
[West Country visit continued from Part 2]

The tiny village of Tintinhull in Somerset. Proceeding up to the right one gets to...

...some very nice gardens (click the picture for details)

The garden kindly provides facilities for R&R

My kind of speed!

You can go round the back...

...where hidden away in the trees is another facility for R&R!

[West Country visit continues in Part 4]

English Lake District - April 29th, 2011

This April we spent 5 days in the English Lake District - for our 40th Wedding Anniversary! The weather (for this place and this time of year) was astonishing - almost unbroken sunshine, high 60's and then well into the 70's. Recent summers have been dreadful, and April has become a good time to visit (although in the Lake District, you have a whole lot of microclimates and nothing is guaranteed!).

Holehird Gardens, just north of Ambleside. Quiet, beautiful and free to visit (donations accepted!)

[Lake District visit continues in Part 2]

[Lake District visit continued from Part 2]

From the web site:

"Rydal Mount, in the heart of the Lake District, lies between Ambleside and Grasmere and commands glorious views of Lake Windermere, Rydal Water and the surrounding fells.

"This was Wordsworth's best loved family home for the greater part of his life from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80. It was here that he wrote many of his poems, revised and improved much of his earlier works and published the final version of his most famous poem 'Daffodils'."

Rydal Water, a short distance north of Windermere and east of Grasmere, seen from Wordsworth's garden

Rydal Water

Bluebells... I'm sure they were very early this year (for the Lake District)

Loughrigg from Wordsworth's garden, looking south

A feature of the garden

The mound

View from the Norse Mound

This little girl looked so cute, couldn't resist taking a photo

Wordsworth's house is perched on the hillside above Rydal Water

A lovely place to have a greenhouse

View from inside the house. Unlike many historic homes that you visit, photography is allowed if you don't use a flash.

Wordsworth's drawing room... and you can sit on most of the seats and sofas in this house, except for delicate ones specially marked. It's a very homely place and if you want sit and read a book for half an hour, no problem! (HDR photo)

...and his study up in the attic, from which you can see all the way to Windermere

[Lake District visit continues in Part 4]

(Original post: August 29th, 2008)

This is Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, one of the less well known English Heritage sites, and one of our favourite walking and picnic spots.

This view southwards from the "new" house (begun in 1834) shows the main vista down to the The Long Water, with the Pavilion in the far distance.

The "old" house was situated about halfway between the new one and The Long Water - if you walk there then you can still see the outline of its foundations as bumps in the grass.

Because the house was effectively moved backwards, the newer developments in the foreground were added while leaving the framework of the original 18th Century gardens in the distance still largely intact.

Around The Long Water in the picture above you can see the Woodland Garden, designed for getting pleasantly lost in.

Looking south-east from the house...

Walking south from the house, just before you get to The Long Water, you come to an area dedicated to Croquet, that most English of games (invented by the French).

Walking south-west from the house you come to the Orangery. Inside there are now café tables and chairs where you can picnic in bad weather, as well as interesting historical stuff. (No café though - Wrest Park doesn't have any of those, although it does have a shop in the house where you can buy drinks.)

If you head south from the Orangery you come to the Bowling Green House, reminiscent of a small Italian railway station.

It was originally intended as a Tea Room.

Alongside the bowling green is one of the mini-canals, this one called The Leg O'Mutton Lake, running east-west.

Through the back (or front) door of the Bowling Green House is the western edge of the grounds...

...go through the door, turn left, and you are walking along the naturalistic canal developed by Capability Brown that loops nearly all around the Woodland Garden, forming a pleasant boundary to the Park for much of its perimeter.

Originally the canal was formal and laid out in straight lines; Capability Brown softened it to a curving waterway that looks like a natural river.

Inside the Woodland Garden is a maze of paths, some straight, some curved, with "secret rooms" in the woods containing statues, ornaments, a Victorian Pet Cemetery (still trying to get a good photo of this), and other interesting things!

My wife must be about the millionth visitor to do this (it's hard to resist).

If you take the left-hand path at a fork like this and then take the next right, don't expect it lead to the right-hand path from the fork - it might, or it might not!

I don't remember exactly where we came across this 18th Century lead statue, one of many interesting statues in the park.

Although most statues in the park are the originals, many of them are not in their original positions - various owners liked moving them around.

The Ladies' Lake on the east side of the park is the mirror image of the Leg O'Mutton Lake on the west side.

Originally these two water features formed a single east-west canal that intersected The Long Water.

The Ladies' Lake is currently leaking, hence the low water levels. If it isn't fixed soon and wildlife moves in and becomes established (not necessarily a bad thing), then regulations may prevent restoring the original water level.

Emerging from the Woodland Garden, often somewhat bewildered, you come across the Pavilion that stands at the far end of The Long Water.

The Pavilion is a rather magnificent structure, intended as a Tea Room and for more elaborate entertainments.

Following Capability Brown's man-made river anti-clockwise, we can see that it is obviously enjoyed by many different residents!

The "river" curves into the park at this point, so when you cross the "Chinese" bridge (earlier versions were more Chinese than this) you are actually heading north-east-ish.

If you bear left and keep walking for some distance... are back here!

There is a lot more to Wrest Park than I can show here - I may update this post from time to time.

Admission is free to English Heritage members. If you visit and you're not a member, it's probably worth joining!

[Location of Wrest Park on my England Map]
[More on Wrest Park]

[My photoblog of RHS Gardens, Rosemoor, Devon]

[This trip continues from the post above.]

One place that you can reach easily from the Bearslake Inn (see my post above) is the RHS Garden at Rosemoor (see the centre of my map). Rosemoor is a particularly beautiful and peaceful place, with natural woodland walks and replanted wild meadows, as well as some formal gardens.

It was a cloudy day (until we were about to leave, naturally). One day I hope to take some photos here when the sun is out!

We're about to leave... finally, a gleam of sun!

Many grand places have peacocks roaming around... Rosemoor is a little different!