Caldrees Manor, colourful with a touch of humour.

The garden at Caldrees Manor is one of the last in the season to open for the National Garden Scheme. Situated not far from the A11 in Cambridgeshire it was the ideal place to meet up with friend Leslie.

Although parking was in a field away from the house, we could not help but admire this welcoming driveway with its elegant centrepiece situated in front of the house and surrounded by a delightful planting of shrubs.

We had come for a guided tour with Will who with the garden owner John, has been responsible for creating this large garden over the past twenty years. He takes us through the gate and around to the other side of the house.

A verdurous space appears before us framed by the rose arch; there is a lot going on, but instead of descending through and down the steps, we turn right towards the summer house.

This ornamental folly with its generous door surround, and windows seemingly wide-eyed, is surrounded by a rich planting of summer flowers now coming to an end but there is still a good display for the time of year and we particularly commend the combination of michaelmas daisy, hydrangea and pennisetum.

Brunnera is such a good plant, its blue flowers on show for weeks in the spring and the silvery leaves continue to be a beauty defying any attack from slug or snail.

Will and his wife Jacqueline https://www.jwlandscapes.co.uk/ have their own landscape business and this is their flagship garden. This brick bridge was one of the first features that Will built.

Pergolas bring variety and height, and act as partitions from one area of the garden to another. We leave the more formal area and enter the acer glade,

where a great variety of specimens are grown, some still green whilst others are on fire with colour.

The leaves are as beautiful on the ground as they are on the tree. We follow the path through the metalwork arbor into the hydrangea area unperturbed by the summer’s drought.

The air is filled with the scent from a viburnum; it’s a wonder that this insignificant flower produces such a fragrance.

Here too is the sound of rushing water, its source not apparent at first, until we find it gushing from a pipe. There is no shortage of water here as we are apparently standing on a giant lake and the water is being pumped from a borehole.

Wooden signposts guide the way, beautifully carved; we love the papilionem touch at the top.

Silver birch planted in a group is an acknowledged theme and it works well here underplanted with cornus sanguinea ‘midwinter fire’ and bergenia.

As summer flowers fade, the sculptural blooms become more pronounced.

There is a touch of humour in this garden as the quite unexpected appears through the jungle of greenery,

and is that really a water buffalo I see at the side of the pond?

From the winding paths in the old wood we enter an open space where a new wood has been planted. It is pretty impressive seeing that it is just three years old. How will it look in another twenty?

This new wood has such a different feel and we love the splash of sculpture at the end.

Returning towards the house we walk through the fairly recently created Japanese garden; plants, rocks and gravel carefully considered in the design.

From here we can go towards the orchard, along the drive which is neatly edged on one side with silver lavender, and on the other, scattered seedlings are allowed to grow but carefully controlled,

and return to end our tour between the Japanese garden and the pond at these beautiful carved wooden conkers; smooth shiny polished surfaces, there is an irresistible urge to run your hands over them.

Heading back for the much needed coffee and cake we pass the quirky topiary, and then there is a sudden sound of a distant crash. Will looks concerned.

Despite there being no wind, the noise is of a fallen tree that has crashed across the path. Not what you want on an open day but no harm has been done and there are plenty of other paths to take, and different areas to explore. Such a variety of species to admire, and sculptures to search out, we have enjoyed our time, and it has been a great place to meet; why don’t we do this more often ? We both agree and promise to meet up in another garden next year.

You can find lots of lovely gardens by ordering a copy of next year’s garden visitor’s handbook https://ngs.org.uk/shop/books/garden-visitors-handbook-2023/

Caldrees Manor opened for the first time in October 2020 and by opening its very private gates has raised a trug-load of funds for the National Garden Scheme. It is taking a year off but am sure it will open its gates again for many more visitors to enjoy in the future.

*******2022*******

Thralling Thenford

Last month I was delighted to be able to visit Thenford, Northamptonshire on one of its open days. A very private and expansive garden it is the stately home of Lord and Lady Heseltine who acquired it in 1976.

As we swept through the imposing gates we had no idea what to expect, other than we knew there was a walled garden and an arboretum. The afternoon sunshine welcomed us in.

We thought this would be a pleasant distraction from the Covid troubles only to find as we parked in the field north of the house, that many other visitors were decked out in face masks; surely not necessary for an afternoon outside?

Heading straight ahead of us to the sunken rose garden which is south west of the house, it is the Barn owl which catches our eye; so realistic in its stance we wonder if it might take flight.

The roses, all helpfully labelled are understandably not at their best now but the putti provides entertainment instead.

This heavenly bench must be the perfect place to linger and enjoy the heady scent on a summer’s day.

We decide to visit the arboretum first and so take the path along the south front of the handsome Grade 1 listed house. On the lawn Guy Taplin’s graceful cormorants enjoy the unspoilt view from the ha ha.

October is the best time to visit an arboretum, and Thenford did not disappoint. An enviable collection of trees; approximately 4,000 different types. The maples (Acers) in particular are in glorious technicolour, some have turned golden

others bright red, and all showing how nature can age so majestically.

The berries delight too, from the simple Spindle Euonymous hamilton English Charm,

to the scarlet berries of the Rowan Sorbus matsumuranu

and to the small black berries of Aronia melanocorpa grandiflora, the black Chokeberry.

Take a look at the litchen growing on the bark and how well-armed is the trunk of Gleditsia japonica koraiensis.

The arboretum is spread out over 70 acres and, following the path through there are tranquil glimpses of pasture, sheep and lake.

There are some 113 champion trees (individual trees that are exceptional examples of their species because of their enormous size, great age, rarity or historical significance) here planted well before the Heseltines arrived here, however this young liquidamber demonstrates that planting is ongoing.

A few flowers are evident, the white flowers on the Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Dart’s Red Robin’ determinedly project upwards,

and the low growing shrub Heimia salicifolia which has tiny yellow flowers. Native to S. America you can obtain your legal high from this little gem but, I am informed, it is quite short lived.

It is also a watery landscape with the three medieval fish ponds planted decoratively with not only trees but also a diverse selection of shrubs and perennials, with an abundance of bridges that span and reflect; there is a green, a red,

a blue

and a neat brick, the shape of which

is similar to that of the ice house.

Sited above the fishponds and best viewed from near the ice house is the parish church of St Mary caught in the afternoon sun.

In such a vast area benches are a necessity and so often in public spaces they are there to commemorate a person. This one, a birthday present from the grandchildren, perhaps touchingly displays something of the owner’s character ‘Grandpa to sit and scheme’.

The leaves beneath our feet give off a delicious aroma of caramel; they have fallen from the Katsura tree, Cercidiphylum japonicum.

It is hard to believe that a tree trunk could be quite so white; in this grove the low sun highlights the brilliance of the silver birches.

Moving on we come to yet more water, the New Lake where reflections seem brighter than the actual image.

Along the lake is a gathering of humble but handsome hawthorns, cratageus crus galli,

similar but smaller cratageus canbyi

and looking good enough to eat, the orange-coloured hips of cratageus x lavallei carrierei.

This is the southernmost tip of the arboretum and before turning back we pause awhile and admire what has been achieved here over the past forty odd years and wonder what it will look like in another forty years.

On the hillside we come across three conifers looking like some weird and wonderful beasts.

Passing the house again we head for the walled garden over on the east side and find in Lannings Walk this wicked little chap.

I make a mental note to plant cyclamen hederifolium, they brighten up any woodland floor.

Here and there ruined arches appear,

adding a little interest and a window through which to view yet more.

And what are these dark curious objects lying around the base of the tree?

Close inspection reveals they are fallen suits of armour.

Just to the right of the entrance to the walled garden is an amazing sight. These early snowdrops are not unusual in appearing now but how glorious they look amongst the maple leaves. This variety is Galanthus reginae-olgae ‘Tilebarn Jamie’ and is just one type out of 600 different snowdrop species grown here. Next February there are two afternoons scheduled for snowdrop walks.

It is a very different feel on entering the walled garden where we are greeted by marble elephants.

This space is very organised, neat and overwhelmingly geometrical, a complete contrast to what we have already experienced. Inspired by Andre Le Notre of Versailles and Vaux-Le-Vicomte fame, it was I understand sketched by Lord Heseltine, and then the designer George Carter made it happen. A more appropriate designer you couldn’t have as he specialises in formal gardens inspired by the simple geometry of 17th century gardens http://georgecartergardens.co.uk/. Incidentally George who lives in Norfolk will be opening his garden next year on Sunday 19th September for the National Garden Scheme.

Paths criss cross systematically and continue through rotundas.

The walled garden covers two acres allowing enough space for sizeable greenhouses. There is even an aviary, and it is the call from these birds that is the only sound you hear in these enclosed walls.

In one corner is the head of Goliath, or is it Billy Connolly? Whoever he is he is cleverly in tune with the fig foliage behind.

In another corner diametrically across are two sentry boxes silently waiting to be sat in.

There is an area for vegetables but curiously these artichoke almost look out of place.

From all around you can see the central fountain.

Outside the walls along the south side is a mixed border with all sorts of delights,

interspaced with elegant seats,

and across the strip of grass the border runs along the field side,

where metal moon windows invite you to look out across the distant countryside.

We make our way back through the trees in Lannings Walk,

and into the field where the cars are parked. The head gardener is selling the Heseltine’s book and looking at the front cover I realise that we have missed the rill. He urges us to take a look (at the rill, not the book which is wrapped in plastic – covid precautions) and so we hurry back.

The light is fading as we hurry back to find the splendid rill bubbling away in all its glory.

Just below the rill, water plays off the broad leaf plant, and yes you might be forgiven for not realising it is made of metal.

Just further on we discover the Sculpture Garden. Oh my, how could we have missed this.

Sculptures, many of which are contemporary British, are displayed set out on the grass bays backed by beech. ‘The Dancers’ by Lilly Henry could be straight out of Strictly.

Gracefully tall and thin is ‘The Vessel’ made of slate and fibreglass and has been created by Maryanne Nichols, a sculptor from Suffolk,

and lying solidly on the ground is Ronald Rae’s ‘Head of John the Baptist’.

It is quite a collection; too many to include all, but Phillip Jackson’s gentle lady ‘Reading Chaucer’ is a delight although her pages are in fact blank.

Lastly we admire the massive ‘Head of Lenin’ by Dzintra Jansone which was removed from a town square in Preili, Latvia.

Returning to the car we slip past the watchful eye of the hounds on the lawn and say our goodbyes, and promising to return the Head Gardener advises us that May is the best time.

Our visit has indeed proved to be a wonderfully refreshing distraction with incidentally, not a face mask in sight.

Covid restrictions might have put garden visiting on hold for the moment but there is no harm in planning for next year: https://bookwhen.com/thenfordarboretum#focus=ev-sz8n-20210203130000

The Sculpture Park at the Sainsbury Centre

The other evening I was invited through an alternative Garden Gate, to a special tour of the Sculptures sited around the large campus of the University of East Anglia. Situated in a landscape of some 350 acres, a large lake and the river Yare, this is remarkably, an unknown delight, except maybe to those who are former students.

We met at the Sainsbury Centre, and for those who don’t know, this is not another supermarket but an amazing building designed by the then relatively unknown architect Norman Foster in 1974, which houses an extraordinary collection of art. Our tour began at the west end of the building where woodland curves round behind a grassy area. Four magnificent sculpture are sited here and you might be forgiven for thinking with such an acreage why are they not more spread out across the rest of the landscape. The simple answer is that it is only on this small site that no planning permission is required but because it is a public park, planning permission is needed anywhere else. It had never occurred to me before that you might need planning permission to erect a piece of art.

All the pieces are on loan and it is the bronze head created in 1997 by John Davies (b1946) and positioned just at the edge of the woodland that you first see. By the nature of its position you feel it must be looking towards the glass facade of the building,

however on closer inspection the eyes appear from this monumental head to be looking at nothing in particular.

Nearby is a Henry Moore; surely no sculpture park is complete without one and perhaps it was through Moore’s sculptures that so many of us were introduced to the abstract art world. ‘Draped reclining woman ‘ is cast in bronze and dated 1957-58.

So utterly different from Moore’s familiar form is ‘Sun’s roots II’ by Phillip King (b1934) who actually spent a year as an assistant to Moore. Over the course of his career he exhibited all over the world and worked in a variety of media;

this is painted steel and is influenced by his time spent in Japan. Sun meets earth and as you move round …

… the piece seems to flow, move a little and bend too.

There is also movement from this static couple, ‘Pair of Walking Figures – Jubilee’. They are the final sculpture in this space created in 1977 by Lynn Chadwick (1914 – 2003). Walking towards the Centre,

together they seem intent on visiting the exhibition, currently Art Noveau, and I know they will enjoy it, for it is a dazzling display. Their cloaks ruffle and flow behind,

abstract but expressive, their flat faces are expressionless whilst their bodies hold an air of elegance, perhaps best not to step in their way.

We walk along the south side of the exhibition centre. It is empty of people right now but during lockdown the park became a delightful escape for many Norwich residents. As a consequence the university is having a rethink about the park and its sculpture and an exciting new project is in the planning to increase the number of exhibits and ultimately create the best sculpture park in the country.

Tatlin’s tower stands prominently. After the Russian revolution Vladimir Tatlin (1885-19530) was charged by Lenin to implement his campaign to replace monuments reflecting the Tsarist period. Tatlin proposed an abstract design that would not only commemorate the revolution but also to serve as the headquarters of the Third International or Comintern. The monument was never realised and this is a reconstruction ‘Model of the Monument to the Third International’

We have arrived at the east end of the Sainsbury Centre where we find Lynn Chadwick’s three beasts captured in various states of action; on the left is ‘Crouching Beast II, in the middle ‘Beast Alerted I’ and on the right ‘Lion I’

They were made in 1990 from welded sheets of stainless steel. Chadwick is said to have delighted in the properties that steel afforded, feeling that no matter how dull the weather some facet of the sculptures would catch and reflect the light. As the sun fades the beasts certainly demonstrate that quality.

How fortunate these students are to be able to gaze upon these sculptures as they go about their studies on campus. Moore’s ‘Reclining Figure’ was acquired in 1962 and I am sure has enjoyed many an undergraduate’s prank.

Sir Denys Lasdun designed the Ziggurats which were completed in 1968. They are unique, pieces of art in their own right, and nestling into the landscape, they are in fact the students’ residential quarters. Placed in front of the Ziggurats is the large tubular metal structure painted in matt black and created in 2006 by Ian Tyson it is appropriately named ‘Proximity’.

I had never been down to the lake; it is a vast expanse set below the Ziggurats.

At the water’s edge are Dame Elizabeth Frink’s ‘Mirage I and II’ (1969). These extraordinary shapes were inspired by seeing the heat hazes and flamingoes in the south of France. No heat haze this evening but these part-bird and part-human structures still appear to shimmer.

Looking back towards the university buildings there on top of the central library is Sir Anthony Gormley’s figure ‘Another Time II’. Gormley might be considered as a local now that he lives in Norfolk.

There are actually three of these cast iron figures which were created in 2007, but before we ascend the stairs up to the library level in search of the remaining two, we encounter ‘ Extrapolation’ a structure of ascending steel plates which was originally created for Norwich Central Library in 1982 by the American born artist Liliane Lijn.

At the top of the winding concrete stairs we are met by a little surprise of ‘Another Time IV’.

and over up on the roof of the Biology Department is ‘Another Time II’. Using casts of his own body, Gormley personally selected the locations around the campus.

The pamphlet describes these figures as ‘thought-provoking and uncanny offering spectacle and surprise’, it is a description that could be afforded to all the sculptures in the park .

We end our tour, and close by the car we catch sight of the third Moore ‘Two Piece Reclining figure No 3’. Solid and familiar it is indeed thought-provoking.

The sculpture park is open to all and is free. It is a space to visit and watch with interest. The Sainsbury Centre is a spacious building and for this reason was the first gallery to re-open after lockdown. For further information https://sainsburycentre.ac.uk/

Great Thurlow Hall, wet, wet, wet.(6/18).

Last Sunday was yet another wet, wet, wet day. Unable to work in my own garden and combined with Easter excess I decided that the only thing was to visit another garden. As I approached Great Thurlow Hall in Suffolk through a deluge of rain, signs of Spring were just visible on those manicured hedges around Newmarket

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Too wet for anyone to stand at the gate to the Hall,  the entrance to the garden was diverted through the church porch next door, left of the drive.

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Crossing over the daffodil drive I headed through the thin green mossy-capped walls into the kitchen garden.

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There a wide open space now represents the skill and toil of many years. The straight path ahead waits to burst into spring perennials and roses. Over to the left, a verdant plot is home to fruit trees, and to the right is the glasshouse and much industry.

 

 

Perhaps the produce is blessed by the ecclesiastical presence.

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No loud signs here to tell you to keep out, just hazel sticks making an obvious statement.

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The wall does not stretch the entire way round; one side is rather attractively the river bank.

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The open iron gate leads onto the lawn below the house.

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Euphorbias brighten the corner where benches are positioned,

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then up the pretty steps and across the rose garden

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to the terrace where you gain a view over the bridge to the gazebo beyond. Built in 1963 this was an anniversary gift from wife to husband of forty years; I smile at the thought that the best we could do was a watering can.

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I walk cautiously along the wet York paving where the solid hedges of yew bring structure and interest,

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and frame the view on such a murky day.

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The formation of the pond is a perfect shape for the vista beyond and the despite the weather the fountain plays on.

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Some chaps really don’t mind the weather.

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Against the house is a tangle of wisteria, determinedly dormant it is hard to imagine how beautiful this will be in a few months time.

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Not everything is dormant however; the red leaves of this cherry are trying their hardest.

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The garden was created by the present owner’s grandfather during the last century. The wooded area, carpeted with snowdrops now in the green, is to the left of the house and screens the farmyard; the sounds of the cattle remind us that this is working farm. There is a variety of trees, some of which were planted by members of the family to commemorate the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.

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Ha ha, we are at the end of the lawn,

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where the slate ball seems to have gently rolled away from the house and come to rest.

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Unlike Wordsworth, I have to confess that I am not a great fan of daffodils but it is on a day like today that they certainly play their part and look so attractive reflected in the water.

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and of course there are so many varieties.

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It is a watery landscape with the river Stour flowing through much of this garden.

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The mown path makes one follow the course of the river and along the banks willows weep and bridges tempt you over to the other side,IMG_0839.jpg

and clumps of delicate primroses grow.  Are they, in general particularly good this year?

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It is very peaceful, but occasionally there can be heard the sound of rushing water.

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The five bar gate is a reminder that we are in rural countryside surrounded by grazing pastures.

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The path deviates off to take you around the lake.  It is a haven for wildlife. On the island is a monument placed in memory of the present owner’s grandmother.

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Walking back towards the house I find this bench in the most perfect position. This is a garden that has been opening for the NGS for 60 years. In time you will be able to sit and admire a Gingko biloba presented by George Plumptre in recognition of such longevity.

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The drifts of daffodils are planted along the bank to flower in succession, one band is in flower, the next ready to come and close to the water they are still tightly in bud.

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It is not just the plants that are reflected in the water.

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Over 130 people visited today, not bad for such a wet day but private gardens like Great Thurlow Hall are popular and with years of opening will have acquired a considerable and loyal following. Opening again on the first weekend of June, I do recommend you should plan a visit, the children will love this watery space.

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——-2018——-