Rooms and pathways: An Autumn walk at RHS Rosemoor.

Having a week off work in October and a sunny day at the same time, well that was too good an opportunity to pass up; so today Rhonda and I took advantage of a free entry offer at RHS Rosemoor and, of course, I took plenty of photos.

The large, sprawling gardens are cleverly laid out in a series of themed spaces, obscured from each other by the use of hedges, trees and hard landscaping, using the curves and perspective of connecting paths to draw your eye onward to the next horticultural treat.

There’s something for every gardening taste; formal rose gardens and the geometric precision of tightly clipped fir hedges; vibrant colours of the hot garden and a glorious mixture of textures in the foliage garden; the walled kitchen garden and fragrant delights of the herb garden and, my personal favourite, the lush and beautiful lake area, with its giant gunnera plants adding a primeval feel to the series of waterfalls that drop down to the sparkling, lily-covered waters below.

Transitions between the different areas are so subtle, though, that they feel like unforced progressions from one “garden room” to the next, especially as there are vegetables and herbs mixed together with decorative planting (including a superb pergola in the kitchen garden, with melons growing over it) making for a very pleasant couple of hours in the sunshine.

Advertisements

Picture this: Tarr Steps…

Tarr Steps is one of the many ancient scheduled monuments that we’re fortunate to have in this part of the country and it’s a great place for a walk with your camera.

Midway between Dulverton, popular destination for hikers and tourists alike, and the picturesque village of Withypool, Tarr Steps, nestled in the Barle River Valley, isn’t hard to find and is definitely worth a visit.

image

Parking in the very reasonably priced car park, it’s an easy stroll down the public footpath that crosses a sheep field (dogs on leads here please) to reach the bottom of the valley.

If you reach the bottom and feel the need to fortify yourself for the walk ahead, why not stop at the Tarr Farm Inn for a drink first; the beautiful 16th century stone building offers great views from the beer garden, down to the even more ancient stonework below.

image

image

From the perspective of this high elevation you don’t get much more than the impression of a solidly built pontoon bridge, but descending to the river bank the impressive scale of the engineering can be fully appreciated.

image

image

The date of the Clapper Bridge (from the old Latin word claperius, meaning “pile of stones”) is uncertain, but best estimates put it somewhere around 1000BC.

[Although Exmoor legend has it that it was built by the Devil as part of a bet. He threatened to vaporise anyone attempting to cross the bridge until, faced down by a local hard man preacher, he acquiesced and allowed safe passage across the river on the condition that he retained sunbathing rights on the stones]

image

image

Tarr Steps bridge is 180ft (55m) long and is constructed from 17 main slabs, all of which weigh upwards of a ton and the largest, 8ft long × 5ft wide, tips the scales at two tons.
The many smaller stones that make up the piers of the bridge are intricately fitted together without any form of cement or mortar and also incorporated are the unique, raked “buttress” stones, angled in such a way as to deflect debris washed down the river in heavy rains.

image

Despite this feature the Great Flood of 1952 (the night Lynmouth was devastated by flooding) demolished the bridge, leading to the stones now having been numbered for easy reassembly by conservation workers.

image

In fact since 1952 there has been a web of anchored cables further upstream, designed to catch fallen branches before they reach the bridge..

image

..which worked fine until 2012, when the extreme weather brought so much uprooted timber down the river that it ripped out the cables, carrying them downstream to do even more damage and once again providing patient heritage experts with the world’s heaviest jigsaw.

image

The Barle River Valley itself is a SSSI, (site of special scientific interest) and has been designated a National Nature Reserve, with easy walks along the river bank through woods of oak, beech, ash and hazel trees.

image

image

image

The reserve is also recognised as an internationally significant site for fungi, mosses, liverworts and lichens and it isn’t difficult to see why.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

This peaceful river valley has been used by man for hundreds, possibly thousands of years for hunting, fishing, charcoal burning as part of the iron smelting industry, and now of course walking, canoeing and just enjoying the ancient beauty of the woods.

image

image

image

Picture this: Watersmeet/Valley of the Rocks

First posted September 2013

*****

The picturesque North Devon coastal towns of Lynton and Lynmouth, and especially the rugged landscape of Valley of the Rocks, offer some great photo opportunities, as does Watersmeet, which has the same “Little Switzerland” feel to it.

imageAfter talking a shady walk down into the gorge from the roadside car park, you encounter the old Victorian hunting lodge that now houses a tearoom…

image

.. and just across the river, the entrance to a cave which was apparently once the home of a hermit.

image

From there, take a stroll upstream on the East Lyn River, one of the rivers that meet here, giving the gorge it’s name.

image

Although some parts are still rapidly flowing, foaming white water, a long dry spell can expose the very bones of the gorge, the granite river bed, in all it’s dramatic, time-worn glory.

image

image

image

image

Further on, evidence of one of the area’s long-vanished industries still stands testament to the skill of Victorian engineers. Two giant lime kilns, now overgrown, lend a brooding atmosphere to the dappled woods.

image

image

Retracing the path, return to the old hunting lodge, cross the bridge over Hoak Oak Water and make your way downstream on the wider, combined river.

image

Looking back at the lodge from downstream.

image

image

Walking down the river from the lodge is an easy, reasonably level stroll and before long you came to an impressive slate-faced bridge that allows walkers to cross to the opposite bank making for an undemanding looped route back to the tearooms, just in case anyone requires an extra cream tea to fortify them for the climb back out of the gorge.

image

image

image

The view from the bridge, looking upstream.

Valley of the Rocks.

image

I took a slightly different path on this occasion, staying on the inland side of the rock formations instead of following the coast path.
This was fortunate because the famous Lynton goats were all over the place. Some were good enough to put on a display of horn butting and territorial disputes for me, although sadly I was too slow to get close enough to film them.

These two even managed a circus style balancing act for the assembled tourists.
(Ok, maybe not)

image

image

image

image

image

Picture this: Autumn colours at Arlington Court…

First published in October 2014.

*****

This weekend I’ve once again been playing host to my old friend Ho, who has been taking a well earned break from a frantic work schedule to join me for a spot of relaxation in the beautiful autumnal Devon countryside.
This time we decided to take a stroll around the extensive grounds of Arlington Court, ancestral home of the Chichester family for over 500 years.

image

The house itself is an imposing stone built mansion, surrounded by rolling lawns, lakes, and woodlands, criss-crossed with pathways that lead you to various viewpoints overlooking not only the gloriously varied vistas of the estate but also the picturesque church of St James (not owned by the Trust, but adjacent to the house) which just happened to be staging a flower festival at the time of our visit.

image

We began our tour on the front lawn of the house, heading down to the ornamental lake, stocked with lazily cruising carp and topped with a proliferation of water lilies, pausing on the way to admire the splendor of an ancient oak tree that has stood on the site since well before the house or grounds existed.
The tree is preserved primarily for the scientifically important and internationally recognised variety of lichen, moss and fungi that festoon its gnarled and twisted trunk.

image

image

image

The church is just visible through the trees that overlook the lake, providing a focal point for visitors, an invitation to investigate the hidden beauty of the peaceful sanctuary as you make your way round the estate.

image

But before we headed into the cool vaulted space of the flower-strewn chapel we made our way down the shady path amongst the trees to discover what the woods had to offer.

image

Before too long we came upon a small camp in a clearing, complete with a traditional clay oven beneath the billowing folds of a parachute canopy, along with rustic huts constructed from sticks salvaged from the woodland floor.

image

image

image

The woods have the quiet atmosphere of a primeval forest, rotting trees left where they fell, allowing the verdant moss to take hold and making perfect burrows for small animals and insects, creating shapes that look for all the world like the backbones of long-dead dinosaurs or mythical dragons.

image

image

Occasionally a gate or stile will allow a view across the cattle grazing fields of the deer park, to the densely wooded slopes of the valley, the trees starting to display the muted tones of autumn foliage.

image

image

We retraced the path back to the lake and made for the tower of the church, immediately seeing signs of the floral attraction within…
image

image

image

…already catching the scent of the expertly designed bouquets before we even entered the light and airy space of St James’s, the vibrant colours of hundreds of flowers perfectly complimenting the stained glass windows and ornamental carvings on the walls.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Our final two stops were at the formal and walled kitchen gardens, the latter of which provides fresh produce for the house and its cafe.
There was even an imperious peacock to welcome us to his domain, although he didn’t seem keen on me taking his picture and I required several stealthy attempts to capture him in all his iridescent glory.
image

image

image

image

image

There is even an “insect hotel” high-rise apartment block for bees and other pollinators…
image

…and there is always something intriguing around the next corner or through the next inviting door.
image

image

image

image

…and of course the Chichester family symbol, a heron grappling with an eel, is in evidence everywhere.
image

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable visit to a place that I’m sure I’ll visit again and again, because there is always something new to discover.

Arlington Court house and gardens are open until the end of October, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys relaxing amidst spectacular scenery, basking in the more genteel atmosphere of days gone by and leaving the stresses and strains of modern life behind for a few hours.

Picture this: The Tarka Trail…

Named after the otter in Henry Williamson’s book, and originally conceived as the Taw and Torridge Country Park, the stretch of disused railway tracks and surrounding land between Barnstaple and Bideford was bought from British Rail in 1987, and the 180 mile footpath and cycle network that exists today was finally extended – to Braunton in one direction, and Meeth in the other – in 1992, when it was officially opened by HRH Prince of Wales.
It finally became the Tarka Trail in 1994.

image

You will see signs for the National cycle network (route 27) all over the area and we frequently use the trail, not for anything strenuous like cycling you understand, but as the section nearest us runs alongside the river Taw, (the same river that runs through Rock Park) it’s very pleasant to walk out towards Braunton and feed the ducks, coots, moorhens and swans that gather in the wildfowl reserves which line the old railway beds.

image

I have been taking photos along this stretch of the trail for several years, and as we were out there again today meeting and feeding the new cygnet as mum and dad kept a wary eye on us, I thought I’d share some with you.

image

You can see signs of the past life of the trail, with railway artifacts still visible here and there..

image

image

..and livestock grazing in the lush wetlands between the old tracks and the estuary.

image

There’s plenty of wildlife to see here, particularly on the lake that was built with nesting waterfowl in mind, with reed beds and low, overhanging trees making an ideal nursery for many types of birds.

image

image

image

image

image

A small jetty at one end of the lake allows visitors to be surrounded by grateful beaks just waiting to be fed…

image

image

..some more forward than others.

image

Are you going to feed me then?

image

… Well?

The gulls will even take food on the wing..

image

..and there’s always s fight for the last few crumbs.

image

The landscape around the trail always has something to catch the eye..

image

image

image

..which is why we keep going back.

If you want more information about the Tarka Trail go here.

March of the Internet Nobody, day thirty one: Nature photography week…

Diary of an Internet Nobody.(Archive)

For this, the final post in my month long frenzy of blogging activity, I took a slightly muddy stroll along a stretch of the Yeo river valley and captured what nature had to offer (in the grey springtime drizzle) in amongst the trees and undergrowth.

This area floods regularly in winter and spring, so it’s an altogether sparser landscape than our local woods, but the wood anemones are blooming, along with the ubiquitous wild garlic and a few other wild flowers. There is also an abundance of dramatically shaped trees here, bordering a more fast-flowing river which rushes over a concrete weir after snaking through the woods.

Thank you for joining me on my week of nature rambles and for putting up with me every day this month, normal(ish) service should resume tomorrow.

View original post

March of the Internet Nobody, day thirty: Nature photography week…

Diary of an Internet Nobody.(Archive)

For my penultimate post in this maelstrom of March madness, a more accurate description would be “countryside”, instead of “nature” photography, as I tried to capture a bit more of the actual landscape on my journey home today.

I took a detour past the imposingCastle Hillcountry house and gardens, snapping a few shots of the estate cottages, the lodge house at the entrance to the drive, Castle Hill house itself and the surrounding woodland. The crows called noisily from high above as they built their twiggy nests in the tall trees, daffodils bloomed on the roadside and the river flowed peacefully past.

It finally felt like spring is actually here and summer is on the way.

View original post