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.

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Picture this: Tapeley Park…

First posted January 2013

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Tapeley Park house and gardens is a unique and fascinating place, on the road between Barnstaple and Bideford.

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Tapeley Park house, seen from the Italian terrace garden.

The estate has been in the same family since the 1700’s, and is now owned by local anti-corporate campaigner and political activist, Hector Christie, who runs it on a sustainable basis, and he is proud of his Green credentials, supplying the local community – as well as the estate cafe – with organic vegetables, and using recycled materials wherever possible.

The house has it’s own claim to fame – the fact that it has an important collection of William Morris furniture – ironically preserved over the years, due to the house being unheated and mainly closed up for years, as revealed on a C4 documentary.

But it has always been the grounds – which include a Victorian kitchen garden and experimental permaculture garden – that make us go back time and again.

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The lake is a beautiful place for a picnic.

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Many exotic plants grow in the mild, sheltered climate.

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Neatly trimmed arbours lead you on…

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…to surprises around each corner.

There are animals too. Apart from the wildlife scurrying in the undergrowth, the estate keeps rare breed pigs, sheep, and highland cattle.

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Three little pigs.

The hard landscaping has been lovingly restored, most notably on the steps leading down to the Italian terrace garden…

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…and yet, there are still echoes of the past, lending a eerie calm to quiet, reflective corners.

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There is even a labyrinth, made from the stone shards of an exploded obelisk, victim of a 1931 lightning strike.

A fascinating and, in some indefinable way, enchanted place, it’s somewhere to return to again and again, always discovering something new.

If you’re ever down this way, why not go and see for yourself, you never know what you might find…

The Night Garden…

Having spent a few weeks getting our new garden looking nice, I finally got round to putting the candle holders out last night and decided to try some long exposure shots when it got dark.

A few carefully placed solar lights added some extra illumination and, with a little digital fiddling the results really are rather lovely.

Picture this: Autumn colours at Arlington Court…

First published in October 2014.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We retraced the path back to the lake and made for the tower of the church, immediately seeing signs of the floral attraction within…
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…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.
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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.
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There is even an “insect hotel” high-rise apartment block for bees and other pollinators…
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…and there is always something intriguing around the next corner or through the next inviting door.
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…and of course the Chichester family symbol, a heron grappling with an eel, is in evidence everywhere.
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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: Creating our new garden…

I’ve missed a few posts on Diary of an Internet Nobody recently, most notably a couple of SoCS episodes, due to spending my weekend writing time working on the layout and planting of our new garden.

We had a pretty clean slate to work with when we moved in, just two months ago, with a couple of large shrubs and a good sized shuttlecock fern in one of the beds that border each side of the lawn (which still needs levelling and re-seeding) but otherwise empty and ready for inspiration.

We first cleared the right hand side of the garden as you look out from the back door, as it was overgrown with wild geraniums, vinca and aquilegia. Then I went on a couple of garden centre bargain hunts, tracking down a varied (and, more importantly, cheap) selection of bedding plants and some more unusual specimens to add a bit of interest and extra colour.

Add to that a new, stone, faux-pond under the bird feeder, our trusty old gargoyles, with a few other quirks thrown in here and there and a new raised planter for a pair of clematis, amongst other things, on the back fence, I reckon we’ve made a good start on our little outdoor retreat.

See what you think of our efforts so far.

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

A whole week’s worth of nature photos, starting in the garden…

Diary of an Internet Nobody.(Archive)

I think I’ve done quite well so far, in my attempt to post something interesting, entertaining, or at least different, every day for a month, and without resorting to simply posting a daily photo, too.

Well, until this week, anyway.

So for each of the final five days of my March marathon, I shall try to capture some original images of nature for your viewing pleasure; starting off with a regular subject of my photo posts, The Mound.

The area around the sloping corner bed in the dappled shade of our back garden has provided us with variety, interest and seasonal splashes of colour since we cleared the overgrown mass of weeds which covered it when we moved in. Now, with a few days of sunshine and warmth, the garden in general and The Mound in particular, is coming back to life.

And here’s a tune that ties in rather…

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Garden evolution…

It’s good to have a document of how our garden has grown from the unkempt and overgrown blank canvas that we began with, to the oasis of colour, form and texture that we have made for ourselves.

I’ve posted many photos of The Mound, both here and on Diary of an Internet Nobody, but it’s a continually evolving part of the garden which started off like this…

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…a dead tree stump, overgrown with bluebells, wild garlic and long, unidentified green things, along with a few stems of ash and hawthorn (from seeds of the trees which used to overhang the patio).

And in the last week or so, leading up to today and the glorious bank holiday sunshine, the garden now looks this…

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Finally; it might not look exactly like this, but here was Audrey’s fairy garden, beneath the fiery red canopy of the pieris, after a little creative manipulation.

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