Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Of Stately Homes and Gardens

On our way down to Devon Himself and I went to visit Tyntesfield, just south of Bristol, which has been a National Trust property since 2002. I'd always thought it was pronounced Tin-tes-field for some reason, but it's actually Tints-field.

I'm not quite sure when the house was built, but it was bought by the Gibbs family in 1843. They began a full-on rebuild in 1863 to transform the house from the original Regency-Gothic style into the incredible Gothic-Revival extravaganza it is today. The family made their fortune by importing bird guano from South America - possibly giving rise to the Yorkshire saying of "where there's muck, there's brass"! (Muck=anything dirty. Brass=money!)

The beauty of the exterior of the house can't be seen at the moment because of all the renovation work - but the roof has now been restored and made watertight, so the scaffolding should be coming down over the next couple of months.

This is what you see instead of the house at the moment! The entire building is sheathed in scaffolding and polythene - stunning eh?!
The little monkey puzzle tree was planted last year. One has stood in that same position for a couple of hundred years, but had either died or been chopped down at some point late last century.
Amazingly, we were allowed to go up 68 steps inside the scaffolding to a viewing tower. I initially poo-pooed the prospect of looking at a roof, but Himself seemed keen so up we went .....and I'm SO glad we did. It was fascinating - something I never thought I'd say about roofs! I was smitten!

I had to resist the urge to break into a rousing chorus of 'Chim Chim-En-Eee' from Mary Poppins, given that I have the musical abilities of a dead slug, we were sharing the viewing platform with a family with easily scared young children and there were workmen nearby!
Some of the spans were so large that ordinary scaffold wasn't big enough or strong enough, so RSJ's had to be used to span those distances.
The carvings even at roof height were exquisite in their detail.
Having got over our shock at the beauty of the roof we joined a free guided walk of some of the grounds. There are 500 acres in total, so we couldn't really do that in a couple of hours! We did one of the Tree Trails with a very knowledgable National Trust volunteer (and a few other interested people).
An Oriental Plane tree Platanus orientalis.
These were introduced into Europe in around 1550, but this one is believed to have been planted in the 1840s.

The Irish Yew Avenue consists of 57 trees. The first 36 were planted around 1851, the others were added later. The slightly strange shape of the bases of the trees is down to the deer nibbling them as high up as they can reach!

As we moved from the formal garden into the parkland we came across the Ha-Ha. It's basically a trench that is invisible from the house, giving an uninterupted view of the grounds without any nasty fences or walls in the way. It makes the deer and livestock appear to be grazing in continuous open countryside but prevents them from getting into the formal gardens. They're called Ha-Ha's because that's what 'common people' apparantly said to express their suprise at finding them ...just after they'd fallen in them then?!
Tyntesfield's Ha-Ha was quite long and could have made a jolly nice moat!
Shading the Ha-Ha at this point was a beautiful and unusual Japanese Keaki Zelkova serrata, which was probably planted between 1865-1870. It hadn't yet begun to turn, but in Autumn it becomes a beautiful orange/red colour.

Having admired various other stunning Champion trees such as the Crucifixion Thorn Colletia hystrix and the Cut Leaved Hornbeam Carpinus betulus 'Incisa' , we made our way to the kitchen gardens and its range of gorgeous old greenhouses.

A tool store to covert?

and an Orangery in a very dilapidated state. Restoration work is due to begin in here very soon. We were only allowed in here wearing hard hats and with the guide. Good old 'Elf n Safety'.

The kitchen garden was a superb example of a North-South orientated brick walled fruit and vegetable garden and we totally fell in love with it.
A local primary school and a centre for adults with learning difficulties each have some growing space there. Other fruit and veg are available for sale and one quarter of the garden is planned to be producing food for the cafe in the grounds next year.

Apples, pears and plums are grown on the south-facing walls and sour cherries are on the cooler north-facing walls. The garden originally produced fruit and veg for the Gibbs family households in Tyntesfield and London - there is a railway line nearby on a direct line to London ....and one of the Gibbs family owned shares in the line!

We came out via the Lady Garden - another enclosed garden where the ladies of the house strolled before dinner. The square plinths with wooden planters on originally had large citrus trees in planters on them. The poor garden staff had to shift them in and out of the greenhouses whenever the ladies were in residence and might want to use the garden!
Finally we made our way up to the partially restored Rose Garden with its long pagoda
and its 2 gazebos...... one is partially restored and

one is almost completed, having had new tiles specifically made to match the originals and a new curved bench. You're supposed to be able to sit here and admire the glorious view........ but the bench faces the wrong direction!

It had the most beautiful roof though.

It was a real pleasure to wander round Tyntesfield - we were amongst the last to leave and would happily return again. The volunteers were all so knowledgeable, enthusiastic and helpful that they were a joy to listen to. All the conservators would stop what they were doing to answer questions or demonstrate what they were doing - we found out later that this was written into the contract by the last member of the Gibb family when he bequeathed the house to the National Trust - smart man!
It definitely comes under the heading of 'well worth EVERY penny of our National Trust membership'. I hope you enjoyed your visit too :)


Kylee said...

What a wonderful tour, Liz! I felt like I was there. You have some wonderful places to visit. I hope to get to England someday! Thanks for sharing your day with us. :-)

Connie said...

Wow, great tour....thanks for sharing! I love English gardens and countrysides.

Shady Gardener said...

Thank you for the tour. I'd never heard of a Ha-Ha before... so thank you for the explanation! :-) The long pagoda was beautiful! (Couldn't there be something created here???) hmmm.

Perhaps if I'd been there, we'd have sung that Chim-chim-cheree... and been thrown out? ha.

Irene said...

What a useful blog yours is! Now I know what a Ha-Ha is! And at the same time realise that I actually saw one myself a few days ago when I visited Dorset, at the tropical gardens at Abbotsbury. Well, I suspect that it was kind of a Ha-Ha, anyway.

For once, my blog is in English - please feel free to visit!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Kylee - glad you enjoyed it. I hope you do get to England one day then you can come and visit us and I'll be able to show you all the lovely places near here! :)

Hello Connie and welcome to my blog. We are lucky to have so many lovely places to visit - mind you, a hundred years ago I'd have probably been a servant working in one rather than aristocracy visiting! :)

Hi Shady - yes I loved the long pagoda too .....and it set me thinking!!!
I can't think of anyone else I'd rather be thrown out of a stately home with for singing:D

Hi Irene - nice to see you again. You lucky thing - I wanted to go to Abbotsbury, but it wasn't anywhere near where we were in Devon or en route! :(
I'll be over to your blog shortly - I've missed it!

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Great tour!

I bow to your superior tree knowledge.

The scaffolding to get to the roof must of cost a small fortune to hire, before any roofing got underway. Anyway, nice roof, as they say, whoever 'they' are.

Things are quieter over here, phew! I love this time of year, August was hectic.

Nutty Gnome said...

Glad you enjoyed it Rob, but I have to confess that my superior tree knowledge is actually superficial - it cost me a quid to buy the Tyntesfield Tree Trail guide!!!

The scaffolding cost something in the region of half a million and has been up there 6 years. The volunteers are looking forward to it coming down this Autumn - but visitors will loose the chance to go up to see the roof. I was amazed by how much I loved the roof!

Glad things are quieting down for you - hot and hectic isn't always a good combination. Enjoy Autumn :)

altadenahiker said...

Well, this whole thing will take a pot of tea. The photos have captured me, so I'll be back. And back again.

Woody Wilbury said...

Love that tool store!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Altadenahiker - I'm so glad you liked it. Please feel free to come back whenever you want to :)

Ey up Woody - yes, I got serious tool store envy too! :)

joey said...

How did I miss this lovely post and wonderful garden tour! So what was with the bench :) Such an interesting roof. Everything about your England seems so charming, especially through your wonderful eyes.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Joey - glad you made it!The bench really made me laugh - a glorious view that you couldn't see! :)
Come on over - I'll take you on tour.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Wow, that is some scaffolding!! And I recognized the plane trees right off, almost straight off a van Gogh painting. I feel so cultured!

Nutty Gnome said...

Me too!
We spent quite a lot of time in stately homes this summer - mainly because they were dry!
I was so glad the weather stayed reasonable for us at Tyntesfield becuase the tour round the grounds was wonderful - but would have been grim in the fain!