Wednesday 29 September 2010

Well - I'm floored!

I spent last weekend on our annual 'Mums Weekend' at Whitehall Outdoor Activity Centre in Derbyshire with 25 other women aged from 17 (not a mum!) to 65 (grandma!) all doing activities usually done by 10 to 16 year olds, ranging from canoeing, mountain biking, ropes and assault courses to climbing, caving and stream scrambling - yep, you read it correctly - stream scrambling AND climbing waterfalls under a deluge of icy water on a cold late September day and I enjoyed it!!! However, the associated aches, tweaked ankle and awesome bruise collection meant that a bit of R&R was deemed more necessary than gardening this week - but at least several hours immersed in the icy water meant that I didn't get huge swellings to accompany the bruises! Anyway, my enforced rest has given me chance to take you back to a weekend in late March of this year when it finally warmed up enough to work outside again ........

In Yorkshire the phrase "I'm floored" usually means "I'm amazed/astounded/gobsmacked.....!" etc, but today it means that my Tea House finally got its floor!

Himself added extra floor joists for strength and put batons in to rest the insulation on.
Batons in place.

First piece of insulation being slid into place.

Floor insulation complete - I'm going to be SO toasty warm in there!

Cutting notches out of the chipboard flooring panels to go round the vertical posts.

Checking for fit.

Last board in place as the sun starts to set.

Building the frame for the last solid piece of wall.

Me attempting to hold the outer waterproof membrane in place in a high wind whilst being about 4 inches too short AND stood on a wobbly plank over the water.........again!

Outer plywood panel in place and painted - job's a good 'un!
Himself is a star!

Whilst Himself was grafting away on the Tea House, I was busy in the garden and greenhouse. Here are some of the products of my labours, picked recently!
Apples - variety unknown as the tree was a freebie, given away when we bought 3 other fruit trees last year. They taste delicious.
Autumn raspberries still going strong.
A pear from a pear tree we didn't know existed until we took down a cankered apple tree on one side of it and chopped back the ceonothus on the other side of it. Given space, it has blossomed and born bucket loads of fruit this year!
My first ever string of garlic - it may not be the most beautiful or the neatest, but I'm strangely proud of it!
Heirloom tomatoes grown from seeds sent to me by Monica at Garden Faerie's Musings. Thanks Monica, they've been great.
And look what Last-Born bought me .........I absolutely love it and it certainly beats the skanky, tatty bit of paper I used to pin to the door! Thanks love :D
Yesterday's haul of goodies.
Meet Baaaarney, the newest member of the family. I found him for sale in Devon where he made me smile during another very wet walk round the grounds of yet another stately home.

...and he still makes me smile now!

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 :)