France – Monet’s Garden

It seems a long time ago since my old friend Rosie suggested that I accompany her on a voyage of discovery around the British Isles. A chance to see new places and to re-discover my penchant for travel. We were to embark on an eight night cruise starting from Tilbury in Essex (London International Cruise Terminal)

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Leaving Tilbury

travelling in an anti-clockwise direction around the British Isles and stopping in Northern Scotland, the Isle of Lewis, the Isle of Mull, Ireland, the Scilly Isles and across the English Channel to Honfleur in France. The circle would be complete on our return to Tilbury. It was to be my first holiday for a long time and my very first cruise.

You need a ship to cruise and I was very pleased to find that this one met my perception of a traditional cruise ship. Small by modern standards but perfectly formed. This view was taken from the tender on our return from a day trip to the Scilly Isles.

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Astoria

From there, we crossed the Channel overnight to France  and docked, on the last day of April, in the small port of Honfleur which is on the southern bank of the River Seine in Normandy. The large commercial port of Le Havre is across the estuary on the north bank of the river.

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Honfleur

We boarded a coach at the dockside for our journey to Monet’s Garden but the route did not take us past the old picturesque 16th- to 18th-century townhouses which feature in some artists work, including Monet, so the above was the best view I could get.

It is about 85 miles, and took less than 2 hours to get to Giverny, where Claude Monet and his family settled in 1883. He set about creating a walled garden in front of his house which would be full of perspectives, symmetries and colours and became Clos Normand. He became a bit of a botanist, spending a lot of money collecting plants and after 10 years set about acquiring more land adjacent to his, but across a road and railway and which, importantly,  contained a brook. He used this to create a pond and water garden full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly. So, that’s the background and now my attempt to show you what there is to see.

From the coach park we entered through the water garden following the brook meandearing through bamboo and clumps of pastel hued plants.

You are required to keep to the paths and as you make your way through the aspect opens up and you get first sight of the placid, still, pool.

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Finding reflections

The biggest problem with trying to get some of these photos is the number of visitors in the garden (getting in the way 😉 ) and deciding how much time you can spend in any spot as there is so much to see and at this point you don’t really know the extent of the gardens.

Then you just know that you have come across the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, which you cannot see as it is too early in the year.

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That bridge

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Reflection of the Japanese bridge

I did my best to capture the view but have not really done it justice.

From here you have to cross road and rail to get to the walled garden using an underpass. Emerging out into the open you get your first glimpse. The house can just be seen at the top of the photos.

We are now in the original garden which is laid out more formally than the water garden and has a number of avenues enclosing beds with clumps of flowers with co-ordinating colours. Fruit trees and climbing plants add height and structure.

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A riot of colour – tulips and wallflowers

It was spring time so flowering bulbs were everywhere.

I was very impressed to see these Crown Imperials standing high above the tulips and wallflowers and will have a go at growing some for next spring.

The main alley below, closed to public access, is covered by arches for climbing roses and provides a perspective to and from the main house.

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Avenue de la Maison

I made up that title by the way, but would love to see it when the roses are in flower.

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Tulips and tulips

A view across the garden, which I hope shows the extent of planting. I haven’t really shown any of the flowering trees, but this one caught my eye also while looking  across

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View through fruit tree blossom

Moving rapidly on we went into the house to have a look around and see how the master painter turned gardener lived, in some style.

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Monet’s house

The house and garden fell into disrepair after the Second World War and it was only about 1970 that work began on restoration.

“Almost ten years were necessary to restore the garden and the house to their former magnificence. Not much was left. The greenhouse panes and the windows in the house were reduced to shards after the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted away,  a staircase had collapsed. Three trees were even growing in the big studio.

The pond had to be dug again. In the Clos normand soil was removed to find the original ground level. Then the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time were planted.

Thanks to generous donors, mostly from the USA ,the house was given a facelift. The ancient furniture and the Japanese prints were restored. Then the visitor areas were fitted out.

The property has been open to the public since September 1980.”  – courtesy of http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm 

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Interior of Monet’s House

The view from upstairs.

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A wider perspective

and the view down the central alley from the house

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Reverse Avenue de la Maison

I will finish with my personal favourite, a view through the window across the flower bed

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View from inside

which I think, looks great full screen.

I hope there were not too many photos for one post, that i have given you an idea of the marvel of Monet’s vision and that you have enjoyed your visit almost as much as the half a million visitors who pass through the garden each year.

Thanks for your time.

 

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A walk in the woods

I just liked the shape of this cute conifer

I just liked the shape of this cute conifer

I think it is true to say that I haven’t got the hang of making regular posts, but when the urge strikes, then I have to respond. So please forgive me for the long break as I get this recent expedition onto ‘paper’

Spring may well be well on the way, but the current trend, around here anyway, for decidedly cool temperatures, does not make one feel springlike. From inside, it looks so inviting to see the azure sky with the sun shining brightly, that one can’t wait to get out and enjoy the day. However, the cold wind that greets you as you emerge from the shelter of suburban living makes you realize that spring is a fickle mistress who can reward and punish at the same time. It’s the beginning of May and ice has formed a hard skin over the bird bath and tender blossom reels from the overnight onslaught.

Apple blossom in May

Apple blossom in May

Ah but the sun is shining; I must get out and about and make the effort to record some sights. The wood at the bottom of Clay Bank (a pass into the plateau of the Cleveland Hills) looked inviting. The best thing about walking through a wood at this time of year is the colours. The greens of Spring are a delight to behold, but trying to capture that essence is not so easy?

Forest track

Forest track

This is the track leading into the wood which is an area of forested land from which the conifers were harvested some years ago. These trees are mainly silver birch with an assortment of other deciduous trees, which have grown recently or were left standing from the felling operations.

Spring green

Spring green

Hence the larger trees standing above the general height.

Mixed woodland

Mixed woodland

The track was climbing slowly higher and soon gave a fine view across to Roseberry Topping, our local landmark hill.

Roseberry Topping above the wood

Roseberry Topping above the wood

Next there was a line of sight down to one of the farms at the foot of the Cleveland Hills which almost surround this woodland.

Farm at the foot of the Cleveland Hills

Farm at the foot of the Cleveland Hills

The track wound around the contours of the land, so was fairly level, if wet in places. All around the green theme was echoing.

A short distance away from the forestry track was a marshy area which contained a patch of bulrushes which shone out like beacons among the surrounding greenery. Care was needed here as I found my foot sinking into the hidden mire, the dried reeds were very deceptive!

There was no circular route round, so I had to retrace my footsteps back to the start. It was in this area that I came across this fine patch of primroses looking upto the sun.

Primroses

Primroses

Ok, this short post has been three days in the making, so onwards and upwards as they say, publish and be damned.

We have more to come, so thank you for all who had a look and hope to be back soon.

 

Raby Castle

Raby Castle

It was Monday, a holiday, the May Day bank holiday, so the housemate and I needed to go out somewhere. We tried locally, at a gardening event at a local park, Preston Park, Stockton, but there wasn’t much of interest to see and I left there with only a vague idea of where I was going next.

After consulting the map in my head and with a recently retired person’s desire to see beyond the bird table, we ended up at Raby Castle in County Durham, which dates back to the 14th century and was the ancestral home of the Nevills. The estate is run by Lord Barnard who, through his grandmother, is a direct descendant of the Nevills of Raby. For anyone interested in the full story try here – http://www.rabycastle.com/history

The castle stands in a 200-acre deer park surrounded by some very English countryside and has a walled garden, carriage house and a tea house which utilises the old stables

Great use for the old stables

Great use for the old stables

where we fortified ourselves with lunch before venturing out to the walled garden :-

The walled garden from the deer park

The walled garden from the deer park

The greenhouse in front of the wall protects just one tree – a 200 year old fig tree. You can only view it from outside and I couldn’t get a reasonable shot through the glass with my camera to give you an idea of the size of the thing. There is just one trunk in the middle and the branches are trained out along the wall in both directions to fill that glass house, which is heated in winter.

Theses incredible hedges are also over 200 years old and have acquired the most amazing shapes. They run down across the garden enclosing the more formal area and the housemate gives an idea of the scale. This area contains a pool and small fountain –

Pool and hedge

Pool and hedge

and has views over to the castle

Castle from garden fountain

Castle from garden fountain

I got fed up of washed out sky, so tried turning it blue. I suppose it now looks artificial.

There were far too many plants to show in this post and I am no expert, but here are some that I really liked –

Contrasting to the free flowing form of the yew hedges were these geometric shaped low box hedges. There were 5 of these altogether, but I couldn’t get all of them in one shot.

Geometric box hedges

Geometric box hedges

Of course, no walled garden would be complete without a summer house, this one just happens to have a great view –

This led us on closer to the castle and the wider parkland.

with so much space, a tree can really get going –

Parkland tree

Parkland tree

So we went on, to looking for the animals that give this deer park it’s name. There are two species of deer, Red deer, the largest British wild land mammal, and the smaller Fallow deer. Apparently, both herds contain the descendants of deer preserved in this area since Norman times. With so many visitors on a holiday weekend, the deer had hidden themselves, despite their numbers and were eventually found in the farthest corner of the park. You couldn’t get close to them, but I was surprised at the size of the herds, they seemed to stretch out in a never ending line.

As they were so far away, I had to use the maximum zoom on my camera and came to realise how hard it is to hold a steady shot at high magnification and even to see clearly what you are focusing on! I couldn’t for instance find the stag with his antlers on show, but there was one.

Leaving the estate, we had a only a quick look, as they were getting ready to close, into the carriage house . They certainly liked to use bright colours –

Carriage House

Carriage House

So, that was another day out in the country, beyond the bird table, I hope you enjoy.

 

RHS Garden Harlow Carr

It was Good Friday, the start of the Easter weekend so a day out was required to divert the housemate from the tedium of the daily grind. As an apprentice OAP I am now able  to visit gardens and stately homes, something I have managed to avoid over the preceding 40 odd years of my formative years. So we set off towards Harrogate, Yorkshire and the Royal Horticultural Society Garden at Harlow Carr. Yes, I know it was a Bank Holiday and would therefore be busy and full of kids, but when needs must ……

I thought I would start off with a pic of the garden shed just because we walked through this to get to the Gardens Through Time section, hence the ancient implements. I was amazed by the lawn shears.

Grandfather's garden shed

The garden shed

There were still daffodils to be seen…

and note the blue sky

Daffodils in abundance

and primoses….

 

Predominately white

Predominately white

There were rhododendrums, white pink and red….

 

There were trees, plenty of them and some were very fine specimens. I dont know what they are, but love the outlines…

 

One of the more exotic plants we came across was mentioned recently by New Hampshire Garden Solutions in Spring Runoff . Just shows that sometimes, even with the Atlantic in between, Spring is Spring in the northern hemisphere. I hope these are the plants mentioned – Skunk Cabbage – Lysichiton Americanum – we did not try to eat them!

Some more great trees….

The ornamental bark is on a Tibetan cherry tree and looks so good you need to touch and feel it!

I couldn’t resist this mallard, although it has nothing to do with gardens……

Male Mallard duck posing

Male Mallard duck posing

And the housemate posing with the garden’s link to the forthcoming visit by the Tour de France later in the year –

This scarecrow doesn't intend to hang about!

This scarecrow doesn’t intend to hang about!

Finally, this garden was the cream of the crop at the 2010 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and is a quirky take on the classic dish of ‘Rhubarb Crumble and Custard’

Rhubarb crumble and custard

Rhubarb crumble and custard

I hope you enjoy!

Posting Breakthrough – Yorkshire Arboretum

For a couple of months my posting efforts have ground to a halt; foundered on a period of doubt and uncertainty.

Then a week ago, while a friend was staying for a few days  we had decided to make my first visit to the Yorkshire Arboretum which is next to Castle Howard near Malton. Around home the leaf buds had started to break out in sheltered spots and many blossom trees are now in flower, so I thought it would be worth the trip to see spring in action and give me a good reason to post.

We stopped in Helmsley, an old market town on the way to see the daffodils along the stream.

Spring Daffodils

Spring Daffodils

We arrived at the arboretum about lunchtime after passing the huge obelisk at the entrance to Castle Howard. It was early in the season, plenty of room in the car park! You pay an entrance fee in the visitor centre and the sight of the cafe was enough to persuade us to have tea and a sandwich to fortify ourselves before setting out on a circular walk.

We first passed through the cherry trees which were disappointingly lacking in blossom to the bird observatory where we stopped a while, but with little feed around, there was little bird activity and we carried on with a high wall to our left which held this captivating doorway :-

To the Outside World or the Wardrobe?

To the Outside World or the Wardrobe?

The ground in places was quite wet  and in others firm and dry. Spring may have been around somewhere, but wasn’t making herself very apparent.

Weeping Beech - a leafless study

Weeping Beech – a leafless study

After walking uphill for a bit we came across what is signed as the main vista which gave splendid views down to the lake. You can just see that spring is approaching but my photographic skills do not do it justice.

Vista down to the lake

Vista down to the lake

Nice to see a bit of hard architecture among the living giants and this Cruck House appeared. My research tells me that it is built of oak and chestnut from Castle Howard, and built by traditional methods, to commemorate the late Peter Garthwaite OBE (1909-2001). It provides shelter from the sun or rain or a quiet place to sit and enjoy the surroundings.

The Cruck House

The Cruck House with thoughtful Maiden

We also came across this fair maiden frozen in constant vigil………

Wood Nymth

Wood Nymth

 

The next great view was across to the cedars. Funnily enough it is called Cedar Vista. (it is in the guide)

Cedar Vista

Cedar Vista

 

The pine trees were showing definite signs of spring.

Pine Buds

Pine Buds

In closeup

In closeup

 

Fancy pine buds

Fancy pine buds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now this is what I call a bird nest box :-

Large bird nest box

Large bird nest box

 

For owls or birds of prey?

Birdbox in context

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We managed to find a few flowers in bloom.

 

Rhododendrum

Rhododendrum

Viburnum

Viburnum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back to the visitor centre we came across this flying bird which was easier to photograph than most.

Silver Eagle with prey

This swan was anxious to be included as well but refused to show her best side.

Swan

So, not quite as springlike as I had wished but nevertheless a fascinating place for walk in the woods and certainly begs for a return visit in the summer. We ran out of time, did not manage to get everywhere and I’m sure missed some exciting specimens. Hah, there is the one last photo which my friend assures me was a magnolia flower bud. Sadly, it must have been the only tree in the garden which did not have a label!

Magnolia flower bud?

Magnolia flower bud?

The grey skies were not exactly inspiring and it was not exactly warm, but it has however made me publish another post, even though it has taken a week to write it. Spring has definitely arrived now, around here, so there must be something more beyond the bird table that I can describe very soon.