Sunday, 21 August 2016

Picking Peas in August

 This year's topsy-turvy weather has brought a first - picking peas in August.  Normally they would be finished by now, but surprisingly this year we picked the first courgettes before the peas.  They are still flowering so we will have more, but the crop will be nowhere as good as normal.
 Conversely, the outdoor tomatoes have done well, with lots of fruits maturing.  These are Totem, a reliable bush variety.
 An experiment for this year was this heritage variety - snowberry.  Small fruits on a cordon bush, which ripen to yellow, not red.  We have a few trusses maturing, they are very tasty.
 The garlic has been poor, but it did go in late. Usable but not as good as I would have liked.
While I was digging up some potatoes in a particularly weedy patch, I saw a flash of orange which turned out to be the belly of this newt.  It's been years since I've seen one, and he must have been hunting slugs among the potatoes. I released him nearby to carry on his good work!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Wentworth Castle 18th Century Park and Gardens

Wentworth Castle Park was laid out in the early 18th Century and is a great example of early landscaping.  The house was built at the same time, the gardens, park and surrounding areas such as the walled kitchen garden are slowly being restored.
 The park is extensive and contains two kinds of deer - fallow deer are in this photo if you look carefully!
 Red deer are just about visible in the distance here.  They help to manicure the trees, which all have very flat bottoms.
 The house is built on a hill and at the bottom of the slope is an area called the serpentine where artificial lakes were created, designed to look like a river.  After an absence of maintenance over many years, they lack their former glory.  Here you can see how trees have grown into the ponds.
 This one has a lot of muddy water in it but is rather unkempt.  Hopefully they will be able to improve it in future years.
 This is the Rotunda, said to be based on the Temple of Vesta in Rome.  It is way across the park from the house, and recently restored to its original appearance.
 The house was used as a military hospital during the Second World War, and some soldiers were apparently fit enough to walk over here and commemorate their visit...
 The laurel wreath on the back of the monument gives the construction date as 1746.
 A double avenue of trees leads back to the house which is just over the horizon.   This avenue was almost entirely removed by agriculture, and was restored in the last ten years both by planting new trees which you can clearly see here, and by moving semi-mature trees from elsewhere on the estate.  This is exactly what the 18th century landscape gardeners did, but without machine power!  So the large trees you can see here did not start life in this spot but were dug up by a kind of tree scoop and replanted.  Very impressive.
 While some areas of the gardens at the house are rather wild and overgrown (a work in progress), others are more formalised.
 Large drifts of planting are very effective.
 I think this is very effective, with the white and pink side by side.
 This flower garden is not original but formed out of an old car park, just a few years ago.
 No 18th century house would be complete without a ha-ha, and this one is no exception.  Invisible from the house, it keeps those pesky sheep at a distance and stops them peering in the windows! 
 This Victorian themed garden has lovely displays of contrasting flowers and foliage, with chocolate leaved dahlias contrasting with other plants including yellow chard.
 An inscription on another garden monument commemorates Lady Wortley-Montague, who introduced a smallpox inoculation technique into the country in the early 18th century.  This technique was used to inoculate Jenner, who later developed the process of vaccination. 
 Down a long hill from the monument back to the house is this lovely avenue of lime trees, much bigger than they look in the photo, most beautiful.
 The final part of the tour was the Victorian conservatory.  It is spacious and not over-planted, as it is used for weddings.
 While everything in the photo looks like it has been here a hundred years, all is not what it seems.  The tiles were made and placed recently based on photos of the originals.  The conservatory fell into disrepair and became dangerous.
Following a public appeal it was dismantled and taken away for restoration which took months.  Can you imagine the complexity of that process?  They first had to figure out exactly how it was constructed, then make replacement parts for the missing/damaged bits, restore the surviving parts and then reconstruct it.  An amazing achievement.

Wentworth Park is near Barnsley in South Yorkshire.  The park is extensive and good shoes are required, the full walk round is about 4 miles but you can walk smaller sections.  There are lots of butterflies, deer and some nice flowers in summer.  In spring I believe the azalea garden is good, and they do have a lot of rhododendrons so a spring visit may be worthwhile.