A Travellerspoint blog


An English Country Garden

For Mary Jane and Tony

sunny 26 °C

We wonder if you remember the 60's song that begins ...
"How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
We'll tell you now of some that we know ..."

Here are some of the flowers we came across in one of England's finest country gardens - Stourhead in Wiltshire.
This is the flower of the handkerchief tree ...

The stately homes of England stand as a reminder of the golden age of the British Empire, and Stourhead House is a perfect example of the excesses of the aristocracy in the 1700s. Britain is still littered with monstrous castles, palaces and great country houses, that were, and in some cases still are, the rural pads of princes, dukes and earls. However, age, taxes, and the declining wealth of the landed gentry, have taken a toll on many of these mausoleums and a great many of them have ended up in the hands of The National Trust - a charity set up to preserve Britain's heritage.

Stourhead is such a place and, while it has a great house and a vast estate exceeding 2,500 acres, it is most famous for its Italianate garden designed by Henry Hoare, (known as Henry the Magnificent) in 1740.

Here is another view ...

These gardens, like most designed for England's baronial halls, were entirely artificial. Great swaths of countryside were molded by men with shovels into landscapes that mimicked the rolling hills of Tuscany; streams and springs were turned into lakes with dykes and dams; and exotic trees, flowers and shrubs were shipped in from around the world.
Here are some of the magnificent rhododendrons ....

To top off the illusion and fully transform this piece of England into Italy, Hoare scattered fine Palladian buildings throughout his garden. But, just to remind you of home, he tucked this whimsical little Tudor house into a leafy corner.

Posted by Hawkson 08:29 Archived in England Comments (2)

Friends Forever, Forever Friends

sunny 24 °C


As I grow older, it is very reassuring to know that thousands of miles away from my home in Canada are a group of friends in England I have known almost all my life. This week I had the pleasure of spending two delightful days with them at Geraldine’s home in Lewes, where we reminisced about our happy childhood in suburban London. It’s wonderful to catch up on their news: Maggie is off to Romania to stay with her daughter and Jenny is about to embark on a new career. Susan, my oldest friend, (not in age but in length of time), lived across the road and we started to play together when we were three. She brought a diary from 1964 and we laughed and giggled again like fifteen year olds as she read tales of lengthy Youth Club walks; of parents worrying; of dance parties; and of boyfriends and schoolgirl crushes. I have stayed in touch with these friends over the years and both Heather and Pam have visited me in Canada. We have been there for each through life’s pains and pleasures. The last time we all met up was 10 years ago when we were turning 50, but as we parted this time we have promised each other that we will not wait ten more years before we reunite.


Posted by Hawkson 00:46 Archived in England Comments (2)

It's Bluebell Time in England

sunny 24 °C

At this time of the year England is vibrant with the colours, sounds and scents of spring, and the contrast between this verdant country and Egypt’s desert landscape is astounding. The dawn chorus here is of melodious birdsong not discordant muezzins, the traffic is quiet and orderly, and England’s lush woodlands are carpeted with fragrant bluebells like these.
This weekly market in the medieval town of Devizes bears no resemblance to the bustling souqs of Cairo…

The New Forest in the south of England was once a royal hunting forest planted by King William I, (William the Conquerer), in 1079.Today the forest is public parkland which is famous for its herds of wild ponies and deer.
This wild donkey grazing peacefully in the New Forest has no idea that his Arabian cousins are still being ridden into the ground in Luxor.

England is truly a green and pleasant land, and spring is a great time to enjoy the magnificent gardens for which this country is justifiably renowned.


Posted by Hawkson 02:11 Archived in England Comments (1)

Memories ....Memories

sunny 11 °C

It was Remembrance Sunday in England yesterday - a sure sign that Christmas is nigh - and we went to the ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. We saw the Queen and the rest of the Royals and watched as thousands of ex-servicemen paid their respects at the War Memorial in Whitehall. Here are some of the Chelsea Pensioners...

The French also have much to remember. Languedoc Roussillon may be a long way from the German border, but the inhabitants weren’t spared in either of the World Wars. In the centre of every town and village stands a memorial to the slaughter of men and women for whom the French Republic’s motto of ‘Liberte, Fraternite and Egalite’ meant something worth fighting for. Here is the memorial in Villemoustaussou …

The virginal snow caps on the Pyrenean mountains last week told us that it was time we headed home. Autumn has arrived in the forests of the Montaigne Noire and the mushrooms are sprouting under the oaks and beeches. Here are a few that we could have picked…

But which of these could turn out to be a deadly delicacy?
No problem in France - just take them to the nearest pharmacy. All French pharmacists are experts in identifying edible fungi. So, if you see a young man scurrying furtively out of a pharmacy with a brown paper bag it’s not what you think. It’s probably full of mushrooms that he doesn’t want his neighbours to know about. Mushroom hunting is a lucrative business and gatherers jealousy guard their hunting grounds. But a greater prize awaits under the oak trees of these forests; soon the specially trained dogs and pigs will be nosing their way through the fallen autumn leaves in search of edible gold - the prized black truffle.

The forests of Languedoc Roussillon are at their colourful best at this time of the year and as we walked under the gentle showers of crisp golden leaves we were reminded of the cycle of life and the fact that we too are in our autumn.
As we head home to Canada, via London, we take with us many happy memories of Spain and France. But now it’s time to say goodbye until the next time we board the ferry from our little Pacific Island and head out into this wonderful world for another adventure.

So, “Au revoir” and “Hasta luego” from us and from our delightful granddaughter, Charlie. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

Posted by Hawkson 07:30 Archived in England Comments (2)

Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah!

semi-overcast 19 °C

Oh Yeah! … Oh Yeah.
This Town Crier in the historic City of Wells, Somerset, is carrying on a tradition which has been unbroken for 700 years. Wells was already an ancient city in the 1300’s when the first Town Crier proclaimed that the Crusades had been a huge success and the Christians had finally defeated the misbegotten Muslims of the Middle East … “Mission Accomplished” as George Bush so valiantly proclaimed 700 years later. (A man whose knowledge of history wouldn’t land him a job in a kindergarten).
Wells Cathedral, like all of the great Norman cathedrals in England, was built in the twelfth century. But, like many English towns and cities, Wells stands on foundations laid down by the Saxons, Romans and Trojans. Britain is today one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and we tend to think that this is a recent phenomena. However, two thousand years ago, legions of Romans came here to take the healing waters in Bath and, perhaps, to visit the ancient settlements of Iron-age, Bronze-age and Stone-age men … Nothing changes – only time.
Here are some relatively recent houses in Wells that were completed in 1363…
Nearby Wells is Glastonbury, famous for its Abbey. We would have visited this ancient building but from a distance we could see that most of it had fallen down so we didn’t bother. We did, however, walk the streets of this Medieval town and view some of the sights.
Here’s a sight…
......and here’s another…
Yes- Glastonbury is home to the largest community of weirdos in the world. They come here for the annual folk festival and most never leave. There are more pierced nipples and noses here than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. And then there are the shops! In the High Street there is one travel agent, a dozen charity thrift stores, a score of junk shops, and about a hundred new-age metaphysical emporiums bursting with angels, crystals and witches broomsticks. Just two minutes in the doorway of any of these incense-filled temples of the occult is enough to convince the average person that there is something very funny about this place and the people who live here.
This is one of the store windows …
We noticed that the travel agency was closed. Maybe no one ever leaves this place – not in this world anyway.
This, however, is the local hotel. It was opened in 1420 and we found lots of spirits there.
After Glastonbury we took a short drive to Cheddar. Hands up everyone who knew that Cheddar cheese originated here because the ripening curds could be safely kept in the limestone caves that bore deep into the gorge's cliffs.
Here is Sheila standing in the famous Cheddar Gorge. We would have stopped to buy some cheese in the village but fifty coach loads of Japanese tourists beat us to it.

Posted by Hawkson 10:39 Archived in England Comments (4)

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