Lake District, Derwentwater, Borrowdale, 29th October 2014

We’re planning a few days in the Lake District. The following images accelerated our desire. One of the most beautiful places in one of the most beautiful National Parks. And my birth county.


eBay Sellers of Snowdrops You Can Trust!

I wrote a short blog a few days ago in which I criticised a criminal selling snowdrops on eBay. Well I feel a little guilty as my overwhelming experience of buying snowdrop cultivars on the auction site has been positive.

  • the seller who packaged a ridiculously cheap snowdrop as beautifully as if it were a crown jewel and included a helpful handwritten hint or two about its cultivation
  • the eBay arm of one of the big snowdrop companies from whom I bought six different early flowering cultivars only a few weeks ago, for them to arrive in such profusion and for such an acceptable ‘Buy Now’ price that I could have immediately resold the bulbs for the total price and had the originals to spare
  • the well known breeder of snowdrops who discovered his advertised bulb was a little smaller than he had anticipated and sent three bulbs instead
  • the sellers, and there are many, with whom one can have a conversation and build up a relationship. One or two are now friends
  • For many of the sellers, the funds go towards the purchase of the ever growing number of cultivars one simply can’t do without. They mostly arrive fresh and, through a variety of means, they are intact to such a degree that I can unpack them, pot them up and the flower is unblemished.

    So for these sellers, big and small, may I contribute a list of those from who have offered premium service over the years and from whom I would unhesitantly purchase again. I commend them to readers of my blog. And I should say that the list will be added to as I realise those I’ve missed or receive new information. Oh, and by the way, there is no hierarchy of sellers here, they are merely as they were extracted from my email records.

    Of course, the best things in life are free! (Nostell Priory)

    Paradise Garden 1: Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire, Friday June 2nd 2017

    The BBC presenter, Monty Don, presented two programmes last week in which he explored different world gardens inspired by the Qur’an. It inspires me to visit gardens in Morocco, Spain and, who knows, Iran. The use of water was particularly enticing. Taking a secular view of “paradise gardens” I considered where mine might be and alighted, first in a short series, on our visit in late spring to that old favourite of ours, the RHS gardens of Harlow Carr. The photographs feature the small pool and the long and exquisitely planted Streamside, perhaps the nearest thing to perfection one could ever imagine in a garden.

     The Harlow Car hybrid primulas (they spell it like that!) are a showy hybridisation of Primula bulleyana, P. beesiana, P. japonica and P. pulverulenta that occurred naturally in the boggy soil some years ago.

     The wisteria, hostas, Matteuccia and maple catch the eye plus the perfect blue of assorted Meconopsis. The gardens hosted the national trials of the latter some years ago and one is in in poppy heaven either side of the stream. There are colours here other than blues.

    From little acorns – Sherwood Forest’s Major Oak

    There comes a time when we all need a little support and the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest requires more than most. Mind you, the old fellow, if such he is, has a broad waistline of some 33 feet, weighs in at 22 tons and spreads his impressive arms to embrace 92 feet and thereby exclude all competitors. And one further statistic. He is no less than 1150 years of venerable age. If there was a Robin Hood, and Nottinghamshire’s tourist trade fervently believes there was, he stood under these very limbs.

    Here’s another ancient specimen, windswept today, spreading his girth to match. There are many old trees in the forest, some having given up the ghost, others somewhat impossibly sprouting live branches from seemingly dead material. There are also young, lively specimens in one of England’s most impressive ancient forests.

    The forest is constantly reinvigorating itself. When the silvery birch have been and gone, the acorns and squirrels do their work.

    Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 19th November 2017

    Apart from the parking fee, there are few nicer places to visit on a bright, cold morning than the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Well, I say cold but sitting on the balcony having a milky coffee there was warmth in the sun and as we embarked on a long walk we generated heat well enough.

    Anthony Caro’s “Promenade” (1996) looked stunning in the autumn light and set amongst the trees.
    The view from the balcony was also lovely. On the stairs to the cafe was an exhibition by Ed Kluz: “Sheer Folly – Fanciful Buildings of Britain”. All the works were for sale and it passed my mind for a split second to … I settled for a photograph of “The Dunmore Pineaple”.

    Tony Cragg’s work crazily complemented the Yorkshire landscape.

    However Joan Miró’s 1974 piece, “Tête”, would be my choice to grace the front lawn.

    Or Barbara Hepworth’s “Square with Two Circles”(1963).

    Lynn Chadwick’s “Little Girl” (1987) looks pretty grown up to me. She seemed a little lonely. An angular beauty.

    The parkland itself is one of the sights of Britain.

    Believe it or not, this is an exhibit. David Nash, “Seventy One Steps”. We saw it seven years ago when it was being constructed. Very fitting for a sculpture park in inspiring surroundings.

     We’ve got to have a Henry Moore. Or three. “Upright Motives No 1” and “Glenkiln Cross No 2” & “7” (1955-6).

     And finally a Garden Centre, Alfredo Jaar’s “The Garden of Good and Evil”. I resisted the temptation to get out the secateurs.

    Clumber Park Yesterday

    Clumber Park looked a delight in the pale sunshine.  Four miles, or thereabouts, and my Sony A6300 at hand. We ended by popping into the Walled Garden and Conservatory, hence the chrysanthemums and odd scrap of colour. To rephrase Miranda: “O brave new world, That has such plants in it!”

    Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)

    My knowledge of wild plants and native trees is lamentable so I have had to look up just what this striking tree or shrub is. I have always wondered but never got round to it. The Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) may be common enough and native to the United Kingdom but it has uncommonly handsome berries and autumn colour. The lucent berries seem wired into the national electricity grid. As November takes us ever nearer winter there is still beauty to behold in our woodlands.

    Wentworth Castle Gardens is to Close after the Easter Weekend

    Wentworth Castle Gardens

    Wednesday February 1 2017: John Edwards, Chair of the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust said : “It is with sadness we have decided that the gardens will have to close to the public from Spring 2017.”

    The Heritage Trust behind the gardens says it has not been able to make enough money to cover the running costs and management of the site – despite  a £3.74 million restoration of the garden’s Victorian conservatory back in 2013.

    We visited today for the last time and here are the memories of a garden nationally famous for “Lady Lucy’s Walk” and its vast collection of azaleas and rhododendrons.

    We managed to see some early rhododendrons in flower, feast our eyes on the conservatory and eat at the excellent cafe. All for the last time. This is a loss for all who love gardens and a particular one for our family for we have enjoyed many days there over the years. Do visit my Instagram pages to comment. We hope the staff find alternative employment. But most of all we hope some benefactor arrives to save the day.

    Blackpool’s Stanley Park, October 15th 2016: "The UK’s Best Park"

    The 390 acres that presently comprises Blackpool’s Stanley Park was officially opened in 1926. It serves an important role in my family’s memories given that my wife is a Blackpool girl and this was where she spent many happy days of her childhood, including her time at the now demolished Collegiate High School for Girls, the park being a convenient hideaway for lunchtimes. We brought our children here on numerous times before our move to Yorkshire. Now on a very wet October morning we revisited. It has scarcely changed. The link above is to the Friends of Stanley Park from which I learn that this venerable park has been just been voted “The UK’s Best Park” for 2016 by “YOU!”

    The Rose Garden was originally designed by Thomas Mawson in 1926 and completely renovated in 2006 
    David Austen Roses make up the main planting though Autumn perennials were conspicuous
    The Historic Art Deco café is worth the visit on its own

    The bandstand is in the distance and the benches are just as we remember them
    Clock Tower
    Stanley Park Lion

    The following images show the care taken of the bowling greens where the grass had been properly spiked but the gardeners not quite having finished sweeping up the plugs of earth.

    Cleethorpes in Bloom, Kingsway Gardens, 30th August, 2016

    In the years that I have been visiting Cleethorpes, our nearest seaside town, I have been impressed with the efforts of the local council to clean up their act. The place is spruced up beyond recognition. This is nowhere more apparent than in the landscaping. So here is a series of images showing Kingsway Gardens, the landscaped strip of land that runs parallel to the main beach. Formal gardens can look great if properly planted and maintained, a feature of  Kingsway. Also prominent are the various sculptures integrated into the arrangements. On Monday when we visited the gardeners were raking over clean beds and adding fertiliser for next Spring’s bulb displays. So it’s back to the 30th of August.