Part Two. A Well-Spent Week in Southern Devon, England

 At Coleton Fishacre, by Pudcombe Cove, on the South Devon coast, we see a perfect, harmonious interplay of architecture and gardens and the greater landscape. The country retreat of Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte began to be created in 1923. Rupert, the son of impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, was the manager of the hugely popular—and profitable—Gilbert & Sullivan empire of operettas, as well as the owner of the Savoy Hotel and Claridge’s, in London. The Arts and Crafts-styled stone house and terraces were constructed largely from Dartmouth shale, which was quarried on site. On July 2nd, 2015, after a morning of dense fog and driving rain, the skies cleared, and Coleton Fishacre, which during the first hours of my visit had seemed to be a spooky Daphne-DuMaurier-setting-made-real, was transformed into the glistening, cheer-inducing, jewel-by-the-sea that you see here, and which we will explore at length, in the final portion of this Travel Diary.

At Coleton Fishacre, by Pudcombe Cove, on the South Devon coast, we see a perfect, harmonious interplay of architecture and gardens and the greater landscape. The country retreat of Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte began to be created in 1923. Rupert, the son of impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, was the manager of the hugely popular—and profitable—Gilbert & Sullivan empire of operettas, as well as the owner of the Savoy Hotel and Claridge’s, in London. The Arts and Crafts-styled stone house and terraces were constructed largely from Dartmouth shale, which was quarried on site. On July 2nd, 2015, after a morning of dense fog and driving rain, the skies cleared, and Coleton Fishacre, which during the first hours of my visit had seemed to be a spooky Daphne-duMaurier-setting-made-real, was transformed into the glistening, cheer-inducing, jewel-by-the-sea that you see here, and which we will explore at length, in the final portion of this Travel Diary.

May 2016

Six months have elapsed since I published Part One about the summer-of-2015 week when my dear friends Anne and David Guy led me on a long ramble across Southern Devon. Of the varieties of jobs I perform, no work challenges me more, or gives me more satisfaction, than the creation of these Travel Diaries. With every article ( all of them composed after I’ve returned to my quiet New Hampshire life ) I try to replicate my virgin-views, and the excitement I felt, as I encountered each new place. Whenever I consider the backlog of material that I’ve already accumulated, I begin to frantically calculate just how many more decades I’ll need to stay alive, so as to finish the happy labors of this endless and self-assigned project.

Periodically, however, Life demands that the hours of every day be spent working through less happy challenges. Trouble always arrives in clusters. Over a short period of time, my mother, and three of my friends, abruptly die. And then the old joke about Death and Taxes is revived, as one of the worst jokes, ever. Deep sorrows or serious illnesses, finding the times ripe for their pernicious influences, sidle in and drape their various veils over those who remain.( And, My Oh My: I cannot even begin to bewail the cesspit that America’s political process has become!)

And yet….and YET: When I’m hip-deep in one of these extended periods of gritting teeth and summoning strength and practicing patience, I eventually realize that, so long as one remains calm and lucid, enduring awful times can result in the arrival of some of Life’s most unexpected gifts.

To wit: Ten years ago, I sat by my father’s bedside, as he suffered through the final stages of Lupus. This was a man who during his 80 years had lived largely for and in the future; always beside him were spreadsheets about the businesses he’d build, and piles of handwritten notes about the organizations he’d grow. But, in his final weeks, my father stopped looking ahead and instead turned his eyes to his immediate surroundings.

On an early morning in April I arrived at his hospital room with a freshly-baked baguette and a carafe of coffee. I spread butter on the still-warm bread, and gave it to him. I poured us each a cup of strong coffee, topped off with cream. For two months, as he’d been shuttled from one hospital to another, good bread and organic butter, and rich coffee and cream — along with all other tasty foodstuffs — had been denied him. But it was clear to both of us that his doctors, despite their frantic efforts on his behalf, could not stop his dying, and so I decided to end my father’s dietary deprivations.

As I did each morning, I read aloud to him, from the NYTimes Opinion Page. Normally, he’d offer a few words about the sorry state of the World. But on that Spring day in 2006, as I paused between editorials, my father, with coffee cup in one hand and buttered bread in the other, gave me the most open smile I’d ever seen and told me: “Nan, we have everything we need.”

 Berkeley, California, 1953. Nan and her parents, Hazel and Elwyn, outside of their home at 2434 Byron Avenue. Photo courtesy of Emily Hook

Berkeley, California, 1953. Nan and her parents, Hazel and Elwyn, outside of their home at 2434 Byron Avenue. Egad…such geeky-looking parents, and such a serious-faced infant! Fortunately, as my parents aged, they both became much more distinguished-looking…and I developed a sense of humor. When we lived in this inexpensive, one-bedroom cottage near San Francisco Bay, my parents had to shoehorn my crib into a closet…shades of Harry Potter, who first lived in the under-stairs cupboard at the Dursleys’. Today, per Zillow, this only-slightly-expanded cottage is valued at $914,000.00 … utter craziness. Photo courtesy of Emily Hook

Now, having been shepherded through this recent, rocky stretch by my superb sister, by my small mob of beloved friends, and by a very smart doctor [Note: If you’re seriously ill, haul yourself off to Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston…don’t waste time going anyplace else.] , my brain-fog has lifted and I am once again finding the energy to savor the bounties of Life, and to think about my past and future travels.
( Yes: another long journey is on my 2016 calendar. )
As the World seems always to be on the verge of going to Hell in a Hand-basket (one of my mother’s favorite laments), focusing upon the positive — upon all the ways in which we humans have improved ourselves and embellished our Little Rock — seems the best way to counteract our host of other, un-admirable tendencies, which, these days, are on full and distressing display, across the globe.

And so, the most constructive thing I can do today is to resume my journal about more of the extraordinary places to which Anne and David led me last summer, in Southern Devon.

Tuesday. June 30, 2015.
Our destination: Overbeck’s
Sharpitor, Salcombe
Devon, England TQ8 8LW
Phone +441548842893

Website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/overbecks

Overbeck's is a property of The National Trust.

Otto Overbeck bought his house, originally called Sharpitor, in 1928. Upon his death in 1937, the house and garden were bequeathed to the National Trust, with the stipulation that it should be renamed Overbeck’s. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Overbeck's is perched high above the Salcombe Estuary, and has views out over the English Channel.

Overbeck’s is perched high above the Salcombe Estuary, and has views out over the English Channel.

Aerial View of Overbeck's. The road (if it can be called that) to Overbeck’s is winding and terrifyingly narrow…more a paved goat-path than a place for automobiles, however compact they may be. Unflappable as always, Anne Guy steered her vehicle upwards, with but a few sideways glances at the rock walls, and steep drops, alongside the steep approach to the House. Occasionally she played “chicken” with a car that was headed in the opposite direction: she nearly always won.

Aerial View of Overbeck’s. The road (if it can be called that) to Overbeck’s is winding and terrifyingly narrow…more a paved goat-path than a place for automobiles, however compact they may be. Unflappable as always, Anne Guy steered her vehicle upwards, with but a few sideways glances at the rock walls, and steep drops, alongside the steep approach to the House. Occasionally she played “chicken” with a car that was headed in the opposite direction: she nearly always won.

On display inside of the House: this aerial vies of Overbeck's.

On display inside of the House: this aerial view of Overbeck’s.

The National Trust introduces Overbeck’s this way:

“A hidden paradise of subtropical gardens and quirky collections…
Welcome to the seaside home of inventor and scientist Otto Overbeck. His gardens and house are perched high on the cliffs above Salcombe, with glorious views over the estuary and coast. Walking through the garden is like taking a trip around the world. With palm trees, banana plants, citrus and olive trees, you could easily forget for a moment and expect to see a parrot flying up above.”

I’ve always maintained that creating a garden — especially one that is large and ambitious and which requires serious earth-moving at the outset — is an impractical and somewhat lunatic endeavor. It thus seems appropriate to introduce you to the first gardener in today’s Tour: Otto Christoph Joseph Gerhardt Ludwig Overbeck — in all of his Glorious Lunacy — as painted by Leonard Rosoman.

Artist Rosoman’s portrait of Overbeck, as he demonstrates his Electrical Rejuventor upon himself. Image courtesy of the National Trust

Artist Rosoman’s portrait of
Overbeck, as he demonstrates his Electrical Rejuventor upon himself. Image courtesy of the National Trust

The National Trust’s description of Overbeck includes these nuggets:

“A research chemist by profession, he was also an accomplished linguist, artist and inventor. Otto also discovered that a waste product of brewing was in fact a nutritious food: he called it “Carnos” (Greek, for meat). A few years later the same method was employed to create the famous MARMITE.”

Marmite, in my Yankee’s-opinion, is the black, gooey, salty spread which the English use to ruin their morning toast….utterly revolting! When a Brit describes something as “a bit Marmite,” he’s talking about an acquired taste.

Marmite, in my Yankee’s-opinion, is the black, gooey, salty spread which the English use to ruin their morning toast….utterly revolting! When a Brit describes something as “a bit Marmite,” he’s talking about an acquired taste.

Proving that, in all eras, the dream of a fountain of youth springs eternal:
“Otto’s most successful invention was the ELECTRICAL REJUVENATOR that he patented in the 1920s, and which he claimed could defy the aging process if users applied the electrodes from his device to their skin.” Otto declared: “’Since completing my apparatus and using it on myself, I have practically renewed my youth. ‘ Overbeck successfully marketed the Rejuvenator, worldwide. He used to say that by means of his rejuvenation machine he intended to live till he was 126: he passed away when he was only 77.”

Displayed in the House: some of Overbeck's inventions and publications.

Displayed in the House: some of Overbeck’s inventions and publications.

But, what matters today is that Overbeck’s inventions made him money; and those funds allowed him to add thousands of exotic and sub-tropical plants to the already-in-place terraces which Edric Hopkins, the first owner (from 1901 until 1913), had built on the rocky, cliffside site.

Path, approaching the Garden's Main Gate

Path, approaching the Garden’s Main Gate

We enter Overbeck’s . Note the bright turquoise of the Salcombe estuary in the distance, and how the wrought iron railings have been painted to match, in what is called Overbeck’s Signature Blue.

We enter Overbeck’s . Note the bright turquoise of the Salcombe estuary in the distance, and how
the wrought iron railings have been painted to match, in what is called Overbeck’s Signature Blue.

Detail of Main Gate

Detail of Main Gate

We're halfway down the entry stairs, with blinding sunlight ahead.

A flight of steps leads us downwards, through an avenue of Chusan Palms.

From the bottom of the entry stairway: closer look at those fabulous wrought iron railings. I WANT THEM.

A closer look at those fabulous wrought iron railings. I WANT THEM.

Among the many peculiarities of the Southern Devon coast are its pockets of Mediterranean micro-climates. Taking advantage of Salcombe’s mild winters and warm southern breezes, Overbeck was able to embellish his 2+ acre garden with a huge range of decidedly NON-native plants : 3000 palm trees were added, along with bananas, oranges, lemons and pomegranates.

Guided by his head gardener Ellis Manley, Otto nurtured plants which are native to tropical Asia, such as his camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), along with specimens from Africa, South America and New Zealand. When one remembers that Overbeck gardened here for a mere nine years before his death, his horticultural transformations of the property are even MORE stunning to behold.

We arrived at 9:30AM, a half hour before opening time. Early Birds can linger on this terrace, with its stunning view over the Estuary.

We arrived at 9:30AM, a half hour before opening time. Early Birds can linger on this terrace, with its stunning view, down the Estuary.

This side of the House, seen from the entry area, is an anarchic combination of shapes and styles...which seem quite at home in Overbeck's English Jungle Garden.

This side of the House, seen from the entry area, is an anarchic combination of shapes and styles…which seem quite at home in Overbeck’s English Jungle Garden.

Another view of Salcombe Estuary, from the entry area.

Another view of Salcombe Estuary, from the entry area.

We're in England? Seems more like California, or Italy.

A closer look at Salcombe Bay… more like California, or Italy, than England.

The National Trust’s gardeners who today tend Overbeck’s rely solely upon rainwater and runoff collected from roofs for irrigation. State of the art composting provides all of the necessary mulch and fertilizer for the garden, which, though compact, feels vast because the site offers spectacular and varied views of the estuary and ocean.

The plants at Overbeck’s, while exotic, are none of them sissies! Most survive without winter protection. And the free-draining soil, which is composed of millions of minute rock particles from the excavated cliff, ensures that root systems of the plants do not rot during England’s wet seasons. Whether by design or by chance, Otto Overbeck found the perfect place for his horticultural adventuring.

Before we began our tour of the gardens, we enjoyed coffee and cake (there’s ALWAYS time to eat cake…) on the Tea Room’s Terrace.

Approaching the Tea Room's Terrace

Approaching the Tea Room’s Terrace

Detail of wall railing, on the Tea Room's Terrace. WANT, WANT, WANT!

Detail of wall railing, on the Tea Room’s Terrace.
WANT, WANT, WANT!

Our bright-morning-sunlit view, from the Terrace.

Our bright-morning-sun Terrace view of Salcombe Bay.

Palm Gardens below the Terrace cling to the steep incline.

Palm Gardens below the Terrace cling to the steep slope.

 Inside the Tea Room proper, this painting by Leonard Rosoman, of Otto Overbeck in his garden, adorns the mantle.

Inside the Tea Room proper, this painting by Leonard Rosoman, of Otto Overbeck in his garden, adorns the mantle.

A sign at the Tea Room's door cautions that wait-times for food will be LONG, due to each plate being prepared to order. Later, at lunchtime, we discovered that the food was well-worth waiting for.

The former billiard room is now the Tea Room, where a sign at the door cautions that wait-times for food will be LONG, due to each plate being prepared to order. Later, at lunchtime,
we discovered that the food was well-worth waiting for.

Back outside, at our Terrace table, this Accomplished Beggar gave me Duck-Eyes.

Back outside, at our Terrace table, this Accomplished Beggar gave me Duck-Eyes.

View of the House, from the Tea Room Terrace Lawn.

View of the House, from the Tea Room Terrace Lawn.

The House, originally named Sharpitor, was built in 1913 (to replace an earlier structure). Shortly thereafter, the new owners, Captain and Mrs. George Vereker, converted Sharpitor into a Red Cross convalescent home for soldiers, in tribute to their 21-year-old son, who had been killed, just 22 days after the start of World War I. By January of 1919, the Verekers had welcomed 1020 wounded soldiers to their home; I imagine that the warm sunshine there, along with the incredible generosity of the Verekers, healed a good many men.

Well-nourished, we headed across the Tea Room Terrace Lawn, towards the Upper Gardens.

Site Plan: Overbeck's. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Site Plan: Overbeck’s.
Image courtesy of the National Trust.

A stone balustrade marks the path toward the Upper Gardens. Behind it, the Palm Garden.

A stone balustrade marks the path toward the Upper Gardens. Behind it, the Palm Gardens.

View from path to Upper Gardens

View from path to Upper Gardens

We're in the English Countryside?

We’re in the English Countryside?

Every square foot of the gardens has been thoughtfully designed.

Every square foot of the gardens has been thoughtfully designed.

Tree Echiums tower over white hydrangeas

Tree Echiums tower over white hydrangeas

Detail of Tree Echium blossoms

Detail of Tree Echium blossoms

In the Rock Dell, we were rewarded with this VIEW.

In the Rock Dell, we were rewarded with this VIEW.

Anne and Nan in matching sun hats, on the English Riviera. Photo by David Guy.

Anne and Nan in matching sun hats, on the English Riviera. Photo by David Guy.

A path in the Rock Dell leads towards the little Gazebo Garden.

A path in the Rock Dell leads towards the little Gazebo Garden.

The Gazebo Garden has a small, sheltered seating area. This hidden pocket of Overbeck's is planted with cistus, and myrtle trees with cinnamon bark.

The Gazebo Garden has a small, sheltered seating area. This hidden pocket of Overbeck’s is planted with cistus, and myrtle trees with cinnamon bark.

From the Gazebo Garden, we take a closer look at the House chimneys.

From the Gazebo Garden, we take a closer look at the House chimneys.

In the Gazebo Garden: a grove of Tree Fern (Dicksonia antartica)

In the Gazebo Garden: a grove of Tree Fern (Dicksonia antartica)

We're back in the Rock Dell, where the incongruous combination of tall palms with blowzy hydrangeas is charming.

We’re back in the Rock Dell, where the incongruous combination of tall palms with blowzy hydrangeas is charming.

The Rock Dell

The Rock Dell

The Rock Dell

The Rock Dell

A Palm trunk

A Palm trunk

Anne, a professional garden designer, does some close inspection of the plantings in the Rock Dell. Some of Anne's work can be seen at www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk

Anne, a professional garden designer, does some close inspection of the plantings in the Rock Dell. Some of Anne’s work can be seen at
http://www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk

A flight of stairs in the Rock Dell leads up, toward the Olive Grove & Picnic Area.

A flight of stairs in the Rock Dell leads up, toward the Olive Grove & Picnic Area.

Detail of handrail on Rock Dell stairs.

Detail of handrail on Rock Dell stairs.

Our view from the lowest spot in the Olive Grove

Our view from the lowest spot in the Olive Grove

Another view from the Olive Grove

Another view from the Olive Grove

The Olive Grove is planted at the highest point in the Gardens.

The Olive Grove is planted at the highest point in the Gardens.

Anne and David lead the way, to the top of the Olive Grove.

Anne and David lead the way, to the top of the Olive Grove.

Panorama, seen from the topmost point in the Olive Grove

Panorama, seen from the topmost point in the Olive Grove

Olive Trees, up close

Olive Trees, up close

Downslope from the Olive Grove is the Statue Garden, which stands upon the former site of a tennis court. I realize that, among English gardens, some of the nicest I’ve seen are those which have replaced a tennis court (the most fabulous being the New Water Garden at Kiftsgate Court, in Gloucestershire, which I featured in my
Armchair Diary titled “An Idiosyncratic Survey of Sculpture in Gardens of the Western World.”).

The Statue Garden predates Otto Overbeck’s ownership of Sharpitor. The statue in question, a bronze figure of a girl whose fingers originally supported a bird, was somewhat modified during the Second World War. Whereas the occupants of the property during WWI were convalescing British soldiers (and were thus guests who weren’t terribly rambunctious), the American soldiers who were stationed at the house during WWII were a friskier and less well-behaved bunch. The bronze bird in the hand of the bronze girl was too tempting, and soon became a victim of the soldiers’ target practice. Seems we North Americans, when stationed abroad and with time to spare, sometimes go a bit nutty with our firearms (also see my photo of the pockmarks left by Canadian troops’ buckshot blasting at the garden walls at Lullingstone Castle’s World Garden, in Kent, in my article “Rambling Through the Gardens & Estates of Kent, England. Part One!”).

 We enter the Statue Garden, which contains lush plantings of tender perennials: poppies, salvias, agapanthus, cannas, kniphofias, inulas and heleniums…all chosen as sources of food for the bees and butterflies who flock there, from early June through the end of Autumn.


We enter the Statue Garden, which contains lush plantings of tender perennials: poppies, salvias, agapanthus, cannas, kniphofias, inulas and heleniums…all chosen as sources of food for the bees and butterflies who flock there, from early June through the end of Autumn.

The Statue Garden

The Statue Garden

A profusion of magenta Poppies, in the Statue Garden

A profusion of magenta Poppies, in the Statue Garden

POPPIES!

POPPIES!

The statue, "First Flight," was made by Dublin-born sculptor Albert Bruce (1842--1924)

The statue, “First Flight,” was made by Dublin-born sculptor Albert Bruce (1842–1924)

Anne and Nan in the Statue Garden. Photo by David Guy.

Anne and Nan in the Statue Garden. Photo by David Guy.

A glimpse of the Statue Garden, from the Secret Garden.

A glimpse of the Statue Garden, from the Secret Garden.

A magnificent Date Palm is planted at the center of the Secret Garden.

A magnificent Date Palm is planted at the center of the Secret Garden.

View of the Greenhouse, from the balustrade of the Secret Garden.

View of the Greenhouse, from the balustrade of the Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden overlooks this Parterre, which was planted by the National Trust in 1991. The clipped box hedging is cut twice a year, by hand.

The Secret Garden overlooks this Parterre, which was planted by the National Trust in 1991. The clipped box hedging is cut twice a year, by hand.

Another view of the Parterre. Orange and Lemon trees anchor the corners of this garden.

Another view of the Parterre. Orange and Lemon trees anchor the corners of this garden.

 Below the retaining wall of the Statue Garden, a Himilayan Magnolia campbelli grows along the path leading to the Banana Garden. Planted in 1901, the magnolia tipped over in the Winter of 1999 during a heavy rain, but, despite its topsy-turvy situation, the tree continues to show healthy growth.

Below the retaining wall of the Statue Garden,
a Himilayan Magnolia campbelli grows along the
path leading to the Banana Garden. Planted in 1901, the magnolia tipped over in the Winter of 1999 during a heavy rain, but, despite its topsy-turvy situation, the tree continues to show healthy growth.

On display in the House is this vintage photo--circa 1901-- of the Magnolia.

On display in the House is this vintage photo–circa 1901– of the Magnolia.

Walkway to the Banana Garden

Walkway to the Banana Garden

The Banana Garden's Greenhouse: painted in Overbeck's Signature Blue.

The Banana Garden’s Greenhouse: painted in Overbeck’s Signature Blue.

In the Banana Garden: the scarlet blossoms of Earring Flowers (Fuchsia boliviana)

In the Banana Garden: the scarlet blossoms of Earring Flowers (Fuchsia boliviana)

The Banana Garden

The Banana Garden

 [P6303661 The Banana Garden is the most sheltered part of Overbeck’s. The bananas are one of the few plants in the gardens which need some added protection. Each Winter the stems are wrapped in fleece, and then covered with a mesh overcoat to keep some of the rain out.

The Banana Garden is the most sheltered part of Overbeck’s. The bananas are one of the few plants in the gardens which need some added protection. Each Winter the stems are wrapped in fleece, and then covered with a mesh overcoat to keep some of the rain out.

The Gate separates the Banana Garden from the Palm Gardens.

A Gate separates the Banana Garden from the Palm Gardens.

Otto Overbeck planted his expansive Palm Gardens on a series of terraces which were built in 1901 by Edric Hopkins, the first owner of the property.

Otto Overbeck planted his expansive Palm Gardens on a series of terraces which were built in 1901 by Edric Hopkins, the first owner of the property.

A Gardener, tending the Palm Gardens. You can just FEEL the dry heat of that day, can't you!

A Gardener, tending the Palm Gardens. You can just FEEL the dry heat of that day, can’t you!

The Palm Gardens sprawl across steep, travelled banks and terraces. All of the Chusan Palms date from the 1930s, during Otto Overbeck's residency.

The Palm Gardens sprawl across steep, gravelled banks and terraces. All of the Chusan Palms date from the 1930s, during Otto Overbeck’s residency.

The Palms are complements by plantings of Tree Echium, agaves, yuccas, ornamental grasses, and exotic flowering shrubs.

The Palms are complemented by plantings of Tree Echium, agaves, yuccas, ornamental grasses, and exotic flowering shrubs.

In the Palm Gardens: a thicket of Crimson bottlebrush ( Callistemon citrinus)

In the Palm Gardens: a thicket of Crimson bottlebrush ( Callistemon citrinus)

Stairway in Palm Gardens.

Stairway in Palm Gardens.

Detail of stairway gate

Detail of stairway gate

In the Palm Gardens: Tree Echium (also called Tower of Jewels or Echium pininana)

In the Palm Gardens: Tree Echium (also called Tower of Jewels or Echium pininana)

View of the House, from the Palm Gardens.

View of the House, from the Palm Gardens.

View of Salcombe Bay, from the Palm Gardens.

View of Salcombe Bay, from the Palm Gardens.

A stand of Tree Echium, as we leave the Palm Gardens and approach the Woodland.

A stand of Tree Echium, as we leave the Palm Gardens and approach the Woodland.

The Woodland provides coolness and shade and, more importantly, a bit of decompression after all of the visual stimulation of Overbeck's exotic plantings. This tiny woodland area shelters the rest of the gardens from cold north winds, and is composed largely of naturally-occurring beech trees and evergreen oaks.

The Woodland provides coolness and shade and, more importantly, a bit of decompression after all of the visual stimulation of Overbeck’s exotic plantings. This tiny woodland area shelters the rest of the gardens from cold north winds, and is composed largely of naturally-occurring beech trees and evergreen oaks.

Self-portrait, by Otto Overbeck (born 1860, died 1937). Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Self-portrait, by Otto Overbeck (born 1860, died 1937). Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Until his End, Otto — chemist, collector, artist, inventor and plant maniac — operated at full throttle.
Needing a protein-boost? Spread a brewer’s waste product on your breakfast toast! Feeling Poorly? Hook yourself up to the Rejuvenator for some gentle, stimulating electrical currents (because, after all, most of mankind’s ailments are due to an imbalance of electricity). Having a crisis of faith? Listen to Overbeck, who maintains that the universal force of electricity makes religion obsolete… (Discuss! )
Clearly, there was never a dull moment with Otto … not inside of his brain … nor outside, in his garden.

 Otto Overbeck didn’t just accumulate plants. Inside the House a small selection of his collections is on display. In the Staircase Hall are samples from his encyclopedic natural history collection: stuffed animals and birds and fish, birds’ eggs, fossils, and butterflies.


Otto Overbeck didn’t just accumulate plants.
Inside the House a small selection of his collections is on display. In the Staircase Hall are samples from his encyclopedic natural history collection: stuffed animals and birds and fish, birds’ eggs, fossils, and butterflies.

The second floor landing, in the Staircase Hall.

The second floor landing, in the Staircase Hall.

Hidden under the stairs is a room that's full of the dolls' houses which belonged to the Overbeck family.

Hidden under the stairs is a room that’s full of the dolls’ houses which belonged to the Overbeck family.

 In Overbeck’s Maritime Room: a tribute to Salcombe’s 19th century glory days, when it was a busy seaport. The paintings and scale models on display here are a catalogue of maritime disaster: every ship shown was lost at sea.

In Overbeck’s Maritime Room: a tribute to Salcombe’s 19th century glory days, when it was a busy seaport. The paintings and scale models on display here are a catalogue of maritime disaster: every ship shown was lost at sea.

Otto Overbeck spent the final decade of his highly unusual life creating a garden which is nothing short of sublime.

This was my parting-view of Overbeck's, as Anne and David and I began to climb the stairs, back to the Main Gate. That such an Exit should be so seductive is almost perverse: leaving Overbeck's that afternoon became very difficult for me.

This was my parting-view of Overbeck’s, as Anne and David and I began to climb the stairs, back to the Main Gate. That such an Exit should be so seductive is almost perverse: leaving Overbeck’s that afternoon became very difficult for me.

But, despite my foot-dragging, David and Anne declared “Onward!” ‘Twas time for a flying visit to the Beach at Bigbury Bay, and a view of Burgh Island.

Our Destination: Bigbury-on-Sea-Beach, on Bigbury Bay
Devon TQ7 4AZ

Burgh Island (marked on the map in red) is a half-hour's drive from Overbeck's

Burgh Island (marked on the map in red) is a half-hour’s drive from Overbeck’s

Aeriel view of Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island

Aerial view of Bigbury Bay and Burgh Island

Burgh Island, in Bigbury Bay

Burgh Island, in Bigbury Bay

As I explained in Part One of my guide to Southern Devon, although she died in 1976, the presence of Dame Agatha Christie remains strongly felt, along the riverfronts and seacoasts of the area.

Agatha Christie. Born 1890, Died 1976.

Agatha Christie. Born 1890, Died 1976.

Agatha Christie loved Southern Devon: she was born in 1890, in Torquay, and for the last two decades of her life she made her country home at Greenway, on the River Dart.

Agatha cranked out 66 mystery novels, as well as collections of short stories, and a play: THE MOUSETRAP is the world’s most continuously-produced drama, with more than 25,000 performances notched up. For Christie-fans, there are various Christie-themed tours of her old stomping grounds in Devon, as well as the biennial International Agatha Christie Festival, which is held in Torquay. Having already taken me to Christie’s home at Greenway (see Part One of my Devon Diary), Anne and David thought I should also see the place in Devon which inspired her most famous mystery story.

I was 12 years old when I first encountered Christie’s novel, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE was published in 1939.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE was published in 1939.

I had the bad judgment to be reading it on a hot summer’s evening, while I was babysitting, in a large, strange house.
I recall vividly how frightened I became, as Christie, with relentless precision, spun her tale of methodical, multiple murders.

Ten people are lured to an island — an island inspired by
Burgh Island, and which Christie renamed “Soldier Island.” Each guest finds the following ditty posted in his or her room:

“Ten little Indian Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Indian Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Indian Boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven Little Indian Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six Little Indian Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five Little Indian Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then were four

Four Little Indian Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three Little Indian Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two Little Indian Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and there was one.

One Little Indian Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and there were none.”

Christie’s rhyme is predictive: by story’s end, None remain on her Island (but of course there’s a Final Twist….).

I have long since outgrown Agatha’s formulaic stories; lately I’ve been enjoying these better written and more subtle British mysteries: Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May novels, and Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant adventures. But I suspect that, even now, in my dotage, a re-read of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE would still give me the willies…and I would have quite a bit of company, as I shuddered. A-T-T-W-N has sold more than 100 MILLION copies, and is the world’s best-selling mystery novel, as well as the seventh-best selling book of all time.

Burgh Island Hotel. website www.burghisland.com

Burgh Island Hotel.
website http://www.burghisland.com

The Art-Deco-styled hotel which today perches on Burgh Island was built in 1929, expanded in 1932, and has recently been restored to its 30s glamour. Although Christie had already used the Island as the setting for her most successful story, Christie was unabashed about putting the place to use for a second time. In 1941 she published EVIL UNDER THE SUN, a tale of a murder at the Jolly Roger Hotel (I cannot think of a more unsuitable way for Christie to have renamed this Art Deco jewel…); this time around, crime-solving was performed by Agatha’s fastidious Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot.

Publishes in 1941. In this story, the Burgh Island Hotel was renamed the Jolly Roger Hotel.

Published in 1941. In this story, the Burgh Island Hotel was renamed the Jolly Roger Hotel.

Burgh Island — a tidal island — is tethered to the mainland by a 270 yard long sandbar. At high tide, the sandbar is submerged, and visitors to the Island are shuttled back and forth on the famous Sea Tractor.

We approach Bigbury-on-Sea-Beach.

We approach Bigbury-on-Sea-Beach.

Sun Worshippers at Bigbury-on-Sea-Beach. This beach is the largest sandy beach in Southern Devon.

Sun Worshippers at Bigbury-on-Sea-Beach. This beach is the largest sandy beach in Southern Devon.

Bigbury Bay

Bigbury Bay

At Burgh Island, the Sea Tractor prepares to set off. The tide is coming in...

At Burgh Island, the Sea Tractor prepares to set off. The tide is coming in…

As tide comes in, the sandbar begins to disappear...

As tide comes in, the sandbar begins to disappear…

The Sea Tractor splashes and zips along at a rapid pace...

The Sea Tractor splashes and zips along at a rapid pace…

The original Sea Tractor was built in 1930; the current third generation vehicle dates from 1969. The Tractor drives through the water, its wheels getting good traction on the compacted sand of the ocean floor. It all looked a bit top-heavy and tippy to me, but it's perfectly stable.

The original Sea Tractor was built in 1930; the current third generation vehicle dates from 1969. The Tractor drives through the water, its wheels getting good traction on the compacted sand of the ocean floor. It all looked a bit top-heavy and tippy to me, but it’s perfectly stable.

On the Beach, the Tractor pauses, to swap old passengers for new...

On the Beach, the Tractor pauses, to swap old passengers for new…

And back again into the Soup...

And back again into the Soup…

The Sea Tractor, headed back to Burgh Islandl...

The Sea Tractor, headed back to Burgh Island…

Sea Tractor, almost back at the Hotel.

Sea Tractor, almost back at the Hotel.

Cliffs along Bigbury Bay: a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Cliffs along Bigbury Bay:
a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

After the brilliant sunshine of the previous day, the fog and chill which greeted me when I awoke on the morning of July 1st seemed very dreary. The remedy?
Cooking Therapy! I headed into the kitchen of our rented cottage in Dartmouth, and proceeded to bake a dozen of Nan’s Signature Scones. This American’s whipping up of scones while in Devon is, of course, akin to carrying coals to Newcastle. But my scones, which contain tea-infused currants and hefty doses of double cream, are Quite Fine, and I was not at all embarrassed to present them to Anne and David, for their breakfast treats.

Nan-Scones, with Dartmouth Harbor in the background. Photo by David Guy.

Nan-Scones, with Dartmouth Harbor in the background. Photo by David Guy.

Baking, and then Feasting, had elevated my mood, and we set out, heading inland and northwards, towards nearby Totnes, and Dartington Hall.

Dartington, near Totnes, in Southern Devon.

Dartington, near Totnes,
in Southern Devon.

Aerial View of the Gardens at Dartington Hall, which are at the heart of the Estate's 1200 acres.

Aerial View of the Gardens at Dartington Hall, which are at the heart of the Estate’s 1200 acres.

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Our Destination: The Gardens at Dartington Hall
The Dartington Hall Trust
near Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL

Open from dawn to dusk, year-round
Website: http://www.dartington.org

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Plan of the Gardens at Dartington Hall. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Plan of the Gardens at Dartington Hall. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

The Gardens at Dartington Hall occupy but a smidgen of the 1200 acres that comprise the entirety of the Dartington Estate. But the Gardens are situated close to the Medieval Hall which is at the heart of the property. Reginald Snell explains the setting, in his history of Dartington’s Garden, titled FROM THE BARE STEM:

“The scene is a partly ruined medieval manor house, standing within a wide bend of the River Dart in South Devon, two miles upstream from the ancient Saxon burgh
of Totnes. Begun in Richard II’s reign, between 1388 and 1399, and built for the king’s half-brother John Holand, Dartington Hall is the only existing house of its period in the country, and has one of the largest residential courtyards surviving from the entire Middle Ages. Its early military associations came to an end in the middle of the
16th century, and the house was lived in by eleven generations of a single Devon family, the Champernownes, who managed the property for nearly four hundred years.
During the 19th century it became impossible for them to keep it in good repair and in 1925 the whole estate was put up for sale. The purchasers were Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, both then in their thirties, and it was to become not only their first married home but the centre of a wide-ranging and radically new social experiment.”

Dorothy (born 1887, died 1968) and Leonard (born 1893, died 1974) Elmhirst. The newlyweds look quite a fun couple...

Dorothy (born 1887, died 1968) and Leonard (born 1893, died 1974) Elmhirst.
The newlyweds look quite a fun couple…

In 1925, Dorothy Payne Whitney Straight, widow of the American financier Willard Straight and daughter of the statesman & businessman William Whitney, married
Leonard Knight Elmhirst, an English agronomist who was passionately interested in progressive education and rural reconstruction. As one of America’s wealthiest women
( she had inherited her father’s fortune when she was only 17 ), Dorothy could do whatever she damn well pleased, and it became her pleasure to work with her new husband to create their own little utopia at the derelict Dartington Estate.

Feminist, arts benefactress, social and labor reformer, garden designer, magazine founder (The New Republic), founder of schools (the New School for Social Research, in NYC; & 3 institutions at Dartington: a progressive coeducational boarding school, a College of the Arts, and an International Summer School)….Dorothy used her money productively, and also clearly had a ball while spending it.

A portrait of Dorothy, in fancy-dress costume.

A portrait of Dorothy, in fancy-dress costume, by Walter Dean Goldbeck.

The Dartington Press has published a comprehensive guide to the Gardens. Here’s an excerpt from Editor Kevin Mount’s Introduction:

When the Elmhirsts first “came here the grounds were neglected and overgrown with weeds. The shrubberies reflected Victorian taste, the Tiltyard was a pattern of formal flower beds, but beneath the worn out surface lay an extraordinarily dramatic landscape setting – a coombe with terraces flowing into a wider river valley, whose folds drifted away southeastwards to the sea.” [Note: A Coombe is a small valley on the side of a hill through which a watercourse does NOT run.]

“It became a matter of freeing the form of the gardens from entanglement; there was never any question of imposing a design upon the landscape. The contours of the lands were used to intensify the natural effects of height, depth and distance. The great trees planted by the Champernowne family…were cleared of undergrowth so that they might stand out in all their grandeur.”

“Dorothy Elmhirst had a large hand in the choice of plant materials. She also had an extensive knowledge and love of trees, shrubs and plants, but to carry the work through she and Leonard had relied on professional help from both sides of the Atlantic.”

 Key Points in the Gardens, listed in sequence, as you’ll soon see them. #2: Beatrix Farrand’s Courtyard Paving. #23: Garden Access Bridge, by Peter Randall-Page.#19: Sunny Border. #20: The Twelve Apostles. #21: The Tiltyard. #17: Swan Fountain. #16: Woodland Walks. #15: Flora statue. #14: High Meadow.#13: The Temple. #11: 500-year-old Spanish Chestnuts. #10: Reclining Figure, by Henry Moore. #9: The Whispering Circle. #8: Valley Field. #7: Bronze Donkey, by Willi Soukop. #5: Garden Summerhouse. #4: Jacob’s Pillow, by Peter Randall-Page.


Key Points in the Gardens, listed in the sequence, as you’ll soon see them.
#2: Beatrix Farrand’s Courtyard Paving. #23: Garden Access Bridge, by Peter Randall-Page.#19: Sunny Border.
#20: The Twelve Apostles. #21: The Tiltyard. #17: Swan Fountain. #16: Woodland Walks. #15: Flora statue. #14: High Meadow.#13: The Temple. #12: The Glade. #11: 500-year-old
Spanish Chestnuts. #10: Reclining Figure, by Henry Moore.
#9: The Whispering Circle. #22: heath Bank Steps. #8: Valley Field. #7: Bronze Donkey, by Willi Soukop. #5: Garden Summerhouse.
#4: Jacob’s Pillow, by Peter Randall-Page.

“Most celebrated among their consultants was the American garden designer Beatrix Farrand who became involved in 1933, by which time the Tiltyard had already been cleared and turned to its first use as an open-air theatre. Mrs. Farrand brought order to the Courtyard and designed the cobbled drive that circles the central lawn, overcoming problems presented by awkward ground levels. The following year she began opening the garden out by creating paths and connecting links. Three Woodland walks were laid out and planted.”

American landscape architect Beatrix Cadwalader Jones Farrand (born 1872, died 1959)

American landscape architect Beatrix Cadwalader Jones Farrand (born 1872, died 1959)

In 1914, Beatrix Farrand, a long-time friend of Dorothy’s family, had designed a garden on Long Island for Dorothy and her first husband, Willard Straight. This explains why Farrand, who during her long career had never before been commissioned to design a garden in Britain, was summoned across the Atlantic by Dorothy: the design challenges at the Elmhirsts’ new home were daunting, and Dorothy wanted to work with someone she trusted implicitly.

My long-time Readers will have seen my photo essay about Beatrix Farrand’s most acclaimed American garden: Dumbarton Oaks, in Georgetown (“Gardens & Estates along the Potomac,” published by New York Social Diary, in the summer of 2012). And I’ve done a survey of Farrand’s design contributions to the gardens at The Mount, in Lenox, MA: the home of her aunt, Edith Wharton (see my Diary for Armchair Travelers titled “Grand Gardens of the Berkshire Hills”).

Dartington is the only known example of Farrand’s work outside of the United States, and we’ll begin our garden tour with her deceptively-simple Courtyard.

What’s most remarkable about her work in Dartington’s Courtyard, and throughout the nearby Woodland, is its INVISIBILITY. Farrand’s renovations to the Courtyard, and her creation of three naturalistic Woodland Walks, were so correct that a Visitor to Dartington feels as if she’s strolling through spaces which have existed, unchanged, for centuries. Such subtle and self-effacing work — and from such an acclaimed designer –is rare.

We're about to pass through the Great Entry Gate, and on into the Courtyard.

We’re about to pass through the Great Entry Gate, and on into the Courtyard.

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Welcome to Dartington!

The Courtyard's Swamp Cypress, originally from Florida, was planted in the late 19th century. Transplanted to England, the tree has grown much higher than it would have, in its native Everglades.

The Courtyard’s Swamp Cypress, originally from Florida, was planted in the late 19th century. Transplanted to England, the tree has grown much higher than it would have, in its native Everglades.

When paving stones were laid in the 1930s, care was taken to not disturb the roots of the Swamp Cypress.

When paving stones were laid in the 1930s, care was taken to not disturb the roots of the Swamp Cypress.

Farrand's Courtyard drive circles a central lawn. The drive is paved with a mix of cobbles from the River Dart, stone flags, and granite setts.

Farrand’s Courtyard drive circles a central lawn. The drive is paved with a mix of cobbles from the River Dart, stone flags, and granite setts.

Circa 1933: an Estate worker laying paving stones in the Courtyard, to Farrand's design. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Circa 1933. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Courtyard paving detail

Courtyard paving detail

Courtyard drive, leading to the Great Hall. Photo by Anne Guy.

Courtyard drive, leading to the Great Hall. Photo by Anne Guy.

Courtyard buildings

Courtyard buildings

Detail: Courtyard building. Photo by Anne Guy.

Detail: Courtyard building.
Photo by Anne Guy.

View of Courtyard, from entry to the Great Hall

View of Courtyard, from entry to the Great Hall

Inside the Great Hall. In 1925, when the Elmhirsts bought Dartington, only the walls of the Great Hall remained standing. Over the next 10 years, all of the Courtyard buildings were restored. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Inside the Great Hall. In 1925, when the Elmhirsts bought Dartington, only the walls of the Great Hall remained standing. Over the next 10 years, all of the Courtyard buildings were restored. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Behind the Great Hall, this George III lead urn marks the beginning of the gardens. The urn is thought to have been chosen by Beatrix Farrand.

Behind the Great Hall, this George III lead urn marks the beginning of the gardens. The urn is thought to have been chosen by Beatrix Farrand.

A Korean Buddha is nearby

A Korean Buddha is nearby

A Garden Access Bridge was installed in 2011 by Peter Randall-Page.

A Garden Access Bridge was installed in 2011 by Peter Randall-Page.

Detail of Garden Access Bridge, which is made of oak, Blue Lias stone, and Devon Rustic Limestone.

Detail of Garden Access Bridge, which is made of oak, Blue Lias stone, and Devon Rustic Limestone.

Garden Plaque. Words by William Blake (born 1757, died 1827)

Garden Plaque. Words by William Blake (born 1757, died 1827)

A plaque, inscribed with the first stanza of William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” welcomes us to the Garden. Here’s Blake’s poem, in its entirety:

“To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour…

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright…

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine;
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine…

Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in Eternity…

The bleat, the bark, the bellow, and roar
Are waves that beat on Heaven’s shore…

He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.
If the Sun and Moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out…

God appears, and God is Light,
To those poor souls who dwell in Night;
But does a Human Form display
To those who dwell in realms of Day.”

We're at the southern end of the Sunny Border

We’re at the southern end of the Sunny Border

The Sunny Border hugs a high stone wall (which separates the Garden from a private bowling green that abuts the Great Hall) and spans the entire length of the eastern edge of the Tiltyard. Dorothy established this Border in 1925, and personally tended it for the rest of her life.
Over the decades, designers Avray Tipping ( her consultant from 1925 — 1930 ), Beatrix Farrand ( 1933 until the start of WWII,in 1939 ) and Percy Cane (Dorothy’s designer from 1945, until her death, in 1968 ) advised Dorothy about her gardens, but the Sunny Border was her hands-in-the-dirt and day-to-day gardening obsession. After Dorothy died, this border in particular suffered. In 1985 Danish-born landscape architect Preben Jacobson (born 1934, died 2012) was brought in to revive the garden beds. He chose plants which flourish in sun-baked growing conditions, and devised planting patterns which rely upon evenly-spaced repetitions of plants where foliage or blossoms of yellow, silver, white, blue or purple predominate.

Sunny Border

Sunny Border

Sketch of one of Preben Jacobson's planting layouts for the Sunny Border. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Sketch of one of Preben Jacobson’s planting layouts for the Sunny Border. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Sunny Border

Sunny Border

An ancient tree looms over the wall behind the Sunny Border.

An ancient tree looms over the wall behind the Sunny Border.

We're mid-way, along the Sunny Border

We’re mid-way, along the Sunny Border

Flowers cascade over the Sunny Border's Wall

Flowers cascade over the Sunny Border’s Wall

Exquisite textures and forms, on the Sunny Border's Wall

Exquisite textures and forms, on the Sunny Border’s Wall

On the left: the Sunny Border. To the rear, right: the line of highly-sculptural Irish Yews, which are called the Twelve Apostles.

On the left: the Sunny Border.
To the right: a line of highly-sculptural Irish Yews, which are called the Twelve Apostles.

We see several of the Twelve Apostles

We see several of the Twelve Apostles

In 1830, twelve Irish yews were planted parallel to the southern-most stretch of the Sunny Border. Per Dartington’s guide to the Gardens, “they may have been planted to shield an 18th century bear-baiting pit in the Tiltyard from the eyes of children (who lived) in the private house.” Bear-baiting (where bears were chained to posts and then attacked by packs of English bulldogs) was a favorite blood-“sport” of the aristocracy, which flourished until 1835, when it was finally outlawed.

Bear Baiting. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Bear Baiting. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

Now: on to the Tiltyard. Nothing — absolutely NOTHING — can adequately describe the power of this great, negative space which rests
confidently at the heart of the Gardens.

Seen from the Sunny Border: just a portion of the Tiltyard

Seen from the Sunny Border: just a portion of the Tiltyard

Through the centuries, these over-scaled cascades of grass terraces which were carved into three sides of a naturally-occurring valley have framed 14th century jousting grounds (thus Leonard’s naming the space: “Tiltyard”) , an Elizabethan water garden, an 18th century bear-baiting arena, and a 19th century Lily Pond, which was then replaced by a formal Victorian garden.

In the 19th century, walkways and shrubbery covered the bottom of the Tiltyard. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

In the 19th century, walkways and shrubbery covered the bottom of the Tiltyard. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

When the Elmhirsts first moved to Dartington, they transformed the Tiltyard’s formal garden into an open-air theater, but this idea proved unsuccessful. During the 20 years when the Tiltyard was called a “theater,” only 2 performances occurred there. The slopes and heights of the Tiltyard’s “steps” were far too steep and too tall for people to safely climb. Dorothy conceded that her outdoor theater idea had failed, both practically and esthetically; she finally understood that the true power of the Tiltyard could be unleashed by honoring its pure form. As I walked above, and around, and, finally, into the Tiltyard, I felt I was descending into a giant footprint; a concavity left by an upside-down, somewhat lopsided, and now long-departed ziggurat.
Quite an image, eh? But this is yet another example of how the boldest and best designs can stimulate: both viscerally and intellectually!

No photograph can adequately capture the dimensions of the precipitous slopes of the Tiltyard…especially those on its highest, western side. The super-human scale of the precisely-carved inclines feels simultaneously ancient and modern and inspires awe…along with a great respect for the groundskeepers who must mow the grass there.

My view from the steps at the northern end of the Tiltyard, of The Sunny Border, Twelve Apostles, and Great Hall.

My view from the steps at the northern end of the Tiltyard, of The Sunny Border, Twelve Apostles, and Great Hall.

Another view into the Tiltyard, from the Sunny Border. The orange barrier marks the spot where a majestic, 100-year-old Monterey Pine had just been removed.

Another view into the Tiltyard, from the Sunny Border. The orange barrier marks the spot where a majestic, 100-year-old Monterey Pine had just been removed. That tree was one of the first Monterey Pines to be imported to England, from California.

Here' s photo of the Now-Lost Monterey Pine that punctuated the west side of the Tiltyard's Terraces.

Here’ s photo of the Now-Lost Monterey Pine that punctuated the west side of the Tiltyard’s Terraces.

David, supplying human scale, at the north end of the Tiltyard. This flight of steps leads up to the Swan Fountain Terrace.

David, supplying human scale, at the north end of the Tiltyard. This flight of steps leads up to the Swan Fountain Terrace.

Nan, on the Terrace by the Swan Fountain, overlooks the Green of the Tiltyard. Part of the charm of the Tiltyard are the ways in which views of its precipitous slopes are often hidden, from other areas in Dartington's Gardens. Photo by Anne Guy.

Nan, on the Terrace by the Swan Fountain, overlooks the Green of the Tiltyard. Part of the charm of the Tiltyard are the ways in which views of its precipitous slopes are often hidden, from other areas in Dartington’s Gardens. Photo by Anne Guy.

To the north of the Tiltyard is a circular terrace that frames a Swan Fountain.

Swan Fountain, made of Cornish granite. Presented in 1950 to the Elmhirsts by artist Willi Soukop.

Swan Fountain, made of Cornish granite. Presented in 1950 to the Elmhirsts by artist Willi Soukop.

Swan Fountain, in Springtime, when Beatrix Farrand's Woodland shrubs begin to flower. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

The Swan Fountain, in Springtime, when the shrubs in Percy Cane’s Azalea Dell begin to flower. Image courtesy of Dartington Hall.

We're leaving the Swan Fountain, and beginning our Woodland Walk.

We’re leaving the Swan Fountain, and making our way toward the Woodland Walks.

Two columns in another part of the Woodland mark the beginning of the path which leads to Flora.

Path leading into the Woodland, where Beatrix Farrand planted Yew, Bay and broadleaved Hollies as background material for camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons.

The Woodland's Flora was presented in 1967 to the Elmhirsts by the people of Dartington.

The Woodland’s Flora was presented in 1967 to the Elmhirsts by the people of Dartington.

Both Dorothy and Leonard chose to have their ashes scattered at Flora's feet.

Both Dorothy and Leonard chose to have their ashes laid to rest at Flora’s feet.

And every day, a woodland spirit--or helpful neighbor--places a fresh flower in Flora's hand.

And every day, a woodland spirit–or helpful neighbor–places a fresh flower in Flora’s hand.

The statue of Flora marks a transition from Beatrix Farrand’s landscaping to that of her design-successor, Percy Cane.

British landscape architect Percy Cane. Born 1881, Died 1976.

British landscape architect Percy Cane. Born 1881, Died 1976.

As World War II ended, the Elmhirsts began to search for a new garden designer. In 1945, Percy Cane, who was a well-established English landscape architect, paid his first visit to the Elmhirsts’ Estate. Percy and Dorothy clicked, and so began their twenty-three-year long collaboration. Whereas America-based Farrand had only been able to make a total of four site visits, Cane, who was based in London, eventually traveled more than 50 times to Dartington, as he supervised the construction of new stairways, terraces, structures, seating areas, pathways and gardens in eight distinct but related projects.

Cane’s goals were numerous. Farrand had, with her Woodland Walks, begun to extend the gardens and link them to the surrounding landscape. It now fell to Cane
to continue those expansions. He also devised new sightlines throughout the gardens, and worked on a master plan to link all of the garden’s sections, both old and new,
with enticing vistas and graceful paths. And major clearing of overgrowth at the peripheries of the garden revealed stunning views out across Devon’s rolling countryside. Whereas both Dorothy Elmhirst and Beatrix Farrand were tree lovers and plant experts, Percy Cane never professed himself a horticulturalist; his métier was the manipulation of space. Because of his near-quarter-century of work at Dartington, we can intuitively explore the sprawling grounds. With his new sightlines and pathways Cane injected an essential clarity and continuity into what had previously been a series of beautiful but unconnected garden areas. Despite its seeming complexity, this is a Map-Optional-Garden!

High Meadow, designed by Percy Cane in 1949, arose from a completely-cleared corner of the property, where cutting flowers had previously been grown.

High Meadow, designed by Percy Cane in 1949, arose from a completely-cleared corner of the property, where cutting flowers had previously been grown.

High Meadow, abloom with wild orchids, during my visit in High Summer.

High Meadow, abloom with wild orchids, during my visit in High Summer.

High Meadow

High Meadow

HIgh Meadow

HIgh Meadow

Just south of High Meadow, Percy Cane erected The Temple, in 1960.

Just south of High Meadow, Percy Cane erected The Temple, in 1960.

This was my view downhill, through The Glade, as I stood in The Temple. Cane created The Glade by carving away undergrowth. He kept only the most shapely trees; then planted a central sweep of grass, flanked by shrubs.

This was my view downhill, through The Glade, as I stood in The Temple. Cane created The Glade by carving away undergrowth. He kept only the most shapely trees; then planted a central sweep of grass, flanked by shrubs.

A spectacular cluster of 500-year-old Spanish Chestnut Trees towers over the western edge of the Tiltyard. The Chestnuts are Dartington's most precious specimens, and were planted by the first of the Champernownes, when that family acquired the property.

A spectacular cluster of 500-year-old Spanish Chestnut Trees towers over the western edge of the Tiltyard. The Chestnuts are Dartington’s most precious specimens, and were planted by the first of the Champernownes, when that family acquired the property.

View from Spanish Chestnuts, over the Tiltyard, toward the Sunny Border.

View from Spanish Chestnuts, over the Tiltyard, toward the Sunny Border.

Spanish Chestnut Tree, with Henry Moore statue, in background.

Spanish Chestnut Tree, with Henry Moore statue, in background.

Henry Moore's RECLINING FIGURE lounges above the southwest corner of the Tiltyard.

Henry Moore’s RECLINING FIGURE lounges above the southwest corner of the Tiltyard.

Inscription on pedestal of Moore sculpture.

Inscription on pedestal of Moore sculpture.

Moore's Lady, up close.

Moore’s Lady, up close.

View from site of Moore sculpture, across the Tiltyard, toward the Twelve Apostles.

View from site of Moore sculpture, across the Tiltyard, toward the Twelve Apostles.

Another view across the Tiltyard, from the Moore sculpture site.

Another view across the Tiltyard, from the Moore sculpture site.

Still standing by the Moore sculpture, I then turned to the south east, and saw the entrance to Valley Field, below me.

Still standing by the Moore sculpture, I then turned to the south east, and saw the
entrance to Valley Field, below me.

This is what touring a garden with me looks like: I'm wandering, alone, as I take in my surroundings and then frame the views with my camera. As I took the picture you've just seen, Anne photographed me.

This is what touring a garden with me looks like: I’m wandering, alone, as I take in my surroundings and then frame the views with my camera. As I took the picture you’ve just seen, Anne photographed me.

The Whispering Circle (aka The Bastion) , built by Percy Cane, is a look-out that's adjacent to the Moore sculpture, and near the top of the Heath Bank. From the Circle...on a clear day... one can see for miles, to the south east.

The Whispering Circle (aka The Bastion) , built by Percy Cane, is a look-out that’s adjacent to the Moore sculpture, and near the top of the Heath Bank. From the Circle…on a clear day… one can see for miles, to the south east. This Circle also produces a peculiar sound effect. I asked Anne Guy to remind me about that and she replied : “It seems that the person standing at the focal point in the centre of the york stone paved circle will receive the sound (of her whispering as it ) is reflected off the parabolic wall (behind the Circle) to give an almost stereophonic effect. As to describing how it ‘feels,’ it’s tricky…it is a kind of internal echo through the body…you can FEEL (the sound you’re making) rather than hear it.”

Stairway below the Whispering Circle. During 1947 and 1948, Percy Cane built 71 steps to complete a path which would connect The Glade and the Whispering Circle to the long slope of Heath Bank, and, ultimately lead visitors to the mouth of the Valley Field.

Stairway below the Whispering Circle. During 1947 and 1948, Percy Cane built 71 steps to complete a path which would connect The Glade and the Whispering Circle to the long slope of Heath Bank,
and, ultimately lead visitors to the mouth of the Valley Field.

My view from the Heath Bank Stairway landing, back up toward the Tiltyard.

My view from the Heath Bank Stairway landing, back up toward the Tiltyard.

The Valley Field, as seen from the Heath Bank Steps, which are at the south end of the Tiltyard. In the late 1950s, Percy Cane cleared many acres of scrub woodlands, and thus opened the longest vista in the Gardens. He then planted multitudes of Japanese cherries, maples, scarlet oaks, and sourwood trees in Valley Field.

The Valley Field, as seen from the Heath Bank Steps, which are at the south end of the Tiltyard. In the late 1950s, Percy Cane cleared many acres of scrub woodlands, and thus opened the longest vista in the Gardens. He then planted multitudes of Japanese cherries, maples, scarlet oaks, and sourwood trees in Valley Field.

Willi Soukop's Bronze Donkey is mounted on a hillside, just above Valley Field

Willi Soukop’s Bronze Donkey is mounted on a hillside, just
above Valley Field

Bronze Donkey, made in 1935 by Austrian sculptor Willi Soukop

Bronze Donkey, made in 1935 by Austrian sculptor Willi Soukop

The Garden Summerhouse: designed in 1929, rebuilt after a fire in the 1980s.

The Garden Summerhouse: designed in 1929, rebuilt after a fire in the 1980s.

JACOB'S PILLOW, by Devon-based artist Peter Randall-Page, was added to the Gardens in 2005.

JACOB’S PILLOW, by Devon-based artist Peter Randall-Page, was added to the Gardens in 2005.

View from Jacob's Pillow, toward the Tiltyard.

View from Jacob’s Pillow, toward the Tiltyard.

As Dorothy began what was to become her 43-year-long redesign of the Gardens, she and Leonard also founded their progressive, coeducational school. Dartington Hall School was intended to offer the polar opposite of the traditional English boarding school experience. In 1926, the Elmhirsts welcomed their first students with these promises:

“No corporal punishment, indeed no punishment at all; no prefects; no uniforms; no Officers’ Training Corps; no segregation of sexes; no compulsory games, compulsory religion or compulsory anything else; no more Latin, no more Greek; no competition; no jingoism.” (Take that, Eton, Marlborough and Hogwarts! )

In 1930, the Elmhirsts engaged architect William Lescaze to design a headmaster’s house with a cutting-edge style that would match the School’s innovative curriculum.

HIGH CROSS HOUSE: built in 1932 for the Headmaster of the Dartington Hall School. Photo by Anne Guy.

HIGH CROSS HOUSE: built in 1932 for the Headmaster of the Dartington Hall School. Photo by Anne Guy.

Swiss-American architect, William Lescaze ( born 1896, died 1969 )

Swiss-American architect, William Lescaze ( born 1896, died 1969 )

Architect Lescaze, and Headmaster W.B.Curry worked together to create a “machine for living,” and novel concepts such as kitchen ergonomics were explored.

During the National Trust's brief stewardship of High Cross House, this sign was on display. Photo by Anne Guy.

During the National Trust’s brief stewardship of High Cross House, this sign was on display. Photo by Anne Guy.

But local contractors, who were inexperienced in non-traditional building techniques, made mistakes, which have ever since made the preservation of High Cross House costly and complicated. Headmaster Curry lived in his high-maintenance dream house from 1932 until his retirement in 1957. In its heyday, 300 students were enrolled at the School. In 1987, the School was closed.

In January of 2012, High Cross House, which is just a short stroll from the Estate’s Gardens, was leased to the National Trust for 10 years. Anne and David Guy, those ever-alert travelers, were among the first to visit the House, which is considered to be one of the United Kingdom’s best examples of modernist architecture.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House (this is the shot that makes me want to live here). Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House (this is the shot that makes me want to live here). Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House: Floor Plans

High Cross House: Floor Plans

High Cross House, Living Room. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House, Living Room. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House, Living Room. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House, Living Room. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House, Living Room. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House, Living Room. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House: period photo of Headmaster Curry's Study

High Cross House: period photo of Headmaster Curry’s Study

High Cross House, Stairway Hall. Photo by Anne Guy.

High Cross House, Stairway Hall. Photo by Anne Guy.

But by December of 2013, the National Trust had already declared their experiment of managing a house built in the International Modern style to be a failure. Clearly, England’s four million National Trust members, who so love touring traditionally-styled properties, have little interest in this rare example of architecture’s Modern Movement in Britain. The BBC reported the dreary news:

“The Trust has activated a pull-out clause in the lease after the house attracted 11,000 fewer visitors than it needs to break even. Dartington Hall Trust, which owns the property, said there were no current plans to reopen the house. In 2012, 21,000 people visited the house, but the National Trust needed 32,000 to visit for it to be
‘financially sustainable.’ ”

And so today, High Cross House, which the National Trust called one of “the top five Modernist houses” in the United Kingdom, remains closed and untended. We are fortunate that Anne Guy took photos of the House in 2012, while it was being well cared for.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The previous morning had greeted us with cold and fog, but Thursday’s weather had upped the ante, with torrential rain and winds. Despite all, we bundled up, turned our backs upon our cozy Dartmouth cottage, and forged onward and outward, into the deluge. We traveled east, across the River Dart, to yet another garden: this one on Kingswear’s seacoast.

Rain and Fog, as we crossed the River Dart on Dartmouth’s Higher Ferry

Rain and Fog, as we crossed the River Dart on
Dartmouth’s Higher Ferry

Vehicles packed tightly, on the auto-ferry. This ferry uses cables, both for its propulsion and guidance: clever, and energy-efficient!

Vehicles packed tightly, on the auto-ferry.
This ferry uses cables, both for its propulsion and guidance: clever, and energy-efficient!

Coleton Fishacre: just a hop, skip, and ferry ride, to the East of Dartmouth, in Southern Devon.

Coleton Fishacre: just a hop, skip, and ferry ride, to the East of Dartmouth, in Southern Devon.

Our destination: Coleton Fishacre
Brownstone Road
Kingswear, Devon TQ6 0EQ

Website

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coleton-fishacre

A fair-weather view of Rupert and Dorothy D’Oyly Carte’s opulent, 1920s, seaside retreat. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

A fair-weather view of Rupert and Dorothy D’Oyly Carte’s opulent, 1920s, seaside retreat. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Coleton Fishacre: Aerial View

Coleton Fishacre: Aerial View

Welcome!

Welcome!

But could we have possibly been greeted with a spookier, or more atmospheric sight, than this one…

My first glimpse of the House at Coleton Fishacre.

My first glimpse of the House at Coleton Fishacre.

…I think not! For anyone who has shivered while reading Daphne duMaurier’s REBECCA, the stone house which loomed ahead seemed a cousin of the author’s haunted Manderley, which she had placed in nearby Cornwall.

The Forecourt is paved with granite, laid in a radiating pattern. The dimensions of this front entry drive were determined by the turning radius of the D'Oyly Cartes' Bentley.

The Forecourt is paved with granite, laid in a radiating pattern. The dimensions of this front entry drive were determined by the turning radius of the D’Oyly Cartes’ Bentley.

[Note: Southern Cornwall’s topography is a continuation of Southern Devon’s. England’s southwestern peninsula is etched by rivers, and fissured by valleys. High rolling fields terminate in cave-studded cliffs, which rise above rocky beaches, that curve around secret coves . Apart from a river — we’ll have to make do with a stream — ,
in Coleton Fishacre’s 24 acres of gardens we’ll eventually find all of these geographical features.]

As we sloshed through a heavy downpour toward the fog-shrouded House, it crossed my mind that, lurking inside, there ought to be a National Trust Docent who looked like a Mrs.Danvers-Clone.

Judith Anderson played Mrs.Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 version of REBECCA (which, though accurately depicting Menacing Atmospherics, fudged a major plot point, and in so doing robbed duMaurier's story of its complexity and ultimate impact).

Judith Anderson played Mrs.Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 version of REBECCA (which, though accurately depicting Menacing Atmospherics, fudged a major plot point, and in so doing robbed duMaurier’s story of its complexity and ultimate impact).

We crossed the somber, stone threshold. And inside? Nary a Mrs.-Danvers-Clone-Docent to be seen. Instead, I was surprised to discover a pristine, light-filled interior.

The National Trust describes the interiors as “Art Deco in Devon,” but this characterization is incomplete. The house’s spaces — where whitewashed walls meet ceilings in smooth, continuous curves; where rooms are sparingly decorated with a tightly-edited blend of accents taken from Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco , Oriental and Baroque styles — are serene and comforting. There’s no Jazz-Age Jitteriness in those rooms…no brittle, Art-Deco Sheen in the place.

For the next hour, my companions and I explored the house, as we waited for the weather outside to improve enough to make our eventual garden stroll something other than a soaked-to-the-skin ordeal.

The National Trust’s guidebook introduces us to the property:

“In the 1920s Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte were sailing along the south Devon coast. Looking for a country retreat, they were inspired to make this beautiful valley running down to the sea the site for an elegant home where they could entertain in style and indulge their passion for the outdoors.”

Rupert D’Oyly Carte (born 1876, died 1948). Son of the impresario and hotelier Richard D’Oyly Carte, Rupert revitalized the family’s Gilbert and Sullivan opera company, which was based at the Savoy Theatre. He also greatly improved his empire of hotels, with renovations to Claridge’s, the Savoy, and the Berkeley Hotel. Despite working non-stop each week in London, on weekends Rupert returned to Coleton Fishacre, where he supervised all aspects of his gardens.

Rupert D’Oyly Carte (born 1876, died 1948). Son of the impresario and hotelier Richard D’Oyly Carte, Rupert revitalized the family’s Gilbert and Sullivan opera company, which was based at the Savoy Theatre. He also greatly improved his empire of hotels,
with renovations to Claridge’s, the Savoy, and the Berkeley Hotel. Despite working non-stop each week in London, on weekends Rupert returned to Coleton Fishacre, where he supervised all aspects of his gardens.

Savoy Theatre Poster. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Savoy Theatre Poster. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

 Lady Dorothy Milner Gathorne-Hardy D’Oyly Carte (born 1889, died 1977). The 3rd and youngest daughter of the 2nd Earl of Cranbook, Dorothy married Rupert in 1907, and became a full partner with him in the design of their gardens at Coleton Fishacre. In 1932, after their 21-year-old son Michael died in an auto accident, their marriage began to crumble: in 1941 Rupert divorced Dorothy for adultery. Soon thereafter, she moved to the Bahamas, where she married St.Yves de Verteuil who was her co-respondent in the divorce case.

Lady Dorothy Milner Gathorne-Hardy D’Oyly Carte (born 1889, died 1977). The 3rd and youngest daughter of the 2nd Earl of Cranbook, Dorothy married Rupert in 1907, and became a full partner with him in the design of their gardens at Coleton Fishacre. In 1932, after their 21-year-old son Michael died in an auto accident, their marriage began to crumble: in 1941 Rupert divorced Dorothy for adultery. Soon thereafter, she moved to the Bahamas, where she married St.Yves de Verteuil who was her co-respondent in the divorce case.

The National Trust’s history continues: “Building for Coleton Fishacre began in 1923 to the design of Oswald Milne, who had been a protégé of Sir Edwin Lutyens. Inspired by the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement and its beliefs in simple design and high standards of craftsmanship, the house responded to its landscape and literally grew out of it. The stone came from a quarry in the garden and the design embraced the beauty of the surroundings. “

British architect, Oswald Partridge Milne (born 1881, died 1968)

British architect, Oswald Partridge Milne (born 1881, died 1968)

While adeptly interpreting the Arts and Crafts style in his busy practice of building country homes, Oswald Milne also became a pioneer in the design of Art Deco interiors, throughout Britain. Milne’s most famous interiors were his 1929 transformations of Claridge’s Hotel (also owned by Rupert D’Oyly Carte), in London.

Oswald Milne's most acclaimed Art Deco interiors were designed for Claridge's Hotel. This photo taken in the 1930s.

Oswald Milne’s most acclaimed Art Deco interiors were designed for Claridge’s Hotel. This photo taken in the 1930s.

Let’s begin our tour of the House, which the National Trust now presents largely with furnishings that are correct to the period, but are not originals from the D’Oyly Cartes’ time there. In 1930 COUNTRY LIFE published an extensive photo-spread about the interiors, and the National Trust referred to those pictures as they sought replacement furniture and accessories. [ Note: Where original furnishings are on display, I’ll identify them. ] Insofar as Oswald Milne’s architecture goes, the rooms remain as he built them, in 1923.

We’ll follow the National Trust’s recommended route, and will pass from the circular Front Entry Porch, through the Front Hall and its adjacent Flower Room, and then directly upstairs, to Lady Dorothy’s Bedroom.

Coleton Fishacre: House Plans. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Coleton Fishacre: House Plans. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Vases, ready for fresh cut flowers, on shelves in the Flower Room. This was Dorothy's domain.

Vases, ready for fresh cut flowers, on shelves in the Flower Room. This was Dorothy’s domain.

Main Staircase, Front Hall. The woodwork here is paneled pale, limed oak.

Main Staircase, Front Hall. The woodwork here is paneled pale, limed oak.

Lady Dorothy’s Bedroom — one of the largest of the House’s seven bedrooms — is today presented to appear just as it did, when photographed by COUNTRY LIFE, in 1930.

From the expanses of windows on two sides of Dorothy's Bedroom, she could look out across the nearby Rill Garden, and also down to the ocean, over extensive gardens, planted in the steep, narrow valley.

From the expanses of windows on two sides of Dorothy’s Bedroom, she could look out across the nearby Rill Garden, and also down to the ocean, over extensive gardens,
planted in the steep, narrow valley.

View of the Rill Garden, from Dorothy's and Rupert's Bedroom.

View of the Rill Garden, from Dorothy’s and Rupert’s Bedroom.

View of Terraces, below Dorothy's bedroom. On a clear day, the ocean is visible...

View of Terraces, below Dorothy’s bedroom. On a clear day, the ocean is visible…

Lady Dorothy's dressing table (reproduction) and stool (original). The upholstered stool is the Very One upon which Dorothy sat, and is covered with new yardage of the same black and white fabric (style: Les Arums, designed by Raoul Dufy) that was first used, throughout this bedroom.

Lady Dorothy’s dressing table (reproduction) and stool (original). The upholstered stool is the Very One upon which Dorothy sat, and is covered
with new yardage of the same black and white fabric (style: Les Arums, designed by Raoul Dufy) that was first used, throughout this bedroom.

In Dorothy's Bedroom: the over-mantle painting is original to the House, as is the cupboard to the right of the fireplace. The near-black Axminster carpet was woven to replace the original.

In Dorothy’s Bedroom: the over-mantle painting is original to the House, as is the cupboard to the right of the fireplace. The near-black Axminster carpet was woven to replace the original.

In Dorothy's Bedroom: a traveling-case, typical of the 1930s.

In Dorothy’s Bedroom: a traveling-case, typical of the 1930s.

Rupert’s Dressing Room (adjacent to Dorothy’s Bedroom) :

Rupert's little Dressing Room (with a reflection of Your Photographer)

Rupert’s little Dressing Room (with a reflection of Your Photographer)

A chair to COVET, in Rupert's Dressing Room.

A chair to COVET, in Rupert’s Dressing Room.

Rupert's Dressing Room Sink. For all of the bedrooms' sinks and surroundings, these powdered glass tiles --- made from recycled glass -- were installed. Rupert had used identical materials when he refurbished his Savoy Hotel, in London.

Rupert’s Dressing Room Sink. For all of the bedrooms’ sinks and surroundings, these powdered glass tiles — made from recycled glass —
were installed. Rupert had used identical materials when he refurbished his Savoy Hotel, in London.

Guest Bedroom in Turret:

Turret Guest Bedroom, furnished by the National Trust with Heal's oak furniture, from the 1930s.

Turret Guest Bedroom, furnished by the National Trust with Heal’s oak furniture, from the 1930s.

Turret Guest Bedroom Sink

Turret Guest Bedroom Sink

Turret Guest Bedroom's original ceiling light fixture

Turret Guest Bedroom’s original ceiling light fixture

Nan, clicking away, in the Turret Guest Bedroom

Nan, clicking away, in the Turret Guest Bedroom

View from windows of Turret Guest Bedroom

View from windows of Turret Guest Bedroom

Hearth in Turret Guest Bedroom

Hearth in Turret Guest Bedroom

His and Hers Guest Bathrooms, as described by the National Trust:

“Opposite the (guest) bedrooms are the bathrooms, for male and female guests respectively. They retain many of the their original fittings including the Doulton & Co. sunken baths. The green glass soap dishes and blue glass sponge bowls were recreated especially for the house by Dartington Glass, as the originals were in pieces.”

“The plain tiles of the walls are interspersed with pictorial tiles designed by Edward Bawden ( 1903—1989 ). The tiles depict scenes of outdoor life, so appropriate for Coleton Fishacre, and include both traditional sports like fishing and more modern interests such as motorcars.”

 Sunken Tub in a Guest Bathroom, with glass dishes from Dartington Glass. Yes….that’s the same Dartington we’ve just visited. In the 1920s, when Leonard & Dorothy Elmhirst established the Dartington Hall Trust, they realized that they could regenerate Southern Devon’s economy by retraining residents in many highly-skilled trades. Those residents then went into business as cheese-makers, carpenters, farmers and, glass-blowers. Dartington Glass was founded in the early 1960s, and is still prospering.

Sunken Tub in a Guest Bathroom, with glass dishes from Dartington Glass. Yes….that’s the same Dartington we’ve just visited. In the 1920s, when Leonard & Dorothy Elmhirst established the Dartington Hall Trust, they realized that they could regenerate Southern Devon’s
economy by retraining residents in many highly-skilled trades. Those residents then went into business as cheese-makers, carpenters, farmers and glass-blowers. Dartington Glass was founded in the early 1960s, and is still prospering.

Here’s a sampling of Edward Bawden’s bathroom tiles, which serve as a template for How to Behave Whilst Visiting a Country House:

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Edward Bawden tile

Leaving the Guest Bathrooms, I looked back down, along the Bedroom Floor’s central corridor:

Bedroom Corridor. The ceiling light is original to the House. Note: the entrance to Lady Dorothy's bedroom is at the far end of the hall.

Bedroom Corridor. The ceiling light is original to the House. Note: the entrance to Lady Dorothy’s bedroom is at the far end of the hall.

As the National Trust explains: “Simplicity, quality and finish are key to the interiors. The rooms, and the corridors in particular, are almost austere in their lack of ornament.”

The East Bedroom:

When his marriage to Dorothy disintegrated, Rupert moved into the East Bedroom, which also had fine views of the garden, and of the ocean.

When his marriage to Dorothy disintegrated, Rupert moved into the East Bedroom, which also had fine views of the garden, and of the ocean.

 View from the East Bedroom…trust me, despite the blanket of fog outside in this photo, you WILL soon see the gardens. Throughout the house, all of its mullioned windows have ironwork fittings, and are set above black Staffordshire tile sills.

View from the East Bedroom…trust me, despite the blanket of fog outside in this photo, you WILL soon see the gardens. Throughout the house, all of its mullioned windows have ironwork fittings, and are set above black Staffordshire tile sills.

From the East Bedroom, we headed downstairs, via the servants’-stairs, to the Servants’ Corridor, Kitchen, and the House’s other utilitarian rooms.

In the Servants' Corridor: The Electric Bell Board is original, and still in working order.

In the Servants’ Corridor: The Electric Bell Board is original, and still in working order.

The Kitchen's double Belfast sink, and the plate rack above it, are original to the house.

The Kitchen’s double Belfast sink, and the plate rack above it, are original to the house.

The Servants’ Hall has a fine view (really) of the gardens. The D’Oyly Cartes employed a butler, housekeeper, housemaid, cook, and chauffeur, all of whom lived on the Estate. Their gardens required additional, seasonal staff: a landscape architect, a Head Gardner, and six gardeners.

The Servants’ Hall has a fine view (really) of the gardens. The D’Oyly Cartes employed a butler, housekeeper, housemaid, cook, and chauffeur, all of whom lived on the Estate. Their gardens required additional, seasonal staff: a landscape architect, a Head Gardner, and six gardeners.

The Drying Room, where wet clothing was hung, after it had come from the Laundry. There was also a Brushing Room, used (you guessed it) to brush clothes, and to clean shoes and boots.

The Drying Room, where wet clothing was hung, after it had come from the Laundry. There was also a Brushing Room, used (you guessed it) to brush clothes, and to clean shoes and boots.

View from Laundry Room, into Service Court (with Forecourt beyond the arch).

View from Laundry Room, into Service Court (with Forecourt beyond the arch).

The Dining Room. Per the National Trust’s guidebook:

“In contrast to all the other rooms at Coleton Fishacre, the majority of the furniture in the Dining Room is original to the house. This room, with its custom-made furniture and easy access to the garden, perhaps best exemplifies what the D’Oyly Cartes wanted from their weekend retreat.”

Dining Room. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Dining Room. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

“Most of the furniture was commissioned by the D’Oyly Cartes from their architect Oswald Milne, including the walnut sideboard, dining table and pair of side tables, which could be moved to the main table. The colour of the scagliola table tops, made of plaster of Paris, pigments and animal glue to imitate marble, was chosen to evoke the sea.”

My first view of the Dining Room. The Lalique wall lights are original.

My first view of the Dining Room. The Lalique wall lights are original.

Detail of Scagliola

Detail of Scagliola

Fine pieces of vintage pottery decorate the Dining Room

Fine pieces of vintage pottery decorate the Dining Room

Vintage crystal in the Dining Room

Vintage crystal in the Dining Room

Miraculously, the fog had begun to lift. Here's our Dining Room view of the Terraces, over the Lower Pond Garden, and across to the West Bank.

Miraculously, the fog had begun to lift. Here’s our Dining Room view of the Terraces, over the Upper Pond Garden, and across to the West Bank.

Detail of custom-made Dining Room table

Detail of custom-made Dining Room table

Detail of custom-made Dining Room sideboard

Detail of custom-made Dining Room sideboard

View of Loggia, through the Dining Room's French doors

View of Loggia, through the Dining Room’s French doors

The Loggia … a most inviting outdoor space, even on a stormy day:

The Loggia

The Loggia

The Ground Floor’s light-filled Central Hallway:

The Central Hallway, with displays of vintage pottery

The Central Hallway, with displays of vintage pottery

Detail of windows, and black tile sills, in Central Hallway

Detail of windows, and black tile sills, in Central Hallway

The Library. This room is described by the National Trust as:

“The centre of the house, a cozy and intimate room with its bow window to the south. It is fitted with simple pine shelves and lit by simple translucent alabaster uplighters, original to the house. Dominating the room, above the travertine marble fireplace, is a painted map of the south Devon coast around Coleton Fishacre, which incorporates a wind dial. The painting is by George Spencer Hoffman ( 1875—1950 ), and is a near-realistic bird’s-eye view and also the depiction of Rupert overlooking the combe with his favorite Dalmatian. This was the spot where Rupert’s ashes were (eventually) scattered.”

The Library

The Library

Library Hearth, with over-mantle painting of the Estate

Library Hearth, with over-mantle painting of the Estate

A closer look at the over-mantle painting. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

A closer look at the over-mantle painting. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Rupert's desk occupied the prime spot in the Library.

Rupert’s desk occupied the prime spot in the Library.

The Sitting Room:

The Sitting Room mantle is carved from limestone that is rich in fossils.

The Sitting Room mantle is carved from limestone that is rich in fossils.

The Sitting Room's windows open to the Top Terrace, just outside.

The Sitting Room’s windows open to the Top Terrace, just outside.

As someone who is addicted to both tea and books, this Sitting Room arrangement pushes ALL of my buttons...

As someone who is addicted to both tea and books, this Sitting Room arrangement pushes ALL of my buttons…

And the final stop, on our House Tour: The Saloon.
As described by the National Trust:

“The entrance to the Saloon is intentionally impressive and theatrical, and shows the ingenious way in which Oswald Milne dealt with awkward changes in level of the site, using them to great advantage.”

My first view of the Saloon. I’m not sure I agree with the National Trust’s positive assessment of this nearly 40-foot-long space. Standing in the doorway to the Saloon, I felt as if I was about to begin walking a Plank….

My first view of the Saloon. I’m not sure I agree with the National Trust’s positive assessment of this nearly 40-foot-long space. Standing in the doorway to the Saloon, I felt as if I was about to begin walking a Plank….

 But, once down the steps, and into the Saloon-Proper, the extreme linearity of this room was offset by expanses of garden-facing windows, and French doors.

But, once down the steps, and into the Saloon-Proper, the extreme linearity of this room was offset by expanses of garden-facing windows, and French doors.

Detail of molding around the entrance to the Saloon

Detail of molding around the entrance to the Saloon

 But, to my eyes, the most striking and successful decorative addition to the Saloon is the carpet, which was custom-made in the late 1930s by American textile designer Marion Dorn. The carpet we see today is an exact reproduction of Dorn’s floor covering.

But, to my eyes, the most striking and successful decorative addition to the Saloon is the
carpet, which was custom-made in the late 1930s by American textile designer Marion Dorn. The carpet we see today is an exact reproduction of Dorn’s floor covering.

Another look at Marion Dorn’s carpet

Another look at Marion Dorn’s carpet

 Such superb textiles SHOULD be signed by the artist!

Such superb textiles SHOULD be signed by the artist!

 A turns-out-she-was-an-enormously-talented-pianist and fellow-Visitor was invited to play the Saloon’s Bluthner rosewood grand piano (dating from 1895-96, and which was bought for this room by the National Trust, in 2002).

A turns-out-she-was-a-talented-pianist and fellow-Visitor was invited to play the
Saloon’s Bluthner rosewood grand piano (dating
from 1895-96, and which was bought for this room by the National Trust, in 2002).

Having enjoyed our young musician’s impromptu piano performance, we proceeded to the front porch, where we were cheered to discover that the morning’s chilly torrents of rain had been replaced by a soft, warm drizzle. ‘Twas time for our Garden-Tromp.

 Our drizzly but encouraging view of the Forecourt, from the front porch.

Our drizzly but encouraging view of the Forecourt, from the front porch.

The National Trust introduces Coleton Fishacre’s gardens this way:

“The geology of the area — acidic soil overlying Dartmouth shale and with water running through the valley in many areas — makes this garden suitable for a wide range of plants. One of the botanically richest summer and late-summer gardens cared for by the National Trust, the garden at Coleton Fishacre includes succulents from the Canaries in the upper parts of the garden, and tree ferns from New Zealand in the cooler parts of the valley. The atmospheric humidity is high beneath the tree canopy and makes perfect conditions for many moisture-loving plants. This, together with the mild climate, enables species that can survive outside in few other places in Britain to thrive and grow to an exceptional size at Coleton Fishacre.”

“Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte were both enthusiastic gardeners and, keen to ensure the success of their new garden, sought advice from Edward White of the landscape designers Milner & White. Under his guidance, and even before the house had been completed, the planted a woodland shelterbelt of pine, holm oak and sycamore on the bare ridges to provide protection from the strong prevailing winds. With this belt of trees in place, Rupert and Lady Dorothy could then concentrate on planting the garden itself, experimenting with trees and shrubs from around the world. The planting took account of future vistas and views, testimony to their far-sighted vision, which is still evident today.”

“The book of planting plans kept by Rupert from about 1928 to 1947noted plants in all 78 beds as they were acquired, together with details of the source and planting location, with additional comments about their performance noted later. Altogether the D’Oyly Cartes planted over 10,000 trees and shrubs.”

Plan of the gardens at Coleton Fishacre. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Plan of the gardens at Coleton Fishacre. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Pictures from our long ramble through the gardens will appear in their actual, meteorological sequence. By early afternoon, the weather had begun to improve: the fog lifted…the rain calmed itself into a drizzle…and after a bit even the drizzle was exhausted. A light breeze arrived, clouds scudded out to sea, and, suddenly, soft warm air and brilliant sunshine transformed Coleton Fishacre into a place which felt and looked entirely new. Remember, if you’re displeased by England’s weather conditions, be patient: odds are, the skies’ll change.

Front of House, with archway to Service Court. The Service Court is tucked into the hillside, to the north of the House. The exterior of the House is constructed from Dartmouth shale stone, which was blasted from rock in the lower part of the D’Oyly Cartes’ valley. That same shale was also used to build the garden’s terraces and walls. The roof is shingled with Delabole slate. [Note: The Delabole slate quarry is in nearby Cornwall. The quarry has been in continuous operation since the 15th century, and is the oldest working slate quarry in England.]

Front of House, with archway to Service Court. The Service Court is tucked into the hillside, to the north of the House. The exterior of the House is constructed from
Dartmouth shale stone, which was blasted from rock in the lower part of the D’Oyly Cartes’ valley. That same shale was also used to build the garden’s terraces and walls. The roof is shingled with Delabole slate. [Note: The Delabole slate quarry is in nearby Cornwall. The quarry has been in continuous operation since the 15th century, and is the oldest working slate quarry in England.]

 We’re headed toward the Terraces which are on the south side of the House. Towering above us: the Southwest wing of the House, with Saloon on the ground floor, and Lady Dorothy’s bedroom on the upper floor.

We’re headed toward the Terraces which are on the south side of the House. Towering above us: the Southwest wing of the House, with Saloon on the ground floor, and Lady Dorothy’s bedroom on the upper floor.

Borders directly under the Saloon's southwest-facing windows

Borders directly under the Saloon’s southwest-facing windows

I inspect the Top Terrace. The Saloon and the Loggia both open directly onto this Terrace. Photo by Anne Guy.

I inspect the Top Terrace. The Saloon and the Loggia both open directly onto this Terrace. Photo by Anne Guy.

The Loggia, at the Top Terrace

The Loggia, at the Top Terrace

Above the Loggia's roof: a weather vane, which celebrated Rupert's love of fishing.

Above the Loggia’s roof: a weather vane, which celebrated Rupert’s love of fishing.

A sundial is mounted on the top-most portion of the Saloon-wing wall.

A sundial is mounted on the top-most portion of the Saloon-wing wall.

Climbers are happy, clinging to the Dartmouth Shale Stone walls of the House. Many of these climbing plants survive from the D'Oyly Cartes' time.

Climbers are happy, clinging to the Dartmouth Shale Stone walls of the House. Many of these climbing plants survive from the D’Oyly Cartes’ time.

From the Top Terrace: a look at the borders which are planted on both sides of the Upper Pond.

From the Top Terrace: a look at the borders which are planted on both sides of the Upper Pond.

By the southwest corner of the House, a cascade of steps connects the Top and Middle Terraces.

By the southwest corner of the House, a cascade of steps connects the Top and Middle Terraces.

Detail of Terrace steps

Detail of Terrace steps

We're on the Middle Terrace

We’re on the Middle Terrace

From the edge of the Middle Terrace, we look directly down at the Lower Terrace's Hot Border

From the edge of the Middle Terrace, we look directly down at the Lower Terrace’s Hot Border

Tender, warmth-loving plants flourish on the Middle Terrace

Tender, warmth-loving plants flourish on the Middle Terrace

At the southeast corner of the Top Terrace, a flight of slate steps leads to the Middle and Lower Terraces

At the southeast corner of the Top Terrace, a flight of slate steps leads to the Middle and Lower Terraces

Detail of landing on Terrace's southeast steps

Detail of landing on Terrace’s southeast steps

View of the House, from the western end of the Bowling Green Lawn

View of the House, from the western end of the Bowling Green Lawn

At the east end of the Bowling Green Lawn, a grass path leads to the Gazebo; and, farther east, to Cathedral Bank; and finally, to Pudcombe Cove.

At the east end of the Bowling Green Lawn, a grass path leads to the Gazebo; and, farther east, to Cathedral Bank; and finally, to Pudcombe Cove.

A tantalizing view of that path, which is flanked by borders planted with Exotics. We'll see where this path leads, in a little bit...

A tantalizing view of that path, which is flanked by borders planted with Exotics. We’ll see where this path leads, in a little bit…

Bench, at eastern end of Bowling Green Lawn, with Exotics garden behind.

Bench, at eastern end of Bowling Green Lawn, with Exotics garden behind.

View from the Middle Terrace of the rectangular pool on the Lower Terrace

View from the Middle Terrace of the rectangular pool on the Lower Terrace

The Pool on the Middle Terrace is fed by a stream that originates beyond the north side of the House. The otter was carved from Cornish Polyphant soapstone to replace an earlier Portland stone sculpture. [A note for those of you who are stone-lovers: Portland stone is a limestone which, since the Roman occupation of England, has been quarried on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset, which is just to the east of Devon.]

The Pool on the Middle Terrace is fed by a stream that originates beyond the north side of the House. The otter was carved from Cornish Polyphant soapstone to replace an earlier Portland stone sculpture.
[A note for those of you who are stone-lovers: Portland stone is a limestone which, since the Roman occupation of England, has been quarried on the Isle of Portland, in Dorset, which is just to the east of Devon.]

More RazzMaTazz plant-combos, on the Middle Terrace

More RazzMaTazz plant-combos, on the Middle Terrace

View from the Top Terrace toward the walls enclosing the Rill Garden.

View from the Top Terrace toward the walls enclosing the Rill Garden.

 The Rill Garden was designed by Oswald Milne. This hillside garden is bisected by a narrow, canalized stream and a small, central pool. Lady Dorothy originally planted many pastel-colored rose bushes here, but those shrubs failed, in the seaside air. Semi-tender perennials now fill the Rill Garden.

The Rill Garden was designed by Oswald Milne. This hillside garden is bisected by a narrow, canalized stream and a small, central pool. Lady Dorothy originally planted many pastel-colored rose bushes here, but those shrubs failed, in the seaside air. Semi-tender perennials now fill the Rill Garden.

Our uphill view of the Rill Garden, which was built in 1926.

Our uphill view of the Rill Garden, which was built in 1926.

From the bottom-most edge of the Rill Garden, we look downstream, toward the Lower Pond

From the bottom-most edge of the Rill Garden, we look downstream, toward the Lower Pond

In 1926, while the House was being constructed, two dams were built in the stream which runs from the property's western hillside, down to the eastern seashore. The Upper and Lower Ponds were thus formed. Lush plantings around those bodies of water now give each Pond a natural appearance.

In 1926, while the House was being constructed, two dams were built in the stream which runs from the property’s western hillside, down to the eastern seashore.
The Upper and Lower Ponds were thus formed.
Lush plantings around those bodies of water now give each Pond a natural appearance.

View of the House's Saloon wing, from the Rill Garden. All of the stone walls, terraces and steps in the gardens were built as the House was being constructed.

View of the House’s Saloon wing, from the Rill Garden. All of the stone walls, terraces and steps in the gardens were built as the House was being constructed.

The Rill Garden's stream is routed downhill--toward the Upper and then Lower Ponds--through this opening, which is beneath the lowest lip of the Rill Garden.

The Rill Garden’s stream is routed downhill–toward the Upper and then Lower Ponds–through this opening, which is beneath the lowest lip of the Rill Garden.

Proceeding downhill from the Rill Garden, we strolled past the lushly-planted Upper Pond borders. To the rear of the House, those tall pines are just a few of the 10,000 trees which were planted by the D'Oyly Cartes.

Proceeding downhill from the Rill Garden, we strolled past the lushly-planted Upper Pond borders. To the rear of the House, those tall pines are just a few of the 10,000 trees which were planted by the D’Oyly Cartes.

Another view of the Upper Pond borders

Another view of the Upper Pond borders

Giant Gunnera plants surround the Lower Pond

Giant Gunnera plants surround the Lower Pond

After passing the Lower Pond, we continued to follow the stream, downhill into the Glade.

After passing the Lower Pond, we continued to follow the stream, downhill into the Glade.

Plantings in the Glade combine traditional English shrubs with tropical exotics

Plantings in the Glade combine traditional English shrubs with tropical exotics

Banana Trees, in the Glade

Banana Trees, in the Glade

We're getting very close to the ocean now, and pass through the Tree Fern Glade, with its New Zealand tree ferns.

We’re getting very close to the ocean now, and pass through the Tree Fern Glade, with its New Zealand
tree ferns.

We followed the Coastal Footpath to Scout's Point (aka Lands End), where we were presented with this rainy view of Pudcombe Cove.

We followed the Coastal Footpath to Scout’s Point (aka Lands End), where we were presented with this rainy view of Pudcombe Cove.

Below Scout's Point: steep, cave-filled cliffs, and the clear waters of Pudcombe Cove.

Below Scout’s Point: steep, cave-filled cliffs, and the clear waters of Pudcombe Cove.

Pudcombe Cove

Pudcombe Cove

In Pudcombe Cove, “the D’Oyly Cartes created a reinforced concrete tidal bathing pool and jetty, built between 1929 and 1931. The cove was accessed by steep concrete steps that zigzagged down the cliff. From the sea, the cove could be reached by the jetty, built from shingle from the beach and running out 60 metres into the sea. Considerable investment and effort were made to provide comfort and convenience for the family and guests. Facilities included a changing hut, a sun-bathing platform and cold-water shower.”

“The Cove has been inaccessible to visitors since 2001, due to the perilous state of the steps, caused by coastal erosion and rock falls. The National Trust, in line with its policy not to interfere with natural coastal processes, is allowing nature to take its course, which will mean the eventual loss of” all of the D’Oyly Cartes’ additions to the Cove.

At Pudcombe Cove, the rocks of England are tumbling back into the sea.

At Pudcombe Cove, the rocks of England are tumbling back into the sea.

Turning away from the ocean, we began our long climb back to the House, up the seemingly endless steps of the Long Close,
which are on the eastern slopes of the Cathedral Bank.

 Half-way up the Long Close, I paused to gain my breath. Turning back toward the Ocean, I was rewarded with this wonderful, albeit still-rain-soaked, view.

Half-way up the Long Close, I paused to gain my breath. Turning back toward the Ocean, I was rewarded with this wonderful, albeit still-rain-soaked, view.

Another look at the D'Oyly Cartes' lushly-planted valley, which leads down to Pudcombe Cove

Another look at the D’Oyly Cartes’ lushly-planted valley, which leads down to Pudcombe Cove

The Panorama: seen from the top of Cathedral Bank.

The Panorama: seen from the top of Cathedral Bank.

Having finally reached the Gazebo, I looked down, into the site of the former Quarry, from which all of the House and Garden's stone was blasted. During the years of construction, a temporary railway track was installed between the Quarry and the House site, to facilitate the transport of tons upon tons of shale.

Having finally reached the Gazebo, I looked down, into the site of the former Quarry, from which all of the House and Garden’s stone was blasted. During the years of construction, a temporary railway track was installed between the Quarry and the House site,
to facilitate the transport of tons upon tons of shale.

Leaving the Gazebo (don't worry, I'll show you the Gazebo, once the weather clears...) , we headed back toward the Bowling Green Lawn, through a garden planted with Exotics such as yucca, bromeliad, protea and echium.

Leaving the Gazebo (don’t worry, I’ll show you the Gazebo, once the weather clears…) , we headed back toward the Bowling Green Lawn, through a garden planted with Exotics such as yucca, bromeliad, protea and echium.

Exotics Garden (once again...try to remember that we're in England! )

Exotics Garden
(once again…try to remember that we’re in England! )

Exotics Garden

Exotics Garden

View of eastern end of the House, from the Exotics Garden

View of eastern end of the House, from the Exotics Garden

Soggy and famished, ‘twas time for a dry-out and a lunch-break, and we retreated to the Visitor Centre Café.

But just as we were polishing off our meals, sun abruptly shined down upon Coleton Fishacre….which meant that we’d have to take another trot around the gardens.

And so we approached the House for the second time that day: and the place had been Utterly Transformed.

And so we approached the House for the second time that day: and the place had been Utterly Transformed.

In my first circuit through the gardens, I'd missed the area closest to the entrance drive: Seemly Terrace.

In my first circuit through the gardens, I’d missed the area closest to the entrance drive: Seemly Terrace.

View of the distant West Bank, from the Seemly Terrace gardens.

View of the distant West Bank, from the Seemly Terrace gardens.

We're in Seemly Terrace, which was also created by Oswald Milne, in 1926.

We’re in Seemly Terrace, which was also created by Oswald Milne, in 1926.

We're at the southernmost edge of the Rill Garden, which is directly below Seemly Terrace.

We’re at the southernmost edge of the Rill Garden, which is directly below Seemly Terrace.

The House's Saloon-wing, seen from within the Rill Garden

The House’s Saloon-wing, seen from within the Rill Garden

After the deluge: The Glorious Rill Garden

After the deluge: The Glorious Rill Garden

And now the view downstream, in the Rill Garden

And now the view downstream, in the Rill Garden

A sunny-afternoon view from the Rill Garden, over the Lower Pond

A sunny-afternoon view from the Rill Garden, over the Lower Pond

Looking over the Upper Pond borders, toward the West Bank

Looking over the Upper Pond borders, toward the West Bank

The Terraces' Hot Borders. Behind the House: the tall pines of the shelterbelt.

The Terraces’ Hot Borders.
Behind the House: the tall pines of the shelterbelt.

 On Upper Terrace, by the Loggia: the It's-Time-To-Trudge-Back-Up-The-Hill-Bell. As the D’Oyly Cartes approached the end of a long summer day at their private beach on Pudcombe Cove, their butler would ring this bell, to signal that the time was nigh for cocktails, back at the House.

On Upper Terrace, by the Loggia: the It’s-Time-To-Trudge-Back-Up-The-Hill-Bell. As the D’Oyly Cartes approached the end of a long summer day at their private beach on Pudcombe Cove, their butler would ring this bell,
to signal that the time was nigh for cocktails, back at the House.

The rectangular pool and fountain on the Lower Terrace (with the Library's Turret wing directly above). The retaining walls of the Lower Terrace are covered with Mexican daisies.

The rectangular pool and fountain on the Lower Terrace (with the Library’s Turret wing directly above).
The retaining walls of the Lower Terrace are covered with Mexican daisies.

Let's wallow some more in the COLORS of the Hot Border. The stairs in the background lead up to the Bowling Green Lawn.

Let’s wallow some more in the COLORS of the Hot Border. The stairs in the background lead up to the Bowling Green Lawn.

Rupert chose the Hot Border plantings....remember, he was a Showman.

Rupert chose the Hot Border plantings….remember, he was a Showman.

We're on the Terraces, looking southwest.

We’re on the Terraces, looking southwest.

And Finally: a decent Ocean View, from near to the House. We're on the Terrace Steps, at the corner of the Bowling Green Lawn.

And Finally: a decent Ocean View, from near to the House. We’re on the Terrace Steps,
at the corner of the Bowling Green Lawn.

And now, from the opposite end of the Upper Terrace, another glimpse of the ocean.

And now, from the opposite end of the Upper Terrace, another glimpse of the ocean.

And I suppose I ought to mention the ANTS. This is a view of the West Bank, from the Terrace Steps. The West Bank's most peculiar feature: its large anthills, which have remained undisturbed for hundreds of years. The huge tree in the center of the Bank is a Persian Ironwood.

And I suppose I ought to mention the ANTS. This is a view of the West Bank, from the Terrace Steps. The West Bank’s most peculiar feature: its large anthills, which have remained undisturbed for hundreds of years. The huge tree in the center of the Bank is a Persian Ironwood.

My view of the Saloon wing, from the West Bank side of the Upper Pond borders.

My view of the Saloon wing, from the West Bank side of the Upper Pond borders.

We headed back through the Exotics Garden....

We headed back through the Exotics Garden….

We re-entered the Exotics Garden, and headed back toward the Gazebo (yet another structure planned by Oswald Milne, in 1926.).

…our destination: the Gazebo, which was designed by Oswald Milne in 1926.

The hexagonal Gazebo, with stone pillars and wooden trellis supporting wisteria, has a spectacular ocean view. When first built, the Gazebo also had a clear view, back to the House.

The hexagonal Gazebo, with stone pillars and wooden trellis supporting wisteria, has a spectacular ocean view. When first built, the Gazebo also had a clear view, back to the House.

Nan...doing a bit of sun-basking, in the Gazebo. The hexagonal Gazebo, with stone pillars and a wooden trellis to support wisteria, offers a spectacular ocean view. When it was first built, the Gazebo also had a clear view inland, back to the House. Photo by Anne Guy.

Nan…doing a bit of sun-basking, in the Gazebo. Photo by Anne Guy.

Snails joined me in the Gazebo

Snails joined me in the Gazebo

My view from the Gazebo, down to the path which leads from the Quarry, through a wooded area, and further downhill to Cathedral Bank.

My view from the Gazebo, down to the path which leads from the Quarry, through a wooded area, and further downhill to Cathedral Bank.

Ocean View, at the Gazebo

Ocean View, at the Gazebo

My final view of the English Channel, from the Gazebo at Coleton Fishacre.

My final view of the English Channel, from the Gazebo at Coleton Fishacre.

To have been able to visit three such splendid gardens as Overbeck’s, Dartington Hall, and Coleton Fishacre — and on consecutive days — was an enormous privilege. Sometimes as I travel, this abundance of daily wonderfulness begins almost to seem normal. But afterwards comes the necessary Reality Check … provided by my most-of-the-time-quiet life at home, here in rural New Hampshire. I’m glad that distance — in time and in miles — ultimately separates my garden touring from the making of these reports about my journeys. From those separations come perspective.

The most conventionally beautiful bits of landscaping (think “Capability Brown,” who I admire less and less, and about whom I’ll write some more, in future) — those places that obligingly serve up the generic pleasures of lush borders and tasteful ornamentation and long views -– are sometimes not the gardens which most deeply resonate, months later, as I’m sitting in my office chair and sifting through my photo archives, and reviving my memories.

Instead, the gardens that most make me ache for another ramble through them are those where the sensual experience of garden strolling is enriched by information that personalizes each landscape. Learning about the travails and quirks of the people who created those places makes me feel as if I’m visiting a Home, instead of an Attraction. It’s essential that we remember that each of these magical environs was at first just a figment of an imagination. Only through subsequent leaps of a founder’s faith — and accompanied by enormous expenditures and sustained efforts — were those imagined places then transformed into real gardens. In the most satisfying of England’s historically-significant gardens, the dirt and stone and plant material which astound today’s bus-loads of garden-gawkers were all originally chosen to solidify the visions of only one or two souls. The best gardens are the embodiments of the dreams of their makers: such gardens were not made to please you … or me!

I think of the brilliant and nutty Otto Overbeck, who attempted to cure the ills of mankind (administering one electrical jolt at a time), while he also made a huge leap into the Horticultural Unknown (ordering 3000 palm trees be planted in his English garden) .

I marvel at the prodigious energies of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, who restored their ancient Dartington Hall, while they simultaneously nurtured the talents of innovative landscape designers and avant garde architects…and who then (never content to rest upon their laurels) also established progressive schools and local businesses.

The personalities of Rupert and Dorothy D’Oyly Carte seem to have been less vibrant (or were perhaps better concealed) that those of Overbeck, and the Elmhirsts. But with their exquisite appreciation of the potential of those 24 acres at Coleton Fishacre, the D’Oyly Cartes managed to create one of the World’s rare places. At their home by the sea, landscape and natural resources and architecture and garden structure and horticulture all give the illusion of having been united — without artifice or effort — into
something resembling paradise.

Before we arrived at Coleton Fishacre, Anne Guy told me how she’d reacted, during her first visit there. While chatting with a National Trust staff member, she’d said,
“I’d like to live here.” The Trust staffer replied, “Get in line!”

Copyright 2016. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express & written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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A Well-Spent Week in Southern Devon, England. Part One.

Dartmouth Harbor, with Dartmouth Castle (at the mouth of the Harbor, on the far right), and the English Channel beyond. This was the mesmerizing VIEW that greeted us, on late afternoon of June 26th, when Anne and David Guy and I first arrived at the rented house that would be our home-base, for a week's stay in Devon.

Dartmouth Harbor, with Dartmouth Castle (at the mouth of the Harbor, on the far right), and the English Channel beyond. This was the mesmerizing VIEW that greeted us, on late afternoon of June 26th, when Anne and David Guy and I first arrived at the rented house that would be our home-base, for a week’s stay in Southern Devon.

October 2015

I’m back on Terra Firma (aka New Hampshire),
after this summer’s very satisfying, month-long expedition to England, where I continued my investigations of Britannia’s landscapes, luminaries, architecture, and history. Per usual, once home, my first task (after I do some serious laundry) is to sort thousands of trip photos. My brain isn’t nearly roomy enough to store all of the nuances of the places I visit, and so, as I travel, I make exhaustive visual chronicles. Later, when I review those picture albums, a fast look at a sequence of photos allows me to completely recall a particular place, on a particular day, at a particular hour. The temperature. The humidity. How a breeze felt upon my face. How the light changed under England’s fickle skies. The moods of my companions. My thoughts (whether absorbing or trivial). All of these textures and details are resuscitated, when I pour over my photo files. I tell myself that, with enough thoughtfully-made pictures, my camera can reveal the authentic Nature of each Place. The key, however, is to gather a cornucopia of pictures, because scant selections of photos can be utterly misleading. For each place to which I journey, I’m aiming to understand its essential nature, and only by looking at my subject from many angles can I hope to begin to see a totality.

As I’ve been organizing my latest photographic trove of England’s treasures, another trove of a more personal nature has come to me.
The contents of this trove have amplified my thoughts about how best to photographically reflect the truth about a person or a place. In early October of 1969, after I’d just turned 17, a schoolmate and friend (a lady who today cherishes her privacy, and so must remain anonymous) asked if I’d be her model for a photographic project. Each afternoon for a couple of weeks, my chum shadowed me with her camera as I went about my normal-after-class-time-activities.

Unlike myself (I’ve travelled lightly: except for my collection of books, and prototypes for the furniture that I design, keepsakes have tended to fall by the wayside), my friend has methodically and neatly preserved mementos, from every era of her life. At a recent high school reunion, she handed me an orange box. Inside it were those photos she’d made, eons ago. As I sifted through the little squares of slightly-musty-smelling paper, I became confused. This collection of photos seemed to consist of portraits of ten entirely different young women.

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How odd, then, that those girls were all clearly wearing clothing that had once been my own. Perplexed, I reexamined each picture, but this time slowly. As I studied them, the disparate thoughts and emotions that radiated out from the sorority of faces that I was shuffling became familiar.

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Befuddlement fading, I realized that I was cradling vestiges of
a complicated and mercurial girl, just as she was about to topple into the first days of her adulthood. These ancient photos of a Just-17-Me, whose parents and school assumed I’d proceed in THEIR prescribed direction, while my inclinations about what to do in life were exactly OPPOSITE, reveal a fluidity of mood and intensity of concentration which seemed, when interpreted by the camera’s lens, to continually alter my very physiognomy.

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But perhaps those huge variations in my demeanor which had been captured upon film actually foreshadowed a Protean Life. In that assortment of old photos a measure of truth about my future path had already begun to be told. No single picture defined me, but, taken together, these early images became puzzle-pieces which suggested that my life was not going to settle neatly into a predictable pattern. As years have unfurled, I’ve traveled along improvised routes, failed massively, succeeded splendidly, and have finally learned that false pride must never keep me from making necessary course corrections. I’ve accumulated many more skills, fulfilled many more roles, felt much more deeply, and followed my curiosity to many more places than I could ever have imagined to be possible, as my friend’s camera shutter was clicking, and Autumn was beginning, in 1969.

And now, Patient Readers, having allowed me to make a brief and atypical digression into personal archaeology ( but a detour which nevertheless seems relevant as I’m thinking about the nature of photography…and explaining my obsession with stuffing these articles with gobs of pictures, the better to Tell the Tale ), please join me in the Present.

I, who have today been transformed into your Spry Old Lady Guide, will begin to show you MANY views of the Best Sights in Southern Devon, as they were revealed to me by my dear friends Anne and David Guy, during our recent, week-long stay on England’s southern coast.

My travel-frayed Map of Devon, England

My travel-frayed Map of Devon, England

Aerial view of the River Dart. Dartmouth is on the left, and Kingswear on the right.

Aerial view of the River Dart. Dartmouth is on the left, and Kingswear on the right.

Each summer, I look forward to spending time with my British friends. Anne and David Guy are delighted by my passion for Britain’s history, culture and landscapes, and they very charitably swear that my enthusiasm helps them to see their own country with fresh eyes. Ever-generous about sharing their Natives’ knowledge with me, over the years the Guys have led me to places in England that I’d never have found, if left to my own devices. For our explorations this summer, Anne secured an extremely comfortable (and spectacularly sited) 2-storey rental cottage in Dartmouth, for our home base.

Map of Dartmouth's Waterfront

Map of Dartmouth’s Waterfront

Our rental home was on a narrow street (and I mean NARROW), with the prosaic name of

Our rental home was on a narrow street (and I mean NARROW), with the prosaic name of “Above Town.”

Each day, Anne actually drove us along the street, called

Each day, Anne actually drove us along the street, called “Above Town,” to our cottage. When she’d meet a car that was coming downhill, she’d deftly back up until she’d reached a slightly wider part of the road. Impressive driving, to say the least….

Above Town

Above Town

The beginning of

The beginning of “Above Town,” looking down toward “Smith Street.” The church tower at Saint Saviour’s Square is visible from most places in the old part of Town.

This stairway, which connects Above Town to the lower regions of Dartmouth, has over 100 steps...which we climbed regularly. Dartmouth-walking will either make you stronger, or send you to hospital.

This stairway, which connects Above Town to the lower regions of Dartmouth, has over 100 steps…which we climbed regularly. Dartmouth-walking will either make you stronger, or send you to hospital.

Anne and David lead the way downhill, via Above Town.

Anne and David lead the way downhill, via Above Town. Our Restaurant Destination that evening was the Spice Bazaar: serving a refined menu of Indian & Thai food. Spice Bazaar, Church Close, St. Saviour’s Square, Dartmouth. TQ6 9DH. website: http://www.spicebazaar.co.uk

Before I begin my account of the first three days of our travels in Southern Devon, a bit of Dartmouth-stage-setting seems necessary. Continuing my practice of never reinventing wheels, I’ll offer smatterings about the Town, as written by Robert Hesketh in his handy booklet, DARTMOUTH: A SHORTISH GUIDE.

“A thousand years ago there was no Dartmouth. The low lying areas of what became the town were all underwater at high tide.
The site was also dangerously exposed to seaborne Viking raids. As a result, the Saxon English ignored it.”

“With its deep water and shelter, the mouth of the [River] Dart is a superb natural harbor, conveniently close to the Channel Islands,
Normandy and Brittany. The conquering Normans appreciated this, and built houses and port facilities on higher ground.”

“Development moved apace. In 1147 an international force of 164 ships assembled at Dartmouth and set sail for the Second Crusade.”

“Thirty-seven ships left the Dart to join the Third Crusade in 1190. Dartmouth played an important role in England’s wars from then on, not least in the Hundred Years War, when it sent 31 vessels to the Great Blockade of Calais in 1346. Its greatest contribution was for D-Day, 1944, when 485 ships sailed from Dartmouth to Normandy, taking a whole day to clear the port.”

The River Dart meets the English Channel. A defensive Castle has been on this site since 1387. The current Castle (seen on the right) dates from the late 15th century. The innovative 3-storey Gun Tower was the first in England to have guns as its major armament.

The River Dart meets the English Channel. A defensive Castle has been on this site since 1387. The current Castle (seen on the right) dates from the late 15th century. The innovative 3-storey Gun Tower was the first in England to have guns as its major armament.

Dartmouth’s bonds with America run deep. During World War II, thousands of American servicemen were stationed in and around the town. But much earlier, some future Americans had also made an unscheduled call at Dartmouth’s Harbor.

In Dartmouth Harbor: Bayard's Cove. Here, in 1620, the Speedwell docked to make repairs, before its planned voyage to the New World.

In Dartmouth Harbor: Bayard’s Cove. Here, in 1620, the Speedwell docked to make repairs, before its planned voyage to the New World.

The Pilgrim Fathers anchored in Bayard’s Cove in August of 1620, to make emergency repairs to one of their ships, the Speedwell, before setting sail across the Atlantic to found their historic Massachusetts colony. The repairs didn’t hold; 300 miles off Land’s End the vessel was leaking so badly that they turned tail and headed back to Plymouth, England, which was where their voyage had originated. Passengers suspected the crew didn’t at all want to go to America and had instead been drilling holes in the ship to scupper the voyage. In the end, the Pilgrims abandoned the Speedwell, and successfully crossed the Atlantic in her sister ship, the Mayflower.

Returning to Robert Hesketh’s remarks: During the Napoleonic Wars, “with the Continent closed to tourists, the English upper class took more holidays at home. The habit stuck and the Dart Valley enjoyed lasting popularity, especially after the royal yacht, Victoria and Albert, called in 1846.
‘This place is lovely,’ wrote Queen Victoria, ‘with its wooded rocks, church and castle…It puts me much in mind of the Rhine.’”

Queen Victoria, when she visited Dartmouth

Queen Victoria, when she visited Dartmouth

In 1863 the Britannia Royal Naval College was established in Dartmouth, and to this day, the College is where Royal Navy cadets go for their initial instruction. After the Royal Naval College in Greenwich closed in 1998, Dartmouth’s Naval College became the only remaining school in England, for her naval officers.

A cadet, putting on an impressive bagpipe show, in the Waterfront's Royal Avenue Gardens.

A cadet, putting on an impressive bagpipe show, in the Waterfront’s Royal Avenue Gardens.

The oldest parts of Dartmouth Town are situated on the steep, western banks of the River, and overlook the place where the Dart widens and prepares to pour its waters into the English Channel. Although the Channel’s in sight of Town, rarely does the scent of ocean salt fill the air. Instead, one breathes in the fresh perfume of fast-flowing river water, which is laced with notes of the grasses and crops that are grown on the high pastures and fields which embrace both sides of the River. Seagulls circle overhead as they ride thermals and squawk incessantly, while the little ferry boats which zip constantly across and up and down the River sound their horns. This cacophony of watery sounds becomes a kind of white noise, and after one has adjusted one’s ears to Dartmouth’s Voice, the Town begins to seem like a tranquil refuge from the Noisier World.

Although Anne and David made sure that all of our days in Southern Devon were filled with expeditions to wonderful sites, I also found myself being endlessly entertained by the changing views that unfolded directly outside of our windows and below our balcony, during those hours when we were relaxing in our cottage. The Town and Harbor and River and Channel and Hills and Skies seemed to be restless, and eager to demonstrate their many faces and moods.

Here, before Day One of our touring commences, a dawn to night sequence of panoramas, as seen from our “Above Town” cottage.

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Dartmouth, England

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Dartmouth

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Dartmouth

On SATURDAY, JUNE 27TH, our destination was Greenway, a manor house set within an exquisite, 36-acre tract of woodlands and gardens that are perched high above a turn in the River Dart.

Greenway, on the River Dart. Image courtesy of The National Trust

Greenway, on the River Dart. Image courtesy of The National Trust

Since 2000, Greenway has been owned by The National Trust. Address: Greenway Road, Galmpton near Brixham, Devon, TQ5 0ES.

Greenway’s Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway/

In 1530 the first of a succession of grand houses — all of them called “Greenway” — to be built upon the site was erected by the Gilberts, a renowned Devon seafaring family. In 1588, the beginnings of the gardens which surround Greenway were created, thanks to some “houseguests” of the Gilbert family, whose good friend, Sir Francis Drake had captured 160 Spanish prisoners of war and their ship.

[Note: later in this Diary, we’ll visit Buckland Abbey, Sir Francis Drake’s home.]

Drake anchored the vessel nearby, and as ransom negotiations for the ship proceeded, Sir Francis forced his prisoners to begin clearing and leveling the grounds around Greenway Court, the Gilbert’s Tudor mansion. So, although many far more illustrious folks would eventually have a hand in the creation of Greenway’s Gardens (among them Humphry Repton )…

Humphry Repton (born 1752, Died 1818) was an influential English landscape designer who is regarded as the successor to Capability Brown.

Humphry Repton (born 1752, Died 1818) was an influential English landscape designer who is regarded as the successor to Capability Brown.

…it’s good to keep in mind those 160 pairs of Spanish hands that began the task of transforming a steep and heavily wooded hillside into the magical landscape which today shelters a nationally-significant collection of 2700 species of trees and plants. Despite Greenway’s impressive provenance (what with Francis Drake dropping by, and centuries of other illustrious Devon-ians serving as lords of the manor), the reason that Greenway has become one of The National Trust’s most visited properties can be explained in two words: AGATHA CHRISTIE.

Per Wikipedia: “The Guinness Book of World Records lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 BILLION copies.”

It was at Greenway that the Dame of Mysteries and her second husband, the archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, made their country home, from 1938 until 1959. The interior of the house as we see it today is chock-full of their possessions. Agatha had already inherited mind-boggling collections of curios and furniture from her well-to-do parents, and the Mallowans themselves were well-traveled and world-class shoppers….as were also Rosalind (Agatha’s daughter) and her husband Anthony Hicks (who purchased Greenway in 1959, and who continued to fill its rooms with new treasures). The Christie-Mallowan-Hicks were all packrats of the highest and most entertaining order (as we shall soon see).

The delights of Greenway are further enhanced by an Aquatic Approach. From early March until the end of October, the Greenway Ferry departs from Dartmouth Town Pontoon every hour.

Greenway Ferry website:

http://greenwayferry.co.uk/dartmouth-to-greenway-house-ferry/

Bird's eye view of the Dart estuary. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Bird’s eye view of the Dart estuary. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

And so now, before our Greenway explorations begin, some glimpses of the 30-minute-long voyage from Dartmouth Harbor, northward, along the River Dart.

Greenway's Ferry approaches the Dartmouth Town Pontoon

Greenway’s Ferry approaches the Dartmouth Town Pontoon

As our voyage upriver begins, we admire the Village of Dartmouth

As our voyage upriver begins, we admire the Village of Dartmouth

From the Ferry, we can see our holiday rental home, on

From the Ferry, we can see our holiday rental home, on
“Above Town”

Close-up of our Dartmouth cottage.

Close-up of our Dartmouth cottage.

We head north, away from central Dartmouth

We head north, away from central Dartmouth

The Britannia Royal Naval College

The Britannia Royal Naval College

Royal Naval College docks

Royal Naval College docks

Dartmouth is surrounded by steep hillsides, which are grazing-lands for thousands of sheep.

Dartmouth is surrounded by steep hillsides, which are grazing-lands for thousands of sheep.

Upriver, on the Dart

Upriver, on the Dart

Sailboats racing

Sailboats racing

The tall arches of a bridge built for the still-operating Dartmouth Steam Railway line...which runs along the western banks of the River Dart, from Kingswear to Paignton.

The tall arches of a bridge built for the still-operating Dartmouth Steam Railway line…which runs along the eastern banks of the River Dart, from Kingswear to Paignton.

Map of the Dartmouth Steam Railway line

Map of the Dartmouth Steam Railway line

A blood-pressue-lowering view, as we draw nearer to Greenway.

A blood-pressue-lowering view, as we draw nearer to Greenway.

Greenway's Boat House

Greenway’s Boat House

Our first glimpse of Greenway

Our first glimpse of Greenway

Agatha Christie wrote: “One day we saw that a house was up for sale that I had known when I was young…So we went over to
Greenway, and very beautiful the house and grounds were. A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 90, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees — the ideal house, a dream house.”

Per The National Trust’s guidebook to Greenway:

“Agatha Christie could not resist buying Greenway, a place she had known about from childhood, having been born and brought up in nearby Torquay. She and her husband Max Mallowan soon became very attached to the place. It became their holiday home and they spent periods here in the spring, late summer, and often at Christmas, with family and friends.”

“Agatha Christie took the advice of a young architect, Guilford Bell, to demolish the wing built in 1892. Bell also advised on the interior alterations, installing new bathrooms and introducing the cream interiors that exist today, sweeping away the gloomy and unfashionable colour schemes of the previous owners. The Mallowans were keen but not expert gardeners, and quickly became interested in the existing planting schemes.”

“Work in the garden was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, when the house was requisitioned and initially occupied by child evacuees, and then from 1944 to 1945 by the 10th Flotilla of the U.S. Coastguard as part of the preparations for D-Day.”

“After derequisition both the house and garden needed attention. In 1947 a nursery garden was created and run as a commercial
enterprise until the end of the 20th century.”

“Greenway is also featured in at least two of Agatha Christie’s novels: as Nasse House in DEAD MAN’S FOLLY, and as Alderbury in FIVE LITTLE PIGS.”

We disembarked from the ferry, and found ourselves at Greenway's Quay

We disembarked from the ferry, and found ourselves at Greenway’s Quay

For visitors coming to Greenway from the hamlet of Dittisham, which is just across the River, a small conveyance is available. To summon a ride, one rings a dockside bell, and Viola! This little motorboat appears.

For visitors coming to Greenway from the hamlet of Dittisham, which is just across the River, a small conveyance is available. To summon a ride, one rings a dockside bell, and Viola! This little motorboat appears.

The Quay's thatched-roof cottage

The Quay’s thatched-roof cottage

Turn right, through the gate, to find the steep path uphill. But a shuttle IS available, for those not vigorous enough to make the climb.

Turn right, through the gate, to find the steep path uphill. But a shuttle IS available, for those not vigorous enough to make the climb.

Nothing about this woodland path suggests that an elegant estate awaits us.

Nothing about this woodland path suggests that an elegant estate awaits us.

We get a glimpse of the River Dart

We get a glimpse of the River Dart

The Shuttle Bus: Touristy but Adorable

The Shuttle Bus: Touristy but Adorable

The main House, at Greenway

The main House, at Greenway

Our view from the front of the House

Our view from the front of the House

The River Dart, seen from the front lawn

The River Dart, seen from the front lawn

Let’s see how Max and Agatha lived, shall we?

Agatha Christie and her 2nd husband, Max Mallowan, in 1946. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Agatha Christie and her 2nd husband, Max Mallowan, in 1946. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

GreenwayFloorPlans

Floor Plans of the House at Greenway. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

A pair of Foo Dogs stand guard on the front steps.

A pair of Foo Dogs stand guard on the front steps.

Constant streams of visitors enter the Front Hall

Constant streams of visitors enter the Front Hall. The brass-studded chest immediately to the right of the front door was featured in two of Christie’s books: THE MYSTERY OF THE BAGHDAD CHEST, and THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING.

A heavily-laden Cupboard in the Front Hall

A heavily-laden Cupboard in the Front Hall

A closer look at the china, in the Front Hall's cupboard

A closer look at the china, in the Front Hall’s cupboard

Display cabinet in the Front Hall. Before the property was opened to visitors in 2009, every item in the House was catalogued by The National Trust.

Display cabinet in the Front Hall. Before the property was opened to visitors in 2009, every item in the House was catalogued by The National Trust. Agatha’s daughter, Roslalind Hicks, had a particular fondness for pocket watches, snuff boxes, and portrait miniatures.

More collections in the Front Hall. (I would HATE to have to be the one responsible for feather-dusting the House Collections.....)

More collections in the Front Hall. (I would HATE to have to be the one responsible for feather-dusting the House Collections…..)

The Morning Room. The two niches flanking the fireplace will filled with the Hickeses' collection of botanical porcelain. The rest of the room was decorated with ornaments that Agatha inherited from her grandmother, and from her parents.

The Morning Room.
The two niches flanking the fireplace are filled with the Hickeses’ collection of botanical porcelain. The rest of the room was decorated with ornaments that Agatha inherited from her grandmother, and from her parents.

Detail of Shell Decoration, and Fireplace Mantle, in the Morning Room.

Detail of Shell Decoration, and Fireplace Mantle, in the Morning Room.

Porcelain decoration, in the Morning Room. Porcelain figures often figure in Christie's mysteries.

Porcelain decoration, in the Morning Room. Porcelain figures often figure in Christie’s mysteries.

Detail of Morning Room mantle.

Detail of Morning Room mantle.

The comfy Drawing Room

The comfy Drawing Room

Chest, in the Drawing Room.

Chest, in the Drawing Room.

Dominoes, just waiting to cascade across the Drawing Room's carpet.

Dominoes, just waiting to cascade across the Drawing Room’s carpet.

Family photos on display in the Drawing Room

Family photos on display in the Drawing Room

The Winter Dining Room. The plasterwork over mantle depicts the Old Testament story of Daniel's three friends being thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship a golden idol (quite a domestic fireplace decoration eh?). This plaster relief is thought to have been part of the site's original Tudor mansion. How it came to be saved, and then reinstalled in the current House is a mystery.

The Winter Dining Room. The plasterwork over mantle depicts the Old Testament story of Daniel’s three friends being thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship a golden idol (quite a domestic fireplace decoration eh?). This plaster relief is thought to have been part of the site’s original Tudor mansion. How it came to be saved, and then reinstalled in the current House is a mystery.

Transom window above the door between the Winter Dining Room & the Service Corridor. The bells on the wall were used to summon the House's servants.

Transom window above the door between the Winter
Dining Room & the Service Corridor. The bells on the wall were used to summon the House’s servants.

The Kitchen's China Display

The Kitchen’s China Display

The Kitchen's original range has been replaced by a very spiffy oil-fired Aga.

The Kitchen’s original range has been replaced by a very spiffy oil-fired Aga.

Detail of a Hicks and Meigh stoneware dinner service

Detail of a Hicks and Meigh stoneware dinner service

The commodious Inner Hall is thought to have originally been a billiard room. When the Mallowans purchased Greenway, their architect Guilford Bell transformed this space into yet another gallery for the display of their Treasures.

The commodious Inner Hall is thought to have originally been a billiard room. When the Mallowans purchased Greenway, their architect Guilford Bell transformed this space into yet another gallery for the display of their Treasures.

Every flat surface of the Inner Hall is overflowing with the family's collections.

Every flat surface of the Inner Hall is overflowing with the family’s collections.

David and Anne, in the Dining Room.

David and Anne, in the Dining Room.

The Dining Room, which measures 31 feet long by 19 feet wide, is by far the least cluttered and most tranquil space in the entire House.

The Dining Room, which measures 31 feet long by 19 feet wide, is by far the least cluttered and most tranquil space in the entire House.

A beautiful place setting, in the Dining Room

A beautiful place setting, in the Dining Room

Place setting details

Place setting details

Agatha Christie's favorite menu included hot lobster, followed by blackberry ice cream. Here's her Lobster-Serving Dish.

Agatha Christie’s favorite menu included hot lobster, followed by blackberry ice cream. Here’s her Lobster-Serving Dish.

An extremely disturbing doorstop, in the Dining Room: just a little reminder that the smiling, gray-haired Lady of the House had a mind that often wandered into Exotic Realms.

An extremely disturbing doorstop, in the Dining Room: just a little reminder that the smiling, gray-haired Lady of the House had a mind that often wandered into Exotic Realms.

The Library

The Library

The Library

The Library

Per The National Trust’s guidebook: “The Library’s extraordinary frieze was painted by Lt. Marshall Lee in 1943, when the house was
occupied by Flotilla 10 of the U.S. Coastguard. It depicts all of the significant events of their war, starting at Lt. Lee’s base in Key West, FL, and ending with an image of Greenway perched high above the river with an Infantry Landing Craft in the river below.”

Lt. Lee and his colleagues clearly appreciated the Ladies of England!

Lt. Lee and his colleagues clearly appreciated the Ladies of England!

More of the Library's frieze

More of the Library’s frieze

The Artist didn't gloss over the violence of war.

The Artist didn’t gloss over the violence of war.

Galveston, Texas, comes to Devon.

Galveston, Texas, comes to Devon.

Wonderful!!

Wonderful!!

The Main Staircase, leading to the Bedrooms.

The Main Staircase, leading to the Bedrooms.

The Master Bedroom looks nearly the same as it did during Agatha's Christie's time.

The Master Bedroom looks nearly the same as it did during Agatha’s Christie’s time.

From her bedroom's windows, Agatha had this splendid view out over the River Dart.

From her bedroom’s windows, Agatha had this splendid view out over the River Dart.

A corner of Agatha's Bedroom

A corner of Agatha’s Bedroom

Agatha bought this mother-of-pearl inlaid chest of drawers in Damascus, in 1929.

Agatha bought this mother-of-pearl inlaid chest of drawers in Damascus, in 1929.

Detail of the treasures atop Agatha's Damascus chest.

Detail of the treasures atop Agatha’s Damascus chest.

Agatha's bedside table (with Anne and her very nice Prada sunhat, reflected in the mirror).

Agatha’s bedside table (with Anne and her very nice Prada sunhat, reflected in the mirror).

Christie's mahogany-seated toilet. I'm not sure that Agatha would be delighted to know that mobs of tourists now gawk at her privy...

Christie’s mahogany-seated toilet. I’m not sure that Agatha would be delighted to know that mobs of tourists now gawk at her privy…

Originally a bedroom, the Sitting Room later became Max Mallowan's writing room. When Agatha was at Greenway, there's no evidence to suggest that she plied her author's trade. Of course, Agatha did weave elements of their country home into her mysteries, but her time in Devon was not spent in toil at her typewriter.

Originally a bedroom, the Sitting Room later became Max Mallowan’s writing room. When Agatha was at Greenway, there’s no evidence to suggest that she plied her author’s trade. Of course, Agatha did weave elements of their country home into her mysteries, but her time in Devon was not spent in toil at her typewriter.

And still more trinkets, in the Sitting Room.

And still more trinkets, in the Sitting Room.

We headed back down the Main Stairway, where we admired its groined ceiling, and arched clerestory window.

We headed back down the Main Stairway, where we admired its groined ceiling, and arched clerestory window.

As we exited through the Back Hall, we found this Mosaic Name Plate, formed from broken crockery.

As we exited through the Back Hall, we found this Mosaic Name Plate, formed from broken crockery.

For a therapeutic blast of fresh air, we’ll proceed outside, into the sunshine of Greenway’s south-facing Gardens!

Map of Greenway's Grounds

Map of Greenway’s Grounds

Greenway’s 36 acres, on a promontory above the River Dart, feel utterly at one with the greater, Devonian landscape. As mentioned, the retaining walls and paths by which Greenway’s steep slopes were made hospitable for future gardens were built in 1588 by Spanish prisoners. Over the following 400 years the nine families who then each owned Greenway continued to tame the land and develop the gardens. But the layouts of the gardens which we visit today are still basically those which were refashioned in Humphry Repton’s relaxed and picturesque style, from 1791 until 1832. Subsequent owners embellished the garden with the plantings of shrubs and trees that still flourish, but a few ancient specimens also survive, particularly a Cork Oak (in the Camellia Garden), which is estimated to be 300—350 years old. This is a garden that’s literally rooted in history; a place where past and present resonate, and meld seamlessly.

The Croquet Lawn is directly to the west of the House. This area is dominated by a Magnolia grandiflora.

The Croquet Lawn is directly to the west of the House. This area is dominated by a Magnolia grandiflora.

Reinvigorated after enjoying lunch at Greenway's Barn Cafe, we entered the South Walled Garden & Vinery, and began our garden explorations.

Reinvigorated after enjoying lunch at Greenway’s Barn Cafe, we entered the South Walled Garden & Vinery, and began our garden explorations.

And WHAT, pray tell, is a BOTHY? It's a Scottish Highlands term for a VERY basic gardener's cottage. By the time of the Mallowans, this hut was used to store coal and firewood.

And WHAT, pray tell, is a BOTHY? It’s a Scottish Highlands term for a VERY basic gardener’s cottage. By the time of the Mallowans, this hut was used to store coal and firewood.

The South Walled Garden's Glass House.

The South Walled Garden’s Glass House.

This extensive Glass House was built against the northern wall of the South Walled Garden by Richard Harvey, a wealthy copper magnate. Harvey owned Greenway from 1852 until 1882, and during those years he restored the lodge and stables (where the Barn Cafe and Gift Shop currently are), built glass houses within the pre-existing walled gardens,
and thinned the outlying forests, where his gardener, J. Coudray, then introduced specimens of exotics, including acacias, clianthus, sophora, and myrtles.

A closer view of the South Walled Garden's Glass House

A closer view of the South Walled Garden’s Glass House

Inside the South Walled Garden's Glass House

Inside the South Walled Garden’s Glass House

The view from outside the Glass House, across the lawn of the South Walled Garden, toward the white chimneys of the main House. This Garden --- a full acre --- was originally a kitchen garden.

The view from outside the Glass House, across the lawn of the South Walled Garden, toward the white chimneys of the main House. This Garden — a full acre — was originally a kitchen garden.

A profusion of Borage and Artichokes, alongside the Glass House

A profusion of Borage and Artichokes, alongside the Glass House

The Herb Border, in the South Walled Garden. Against the high wall behind the herbs climbs an ancient Wisteria sinensis.

The Herb Border, in the South Walled Garden. Against the high wall behind the herbs climbs an ancient Wisteria sinensis.

The North Walled Garden continues today, as a working nursery where plants are propagated for Greenway's gardens. This Glass House was built by Susannah Harvey in the 1870s, and in this space she grew Peaches and Nectarines.

The North Walled Garden continues today, as a working nursery where plants are propagated for Greenway’s gardens. This Glass House was built by Susannah Harvey in the 1870s, and in this space she grew Peaches and Nectarines.

Inside the Peach House

Inside the Peach House

We leave the Walled Gardens and head uphill, toward the Fernery, with its Fountain & Pet Cemetery.

We leave the Walled Gardens and head uphill, toward the Fernery, with its Fountain & Pet Cemetery.

Ferns --- of course --- in the Fernery.

Ferns — of course — in the Fernery.

Our first view of the Fernery's Fountain. Property records indicate that this area of the estate already existed in 1791, when Edward Elton ( a merchant, adventurer, and MP ) purchased Greenway. Elton immediately commissioned a re-design of most of the grounds, with guidance by Humphry Repton.

Our first view of the Fernery’s Fountain. Property records indicate that this area of the estate already existed in 1791, when Edward Elton ( a merchant, adventurer, and MP ) purchased Greenway. Elton immediately commissioned a re-design of most of the grounds, with guidance by Humphry Repton.

The Fernery is centered upon a Fountain, and enclosed by walls of water-worn limestone and quartz.

The Fernery is centered upon a Fountain, and enclosed by walls of water-worn limestone and quartz.

Steps in the Fernery lead to hidden garden areas

Steps in the Fernery lead to hidden garden areas

Another view of the Fernery

Another view of the Fernery

A shady corner of the Fernery. Here lie the graves of Greenway's much-loved dogs.

A shady corner of the Fernery. Here lie the graves of Greenway’s much-loved dogs.

Fernery Lushness

Fernery Lushness

Leaving the Fernery, we found a towering Monkey-Puzzle Tree (aka a Chilean Pine, which can grow to be 130 feet tall).

Leaving the Fernery, we found a towering Monkey-Puzzle Tree (aka a Chilean Pine, which can grow to be 130 feet tall).

From the Top Garden's path, we had this fine view toward the hills, on the western side of the River Dart.

From the Top Garden’s path, we had this fine view toward the hills, on the western side of the River Dart.

And YES, due to Southern Devon's mild climate, palm trees DO flourish. (Note: you'll see MANY more tropical plants, when I publish Part Two of my Southern Devon journals.)

And YES, due to Southern Devon’s mild climate, palm trees DO flourish. (Note: you’ll see MANY more tropical plants, when I publish Part Two of my Southern Devon journals.)

We then headed downhill, through the Plantation, a heavily-wooded area of the estate.

We then headed downhill, through the Plantation, a heavily-wooded area of the estate.

Our next stop: the Boat House, which is also known as

Our next stop: the Boat House, which is also known as “Ralegh’s Boat House.” Sir Walter Ralegh was half-brother to Sir John Gilbert (who belonged to the family who first settled at Greenway). The current Boat House dates from late Georgian or early Victorian times.

Putting her vacation home to good use, in DEAD MAN'S FOLLY Agatha Christie used the Boat House as the setting for the strangulation of her fictional character Marlene Tucker.

Putting her vacation home to good use, in DEAD MAN’S FOLLY Agatha Christie used the Boat House as the setting for the strangulation of her fictional character Marlene Tucker.

In Real Life, the Boat House is a calm (and not at all murder-inducing) place. The National Trust has recently begun a campaign to raise funds for the restoration of the Boat House, but I rather like it in its current, disheveled condition.

In Real Life, the Boat House is a calm (and not at all murder-inducing) place. The National Trust has recently begun a campaign to raise funds for the restoration of the Boat House, but I rather like it in its current, disheveled condition.

A serene vista, from the Boat House's Porch

A serene vista, from the Boat House’s Porch

A passing Riverboat

A passing Riverboat

And another history lesson, posted at the Boat House.

And another history lesson, posted at the Boat House.

Leaving the Boat House, we proceeded to the Battery, which I confess became my favorite spot at Greenway.

Leaving the Boat House, we proceeded to the Battery, which I confess became my favorite spot at Greenway.

The Battery dates from the 18th century and is thought to have been built as a Napoleonic defense in the 1790s. (I think that EVERY riverside garden should have a Battery....)

The Battery dates from the 18th century and is thought to have been built as a Napoleonic defense in the 1790s. (I think that EVERY
riverside garden should have a Battery….)

I looked southwards, over the emerald-and-blue waters of the River Dart.

I looked southwards, over the emerald-and-blue waters of the River Dart.

On SUNDAY, JUNE 28TH, Anne and David and I agreed that a day of wandering through Dartmouth’s streets and ambling along the town’s waterfront and riding the River’s ferry boats would be most relaxing . And so, without agenda, we went forth, into a misty and sometimes rainy morning. What follows is a scrapbook of Dartmouth; one which will, I hope, give you a vivid sense of the Place.

Remember: Leave your Hand-Cart at home.

Remember: Leave your Hand-Cart at home.

David leads the Way.

David leads the Way.

Although we’d cooked ourselves entirely healthful breakfasts, once our feet had hit the slippery pavements, our brains and stomachs
immediately demanded caffeine, sugar and butterfat … which necessitated a visit to Saveurs, Dartmouth’s best patisserie.

Saveurs. 3 Victoria Road, Dartmouth. TQ6 9RT website: www.saveurs.co.uk

Saveurs. 3 Victoria Road, Dartmouth. TQ6 9RT
website: http://www.saveurs.co.uk

How to find Saveurs

How to find Saveurs

One of many pastry cases at Saveurs....need I say more?

One of many pastry cases at Saveurs….need I say more?

My photos from our caffeine-sugar-and-butterfat-fueled Ramble:

Exquisite building adornments

Exquisite building adornments

Such antiquity is commonplace in Dartmouth

Such antiquity is commonplace in Dartmouth

Fog swirls over Smith Street

Fog swirls over Smith Street

The Cherub Inn, built circa 1380, is the oldest secular building in Town, and the only complete medieval house.

The Cherub Inn, built circa 1380, is the oldest secular building in Town, and the only complete medieval house.

All about the Cherub Inn

All about the Cherub Inn

The Cherub Inn, under bluer skies

The Cherub Inn, under bluer skies

In 1951, Christopher Milne --- utterly sick of being known as Christopher Robin --- fled Pooh's Corner and East Sussex, and settled in Dartmouth, where he established his Harbour Bookshop. Christopher refused to EVER stock ANY of the Pooh stories; his bookshop is now closed, but not due to its boycott of A.A.Milne's publications.

In 1951, Christopher Milne — utterly sick of being known as Christopher Robin — fled Pooh’s Corner and East Sussex, and settled in Dartmouth, where he established his Harbour Bookshop. Christopher refused to EVER stock ANY of the Pooh stories; his bookshop is now closed, but not due to its boycott of A.A.Milne’s publications.

The juncture of Newcomen Road and Lower Street

The juncture of Newcomen Road and Lower Street

Lower Street

Lower Street

What a Civilized Concept: Ice Cream for Dogs !!!!!!

What a Civilized Concept: Ice Cream for Dogs !!!!!!

Anne and David, braving the rain, at Bayard's Cove

Anne and David, braving the rain, at Bayard’s Cove

Honoring the Pilgrim Fathers ( and Mothers )

Honoring the Pilgrim Fathers ( and Mothers )

The view from Bayard's Cove, out toward the English Channel

The view from Bayard’s Cove, out toward the English Channel

Kingswear, seen from Bayard's Cove

Kingswear, seen from Bayard’s Cove

Later on, we'll take the Lower Ferry, over to Kingswear. Note that this Ferry isn't self-propelled. Instead, a nimble little Tugboat does all of the work.

Later on, we’ll take the Lower Ferry, over to Kingswear. Note that this Ferry isn’t self-propelled. Instead, a nimble little Tugboat does all of the work.

To reverse direction, the Tugboat executes a nifty pivot, along the side of the Ferry.

To reverse direction, the Tugboat executes a nifty pivot, along the side of the Ferry.

We're heading toward Bayard's Cove Fort, which is at the end of the embankment.

We’re heading toward Bayard’s Cove Fort, which is at the end of the embankment.

The cobbled embankment, at Bayard's Cove

The cobbled embankment, at Bayard’s Cove

And a bit of heavy-metal, at Bayard's Cove

And a bit of heavy-metal, at Bayard’s Cove

The street at Bayard's Cove (often used for location shots in period films) is lined with attractive 17th to early 19th century homes. Here, a barometer.

The street at Bayard’s Cove (often used for location shots in period films) is lined with attractive 17th to early 19th century homes.
Here, a barometer.

Knock, Knock

Knock, Knock

Window Boxes overflow with blossoms

Window Boxes overflow with blossoms

An appropriately-nautical window box

An appropriately-nautical window box

Anne and David approach the Fort

Anne and David approach the Fort

Gull Cottage: Site of the former home of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Sir Humphrey was born at Greenway (remember, the Gilberts were the first family to settle there). Humphrey became a favorite of Elizabeth Ist, and took possession of Newfoundland for his Queen.

Gull Cottage: Site of the former home of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Sir Humphrey was born at Greenway (remember, the Gilberts were the first family to settle there). Humphrey became a favorite of Elizabeth Ist, and took possession of Newfoundland for his Queen.

Fabulous flowers at Gull Cottage

Fabulous flowers at Gull Cottage

Gull Cottage bears a sunshine medallion, which is a Fire Insurance Mark, circa 1710.

Gull Cottage bears a sunshine medallion, which is a Fire Insurance Mark, circa 1710.

Bayard's Cove Fort was built in 1510 to protect the Town.

Bayard’s Cove Fort was built in 1510 to protect the Town.

Eleven Gunports were built into the thick, water-facing wall of Bayard's Cove Fort

Eleven Gunports were built into the thick, water-facing wall of Bayard’s Cove Fort

Exquisite stone-masonry, at the Fort

Exquisite stone-masonry, at the Fort

Bayard's Cove: we stroll back toward Town, and then down the ramp for the Lower Ferry.

Bayard’s Cove: we stroll back toward Town, and then down the ramp for the Lower Ferry.

Lower Ferry Ramp, at Bayard's Cove

Lower Ferry Ramp, at Bayard’s Cove

The Lower Ferry, bound for Kingswear

The Lower Ferry, bound for Kingswear

As pedestrians, we share space on the Lower Ferry with 8 vehicles.

As pedestrians, we share space on the Lower Ferry with 8 vehicles.

The Tugboat is tethered to the Lower Ferry by a single rope.

The Tugboat is tethered to the Lower Ferry by a single rope.

To propel us across the River Dart, the Tugboat temporarily assumes a position that's perpendicular to the Ferry....quite a maneuver to witness !

To propel us across the River Dart, the Tugboat temporarily assumes a position that’s perpendicular to the Ferry….quite a maneuver to witness !

Now arrived at Kingswear, we head to the Station for some serious steam-train gawking.

Now arrived at Kingswear, we head to the Station for some serious steam-train gawking.

Kingswear Station

Kingswear Station

Our view from Kingswear Station, across the River Dart, toward the Britannia Royal Naval College

Our view from Kingswear Station, across the River Dart, toward the Britannia Royal Naval College

Kingswear's Emblem

Kingswear’s Emblem

The Observation Car's passengers eagerly await the arrival of their locomotive.

The Observation Car’s passengers eagerly await the arrival of their locomotive.

Excitement! With a puff of steam, the locomotive approaches.

Excitement! With a puff of steam, the locomotive approaches.

Now connected to the passenger coaches, the locomotive prepares to depart for Paignton Station.

Now connected to the passenger coaches, the locomotive prepares to depart for Paignton Station.

Can you imagine that Amtrak would name a passenger coach the LADY CHATTERLEY? I think not. Only in England could this happen...that's why I love the place so much.

Can you imagine that Amtrak would name a passenger coach the LADY CHATTERLEY? I think not. Only in England could this happen…that’s why I love the place so much.

Engineer, at the ready

Engineer, at the ready

The most elegant logo....ever.

The most elegant logo….ever.

At Kingswear Station

At Kingswear Station

Done with our train spotting, we headed back across the River, via a different Ferry; this one leaving from The Royal Dart, and for foot passengers only.

Done with our train spotting, we headed back across the River, via a different Ferry; this one leaving from The Royal Dart, and for foot passengers only.

The Royal Dart, in Kingswear

The Royal Dart, in Kingswear

The Royal Dart dates to the 1700s, when it was known as the Plume of Feathers Public House. When the railway came to Kingswear in the mid 19th century, Feathers were re-fluffed, and transformed into the Station Hotel. In the 1860s, another name was bestowed, the Yacht Hotel, and after Queen Victoria attended a Regatta in the 1870s, the Hotel became the Royal Dart. Now a museum containing Naval artifacts (due to the building being used during World War II as a command post), the Royal Dart is much in need of restoration.

Returned to Dartmouth, we continued along the waterfront, toward the Town Jetty.

Everywhere you look in Dartmouth, images of wild-looking Green Men are carved onto the buildings.

Everywhere you look in Dartmouth, images of wild-looking Green Men are carved onto the buildings.

Another Green Man

Another Green Man

Dartmouth’s profusion of Little Green Men gave me pause. ‘Twas time for me to understand just WHAT these pagan images signified. Indirectly but ultimately, the best explanation of those Little Green Men came to me via David Guy, who is absolutely the best-read person I’ve ever known. During our Dartmouth stay, David, considering my predilection for England mystery writers, suggested that I try a series of books written by Christopher Fowler.Fowler’s wonderful Peculiar Crimes Unit mysteries, featuring his superannuated detectives, Bryant and May, have now completely hooked me. Christopher Fowler does not just plot stories of diabolical intricacy and subversive humor ; into each of his PCU sagas, Fowler also weaves oodles of deep background, about English history, culture, and geography.

A while back, as I was greedily plowing through BRYANT AND MAY ON THE LOOSE, the seventh book in the ongoing PCU Series, I was delighted to read this passage, as spoken by
Arthur Bryant, the more eccentric of the two detectives:

” ‘ Well, there’s a sinister side to all of this.’ Bryant’s blue eyes glittered, as he found another lithograph. ‘George-a-Green, or
Herne the Horned One, is also Jack in the Green or the Green Man, the spirit of vegetation. The Green Man is a story that predates Christ. Uniquely, it has its roots in both pagan and Christian history. The legend tells how the dead Adam had the seeds of the tree of knowledge planted in his mouth. From this mix of fertility and soil grew a sinister god, the Oak King, the Holly King, the
Green Man — the symbol of death in life. The Green Man is found in a great many English churches. He appears both in church carvings and at May Day celebrations, as a sort of primeval trickster, a symbol of spiritual rebirth, but also as a vengeful rapist and bloodsucker. The Green Man is a forest creature with the power to wipe out cities and return them to nature. He destroys men by unleashing natural forces upon them, and reappears when the earth is threatened. He can be benign and healing, but there’s a wildness about him, a dangerous cruelty — and a terrible madness. ‘ ”

All of this essential (for me, at least) Green Man Lore now acquired … from just one more of the hundreds of colorful and cultural sidebars (which are nevertheless relevant to the Plot) that Christopher Fowler somehow incorporates into a paperback detective story! Pure serendipity. For lovers of well-wrought mysteries (and — with apologies to Agatha Christie — because I’ve got to say that Christopher Fowler is a FAR better writer than the beloved Mrs. Mallowan), there’s endless fun to be had by solving crimes, alongside Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May.

Bryant and May books can be found at www.christopherfowler.co.uk

Bryant and May books can be found at
http://www.christopherfowler.co.uk

Forgive me for yet another of my digressions….but it’s this unexpected gathering together of cultural bits and pieces that makes the Traveling Life so intoxicating.

Now, back to our Dartmouth-town walk:

Green Men gathering

Green Men gathering

More Green Men: these looking a bit Mongolian...

More Green Men: these looking a bit Mongolian…

...and a couple of Blue Meanies, thrown in for good measure.

…and a couple of Blue Meanies, thrown in for good measure.

Frisky Sea Horses

Frisky Sea Horses

Cheerful !!

Cheerful !!

Detail of central decoration, framed by more Green Men

Detail of central decoration, framed by more Green Men

The Boat Float: a man-made harbor, where small boats rise and fall with the tides.

The Boat Float: a man-made harbor, where small boats rise and fall with the tides.

Map of the Boat Float area of Dartmouth

Map of the Boat Float area of Dartmouth

The Boat Float: with the Town Jetty, and the River Dart beyond

The Boat Float: with the Town Jetty, and the River Dart beyond

Low Tide at the Boat Float

Low Tide at the Boat Float

High Tide at the Boat Float

High Tide at the Boat Float

The Royal Castle Hotel...just across the street from the Boat Float

The Royal Castle Hotel…just across the street from the Boat Float

Sir Francis Drake dined at this location...

Sir Francis Drake dined at this location…

Yet another heavily-decorated building facade

Yet another heavily-decorated building facade

Just around the corner from the Royal Castle Hotel is the Butterwalk, which consists of 4 timber framed houses that date from 1628 to 1640.

Just around the corner from the Royal Castle Hotel is the Butterwalk, which consists of 4 timber framed houses that date from 1628 to 1640.

Detail of upper floor carving, at the Butterwalk

Detail of upper floor carving, at the Butterwalk

Much-contented with our local perambulations, we retired for a few hours to our Cottage on Above Town, where I napped and then caught up with my postcard-writing. Later that afternoon, when rain clouds had finally dispersed, Anne drove us southwards over five miles of hair-raisingly serpentine and narrow roads, to Slapton Sands.

Map of Slapton Sands (also known as Slapton Beach). Image courtesy of Robert Hesketh's DARTMOUTH: A SHORTISH GUIDE.

Map of Slapton Sands (also known as Slapton Beach).
Image courtesy of Robert Hesketh’s DARTMOUTH: A SHORTISH GUIDE.

The location of Slapton Sands in Devon is marked by the yellow arrow.

The location of Slapton Sands in Devon is marked by the yellow arrow.

The tranquil expanse of the shingle beach of Slapton Sands, and the adjacent lake, bird sanctuary, and emerald hills of the National Nature Reserve called Slapton Ley give no hint of the horrors that once took place here.

Map of Slapton Ley. Slapton Ley has the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is separated from the sea by a very narrow bar of shingle, the lake is entirely freshwater. Website: www.slnnr.org.uk

Map of Slapton Ley. Slapton Ley has the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is separated from the sea by a very narrow bar of shingle, the lake is entirely freshwater.
Website: http://www.slnnr.org.uk

Aerial View of Slapton Ley. Image courtesy of South West Coastal Group.

Aerial View of Slapton Ley. Image courtesy of South West Coastal Group.

As I’ve mentioned, during World War II thousands of American servicemen were stationed in and around Dartmouth. In ultra-secret preparation for the planned, D-Day invasion of Normandy, the British Government, in coordination with America’s General Dwight D. Eisenhower (who was also the Supreme Allied Commander), requisitioned all of the land and seashore in the vicinity of Slapton and Torcross. The beach at Slapton Sands, with its similarities to France’s Utah Beach ( a gravel beach, and a nearby lake, separated by a narrow strip of land)…

Map of Utah Beach, in Normandy, France

Map of Utah Beach, in Normandy, France

…was chosen for military training exercises. With very little prior notice, and without being given any reason, the English inhabitants of eight entire villages, as well as those who lived on all of the surrounding farms, were ordered by the Military to evacuate the area. The populace (numbering approximately 3000 humans, along with countless farm animals) did so with speed and silence … and with an acceptance and grace which today would be unimaginable.

At Slapton Sands: America's memorial to the English people of the South Hams.

At Slapton Sands: America’s memorial to the English people of the South Hams.

In late December of 1943, 30,000 Allied servicemen and scores of ships began using Slapton Sands for their landing exercises, which had been named “Exercise Tiger “ (also known as “Operation Tiger.”). This enormous endeavor had somehow to be accomplished without attracting the notice of spies, or of the German E-boats that prowled incessantly alongside England’s shorelines. [Note: the Germans called these boats Schnellboot, meaning “fast boat.” E-boats were heavily armed, and sleek: able to sustain a speed of 50 mph.]

A German Schnellboot--- E Boat

A German Schnellboot— E Boat

Landing exercises continued apace until April 28, 1944, when, in an instance of everything-possible-going-wrong, a forward-rolling disaster of epic proportions began. As a practice assault upon the Beach commenced that morning, a series of missed communications sent American soldiers who’d already made their beach landing directly into the zone where shells launched from the British heavy cruiser HMS HAWKINS were exploding. General Eisenhower had correctly asked that his beach-storming troops become acclimatized to the sounds and smells of live ammunition. The point was for the live ammunition to whiz over the heads of the troops, as they waded ashore. Landside officers were given the job of coordinating timing: the troops were not meant to have reached the shore until all shells had detonated. A white tape was also to have marked the line on the beach beyond which the Americans were not to proceed, until the beach-masters had declared the area safe.

Unsynchronized firing of the shells, along with a delay in the start-times for the American landing ships, sent 197 American soldiers to their deaths: directly into the line of friendly fire.

But the horrors of April 28th had only just begun. A swarm of nine German E-boats that were lurking in Lyme Bay happened upon the under-protected convoy of American troop ships that were part of a follow-up landing exercise. Earlier that night, British ships had spotted the E-boats, but, in another spectacular
failure of communication, had not alerted the American convoy about the imminent threat. As American ships approached the Beach, the E-boats attacked. Within minutes, four American ships were destroyed or severely damaged: 749 American Army and Navy men were either killed outright, or drowned in the frigid waters.

But a single miracle can be said to have occurred on that day.Blessedly, the Germans didn’t draw the conclusion that this massing of British and American forces at Slapton Sands had a greater meaning: that this military exercise on the shores of Southern Devon could be in any way a precursor to an Allied invasion of German-occupied France.

And so, with 946 American dead (and countless more wounded), secrecy about the day’s calamity became the overriding and ghastly necessity. To acknowledge what had occurred would
inevitably alert the Germans that the Allies planned soon to mount a sea-attack upon France. The dead were hastily buried en masse; dug down there to lie, unnamed and hidden, beneath the green hills that overlook the Lake. The day’s casualties went unannounced; not until August of 1944, and after the successful assault of D-Day, were the dead named, and, even then, those who had perished at Slapton Sands were reported to have died during D-Day operations.

The lake at Slapton Ley is separated from the shingle beach by a spit of land. The hills that rise behind the lake are the unmarked and final resting places of many of the 946 Americans who died during Exercise Tiger, on April 28, 1944.

The lake at Slapton Ley is separated from the shingle beach by a spit of land. The hills that rise behind the lake are the unmarked and final resting places of many of the 946 Americans who died during Exercise Tiger, on April 28, 1944.

After the conclusion of the War, the catastrophe at Slapton Sands was not so much covered up as it was forgotten.
Historians concentrated upon the larger and, in the American and English views, the more positive aspects of World War II. Official histories did of course mention Slapton Sands, but, without any gravestones to mark the final resting places of those 946 Americans — and in the absence of the tales of those who had survived the dual disasters on April 28, 1944 (the survivors were sworn to secrecy) — the non-military-history-reading Public therefore had no reason to suspect that the hideousness of war had ever touched the shingle beach, there in beautiful, bucolic Devon.

Not until the 1970s, when Devon resident Ken Small discovered traces of destroyed ordnance while beachcombing at Slapton Sands,
was any effort then made by either England or America to memorialize the 946 servicemen who had died there and been forgotten.

Historian Ken Small wrote the first complete story of the disaster at Slapton Sands

Historian Ken Small wrote the first complete story of the disaster at Slapton Sands

Operation Tiger memorial plaque at Slapton Sands

Operation Tiger memorial plaque at Slapton Sands

A Sherman Tank, lost at sea on April 28, 1944, and now dragged ashore. On display at Torcross.

A Sherman Tank, lost at sea on April 28, 1944, and now dragged ashore. On display at Torcross.

Sherman Tank plaque

Sherman Tank plaque

Detail of the Sherman Tank, which is in remarkably good condition, despite having been for decades under seawater.

Detail of the Sherman Tank, which is in remarkably good condition, despite having been for decades under seawater.

The locals make sure that poppies of remembrance always adorn the Sherman Tank at Torcross

The locals make sure that poppies of remembrance always adorn the Sherman Tank at Torcross

I'm in Torcross, looking northwards up along the long curve of Slapton Sands.

I’m in Torcross, looking northwards up along the long curve of Slapton Sands. “Sands” is misleading: the beach consists of shingle (small stones).

American Troops making practice landings on Slapton Sands, during rehearsals for the invasion of Normandy. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

American Troops making practice landings on Slapton Sands, during rehearsals for the invasion of Normandy. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

My view of Slapton Sands, on June 28, 2015.

My view of Slapton Sands, on June 28, 2015.

As I took photos, and Anne did her research, David took this picture. Photo courtesy of David Guy.

As I took photos, and Anne did her research, David took this picture. Photo courtesy of David Guy.

It's peaceful now, at Slapton Sands.

It’s peaceful now, at Slapton Sands.

Wildflowers blanket the dunes at Slapton Sands. Photo courtesy of David Guy.

Anne identified these scrubby purple flowers that blanket the dunes at Slapton Sands as Echium vulgare (also known as Vipers Bugloss !! ) Photo courtesy of David Guy.

When I first beheld the Sherman Tank at Torcross, and began to learn about what had happened there at Slapton Sands on April 28th in 1944, I wanted to weep. Somehow, it seemed incomprehensible that in this sublimely beautiful place, human beings had once again imposed such ugliness upon themselves, and upon the land. Mother Earth deserves better, and we, her eternally ungrateful and terminally heedless children, should have, long-since, learned to be wiser, and kinder, and less war-like. Sometimes I despair….

But, thanks to the peculiarities of English traffic signage, my grim mood soon lifted. Heading back to Dartmouth, we passed a small construction zone in the village of Strete.

Road work in Strete

Road work in Strete

I laughed and remembered how, three years ago in neighboring Dorset, I’d been appalled by my first encounter with such Alarming Red Signs. I’d shrieked, and asked Anne and David if entire districts in England might be removing cats’ eyes. They’d reassured me that Cat’s Eyes are reflective, raised pavement road markers which mark the lanes of the road. When road resurfacing needs to be done, the flexible rubber domes of Cat’s Eyes are removed, and afterwards replaced into the new Tarmac. What a relief it was to learn that the sadism against animals which those signs had initially made me visualize was in fact only a routine sort of road maintenance.

The anthropomorphically-named Cat’s Eye. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The anthropomorphically-named
Cat’s Eye. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

 I hopped out of the car and took this picture, just to prove that the removal of man-made Cat’s Eyes is a routine event, in the United Kingdom!

I hopped out of the car and took this picture, just to prove that the removal of man-made Cat’s Eyes is a routine event, in the United Kingdom!

On MONDAY, JUNE 29th, Anne and David and I drove westward, toward Plymouth. Our day was to be a long wallow in three of Southern Devon’s most exquisite landscapes.

Our first stop: the wonderful, Fortescue-family gardens at The Garden House, in Buckland Monachorum, Yelverton, near Tavistock, Devon. PL20 7LQ.
Open Daily, from May 1st through August 1st.

Website: http://www.thegardenhouse.org.uk

The Garden House's 10 acres of gardens continue to evolve.

The Garden House’s 10 acres of gardens continue to evolve.

For our Monday’s adventures, Janet Hardwick and Barry West had traveled down from the Midlands to join me and the Guys. Over the years, Anne’s mother Janet
has on many occasions welcomed me as a guest into her home, where she pampers me to excess (although I plead with Janet not to fuss!). My annual trips to England are not made expressly to add new chapters to my lifelong project of self-education; each time I fly Eastward across the Atlantic I’m also looking forward to spending another week or two with my lovely, adopted, English family.

The 10 acres of gardens at The Garden House offer a sumptuous horticultural immersion in color, scent, texture and form. For an Introduction, I’ll quote just a bit from their “About the Garden and its History” pamphlet:

“On his retirement from teaching at Eton College in 1945, Lionel Fortescue and his wife Katherine moved into the former Georgian vicarage with its 10 acres of land, to begin the creation of what is today recognized as one of the most wonderfully diverse gardens in Britain: The Garden House. Lionel [first] set about designing and imaginatively planting the 2-acre terraced Walled Garden, centered on the ruins of a 16th century village. “

“Lionel and Katherine had the foresight to set up a charitable trust in 1961, to secure the Garden’s future, and successive Head Gardeners have used their own creative talent to further develop the garden…always respecting the horticultural legacy of the Fortescues. Keith Wiley spent 25 years boldly expanding the garden in a style known as ‘New Naturalism,’ where plant collections are used to recreate natural landscapes from around the world. Examples of Keith’s inspiration can be seen in the 6 acres of the western garden: the cottage garden, wildflower meadow, Acer Glade…and the Magic Circle. With gently sloping paths across its 2 acre site, the new Jubilee Arboretum was planted by Head Gardener Matt Bishop, to commemorate 50 years of the Fortescue Trust. Stewardship of the garden is now in the capable hands of Nick Haworth.”

Please now: join me as I retrace our steps through the Gardens.

This Map --- somewhat different from the Map illustrated on the Garden's pamphlet -- is posted at the Garden's Ticket Booth.

This Map — somewhat different from the Map illustrated on the Garden’s pamphlet — is posted at the Garden’s Ticket Booth.

My traveling companions buy their tickets

My traveling companions buy their tickets

Just beyond the Ticket Booth, we were enveloped by lushly-planted borders. In the distance, a bit of the circular Front Lawn is visible.

Just beyond the Ticket Booth, we were enveloped by lushly-planted borders.
In the distance, a bit of the circular Front Lawn is visible.

But before ANY garden-tromping could occur, we needed to indulge in the Tea Rooms' top-notch cakes and coffees. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

But before ANY garden-tromping could occur, we needed to indulge in the Tea Rooms’ top-notch cakes and coffees. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

From behind the House, we peered down to the Tennis Court Lawn, which is on an upper terrace of the Walled Garden.

From behind the House, we peered down to the Tennis Court Lawn, which is on an upper terrace of the Walled Garden.

A Moon Window has been carved through the high hedge which separates the House from the Bowling Green Terrace

A Moon Window has been carved through the high hedge which separates the House from the Bowling Green Terrace

From the western end of the Bowling Green Terrace one first passes through a rustic summerhouse, which opens onto this extraordinary cascade of steps, ramps and raised beds: called THE OVAL GARDEN.

From the western end of the Bowling Green Terrace one first passes through
a rustic summerhouse, which opens onto this extraordinary cascade of steps, ramps and raised beds: called THE OVAL GARDEN.

Detail of the utterly captivating Oval Garden

Detail of the utterly captivating Oval Garden

At the lowest point in the Oval Garden: a shaded, circular terrace, with a view of the Bottom Terrace Garden.

At the lowest point in the Oval Garden: a shaded, circular terrace, with a view of the Bottom Terrace Garden.

rom the Oval Garden's shaded terrace, a view uphill, toward the Summerhouse at the top of the steps. The precision with which these dry-laid stone walls were constructed is amazing.

From the Oval Garden’s shaded terrace, a view uphill, toward the Summerhouse at the top of the steps. The precision with which these dry-laid stone walls were constructed is amazing.

The Walled Garden's Tennis Court Lawn, with a view uphill, to the Main House. Foxgloves were in their full glory.

The Walled Garden’s Tennis Court Lawn, with a view uphill, to the Main House.
Foxgloves were in their full glory.

From the Tennis Court Lawn, Tom's Steps lead up the the Camellia Walk, and to the House.

From the Tennis Court Lawn, Tom’s Steps lead up the the Camellia Walk, and to the House.

Blossoms (which we were too late in the season to see), on the Camellia Walk. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

Blossoms (which we were too late in the season to see), on the Camellia Walk. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

Walled Garden Plaque

Walled Garden Plaque

The Tennis Court Lawn

The Tennis Court Lawn

The borders on all sides of the Tennis Court Lawn were bursting with foxgloves and climbing roses.

The borders on all sides of the Tennis Court Lawn were bursting with foxgloves and climbing roses.

AT the northeastern corner of the Tennis Court Lawn: a gate leading down to the Tower Ruins, and to the Bottom Terrace Garden.

AT the northeastern corner of the Tennis Court Lawn: a gate leading down to the Tower Ruins, and to the Bottom Terrace Garden.

The Tower Ruins, and Bottom Terrace Garden.

The Tower Ruins, and Bottom Terrace Garden.

A closer look at the Tower Ruins and the Bottom Terrace Garden

A closer look at the Tower Ruins and the Bottom Terrace Garden

Looking westward, along the central path of the Bottom Terrace Garden

Looking westward, along the central path of the Bottom Terrace Garden

View from the Bottom Terrace Garden, up toward the House.

View from the Bottom Terrace Garden, up toward the House.

Tower Ruins

Tower Ruins

View from inside the Tower, westward, over the Bottom Terrace Garden

View from inside the Tower, westward, over the Bottom Terrace Garden

View from the top of the Tower, northward, over the Bottom Terrace Garden.

View of the Bottom Terrace Garden.

View from the top of the Tower, over the Old Kitchen buildings in the Bottom Terrace Garden.

View from the top of the Tower, over the Old Kitchen buildings in the Bottom Terrace Garden.

Most of the walls in the Bottom Terrace Garden are the ruins of a 16th century village.

Most of the walls in the Bottom Terrace Garden are the ruins of a 16th century village.

View from the top of the Tower, eastward, toward the Jubilee Arboretum.

View from the top of the Tower, eastward, toward the Jubilee Arboretum.

Facing east, on the central path in the Bottom Terrace Garden

Facing east, on the central path in the Bottom Terrace Garden

At the eastern end of the Bottom Terrace Garden: the gate to the newly-established Jubilee Arboretum.

At the eastern end of the Bottom Terrace Garden: the gate to the newly-established Jubilee Arboretum.

Plaque at the entrance to the Arboretum

Plaque at the entrance to the Arboretum

View from the easternmost end of the Jubilee Arboretum. 100 carefully-selected trees, still in their infancy, will someday grow into a beautiful forest.

View from the easternmost end of the Jubilee Arboretum. 100 carefully-selected trees, still in their infancy, will someday grow into a beautiful forest.

As I exited the Bottom Terrace Garden through its western gate, I turned back for a moment, for one more look.....

As I exited the Bottom Terrace Garden through its western gate, I turned back for a moment, for one more look…..

Heading west, and uphill, I strolled along Devon Lane, the topmost path in the Summer Garden. Before Summertime's poppies burst into flower, this area is called the Bulb Meadow...carpeted with Spring-blooming bulbs, which appear in the following sequence: snowdrops, cyclamen, iris, dwarf daffodils, iris, chinodoxa, crocus, and Eythronium revolutum.

Heading west, and uphill, I strolled along Devon Lane, the topmost path in the
Summer Garden. Before Summertime’s poppies burst into flower, this area is called the Bulb Meadow…carpeted with Spring-blooming bulbs, which appear in the following sequence: snowdrops, cyclamen, iris, dwarf daffodils, iris, chinodoxa, crocus, and Eythronium revolutum.

The Bulb Meadow, as spring blossoms arrive: carpets of Snowdrops. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

The Bulb Meadow, as spring blossoms arrive: carpets of Snowdrops. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

Summer Garden Poppies

Summer Garden Poppies

My view of the upper reaches of the Summer Garden, back toward the House.

My view of the upper reaches of the Summer Garden, back toward the House.

A Dovecote is tucked into the woods, north of the Summer Garden

A Dovecote is tucked into the woods, north of the Summer Garden

Just beyond the Dovecote, I crossed the Wisteria Bridge...with vines that were long-past their bloom-time.

Just beyond the Dovecote, I crossed the Wisteria Bridge…with vines that were long-past their bloom-time.

This is the sight we missed, at the Wisteria Bridge: the glorious explosion of 5 different wisteria cultivars, which happens in May. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

This is the sight we missed, at the Wisteria Bridge: the glorious explosion of 5 different wisteria cultivars, which happens in May. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

After crossing the Wisteria Bridge, there's this surprise of a Bamboo Grove, which encircles a Rustic Summerhouse.

After crossing the Wisteria Bridge, there’s this surprise of a Bamboo Grove, which encircles a Rustic Summerhouse.

Looking south from the Bamboo Grove, and across another part of the Summer Garden, we see yet another Shelter, which is perched above the brand-new Quarry Garden.

Looking south from the Bamboo Grove, and across another part of the Summer Garden, we see yet another Shelter, which is perched above the brand-new Quarry Garden.

My view from the Quarry Garden's Shelter, down over the new Quarry Garden...just planted in 2015. Compact perennials, dwarf shrubs, and tall grasses are just getting themselves established in the beds.

My view from the Quarry Garden’s Shelter, down over the new Quarry Garden…just planted in 2015. Compact perennials, dwarf shrubs, and tall grasses are just getting themselves established in the beds.

Yet another Summer Garden tapestry of flowers

Yet another Summer Garden tapestry of flowers

Farther west, we're in the Wildflower Meadow. Native orchids, snakes-head fritillaries, and many spring and summer flowering perennials bring continual change to the colors in this part of the Garden. The Meadow is mown only once, in Autumn, after seed dispersal.

Farther west, we’re in the Wildflower Meadow. Native orchids, snakes-head fritillaries, and many spring and summer flowering perennials bring continual change to the colors in this part of the Garden. The Meadow is mown only once, in Autumn, after seed dispersal.

Talk about a Great Borrowed View! A distant church, as seen from within the Wildflower Meadow. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

Talk about a Great Borrowed View! A distant church, as seen from within the Wildflower Meadow. Image courtesy of The Garden House.

A path mown through the Wildflower Meadow leads toward the Acer Glade and Rill.

A path mown through the Wildflower Meadow leads toward the Acer Glade and Rill.

The Acer Glade

The Acer Glade

Built in 1994, the Magic Circle marks the southwest corner of the Garden.

Built in 1994, the Magic Circle marks the southwest corner of the Garden.

The timeless appeal of a circle of stones....

The timeless appeal of a circle of stones….

At the Magic Circle, we look eastward, into the Birch Wood.

At the Magic Circle, we look eastward, into the Birch Wood.

Birch Wood detail

Birch Wood detail

Leaving the Birch Wood, we head back toward the House, following the Long Walk

Leaving the Birch Wood, we head back toward the House, following the Long Walk

We enter the South African Garden

We enter the South African Garden

The central path through the South African Garden

The central path through the South African Garden

South African Garden

South African Garden

More wonderful textures in the South African Garden

More wonderful textures in the South African Garden

Our visit to the Garden House nearly done, we savored the exuberant colors and textures in the South African area.

Our visit to the Garden House nearly done, we savored the exuberant colors and textures in the South African area.

After I'd organized my photos of The Garden House --- all taken this past June --- I checked the Garden's website to confirm their contact information. I found this photo of the Meadow below the Wisteria Bridge, in Autumn. Clearly, these Gardens shine, in EVERY season. Image courtesy of The Garden House. For plant-lovers, this Garden is a crucial destination.

After I’d organized my photos of The Garden House — all taken this past June — I checked the Garden’s website to confirm their contact information. I found this photo of the Meadow below the Wisteria Bridge, in Autumn. Clearly, these Gardens shine, in EVERY season. Image courtesy of The Garden House. For plant-lovers, this Garden is a crucial destination.

Following my two hours of blissfully-restful-total-plant-immersion at The Garden House, we made the barely-five-minute commute to nearby Buckland Abbey. Ideally, the Abbey, its Gardens, and its vast Estates should be explored over the course of an entire day. Buckland offers an embarrassment of riches. With over 700 years of architecture, history, and fine craftsmanship and art to study (including a Rembrandt self-portrait, recently bequeathed to the Abbey), along with acres of gardens, and miles of country walks to enjoy, the place begs a Visitor to Amble. Good food is available at the Ox Yard Restaurant. And there’s even an abused-chicken-rescue project going on, in a far corner of the Kitchen Garden.

 Buckland Abbey was established in 1278 by Cistercian monks. In 1541, After King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, the vast estates of the Abbey (which encompassed 20,000 acres) passed into private hands and so eventually became home to two of England’s most swashbuckling maritime personalities : Sir Richard Grenville, followed by Sir Francis Drake. The National Trust opened the Abbey and its estates to the Public in 1951. Image courtesy of The National Trust

Buckland Abbey was established in 1278 by Cistercian monks. In 1541, After King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, the vast estates of the Abbey
(which encompassed 20,000 acres) passed into private hands and so eventually became home to two of England’s most swashbuckling maritime personalities : Sir Richard Grenville, followed by Sir Francis Drake. The National Trust opened the Abbey and its estates to the Public in 1951. Image courtesy of The National Trust

Buckland Abbey, Garden & Estate
Yelverton, Devon PL20 6EY

The Abbey buildings, garden, and estate are all open from March through October (with limited hours during the colder months).

Website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/buckland-abbey/

Plan of Buckland Abbey’s Gardens; and a Map of the Walks across the landscape of the Estate. Key to Estate Walks: YELLOW= Abbots Walk, 1 mile. GREEN=Grenville Walk, 1 ½ miles. RED=Drake Walk, 2 ½ miles. BLUE=Amicia Walk, 3 miles

Plan of Buckland Abbey’s
Gardens; and a Map of the Walks across the landscape of the Estate.
Key to Estate Walks: YELLOW=
Abbots Walk, 1 mile. GREEN=Grenville Walk, 1 ½ miles.
RED=Drake Walk, 2 ½ miles. BLUE=Amicia Walk, 3 miles

Leaving the Car Park, we follow a footpath, which was built in 1988

Leaving the Car Park, we follow a footpath, which was built in 1988

Visitors enter the Abbey complex through the Ox Yard court

Visitors enter the Abbey complex through the Ox Yard court

Plants grown in the Abbey's gardens are for sale, in the Entry Court

Plants grown in the Abbey’s gardens are for sale, in the Entry Court

The semi-octagonal Ox Yard is enclosed by sheds that were constructed during the 1790s. Today’s outdoor Café stands where the “Dung Yard” once was…home to the Abbey’s 22 oxen.

The semi-octagonal Ox Yard is enclosed by sheds
that were constructed during the 1790s. Today’s outdoor Café stands where the “Dung Yard” once was…home to the Abbey’s 22 oxen.

The cluster of ancient buildings which form the Abbey are nestled into the valley of the River Tay; one feels utterly cushioned in the bosom of the land…it’s hard to remember that an ocean churns nearby, only nine miles to the south. But this very proximity to the sea is what made the Abbey such an appealing
home, for two of Devon’s most famous seafarers.

In 1545, the second Sir Richard Grenville, while still an infant (the first Sir Richard, his father, had purchased the Abbey from Henry VIII in 1541), inherited the Abbey. Richard Two became a career soldier and sailor who dreamed of colonizing the Americas, but, without royal patronage, his schemes came to nothing. In 1580, bitter about his failure to gain Royal sponsorship (which should have led to the Greatness and Fame that Richard desperately craved), Grenville sold the property to a more successful adventurer, Sir Francis Drake, who had just achieved the distinction of being the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe (an endeavor which lasted from 1577 until 1580).

As my companions and I explored the Abbey, I became so enthralled by the architecture and by the gardens that I failed to carefully read The National Trust’s guidebook about the property; burying my nose in reference materials is something I always do…but later, after the day’s touring is done.

As I entered the Abbey, I thought: Home of Francis Drake? Well…that’s interesting.

Sir Francis Drake. Born circa 1540, in Devon. Died 1596, in Panama.

Sir Francis Drake. Born circa 1540, in Devon. Died 1596, in Panama.

But, had I then paid closer attention to the Trust’s Guidebook, I would have tumbled to the fact that the Abbey was also home to Sir Richard Grenville, who eventually became Vice Admiral of England’s fleet, and thus the hero of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem THE REVENGE: A BALLAD OF THE FLEET .

Sir Richard Grenville. Born 1542, in Devon. Died 1591, off Flores, Azores Islands.

Sir Richard Grenville. Born 1542, in Devon. Died 1591, off Flores, Azores Islands.

Had I done my homework that day, right there, right then, scraps of verse would have been dislodged, off from dusty shelves at the back of my brain:

“At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay,
And a pinnace, like a flutter’d bird, came flying from far away.
‘Spanish ships of war at sea! We have sighted fifty three!’

….He had only a hundred seamen to work the ship and fight,
And he sail’d away from Flores till the Spaniard came in sight,
With his huge sea-castles heaving upon the weather bow.
‘Shall we fight or shall we fly?
Good Sir Richard, tell us now,
For to fight is but to die!
There’ll be little of us left by the time this sun be set.’
And Sir Richard said again: ‘We be all good English men,
Let us bang these dogs of Seville, the children of the devil,
For I never turned my back on Don or devil yet.’

Sir Richard spoke and he laugh’d, and we roar’d a hurrah , and so
The little ‘Revenge’ ran on, sheer into the heart of the foe.
With her hundred fighters on deck, and her ninety sick below;
For half of their fleet to the right and half to the left were seen,
And the little ‘Revenge’ ran on thro’ the long sea-lane between.”

Etching of the REVENGE, at the Battle of Flores, Azores. 1591.

Etching of the REVENGE, at the Battle of Flores, Azores. 1591.

“…And the night went down, and the sun smiled out from over the summer sea,
And the Spanish fleet with broken sides lay around us all in a ring:
But they dared not touch us again, for they fear’d that we still could sting.
So they watch’d what the end would be,
And we had not fought them in vain,
But in perilous plight were we,
Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain,
And half of the rest of us maim’d for life
In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate strife;
And the sick men down in the hold were most of them stark and cold,
And the pikes were all broken or bent, and the powder was all of it spent;
And the masts and the rigging were lying over the side;
But Sir Richard cried in his English pride,
‘We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
As may never be fought again!
We have won great glory, my men!
And a day less or more
At sea or ashore,
We die – does it matter when?
Sink me the ship, Master Gunner – sink her, split her in twain!
Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain ! ‘ …. ”

With his poem about the ship ‘Revenge,’ Alfred, Lord Tennyson…

 Alfred, Lord Tennyson (born 1809, died 1892). Poet Laureate of Great Britain during much of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (born 1809, died 1892). Poet Laureate of Great Britain during much of Queen Victoria’s reign.

…bestowed upon Sir Richard the immortality that Grenville had sought. Of course, with his 14 stanzas Tennyson also dished up a prime cut of adrenaline-boosting, chest-pounding, revisionist history, nationalist propaganda and sheer poppycock! But what memorable Poppycock! Such is the Power of Rhythm and Rhyme.

Poetry seminar over, we’ll take a fast look inside the Abbey:

Plan of the ground floor rooms of Buckland Abbey. Image courtesy of The National Trust

Plan of the ground floor
rooms of Buckland Abbey. Image courtesy of The National Trust

From the get-go, the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary and St. Benedict at Buckland was a very well funded operation.

Reconstruction of how the Abbey might have looked shortly after it was built in the late 13th century. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

Reconstruction of how the Abbey might have looked shortly after it was built in the late 13th century. Image courtesy of The National Trust.

The Abbey was founded by Amicia de Redvers, matriarch of a boundlessly-wealthy Devon family. As you can see from the previous drawing, the Abbey in its original form, along with its Great Barn, was expansive and anything but humble.

We enter the Abbey through a short projecting wing that was built in the 1800s to contain a new staircase. The Tower was once at the cross-point of a larger structure. The roofline of the demolished south transept is still visible on the Tower’s exterior…just to the right of the FALSE flying buttress. The buttress is actually a chimney flue!

We enter the Abbey through a short projecting wing that was built in the 1800s to contain a new staircase. The Tower was once at the cross-point of a larger structure. The roofline of the demolished south transept is still visible on the Tower’s exterior…just to the right of the FALSE flying buttress. The buttress is actually a chimney flue!

To the east of the front entry is the kitchen wing, which was added by Grenville, and then expanded in the 18th century. Per The National Trust: “This wing still reveals the retaining arches of the chapels that once issued from the east wall of the south transept at ground-floor level.”

To the east of the front entry is the kitchen wing, which was added by Grenville, and then expanded in the 18th century. Per The National Trust: “This wing still reveals the retaining arches of the chapels that once issued from the east wall of the south transept at ground-floor level.”

Upstairs, in the Drake Chamber: A Ship Model. Nothing in this space is original to the time when Drake made the Abbey his home.

Upstairs, in the Drake Chamber: A Ship Model. Nothing in this space is original to the time when Drake made the Abbey his home.

The beautiful ceiling in the Drake Chamber was installed in 1988. The hand-modeled frieze is done in a traditional, Devon style.

The beautiful ceiling in the Drake Chamber was installed in 1988. The hand-modeled frieze is done in a traditional, Devon style.

M.C.Escher-ish view, from the front hall stairway, toward the Georgian Staircase.

M.C.Escher-ish view, from the front hall stairway, toward the Georgian Staircase.

A window by a landing on the front stairs has been etched to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Spanish Armada.

A window by a landing on the front stairs has been etched to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Spanish Armada.

 Inside the Abbey (which over the course of 700 years has been added to, remodeled, and sometimes deconstructed) the collision of eras and architectural styles is most evident upstairs, where the traceried arch in the Lifetimes Gallery once formed part of an outside window looking out over the abbey chancel.

Inside the Abbey (which over the course of 700 years has been added to, remodeled, and sometimes deconstructed)
the collision of eras and architectural styles is most evident upstairs, where the traceried arch in the Lifetimes Gallery once formed part of an outside window looking out over the abbey chancel.

The Georgia Staircase, which rises through 4 floors, was built in the late 18th century.

The Georgian Staircase, which rises through 4 floors, was built in the late 18th century.

 The Kitchen is in the Abbey’s east wing, and was built by Sir Richard Grenville to absorb the monastic chancel. Two open Hearths dominate the room.

The Kitchen is in the
Abbey’s east wing, and was built by Sir Richard Grenville
to absorb the monastic chancel. Two open Hearths dominate the room.

 The second of the massive Hearths in the Kitchen. The antlers above the south Hearth are (fancifully) said to belong to a stag who once chased Sir Francis Drake up a tree.

The second of the massive Hearths in the Kitchen.
The antlers above the south Hearth are (fancifully) said to belong to a stag who once chased Sir Francis Drake up a tree.

Per The National Trust: “The Great Hall is positioned within the original crossing area of the church, directly beneath the tower and adjacent to the south transept that was demolished [in 1576] by Grenville to bring light to this, the most lavishly-remodeled room in the Abbey.”

Every square inch of the Great Hall is decorated: from the plaster ceiling, right down to the stone-tiled floor.

Every square inch of the Great Hall is decorated: from the plaster ceiling, right down to the stone-tiled floor.

The Great Hall’s upper walls are embellished with allegorical scenes. These plasterwork decorations have survived, exactly as they were, ever since Sir Richard Grenville’s occupancy of the Abbey.

The Great Hall’s upper walls are embellished with allegorical scenes. These plasterwork decorations have survived, exactly as they were, ever since Sir Richard Grenville’s occupancy of the Abbey.

Detail of the amazing, dizzying floor, in the Great Hall

Detail of the amazing, dizzying floor, in the Great Hall

The Great Hall's ceiling is supported by shield-bearing satyrs.

The Great Hall’s ceiling is supported by shield-bearing satyrs.

The Great Hall's granite fireplace, with herringbone pattern of slate at the back, is typical of the 16th century.

The Great Hall’s granite fireplace, with herringbone pattern of slate at the back, is typical of the 16th century.

Detail of hearth, in the Great Hall

Detail of hearth, in the Great Hall

I very much enjoyed wandering through the architectural hodge-podge of rooms inside the Abbey itself, but the most magnificent structure within Buckland’s complex of buildings is certainly the Great Barn, which was erected in 1300. From the outside, the Barn, with its progressions of buttresses and arches, is striking.

The eastern elevation of the Great Barn

The eastern elevation of the Great Barn

The western elevation of the Great Barn

The western elevation of the Great Barn

But, from within, the Great Barn presents one of the most impressive volumes of space I’ve ever inhabited. The Barn’s interior is far more inspiring than most of the ecclesiastical buildings I’ve visited.

My view, looking toward the south end of the Great Barn. The walls date from 1300, and the arch-braced wooden roof was constructed in the 15th century.

My view, looking toward the south end of the Great Barn. The walls date from 1300, and the arch-braced wooden roof was constructed in the 15th century.

Continuing with The National Trust’s description:

“The outstanding architectural feature of Buckland is the Great Barn. It was clearly planned for a prosperous community and belongs to the same period as the abbey church. Its dimensions seem to dwarf the church, and it is set obliquely only 24m from the chancel. The putlog holes where the medieval scaffolding was inserted are still open, and dovecotes remain above the great medieval doorways.” The barn would have been used for storage: of harvested crops, and for wood and hides from the Abbey’s estates. The central space, at the crossing-point of the Barn’s wings, was kept clear, and used for winnowing.

My view, toward the north end of the Great Barn

My view, toward the north end of the Great Barn

An 18th century Cider Press is installed at the north end of the Great Barn.

An 18th century Cider Press is installed at the north end of the Great Barn.

A massive door, in the Great Barn

A massive door, in the Great Barn

Medieval Putlog holes are still open, in the Great Barn's stone walls.

Medieval Putlog holes are still open, in the Great Barn’s stone walls.

I exited the Great Barn through this west-facing doorway.

I exited the Great Barn through this west-facing doorway.

Outside of the Great Barn, I found this superb Herb Garden. Remember, the walls which form the backdrop for this Garden were built in 1300. Walls of such antiquity are the Ultimate Garden Ornament.

Outside of the Great Barn, I found this superb Herb Garden. Remember, the walls which form the backdrop for this Garden were built in 1300. Walls of such antiquity are the
Ultimate Garden Ornament.

Per The National Trust: “ It is probable that the Herb Garden outside of the Great Barn was established after a visit by Vita Sackville-West. The irregular-shaped beds contain over 40 different herbs.”

[ Note: For a good look at Vita-Sackville West’s own gardens at Sissinghurst, read my Armchair Diary titled
PART THREE. RAMBLING THROUGH THE GARDENS & ESTATES OF KENT, ENGLAND. ]

The Herb Garden, and the Great Barn

The Herb Garden, and the Great Barn

The Herb Garden

The Herb Garden

We headed toward the northern-most portions of the Abbey’s Gardens. The grounds immediately surrounding the Barn and Abbey are all 20th-century creations… but creations which are seamlessly integrated into ancient settings. This merging of the modern and the antique is something at which British gardeners excel.

Our first stop: the “Elizabethan Garden,” which was designed during the 1990s in a Tudor style.

We approach the forecourt of the Elizabethan Garden. The Abbot’s Tower is in the background.

We approach the forecourt of the Elizabethan Garden. The Abbot’s Tower is in the background.

Armillary in the forecourt of the Elizabethan Garden, with the north end of the Great Barn looming behind.

Armillary in the forecourt of the Elizabethan Garden, with the north end of the Great Barn looming behind.

The central path in the Elizabethan Garden. At center, rear: The Abbey’s Tower (which was originally located at the center of a larger building), with its undulating battlements (these decorative flourishes were added in the 18th century).

The central path in the Elizabethan Garden.
At center, rear: The Abbey’s Tower (which was originally located at the center of a larger building), with its undulating battlements (these decorative flourishes were added in the 18th century).

A closer look at the North Front of the Abbey, as seen from the Elizabethan Garden.

A closer look at the North Front of the Abbey, as seen from the Elizabethan Garden.

Central Pool in the Elizabethan Garden, with the Abbot's Tower in the background.

Central Pool in the Elizabethan Garden, with the Abbot’s Tower in the background.

In search of the Kitchen Garden, we follow this alleyway, which runs outside the northern wall of the Elizabethan Garden. These walls are ancient farmyard enclosures, and have been used to define newly-made gardens.

In search of the Kitchen Garden, we follow this alleyway, which runs outside the northern wall of the Elizabethan Garden. These walls are ancient farmyard enclosures, and have been used to define newly-made gardens.

The Gate to the Kitchen Garden

The Gate to the Kitchen Garden

A corner of the extensive Kitchen Garden

A corner of the extensive Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden

Barry and Janet rest in a sunny corner of the Kitchen Garden.

Barry and Janet rest in a sunny corner of the Kitchen Garden.

The Great Barn, and the Abbey, as seen from within the Kitchen Garden.

The Great Barn, and the Abbey, as seen from within the Kitchen Garden.

Chickens, rescued from abominable living conditions, now recover in the Kitchen Garden.

Chickens, rescued from abominable living conditions, now recover in the Kitchen Garden.

The British Hen Welfare Trust is saving chickens by the tens of thousands.

The British Hen Welfare Trust is saving chickens by the tens of thousands.

Time to head west, toward the Cider House Garden.

Time to head west, toward the Cider House Garden.

The eastern-most sections of the Cider House Garden abut the Cider House Bed & Breakfast building (shown here)....looks like QUITE a nice place to bunk, eh?

The eastern-most sections of the Cider House Garden abut the Cider House Bed & Breakfast building (shown here)….looks like QUITE a nice place to bunk, eh?

The private terrace of the Cider House's Bed & Breakfast accommodation. More and more of The National Trust's properties are offering B&B lodgings (earlier in this Diary, I forgot to mention that a B&B is also on site, at Agatha Christie's Greenway).

The private terrace of the Cider House’s Bed & Breakfast accommodation. More and more of The National Trust’s properties are offering B&B lodgings (earlier in this Diary, I forgot to mention that a B&B is also on site, at Agatha Christie’s Greenway).

The B&B area of the Cider House Garden, with the northern hills of the Estate, in the background.

The B&B area of the Cider House Garden, with the northern hills of the Estate, in the background.

A new Rill has been added to the B&B area of the Cider House Garden.

A new Rill has been added to the B&B area of the Cider House Garden.

We're now within the public section of the Cider House Garden, with wonderful views of the Estate's hillsides, where flocks of sheep graze.

We’re now within the public section of the Cider House Garden, with wonderful views of the Estate’s hillsides, where flocks of sheep graze.

Lushly-planted borders in the Cider House Garden.

Lushly-planted borders in the Cider House Garden.

A green archway at the western end of the Cider House Garden

A green archway at the western end of the Cider House Garden

This gate separates the Cider House Garden and the Wild Garden

This gate separates the Cider House Garden and the Wild Garden

Detail of the Cider House/Wild Garden gate

Detail of the Cider House/Wild Garden gate

David and Anne rest their feet, in a Wild Garden Shelter

David and Anne rest their feet, in a Wild Garden Shelter

Our visit to Buckland's gardens nearly complete, we leave the Wild Garden, and head back across the Central Lawn of the Cider House Garden.

Our visit to Buckland’s gardens nearly complete, we leave the Wild Garden, and head back across the Central Lawn of the Cider House Garden.

Just past the eastern gate to the Cider House Garden, we came upon this beautiful but slightly disturbing bench. (Horses' heads immediately lead to thoughts of that grisly scene in GODFATHER ONE.)

Just past the eastern gate to the Cider House Garden, we came upon this beautiful but slightly disturbing bench. (Horses’ heads immediately lead to thoughts of that grisly scene in GODFATHER ONE.)

Having enjoyed this final look at the Abbot's Tower, we decided that our Scones-and-Tea-Time was LONG overdue, and so repaired to the Ox Yard Cafe.

Having enjoyed this final look at the Abbot’s Tower, we decided that our Scones-and-Tea-Time was LONG overdue, and so repaired to the Ox Yard Cafe.

Back at the Car Park, I decided that, at some point in the future, I must return to Buckland Abbey: there are still Estate Walks to explore. (Note: the shaded gray area on the Visitors' Map indicates the Bed & Breakfast area of the Cider House Garden.)

Back at the Car Park, I decided that, at some point in the future, I must return to Buckland Abbey: there are still Estate Walks to explore. (Note: the shaded gray area on the Visitors’ Map indicates the Bed & Breakfast area of the Cider House Garden.)

Having hatched plans to meet Janet and Barry later for dinner back in Dartmouth, Anne and David and I took our leave from Buckland Abbey.

Anne decided that our homeward travels should be along more scenic routes than those of our utilitarian, morning commute. And so Anne’s chosen path led us from west to east, and across the otherworldly landscapes of Devon’s Dartmoor National Park.

Map of Dartmoor National Park. website: www.dartmoor.gov.uk

Map of Dartmoor National Park.
website: http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk

Apart from knowing that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set his novel THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES amid the mist-shrouded peat bogs of Devon, I’d given little thought to the existence of Dartmoor.

Book cover of the First Edition

Book cover of the First Edition

But my too-brief visit there, in late afternoon of June 29th, made an indelible impression . Visions of Dartmoor’s intricate folds in the land; of stark pyramids of hundreds of rocky tors; of wild horses grazing; of free-roaming cows wallowing in ponds; and of still more cattle lounging proprietarily on the warm pavements of the narrow roadways; of the depressing, Victorian hulk of Princetown’s high security prison; of hilltops which made me feel as if I had ascended into the sky…these images now enrich me. Rarely have I been enveloped by such clarity of light, or have I been in a place that seemed simultaneously so joyful, and yet so forlorn.

A quarter of the way into the Park, we stopped near Walkhampton, at a car park on Route B3212.

Bicyclists, Cattle and Motorists congregate by Route B3212, on one of south Dartmoor's higher peaks.

Bicyclists, Cattle and Motorists congregate by Route B3212, on one of south Dartmoor’s higher peaks.

Google satellite view of that same car park and cattle pond.

Google satellite view of that same car park and cattle pond.

Clearly Contended Cows, with a Tor on the horizon.

Clearly Contended Cows, with a Tor on the horizon. “Tor” is an old English term, probably Celtic in origin. A Tor is a pile of bare rocks, at the peak of a hill.

A closer look at the Tor, which is a natural outcropping of bedrock.

A closer look at the Tor, which is a natural outcropping of bedrock.

My eastern view, toward a giant Tor in the distance.

My eastern view, toward a giant Tor in the distance.

My view, to the north east

My view, to the north east

Wild Horses grazing, alongside the road

Wild Horses grazing, alongside the road

A Mother and her Colt: utterly indifferent to my presence. These animals know that this land belongs to them.

A Mother and her Colt: utterly indifferent to my presence. These animals know that this land belongs to them.

The more I see of the World, the more the disparate threads of my hundreds of preoccupations — preoccupations which I’ve accumulated over many decades — seem to intertwine into something resembling a Sensible Whole, one which makes me suspect that there might indeed be an Actual Narrative to my Life.
In Southern Devon, especially, Landscape and Warfare and History and Mysteries and Myth, along with Gardens and Architecture and Livestock and Poetry and Art: these all presented themselves to me as indispensible parts of an enormously rich Whole, and a Whole which resonated with me on the deepest, personal levels.

I constantly yearn to revisit all of the marvels that I’ve been fortunate enough to see. But my thoughts about Southern Devon have become more than mere longing: I now think of the place with love.

Part Two of my Travel Diary about Southern Devon will appear, in time…

My most enduring memory of Dartmoor.

My most enduring memory of Dartmoor.

Copyright 2015. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express & written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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An Idiosyncratic Survey of Sculpture, in Gardens of the Western World

Kiftsgate Court's Water Garden Fountain

Kiftsgate Court’s Water Garden Fountain

APRIL, 2015

As we create our gardens, we often find that the presence of plant material alone cannot satisfy our aesthetic sensibilities, and so we begin the often perplexing quest for objects to use as decoration for our little Edens. Sometimes, our beds of well-tended plants seem incomplete and in need of punctuation. The dedicated gardener then seeks art…objects with which to literally gild the lilies that she grows.

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Whether or not we’re aware of it, our collective notions about what the roles of sculptural adornments in gardens should be harken back to concepts that were reborn during the Italian Renaissance.
For 1000 years prior to the late 1400s, formal gardens in Europe had been primarily utilitarian places where food, roses, and medicinal herbs were grown. Certainly, in the Medieval cloister garden, some thought was also given to creating a beautiful and peaceful ambience, but apart from decoration applied to central well-heads, those spaces were largely unembellished. A Medieval garden was, above all, a place to bow down to the greater glory of God and his Creations. The uniformity of such gardens—which were all laid out on a square, with paths that crossed at a central point to honor Christ’s death—was a given.

PlanOfCloisterGarden

During the Italian Renaissance, the rise of Humanism encouraged rulers and the intelligentsia to consider that, while they could continue to live as Christians who piously humbled themselves before God, they could also begin to joyously cultivate all of the temporal pleasures which were due to humankind, and, particularly, to themselves. In this new environment of thought, society’s dominant castes recognized that, much as the ancient Romans had once done, the most effective way for the powerful to demonstrate their might would be to create rituals, and spectacles, and palaces that were expressly meant to capture the public eye. Italy’s ruling families utilized every aspect of their lives, both public and private, to symbolically announce their might and influence. They built themselves grand villas, and around them they planted the first extravagant gardens that had been fashioned, since the glory days of the Roman Empire.

Using a stock repertoire of mythical symbols and allegories resurrected from Roman antiquity, the nobility made gardens that, apart from providing their households with food and flowers, performed two essential tasks. Task one was to symbolically demonstrate man’s control over the natural world; and this was accomplished through geometry, as garden beds were planted to conform to precisely-ruled shapes. Task two was to introduce concepts and themes into the minds of those who visited the nobles’ gardens: this was achieved by using sculptures as the vehicles by which those ideas would be delivered. Strategically-chosen statues were mounted with serious intention. Each statue was meant to attest to the virtues and aspirations of the garden-makers themselves.

The Rometta, in the gardens of Villa d'Este. Tivoli, Italy.

The Rometta, in the gardens of Villa d’Este. Tivoli, Italy.

In the Renaissance, the widely-understood iconography of ancient myth enabled statuary to function as message-bearer. If a nobleman wished to proclaim that his strength rivaled that of Hercules, or his wisdom equaled that of Athena, no words were needed. Instead, statues referring to classical mythology were mounted prominently in the nobleman’s garden. With sculpture, ideas were silently but clearly stated. “As is the gardener, so is the garden.” This notion became central to garden design. No longer was a garden made in deference to a Medieval God. Instead, a garden became a paradise which mirrored the magnificence of its human creator, and its decorations were used as the embodiment of ideas, and for the definition of self.

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While I’d love to give you a comprehensive look at how the use of sculpture in the gardens of the Western World has developed over the past 500 years, practicality requires that I begin in a recent era, and so the in-depth portion of our photo tour will start at the beginning of the 20th century … when sea-changes in the established patterns of living were underway and when no aspect of life would go untransformed. In 1900, European monarchies and Imperial Powers still dominated. But global conflict, along with technological, scientific, and medical advances, would soon turn the world on its collective ear. Small wonder that, even in the realm of garden design, traditional styles of decoration began to give way to abstract or idiosyncratic pieces of art. And now, in the early decades of the 21st century, garden art has come to symbolize entirely new sets of concepts; concepts which would have been meaningless to the Ancients.

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

We’ll see how, in the early 20th century, conventions in English and American garden décor began to break free from the historical models which had persisted in the Western World since the early 1500s, when the Medici had established the paradigms for garden decoration. We’ll visit a handful of English homes where contemporary sculpture has been used to usher antique gardens into the 21st century. We’ll also see how recently-made pieces have enlivened a variety of gardens …gardens which range from the humble to the grand.

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show

At a recent Chelsea Flower Show

Each of these gardens that I’ve chosen to illustrate would be certainly LESS, if deprived of their various, sculptural additions. Every picture you’ll see here will be of a place that I’ve actually visited…this is because I’m unable to properly understand garden art unless I’ve walked ‘round it, in its actual setting. I hope this whirlwind tour will stimulate your imaginations, help you to refocus your vision, and inspire you to consider making modest sculptural additions to your own gardens.

Even though we’re avoiding full immersion in garden design history, as a jumping-off point, we must briefly acknowledge the garden at Villa di Castello, on the outskirts of Florence, which was designed in 1537.

Villa di Castello, Florence, Italy

Villa di Castello, Florence, Italy

This estate established a standard for the use of garden sculpture which then persisted through many centuries. Castello is the first real example in Renaissance Italy of a garden created to celebrate the glory and influence of its owner: Cosimo de Medici, the 1st Grand Duke of Tuscany. In this garden, as well as at the nearby Boboli Gardens, (which were part of yet another of the great, Medici residences), statuary was a dual-purpose tool: arrayed as much to entice the eye as it was deployed to tickle the mind.

At Villa di Castello, this large fountain symbolizes one of Florence's nearby mountains.

At Villa di Castello, this large fountain symbolizes one of Florence’s nearby mountains.

Villa di Castello

Villa di Castello

Villa di Castello

Villa di Castello

The Winter Fopuntain, at Villa di Castello

The Winter Fountain, at Villa di Castello

The Boboli Gardens, adjacent to the Pitti Palace, in Florence

The Boboli Gardens, adjacent to the Pitti Palace, in Florence

Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens

The Neptune Fountain, in the Boboli Gardens

The Neptune Fountain, in the Boboli Gardens

Pegasus, in the Boboli Gardens

Pegasus, in the Boboli Gardens

Behind locked gates in the Boboli Gardens, the massive Oceanus Fountain looms.

Behind locked gates in the Boboli Gardens, the
massive Oceanus Fountain
looms.

Another peek at the Boboli Garden's Oceanus Fountain, which is in the background

Another peek at the Boboli Garden’s Oceanus Fountain, which is in the background

We’ll travel forward now, across 4000 miles and 350 years, from Renaissance Italy to Sleepy Hollow, New York…to arrive at a garden begun at the zenith of America’s Country Place Era.

Kykuit. Image courtesy of the Historic Hudson Valley Press

Kykuit. Image courtesy of the Historic Hudson Valley Press

And what had changed, at least when it came to the gardens of the Western world’s wealthiest and most powerful? Very little, it seems. Just as the Medici had erected a fountain by which they claimed kinship with the god Oceanus—who ruled the seas, and from whom all rivers sprang—in 1914, at Kykuit, John D. Rockefeller commissioned his very own Oceanus fountain…

My rainy-day-in-June view of Kykuit's Oceanus Fountain, as seen from the front portico of the Main House.

My rainy-day-in-June view of Kykuit’s Oceanus Fountain, as seen from the front portico of the Main House.

… by which he suggested HIS similarities to past rulers, both human and mythical.

A closer view of the Oceanus Fountain, which was added to Kykuit's Forecourt in 1914.

A closer view of the Oceanus Fountain, which was added to Kykuit’s Forecourt in 1914.

As I look at the Kykuit Oceanus, what I mostly see is an unimaginative and bombastic imposition upon the Hudson Valley landscape. For Rockefeller, the principal of GENIUS LOCI — the idea that garden designs should always be adapted to the contexts in which they’re located — was clearly not an operational concern.

And in his Rose Garden, Rockefeller placed this much more charming but still referential decoration…another copy of a Boboli Garden fountain.

Kykuit's Rose Garden Fountain

Kykuit’s Rose Garden Fountain

But eventually, when John D. Rockefeller’s grandson Nelson turned his youthful energies to decorating the terraces and meadows around the family home, Kykuit’s art began to reflect the modern world, and so became America’s first, and most significant private garden to be adorned with contemporary sculpture. From 1935 until his death in 1979, Nelson Rockefeller’s tastes evolved, and he acquired sculpture in a wide range of styles. We who today visit Kykuit can never hope to acquire equivalent pieces for our own gardens. However, Kykuit’s opulent grounds are relevant to even the most humble gardener for a single, powerful reason: Nelson’s careful siting of each piece of sculpture provides us with a master class in how to sensitively integrate art into a garden.

Here now, a tour of Kykuit’s gardens:

Terraces of the West Garden, overlooking the Pool Garden

Terraces of the West Garden, overlooking the Pool Garden

One of a pair of Giant Etruscan Urns, at the top of the West Garden

One of a pair of Giant Etruscan Urns, at the top of the West Garden

Halfway down the Rill that bisects the Inner Garden, stands Maillol's BATHER PUTTING UP HER HAIR.

Halfway down the Rill that bisects the Inner Garden, stands Maillol’s BATHER PUTTING UP HER HAIR.

A collection of bronzes: lined up along the wall of the Inner Garden....rather too crowded for comfort.

A collection of bronzes: lined up along the wall of the Inner Garden….rather too crowded for comfort.

A Fountainhead in the Tea House Pool

A Fountainhead in the Tea House Pool

Sculpture from 1953 in the Inner Garden. This piece is mounted with breathing room around it, and the effect is splendid.

Sculpture from 1953 in the Inner Garden. This piece is mounted with breathing room around it, and the effect is splendid.

A bronze, by the wall that separates the Inner Garden from the Brook Garden

A bronze, by the wall that separates the Inner Garden from the Brook Garden

The Japanese-styled Brook Garden

The Japanese-styled Brook Garden

Sculpture from 1960, in the Brook Garden

Sculpture from 1960, in the Brook Garden

Sculptures from 1956, near the Brook Garden

Sculptures from 1956, near the Brook Garden

A piece from 1971 in the Children's Garden

A piece from 1971 in the Children’s Garden

In 1968 this abstract winged figure was mounted above the Pool Terrace

In 1968 this abstract winged figure was mounted above the Pool Terrace

In 1962 a Henry Moore was mounted, downhill from the Rose Garden

In 1962 a Henry Moore was mounted, downhill from the Rose Garden

In 1965, this large piece appeared, along the Maple Walk

In 1965, this large piece appeared, along the Maple Walk

And in 1966, the most artfully-sited piece of all was placed below the Maple Walk. I took this picture in early June of 2013, during a violent rainstorm, and the silhouettes of the wet tree trunks combined with the Calder sculpture were wonderful.

And in 1966, the most artfully-sited piece of all was placed below the Maple Walk. I took this picture in early June of 2013, during a violent rainstorm, and the silhouettes of the wet tree trunks combined with the Calder sculpture were wonderful.

We’ll leave America now, and cross the Atlantic to look at a modest English garden that was begun by an artists’ collective during the same period as when John D. Rockefeller was imitating Florentine nobility on the grounds of his New York estate.

Charleston, East Sussex, England. A small pool at the center of the Walled Garden's lawn is edged with tiles that are reproductions of the original tiles, which were painted by Vanessa Bell in 1930.

Charleston, East Sussex, England. A small pool at the center of the Walled Garden’s lawn is edged with tiles that are reproductions of the original tiles, which were painted by Vanessa Bell in 1930.

In 1916, the artist Vanessa Bell, with her two young sons by her husband Clive Bell, along with Vanessa’s sometime-lover Duncan Grant, as well as Duncan’s sometime-lover David Garnett, set up house in a rambling, former inn, that was nestled in a boggy valley, below the South Downs of East Sussex.

Charleston--Front Entry Court

Charleston–Front Entry Court

After this group settled, they were often joined by Vanessa’s estranged husband Clive, who was given his own bedroom there, and by another of Vanessa’s former flames, the art critic Roger Fry, who was also the founder of the Omega Workshop. Somehow, living in this hothouse of shifting emotional alliances stimulated the ideas and talents of these people—who were all accomplished painters and sculptors—and together they generated an enormous output of art….a bit of which found its way into the gardens outside the house, which they had named Charleston.

In 1919 Vanessa’s sister, the writer Virginia Woolf, moved to Monk’s House, a farmhouse that was part of an abandoned pig farm, in a nearby village.

Monk's House--Rear Garden

Monk’s House–Rear Garden

Statue, overlooking a pond, in the garden at Monk's House

Statue, overlooking a pond, in the garden at Monk’s House

The ashes of both Virginia and Leonard Woolf are buried in the garden, at Monk's House

The ashes of both Virginia and Leonard Woolf are buried in the garden, at Monk’s House

[Note: in a future Armchair Traveler’s Diary, I’ll show you much more of Monk’s House—inside and out–along with the interiors at Charleston.]

The sisters came from the Stephen family— a highly-cultured, and overwhelmingly traditional London clan—and both women felt suffocated by the curtailed options which society offered to ladies of their class. Both sisters married young, as they were expected to do, but thereafter each began to live according to her own terms. The sisters’ rejections of their respectable upbringing had the inevitable consequence of intermittent poverty, but with ingenuity, and incessant labor , Vanessa—with her various colleagues—and Virginia—with her husband Leonard, who was the most talented plantsman of the bunch— made lovely little gardens, which reflected departures from the elaborate and stiff style that had been the norm, during their Edwardian childhoods.

We’re going to visit Vanessa Bell’s Charleston now, which is to this day still at the center of a working dairy farm.

Charleston's Cows, during my visit last May

Charleston’s Cows, last May, when Anne and David Guy and I visited Vanessa Bell’s home in East Sussex.

As during Vanessa’s time, the bracing odor of manure fills the air. When Vanessa began gardening, her first concern was to provide food for her children. She grew fruit and vegetables, kept rabbits, chickens, a pig, and bees. But Vanessa’s bone-deep need to enhance her environments soon extended outside the house, which she’d already embellished with patterns and color.

Fountainhead, in the Walled Garden

Fountainhead, in the Walled Garden

Charleston’s gardens are small and planted in painterly swathes of color. The specific identities of the artists who produced the sculptures and decorative brick that adorn Charleston’s gardens are sometimes unknowable because the members of the Omega Workshop produced their art anonymously. Most of the identifiable work was added by Quentin Bell, the son of Vanessa and Clive. But, regardless of origin, the sculptural elements in Charleston’s gardens, which were made over many decades, from 1916 until 1973, all exhibit humor, and a rustic, hand-crafted power. I’d be happy to include any of these features in MY garden.

Two Urns, made in 1956 by Quentin Bell, mark the entry to Charleston's front courtyard. The on-site shop sells reproductions of these, but they're enormously heavy. And so, although I longed to acquire an Urn, I didn't have one shipped back to my garden, in New Hampshire.

Two Urns, made in 1956 by Quentin Bell, mark the entry to Charleston’s front courtyard. The on-site shop sells reproductions of these, but they’re enormously heavy. And so, although I longed to acquire an Urn, I didn’t have one shipped back to my garden, in New Hampshire.

Quentin Bell's tall FEMALE FIGURE, on the far side of the pond, was made in 1954.

Quentin Bell’s tall FEMALE FIGURE, on the far side of the pond, was made in 1954.

And Quentin Bell's statue of POMONA, also made in 1954, guards a path to the Orchard. Pomona is a Roman goddess, and the keeper of fruit trees.

And Quentin Bell’s statue of POMONA, also made in 1954, guards a path to the Orchard. Pomona is a Roman goddess, and the keeper of fruit trees.

We enter the Walled Garden, which is behind the House

We enter the Walled Garden, which is behind the House

A Bust is mounted, just inside the entry to the Walled Garden. This wall is built with typical Southeastern England's combination of brick and broken flint stones.

A Bust is mounted, just inside the entry to the Walled Garden. This wall is built with typical Southeastern England’s combination of brick and broken flint stones.

Detail of shell sculptures, near the pool in the Walled Garden

Detail of shell sculptures, near the pool in the Walled Garden

A section of the Walled Garden. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell chose all of the plants for the garden, and today's beds have been filled with those same flowers. Along the top of the brick wall in the background are the numerous busts of Ancient Greeks, which Duncan lifted from art schools.

A section of the Walled Garden. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell chose all of the plants for the garden, and today’s beds have been filled with those same flowers. Along the top of the brick wall in the background are the numerous busts of Ancient Greeks, which Duncan lifted from art schools.

The Lady is tucked into the Drunken Hedge, which extends across the width of the Walled Garden. Drunken Hedges are in themselves a form of living sculpture. ( In a future Diary I'll show you more examples of Drunken Hedges. )

The Lady is tucked into the Drunken Hedge, which extends across the width of the Walled Garden. Drunken Hedges are in themselves a form of living sculpture. ( In a future Diary I’ll show you more examples of Drunken Hedges. )

Here's a replica of a ( VERY PRACTICAL ) Wheeled Bench, designed by the Omega Workshop

Here’s a replica of a ( VERY PRACTICAL ) Wheeled Bench, designed by the Omega Workshop

And Charleston's very best planter of them all....which I'd love to have a copy of.

And Charleston’s very best planter of them all….which I’d love to have a copy of.

When I compare the sleek gardens at Kykuit with those made by Vanessa Bell and her elastic household, the appeal of owning trophy art lessens. I compare the Rockefellers’ insatiable collecting of name-brand artists with the Charleston occupants’ production of decorative pieces and I realize that Charleston’s greatest gift is the example set by its home-made garden ornaments, all of which suggest that anyone of us with imagination and time to spare could at least make a stab at devising some sculptural pieces of our own.

But remember, even the free-thinkers at Charleston saw fit to add a garden deity—Pomona—the goddess who protected their orchard. A garden…whether ancient or modern…often seems to want a symbol of its guardian spirit.

Which brings me to the inevitable issue of Garden Gnomes.

I mean REALLY! Let's not pretend these don't exist...

I mean REALLY! Let’s not pretend these don’t exist…

In the 19th century, in Germany, garden gnomes began to appear in great numbers. Having a gnome in one’s garden was considered prudent: the presence of a gnome was thought to bring good fortune. But, if we look harder at gnome-history, we see that, once again, we can blame the Italians, who, during the Mannerist era—in the mid 1500s—began to place statues of dwarves and hunchbacks in their gardens. Scholars have speculated that these Italian dwarves were versions of the Greco-Roman fertility god Priapus, whose statue was often found in ancient gardens. And so, although the Chelsea Flower Show has banned garden gnomes from their exhibit grounds for 100 out of the past 101 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Royal Horticultural Society is being arbitrary and capricious when they say that gnomes detract from a garden’s design. As someone who has been both a Chelsea exhibitor and a spectator I’m lodging a tiny protest, and so this Spring I’ve just placed a single gnome into a corner of my shady, Hosta bed.

Here's my Hermes...enduring New Hampshire's endless Winter, without complaint.

Here’s my Hermes…enduring New Hampshire’s endless Winter, without complaint.

I already have an antique bust of the messenger god mounted in my garden….and it’s about time for my Hermes to have a little fertility god nearby, just to keep things from getting too serious.

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Now, since the Chelsea Flower Show has entered the conversation, here’s a selection of garden sculpture exhibits, from the past several Shows. Some of these pieces are obviously, massively expensive, while others are not. But every display offers food for thought.

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

At the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo by Anne Guy.

This final, Chelsea image is the most intriguing. It consists of nothing more than painted lengths of rough wood that are stuck into the ground. If you’re looking for a template for an interesting do-it-yourself garden decoration project, this might be it.

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Among historians of late 20th century garden design, the next garden that I’ll show you is the most famous do-it-yourself project of them all, as well as the most controversial.

The View of Prospect Cottage, from the shingle beach. All of the photos you next see of Derek Jarman's gardens at Prospect Cottage were taken by the English garden designer Anne Guy.

The View of Prospect Cottage, from the shingle beach. All of the photos you next see of Derek Jarman’s gardens at Prospect Cottage were taken by the English garden designer Anne Guy.

In 1986, as he was dying of AIDS, the British film director Derek Jarman retreated to a cottage in Dungeness, on England’s southern coast. When I went there in August of 2013, it seemed as if I’d left England behind. With one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe, the Dungeness peninsula is classified as Britain’s only desert, and the military has long used the beach and marshes for training exercises. And within sight of Jarman’s house, which he named Prospect Cottage, the gray towers of the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station loom.

Telephoto view of the Nuclear Power Station at Dungeness, as seen from the gardens at Prospect Cottage.

Telephoto view of the Nuclear Power Station at Dungeness, as seen from the gardens at Prospect Cottage.

But, despite the apparent bleakness there by the English Channel, Dungeness is actually full of life. Multitudes of birds and insects flourish, along with more than 600 types of native plants; the entire area is designated a Nature Reserve.

Jarman’s daily walks along the rocky beach yielded materials that appealed to his artist’s eye. Piles of polished stone, bundles of bleached driftwood, and twisted lengths of rebar began to accumulate outside his front door. Almost without thought, Jarman began to arrange his stones in patterns on the ground…

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

… and to stake newly-planted beach roses with the driftwood…

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

…and to barricade tender plants behind curlicues of rusted metal.

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

When all was said and done, Jarman had created a post-modern and highly context-sensitive garden, one which was a complete rejection of what he saw as the sterility of modernism. He loved allusion and stories…

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

… and had the words of his favorite poem by John Donne affixed to the side of his house. Many cannot appreciate the artistry of Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage; I’ve had people tell me his sculptures are nothing but piles of junk. Jarman’s garden looks like it’s on another planet, instead of near Kent, which is known as the Garden of England. But Jarman made a garden that honored the genius of a very particular location, and that integrity is what gives the place its magic.

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage Garden

Prospect Cottage

Prospect Cottage

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As I’ve made my annual journeys to England, I’ve discovered dozens of gardens that use contemporary sculpture to distinguish themselves. In just these past two summers, I’ve added the following 5 gardens to my Favorites List. At each estate, recently-made pieces of art blend gracefully with superb demonstrations of horticulture. I’ll show you the gardens chronologically….organized by the date when the House on each property was built. And remember, even though all of these gardens are open to the public… some on a very limited basis…these places, though magnificent, still have a primary function as HOMES, where gardens are influenced by the tastes and personalities of the homeowners.

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First, to Arundel Castle, in West Sussex.

I approached Arundel Castle, on a stormy day in May of 2014.

Accompanied by Anne and David Guy, I approached Arundel Castle, on a stormy day in May of 2014.

The Castle was begun on Christmas Day, in 1067.

Thirty acres of gardens and parkland surround the Castle, but what most interested me was the Collector Earl’s Garden, which was opened in 2008.

The Water Garden, with a grass Labyrinth ( and Arundel Cathedral, in the background)

The Water Garden, with a grass Labyrinth ( and Arundel Cathedral, in the background)

We owe the existence of this garden to the current Duchess of Norfolk, Georgina Fitzalan-Howard, who named the garden in honor of her husband Henry, the Earl of Arundel and Duke of Norfolk.

All of the sections of the New Collector Earl's Garden were designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman. The Bannermans' gardens include ornamental features inspired by the classical garden vocabulary, which are modernized by carvings made of green oak, used in place of stone. When the green oak ages, the wood becomes as unbreakable as rock.

All of the sections of the New Collector Earl’s Garden were designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman. The Bannermans’ gardens include ornamental features inspired by the classical garden vocabulary, which are modernized by carvings made of green oak, used in place of stone. When the green oak ages, the wood becomes as unbreakable as rock.

Here we have a fabulous example of a Borrowed View! Although the Cathedral isn't part of the Castle grounds, the New Garden cleverly uses the forms of the Cathedral as a backdrop for the forms in the Garden, which echo the Cathedral's spires and windows.

Here we have a fabulous example of a Borrowed View! Although the Cathedral isn’t part of the Castle grounds, the New Garden cleverly uses the forms of the Cathedral as a backdrop for the forms in the Garden, which echo the Cathedral’s spires and windows.

But what really got my attention was the huge expanse of the STUMPERY, where massive tree roots are upended and used as visual anchors for wild and wooly garden beds. These towering plants are commonly called Tree Echium, or Pride of Madiera, and are native to the Canary Islands.

But what really got my attention was the huge expanse of the STUMPERY, where massive tree roots are upended and used as visual anchors for wild and wooly garden beds. These towering plants are commonly called Tree Echium, or Pride of Madiera, and are native to the Canary Islands.

Just to drive home to you the enormity of Tree Echium, which are used for sculptural effect, here I am, to provide human scale.

Just to drive home to you the enormity of Tree Echium, which are used for sculptural effect, here I am, to provide human scale.

Another section of the Stumpery.

Another section of the Stumpery.

A final look at the Stumpery...and see how the blossoms of the Lupine mimic the shapes and tracery of the Cathedral windows! This is gardening, being practiced at the highest levels.

A final look at the Stumpery…and see how the blossoms of the Lupine mimic the shapes and tracery of the Cathedral windows! This is gardening, being practiced at the highest levels.

So, this oldest Home of our tour, which happens to have the newest garden, forced me to reassess my hatred for the uprooted tree stumps in my own yard. Next summer, instead of automatically chipping them, I’ll be evaluating each stump for its potential as garden sculpture.

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Next, to Pashley Manor, in East Sussex.

Pashley Manor

Pashley Manor

This house was built in 1550. But earlier, the site had a hunting lodge that was owned by the family of Anne Boleyn. The gardens at Pashley were established in 1981, and in year 2000 were voted the best Garden in the United Kingdom, by the Historic Houses Association. The sculptural additions here are romantic and largely narrative, and reinforce the fairy-tale atmosphere of the East Sussex hills and sheep-filled meadows.

Sculpture on a grass path welcomes us. (Note: Pashley Manor is another of the many gardens that Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson and Chariot-Driver Steve Parry have taken me to. And in July of 2015,  Amanda and Steve and I will resume our touring; this time concentrating upon Surrey, and East Sussex...and with a bit more of Kent, thrown in for good measure). Amanda's contact info can be found in the Borde Hill section of this Diary.)

Sculpture on a grass path welcomes us. (Note: Pashley Manor is another of the many gardens that Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson and Chariot-Driver Steve Parry have taken me to. And in July of 2015, Amanda and Steve and I will resume our touring; this time concentrating upon Surrey, and East Sussex…and with a bit more of Kent, thrown in for good measure).
Amanda’s contact info can be found in the Borde Hill section of this Diary.)

At the edge of the Ha-Ha that separates the gardens from sheep meadows, this 8 foot tall lady exposes her shapely leg.

At the edge of the Ha-Ha that separates the gardens from sheep meadows, this 8 foot tall lady exposes her shapely leg.

I waited for the clouds to pass, and was rewarded with this lovely shadow...which brings up the point that the shadows cast by garden ornaments can be as important as the objects themselves.

I waited for the clouds to pass, and was rewarded with this lovely shadow…which brings up the point that the shadows cast by garden ornaments can be as important as the objects themselves.

A double border of hot-colored perennials leads us toward the Walled Garden

A double border of hot-colored perennials leads us toward the Walled Garden

A marble dove perches above the gates

A marble dove perches above the gates

Here's Bronze Door to Nowhere, on a wall in the Rose Garden

Here’s a Bronze Door to Nowhere, on a wall in the Rose Garden

Another statuesque Lady, on a terrace by the house

Another statuesque Lady, on a terrace by the house

Living Sculpture: a black swan on the lakeside lawn.

Living Sculpture: a black swan on the lakeside lawn.

Hydrangeas flank the bridge to a wooded island.

Hydrangeas flank the bridge to a wooded island.

The island has a temple, and a statue of Pashley Manor's most unfortunate visitor. The Boleyn family's hunting lodge once stood on this island.

The island has a temple, and a statue of Pashley Manor’s most unfortunate visitor. The Boleyn family’s hunting lodge once stood on this island.

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

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We continue, to Borde Hill, in West Sussex, which is yet another of the exquisite English gardens that Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson has led me to.

Amanda’s contact info: http://www.southeasttourguides.co.uk

The Main House, and South Lawn. I took this photo on June 5, 2014.

The Main House, and South Lawn. I took this photo on June 5, 2014.

The House was built in 1598. An Arboretum was planted in 1893, and 17 acres of formal gardens began to be established in 1965. Borde Hill is famous throughout England for its Rose Garden, and was recently named by the Historic Houses Association as English Garden of the Year. The collection of sculpture is eclectic, but each
piece is perfectly chosen to complement the lush plantings …. once again, a reminder that, regardless of sculptural style, careful siting of garden art is everything.

We enter the Rose Garden

We enter the Rose Garden

A fountain is at the center of the Rose Garden

A fountain is at the center of the Rose Garden

A Sprite, in the Rose Garden

A Sprite, in the Rose Garden

Sculpture in the White Garden

Sculpture in the White Garden

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

The South Lawn rises above a landscape of lakes and meadows.

The South Lawn rises above a landscape of lakes and meadows.

A grouping of figures, in the Arboretum

A grouping of figures, in the Arboretum

A Rill feeds the Pool, in the Italian Garden

A Rill feeds the Pool, in the Italian Garden

The Italian Garden, with a typical English sky...where two different weather systems collide !!!

The Italian Garden, with a typical English sky…where two different weather systems collide !!!

A contemporary interpretation of Chimney Pots

A contemporary interpretation of Chimney Pots

In a garden that overlooks the Lakes

In a garden that overlooks the Lakes

The Round Dell Garden

The Round Dell Garden

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Onward, to Godinton House, in Kent (to which Amanda and Steve and I traveled in August of 2013).

Godinton House

Godinton House

The house was remodeled in 1628, when a Jacobean exterior was added. During that renovation, which enclosed a medieval structure, Roman bricks were found in the building’s foundation. The gardens we see today were begun in 1879. Traditional and contemporary pieces of art are widely-spaced, and coexist nicely in the tranquil, parkland setting.

Artwork on the Entry Court

Artwork on the Entry Court

General View, near House

General View, near House

Pan's Garden, is the oldest surviving portion of the gardens.

Pan’s Garden, is the oldest surviving portion of the gardens.

Lily Pond

Lily Pond

A statue anchors the far end of the Lily Pond

A statue anchors the far end of the Lily Pond

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A Contraption, on the Tennis Lawn

The Tennis Lawn's Rhino

The Tennis Lawn’s Rhino

The Walled, Italian Garden

The Walled, Italian Garden

Pert Buttocks, sunning in the Italian Garden

Pert Buttocks, sunning in the Italian Garden

And Gorgeous Gams, on the Loggia of the Italian Garden

And Gorgeous Gams, on the Loggia of the Italian Garden

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Continuing, to Kiftsgate Court, in Gloucestershire.

On June 7, 2014, I traveled  to Kiftsgate Court with Anne and David Guy,  Janet Hardwick, and Barry West. 'Twas an Excellent Outing: good company, tasty food (in the Kiftsgate Cafe), and a jaw-droppingly beautiful garden to discover. This is a garden to revisit, time and time again.

On June 7, 2014, I traveled to Kiftsgate Court with
Anne and David Guy,
Janet Hardwick, and Barry West. ‘Twas an Excellent Outing: good company, tasty food (in the Kiftsgate Cafe), and a jaw-droppingly beautiful garden to discover. This is a garden to revisit, time and time again.

These gardens are directly across the road from the World-Famous gardens of Hidcote, but, strangely, Kiftsgate remains little known. The House was built in 1887, and gardens have been continually added, since 1918. The water features at Kiftsgate, which are essentially sculptural, direct one’s views–both close and distant–and anchor one of the most beautiful little gardens you’ll ever see.

The entry to the gardens gives NO clues about the surprises within...

The entry to the gardens gives NO clues about the surprises within…

Approaching the Four Squares Garden, and Terrace

Approaching the Four Squares Garden, and Terrace

BOWL OF BEAUTY peonies were in full flower, last June, in the Four Squares Garden

BOWL OF BEAUTY peonies were in full flower, last June, in the Four Squares Garden

WOW !!!!  At the edge of the Terrace, this view reveals itself. I'm looking down toward the swimming pool, which was installed in 1960. In the distance are the Malvern Hills. Wales is on the far side of those Hills. No photo can describe the surprise I felt, when this vista unfolded below me.

WOW !!!! At the edge of the Terrace, this view reveals itself. I’m looking down toward the swimming pool, which was installed in 1960. In the distance are the Malvern Hills. Wales is on the far side of those Hills.
No photo can describe the surprise I felt, when this vista unfolded below me.

Part-way down the steep path which leads to the pool, in a grove of Scotch Firs, is this stone carving called MOTHER AND CHILD, which was added during the 1980s.

Part-way down the steep path which leads to the pool, in a grove of Scotch Firs, is this stone carving called MOTHER AND CHILD, which was added during the 1980s.

The Half-Crescent Pool...sublime.

The Half-Crescent Pool…sublime.

View from the Half-Crescent Pool, up to the Summerhouse, and then to the Main House. The Gardeners who maintain the plantings on this steep slope must wear safety cables when they're working.

View from the Half-Crescent Pool, up to the Summerhouse, and then to the Main House. The Gardeners who maintain the plantings on this steep slope must wear safety cables when they’re working.

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The Sunken Garden, which was built next to the Main House in 1972, is centered upon an ancient fountain that was brought to England from the Pyrenees Mountains.

Near the Yellow Border, an old stone gatepost rescued from a nearby field has become a piece of sculpture.

Near the Yellow Border, an old stone gatepost rescued from a nearby field has become a piece of sculpture.

This Stone Lady serves as a chair, in a secret garden that's adjacent to the new, Water Garden.

This Stone Lady serves as a chair, in a secret garden that’s adjacent to the new, Water Garden.

Another WOW moment, as I passed through an opening in a high, yew hedge and saw this. The Water Garden, added in 1998, replaces an old tennis court. The pool is surrounded by narrow, white paving stones which contrast with the black water. Stepping stones lead to a grassy island.

Another WOW moment, as I passed through an opening in a high, yew hedge and saw this. The Water Garden, added in 1998, replaces an old tennis court. The pool is surrounded by narrow, white paving stones which contrast with the black water. Stepping stones lead to a grassy island.

Another view of the Water Garden

Another view of the Water Garden

Sculptor Simon Allison designed 24 stainless steel stems that are topped with gilded bronze leaves molded from a philodendron. The stems sway gently in the wind and reflect well in the dark water. Every 5 minutes, water begins to stream from the tips of the leaves.

Sculptor Simon Allison designed 24 stainless steel stems that are topped with gilded bronze leaves molded from a philodendron. The stems sway gently in the wind and reflect well in the dark water. Every 5 minutes, water begins to stream from the tips of the leaves.

Anne and David Guy stand on the Water Garden's island, to provide human scale. And, in the background, Janet Hardwick and Barry West wait very patiently for me to finish my picture-taking.

Anne and David Guy stand on the Water Garden’s island, to provide human scale. And, in the background, Janet Hardwick and Barry West wait very patiently for me to finish my picture-taking.

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Before I take us back to America, to look at two Massachusetts gardens, I’d like to show a charming, little English garden… located in the West Midlands.

In designer Anne Guy’s Worcestershire back yard, natural materials and discarded metal that she and her husband David have gathered during their frequent visits to Lyme Regis on England’s Jurassic Sea Coast have been transformed into sculptures. Elements of classically-styled decoration have been strategically used. And small works by local Glass artisans have been tucked into beds of perennials.

Anne Guy’s contact info: http://www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk

David maintains the precisely-clipped boxwood. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

David maintains the precisely-clipped boxwood.
Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

Anne makes sculptures from driftwood

Anne makes sculptures from driftwood

Beach rock joined with twisted metal.

Beach rock joined with twisted metal

Anne has combined eroded rock with rusted rebar.

Anne has combined eroded rock with rusted rebar.

They also have kinetic sculpture...known as JAKEY.

They also have kinetic sculpture…known as JAKEY.

A concrete sphere punctuates a path

A concrete sphere punctuates a path

A classical lead fountain

A classical lead fountain

Hand-blown glass globes, on garden stakes

Hand-blown glass globes, on garden stakes

One of my Lorenzo Love Seats is placed at the back edge of Anne and David's garden. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

One of my Lorenzo Love Seats is placed at the back edge of Anne and David’s garden. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

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It’s time for us to return to the New World, and specifically to the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts. I’ve chosen to highlight these final gardens for two reasons.

Firstly: they’re full of excellent art. Secondly: both demonstrate how the use of garden sculpture has evolved, over the past 100 years.

We’ll begin with The Mount…

The Formal Gardens at The Mount

The Formal Gardens at The Mount

…in Lenox, Massachusetts, which Edith Wharton built to be what she called her “first real home.” She began at the conclusion of the Gilded Age, in 1901, when she was 40 years old, and for the next 10 years worked tirelessly to perfect every detail. Edith was responsible for the layout of the formal gardens.

She partnered with Ogden Codman Junior on the House Plan. Her niece, the landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, designed the maple-lined front drive, as well as the quarter-mile-long carriage road that winds through a forest, and connects the Stables …

The Stables

The Stables

….with the Main House.

The Entry Forecourt, and the Main House

The Entry Forecourt, and the Main House

A Statue, circa 1901, in the walled Forecourt of the Main House

A Statue, circa 1901, in the walled Forecourt of the Main House

Beatrix Farrand also laid out paths through the forest. Once the courses of those paths had been set, Wharton spent considerable time planting woodland gardens, full of ferns and drifts of shade-tolerant ground covers.

NOT drawn-to-scale map of the grounds at The Mount

NOT drawn-to-scale map of the grounds at The Mount

But, when staying married to her mentally-ill husband Teddy finally became impossible, Edith had to leave The Mount behind.

The back of the Main House, as seen from the formal Flower Garden

The back of the Main House, as seen from the formal Flower Garden

She moved to France, where she remained for the rest of her life. For the next 70 years, Wharton’s creation deteriorated, as it was occupied by a constantly-rotating roster of tenants. In 1980, the property was saved from certain ruin, when it was bought by the Edith Wharton Restoration Group, a non-profit organization.

Each summer now, the Trustees at The Mount install a well-curated display of contemporary sculpture in Wharton’s gardens.

Sculpture, near the Main House

Sculpture, near the Main House

The presence of this newly-made work sets just the right tone for a visit to the house, which is once again being used as a setting for the celebration of ALL of the arts, just as it was, when it was Edith’s home.

As I’ve surveyed sculpture in 20th century gardens, I’ve studiously avoided mentioning the phenomenon of America’s Sculpture Parks. These days–and happily—placing large-scaled sculpture in parks, at corporate headquarters, and in botanic gardens, has become a foregone conclusion. But my main interest has always been to see how sculptural art can be integrated into private and domestic settings…settings where the tone is personal, and the scale is smaller.

Here are some of the sculptures I discovered, as I strolled at The Mount. I first circled the Stables, and then continued through the woodland gardens, toward the Main House.

Sculpture, near the Stables

Sculpture, near the Stables

Detail of previous sculpture

Detail of previous sculpture

ARCH II, by Ann Jon...with a seat inside. Another masterful exercise of sculptural shadow-play, which can be yours for only $36,000.00 (I confess that I WANT this lovely creation, but...... ) .

ARCH II, by Ann Jon…with a seat inside. Another masterful exercise of sculptural shadow-play, which can be yours for only $36,000.00 (I confess that I WANT this lovely creation, but…… ) .

A rock assemblage, in the Woodland Garden

A rock assemblage, in the Woodland Garden

A spooky piece, in the Woodland Garden

A spooky piece, in the Woodland Garden

A composition of charred wood, amid mounds of Vinca

A composition of charred wood, amid mounds of Vinca

MRS.WHARTON. Which shows what can be done with 2 sheets of plywood, a jigsaw, and a quart of paint !!!

MRS.WHARTON. Which shows what can be done with 2 sheets of plywood, a jigsaw, and a quart of paint !!!

Sculpture, near the carriage road by the Main House

Sculpture, near the carriage road by the Main House

This curving path, which connects the carriage drive and the formal flower garden, was laid out by Edith Wharton. It looks utterly contemporary.

This curving path, which connects the carriage drive and the formal flower garden, was laid out by Edith Wharton. It looks utterly contemporary.

Here's a nice transition, from new to old. In the background: a contemporary, green and white archway. In the foreground: the Flower Garden's original Trellis Niche (designed by Ogden Codman Jr., when the house was built).

Here’s a nice transition, from new to old. In the background: a contemporary, green and white archway. In the foreground: the Flower Garden’s original Trellis Niche (designed by Ogden Codman Jr., when the house was built).

Wharton designed these essentially sculptural Grass Steps, which lead from her Flower Garden, up to the back terrace of the House.

Wharton designed these essentially sculptural Grass Steps, which lead from her Flower Garden, up to the back terrace of the House.

Detail of Fountain in Flower Garden

Detail of Fountain in Flower Garden

View from the Flower Garden, down the Lime Walk, toward the sunken Walled Garden

View from the Flower Garden, down the Lime Walk, toward the sunken Walled Garden

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We’ll finish our touring today in the village of Stockbridge, Massachusetts…

Map of the Gardens at Naumkeag

Map of the Gardens at Naumkeag

…which is a 15 minute drive south of The Mount. Our destination is Naumkeag, landscape architect Fletcher Steele’s most important creation, and the sole, intact example of the more than 700 gardens that he designed over his 60 year long career.

A multi-million dollar restoration of the gardens at Naumkeag is underway. Over the past two years I’ve watched the progress of reconstruction.

In June of 2013, the Blue Steps were being totally rebuilt, while an entirely new grove of birch trees was being planted.

In June of 2013, the Blue Steps were being totally rebuilt, while an entirely new grove of birch trees was being planted.

And seeing separate areas of Naumkeag as they’ve been torn apart and then remade has helped me to understand that Fletcher Steele was not just a garden designer. Instead, in his best and most mature work, he became a sculptor, whose materials were dirt and stone and metal and trees.

The Blue Steps, as of October 2014

The Blue Steps, as of October 2014

From 1928, when Steele began The Afternoon Garden, his first commission at Naumkeag…

Naumkeag's Afternoon Garden, built in 1928

Naumkeag’s Afternoon Garden, built in 1928

…until 1955, when the gardens for his client Mabel Choate were finished, his design philosophies evolved. In fact, when considering Art Deco and Modernism in American gardens, Fletcher Steele is the key figure. For 1928’s Afternoon Garden, Steele enclosed the terrace with incongruous but delightful interpretations of Venetian mooring poles, and he anchored the space with a traditional statue.

Afternoon Garden Statue

Afternoon Garden Statue

But just seven years later, his design for the nearby Oak Lawn reflected a pared-down modernism.

Sinuous edging of the Oak Lawn

Sinuous edging of the Oak Lawn

The Oak Lawn, and its view of the distant Berkshire Hills

The Oak Lawn, and its view of the distant Berkshire Hills

Detail of the Cedar Post edging of the Oak Lawn

Detail of the Cedar Post edging of the Oak Lawn

The garden areas at Naumkeag don’t all meld together to make a coherent whole. Rather, Steele’s disparate creations are mounted upon the land, almost as if they’re enormous sculptures. And each of those uniquely-styled constructions represents a different point along a timeline, as Steele’s thoughts about decorating the landscape developed.

The Blue Steps, as I saw them in October of 2014.

The Blue Steps, as I saw them in October of 2014.

The Blue Steps, Steele’s most acclaimed design…which he built in 1938… are usually photographed up close. Viewed without reference to Mabel Choate’s home and the other garden areas, the Blue Steps seem like a gateway into a magical world. A wider view, however, reveals the Steps to be the giant sculpture that it truly is…a sculpture that has no real stylistic affinity for its surroundings, but which, instead, drapes itself glamorously and seductively down through the center of a grove of imported birch trees.

My wider view of the Blue Steps, and Mabel Choate's home (photo taken in October of 2014).

My wider view of the Blue Steps, and Mabel Choate’s home (photo taken in
October of 2014).

The Steps were built because Mabel Choate wanted a direct but safe pathway down the steep hill that separated her house from her vegetable garden. As was always the case when Miss Choate posed a landscaping challenge to Mister Steele, the resulting design was far larger, and vastly more expensive than what she’d asked for. But Mabel had deep pockets, and an open mind, and so she allowed Fletcher to stretch his imagination—and her bank account—to the limits. Few garden designers have ever had such generous patrons as Mabel Choate. When we visit the gardens that Fletcher Steele made for her at Naumkeag, we should think of her often, and gratefully.

Detail of the Blue Steps

Detail of the Blue Steps

In late afternoon, the shadow-play on the Western-facing Blue Steps adds an extra dimension to the design. In each of Steele's garden areas at Naumkeag, he paid close attention to the casting of shadows.

In late afternoon, the shadow-play on the Western-facing Blue Steps adds an extra dimension to the design. In each of Steele’s garden areas at Naumkeag, he paid close attention to the casting of shadows.

In 1953, Steele’s Rose Garden — his final commission at Naumkeag — was begun. We Gardeners know that rose bushes, past their blooming-prime, always manage to look scabrous.

Rose Garden

Rose Garden

But Steele’s clever Rose Garden design distracts us from dwelling upon bloom-free bushes, and with just a few wavy lines of pink gravel, he created a garden that looks good in all seasons. The Rose Garden design seems utterly modern, but is based upon ancient Portuguese patterns of laying paving stones.

Portuguese Paving Stones

Portuguese Paving Stones

The Rose Garden is below the House, and was designed to be viewed from above.

The Rose Garden is below the House, and was designed to be viewed from above.

Along with making a nod to an Old World decorative tradition, Fletcher Steele’s primary intention was for the curves of the Rose Garden beds to echo the rhythms of the Berkshire Hills.

View from the Rose Garden toward the Berkshire Hills

View from the Rose Garden toward the Berkshire Hills

Just as he had done with the edging on the Oak Lawn, Steele etched the contours of the horizon itself into the soil of Mabel Choate’s garden. This is earth-shaping in its most refined form. Where the conceptual and the sculptural are perfectly joined. Where Idea and Physicality are united.
And so, instead of using classical sculpture to declare that he and Miss Choate were as strong as Hercules and as wise as Athena, Fletcher Steele’s most abstract constructions, which mimic the profiles of the nearby Berkshire Hills, quietly announce that the makers of the gardens at Naumkeag were at one with the land itself.

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And now, a Prosaic Post Script, for today’s final design-thought:

This past June, in England, Amanda Hutchinson led me to the spectacular gardens at Nymans [Note: I’ll write at length about Nymans, in a future Armchair Traveler’s Diary.] …

The Gardens at Nymans, with a view of the remains of the house.

The Gardens at Nymans, with a view of the remains of the house.

…in West Sussex, which surround the shell of a burnt-out manor house. The charred ruins weren’t demolished, and instead were recycled to become giant garden ornaments. I was entranced by the romantic landscapes, and by the superb displays of plantsmanship. But as I prepared to leave, I came upon this Insect Hotel, which was tucked into a back alley, next to a huge pile of cooking compost.

The Insect Hotel, at Nymans

The Insect Hotel, at Nymans

In nearly every garden I’ve visited in England over the past several years, I’ve found an Insect Hotel. Each of these constructions looks different, and reflects the hand of its creator. Some Hotels are designed as nesting sites for insects, while others provide space for hibernation. Some target a specific tenant, like lady bugs, or butterflies. The Hotels can house predatory, as well as pollinating insects. In every instance, Insect Hotels are functional, inexpensive to make, and represent a charming synthesis of art and ecology. I’d like to propose that we all begin building little temples like these, for our parks, and for our own gardens.

A very simple Insect Hotel, in the Veggie Garden of Packwood House, in Warkwickshire, England

A very simple Insect Hotel, in the Veggie Garden of Packwood House, in Warkwickshire, England

Another Insect Hotel, at Packwood House (I'll write about the formal gardens at Packwood, in a future Diary).

Another Insect Hotel, at Packwood House (I’ll write about the formal gardens at Packwood, in a future Diary).

Ideally, any decoration which we add to our landscapes should be more than just a generic object that’s been acquired from an art gallery or a garden supply center. And we don’t necessarily need to perpetuate antique notions about garden statuary…not unless those classical images carry messages which resonate personally. ( Witness my garden’s Hermes: the deity who protects travelers and writers…I think of Hermes as my Travel Insurance. ) But each of our garden embellishments should be chosen to serve more than a single purpose. Comfortable furniture can also be sculptural.

My Tiara Chair, amidst blooming lavender, in my Oregon gardens.

My Tiara Chair, amidst blooming lavender, in my Oregon gardens.

Statuary, whether representational or abstract, can suggest a narrative while it’s also configuring a space. Home-made ornaments can be forays into self-expression, even if the end-results are less than stellar. And the horizontal sculpture in our gardens — the paths we plot, the planting beds we delineate, and the pools we dig — can always be designed to be far more than just simple infrastructure. The key is that we must first know ourselves. Then we must carefully observe the lay of the land, and what’s growing and living, all around us. Not until we’ve done these things can we create gardens where art merges harmoniously with the outdoors. When well chosen, art communes with the pervading spirit of a specific bit of land, while it simultaneously speaks — silently and eloquently — of the character of the particular Human who tends that land.

A spider's web and my Lorenzo Arm Chair harmonize, on my front porch in New Hampshire.

A spider’s web and my Lorenzo Arm Chair harmonize, on my front porch in New Hampshire.

Copyright 2015. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express & written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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Two Mannerist Gardens in Northern Lazio, Italy

Nan, in the mouth of the Ogre, at the garden of Sacro Bosco ( or Sacred Wood ). This one-of-a-kind garden,  in Bomarzo,  Italy, was begun in 1552. Photo taken on May 14, 2014.

Nan, in the mouth of the Ogre, at the garden of Sacro Bosco ( or Sacred Wood ). This one-of-a-kind garden, in Bomarzo, Italy, was begun in 1552. Photo taken on May 14, 2014.

For many years, I’d been contemplating making a trek to the hills of Northern Lazio, to see a duo of dramatically different gardens that had long piqued my curiosity. The Sacro Bosco at Bomarzo ( constructed from 1552 until 1588 ), and the Villa Lante at Bagnaia ( made from 1566 until about 1595 ) were created contemporaneously by two men, who were friends and neighbors. But Pier Francesco Orsini (aka the Duke of Orsino), and Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Gambara (aka The Bishop of Viterbo) were possessed of VERY different temperaments, which resulted in gardens with atmospheres that illustrate opposite extremes of Italian Mannerist-era style. To set the historical stage, I’ll refer to remarks made about Mannerism by scholar Luca Pietromarchi, who collaborated with Marella Agnelli on GARDENS OF THE ITALIAN VILLAS:

“In the first half of the 16th century, gardening became, especially in the great Roman gardens, far more than an arrangement of trees and flowers; it developed into an art form, an expression of order, symmetry and classical austerity. ‘Things that are built,’ wrote the 16th century sculptor Baccio Bandinelli, ‘must influence and predominate over things that are planted.’ “

“But in the second half of the century the secure belief in man’s absolute power over nature began to falter. In the literature and painting of the time the image of an orderly and disciplined natural world seems to have gradually crumpled under the impact of some uncontrollable force. Nature came to be represented as a secret and magical universe which could excite fear and surprise; a world that both charmed and frightened. These conflicting emotions influenced the gardens of the time, which exemplified aspects of the development of Mannerism, in which the strict rules of proportion and harmony that characterized Renaissance art and architecture were willfully distorted and a new emphasis was placed on emotional expressiveness.”

“In these Mannerist gardens art in no way yields to nature; while endeavoring to discipline the landscape and contain it…it also explores and reveals the mysteries of nature by imitating its marvels. Added was a spirit of scientific experiment, in which the architect became a hydraulic engineer.”

The Pegasus Fountain. The gardens of Villa Lante, in Bagnaia, Italy were begun in 1566. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

The Pegasus Fountain. The gardens of Villa Lante, in Bagnaia, Italy were begun in 1566. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

But variations in broadly-held opinions about what Man’s relationship with the Natural World should be don’t come out of the Blue. Since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Italian peninsula had been a place of turmoil, where political conflicts, impoverishment, and constant warring were the norm. But the advent of Renaissance concepts changed the assumption that chaos throughout the Land was a given. Alastair Smart has written, “In Florence in the mid 15th century, almost all educated men took the view that a new epoch had begun. The idea that the 15th century in Italy constituted a new age, in which art and scholarship made a fresh beginning by going back to the forms and values of classical antiquity, is not one that has been invented by later writers. It was present in the minds of the men living at the time.”

By the early decades of the 16th century, the transition from Medieval life toward an early version of modern Europe was well underway. The brightest and most privileged men of the time (and YES, there were a few remarkable women thrown into the mix: most notably the formidable Isabella d’Este, who was born in Ferrara, was de facto ruler of Mantua, and later moved to Rome…just in time to experience 1527’s Disaster) …

Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of Isabella d'Este. Isabella, Marchioness of Mantua, was often called "The First Lady of the Renaissance." She lived from 1474 until 1539. In 1525 she set up household in Rome, so as to be near to her son Ercole, who became one of the most powerful cardinals of the Catholic Church.

Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of Isabella d’Este. Isabella, Marchioness of Mantua, was often called “The First Lady of the Renaissance.” She lived from 1474 until 1539. In 1525 she set up household in Rome, so as to be near to her son Ercole, who became one of the most powerful cardinals of the Catholic Church.

…were certain that by modeling their futures upon the lessons they’d learned from their study and idealization of the cultural achievements of Classical World, a new age of enlightenment would be assured. But The Sack of Rome in 1527 inflicted a body-blow: the sureties of the High Renaissance’s elite—of the politically-potent nobility, church men, philosophers, and artists—were shaken to the core.

"The Sack of Rome in 1527." Painted during the 1600s by Johannes Lingelbach, a Dutch genre artist who worked in Rome.

“The Sack of Rome in 1527.” Painted during the 1600s by Johannes Lingelbach, a Dutch genre artist who worked in Rome.

When 34,000 mutinous troops of Charles V first occupied Northern Lazio, and soon thereafter breached the walls of Rome – a city with a culture to which those mostly-mercenary troops were innately hostile – a riot of murder and pillage began. Between 6000 and 12,000 Romans were killed. After eight horrific months, the population of Rome had dropped from 55,000 souls to 10,000. Churches and palaces were looted, and ancient treasures destroyed. The savagery of this attack upon the populace, and upon their rich heritage, had more than a little to do with the destruction of the mind-set of the Roman Renaissance. It took an Act of Nature to end the Sack of Rome: the Plague descended, and, finally, the city’s occupiers departed. The ancient view that life on Earth was a precarious and mysterious condition regained its primacy. With this instability began the period in Italian art and architecture known as Mannerist.

The Mannerist Style turned Classical rules of art--about proportion & depiction--upside down. One stone giant thrashes another, at the Sacro Bosco (known as the Sacred Wood, and also as The Park of the Monsters), in Bomarzo. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

The Mannerist Style turned Classical rules of art–about proportion & depiction–upside down. One stone giant thrashes another, at the Sacro Bosco (known as the Sacred Wood, and also as The Park of the Monsters), in Bomarzo. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

My Northern-Lazio-Garden-Dreams were finally realized when I consulted with my friend Valentina Grossi Orzalesi. Through her custom-crafted-tours company, One Step Closer (based in Fiesole, near Florence: http://www.onestepcloser.net )
Valentina arranged for me to spend a day with one of
Rome’s most erudite guides, Dr. Vannella della Chiesa. And so, early on the morning of May 14th, Dr. della Chiesa, accompanied by her driver Anacleto, collected me and my guest Donn Brous from the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel in Rome. We set out for what would become a day of driving, hiking, dining, and—most importantly– of seeing astonishing sights.

Dr. Vanella della Chiesa: looking casually elegant on the steps of the Tiempio del Vignola, at the Sacro Bosco, in Bomarzo.

Dr. Vannella della Chiesa: looking casually elegant on the steps of the Tiempio del Vignola, at the Sacro Bosco, in Bomarzo.

Our charming driver Anacleto: inside a hollow tree at the Fountain of the Deluge, in the gardens of Villa Lante, Bagnaia.

Our charming driver Anacleto: inside a hollow tree at the Fountain of the Deluge, in the gardens of Villa Lante, Bagnaia.

Although driving from Rome to the Viterbo region doesn’t look like much of a trek, my guides wisely estimated that our journey that morning into the hills of Northern Lazio would take us 90 minutes. Breaking free of Rome’s perpetual gridlock of traffic was our first challenge, and an hour later, when we’d exited the A1 Autostrada and entered the Viterbo region, our trip proceeded at a necessarily leisurely pace, as we followed single-lane-wide byways.
The Woodland Gardens of Sacro Bosco are nearly impossible to reach by public transportation. As Anacleto navigated over country roads — which became steeper and narrower and more alarmingly curvaceous as we approached the Village of Bomarzo — I gave silent thanks to Valentina Grossi Orzalesi for connecting me with Dr. della Chiesa, and with Anacleto. Without the help of my three Italian experts, this long-hoped-for day-trip wouldn’t have been happening.

Map of Rome, and of Viterbo, in Northern Lazio

Map of Rome, and of Viterbo, in Northern Lazio

Map of Bagnaia, and Bomarzo

Map of Bagnaia, and Bomarzo

Satellite view of Bagnaia, and Bomarzo

Satellite view of Bagnaia, and Bomarzo

Our first destination: THE SACRO BOSCO
Comune di BOMARZO

( 9 miles east-northeast of Viterbo, and 42 miles north-northwest of Rome )

The Garden is open year-round, from 8:30 until sunset.
Admission: 10 Euros
Garden’s website: http://www.bomarzo.net

[A note for Fastidious Travelers: bring a roll of toilet paper with
you. The sanitary facilities at Sacro Bosco are—ahem—
somewhat neglected by the Management. Also wear Sensible
Shoes…the paths through the woods are muddy and steep.]

Garden Visit.com provides a good introduction to the Sacro Bosco:

“As pure fantasy, this garden is without equal. It was made in a wood and many of its giant sculptures were carved from living rock. Stylistically, Bomarzo represents a step [from Mannerism ] toward the drama of the Baroque. Poking gentle fun at the egotistical iconography of the Este and the Medici families, it is also a precursor of the English landscape garden. With the elegant taste of a Renaissance duke, Vicino Orsini created features with some resemblance to a modern theme park. But his aims were altogether serious. Orsini was a military captain with literary tastes. He conceived the garden as a Sacred Wood (Sacro Bosco), inspired by the description of Arcadia in Virgil’s AENEID. There is an enormous laughing mask. A moss-covered tortoise supports a statue of fame. A leaning house illustrates the corrupt state of the world. The figures come from Ariosto’s ORLANDO FURIOSO.”

Pier Francesco Orsini (nicknamed  Vicino). Born in 1523, died in 1584.

Pier Francesco Orsini (nicknamed Vicino). Born in 1523, died in 1584.

Vicino Orsini was the Duke of Orsino. Bomarzo had long been the historical fiefdom of the Orsini family, whose castle perches at the highest edge of the little hill town. From his castle, Vicino could see the treetops of his Woodland Garden, which he established on the slopes of a damp, forested ravine that’s about a half mile from the Village.

We know that Vicino Orsini was a friend of the great architect and garden designer Pirro Ligorio, and so can be fairly confident that
Ligorio advised Orsini about the overall layout of the garden.

Pirro Logorio. Born c. 1513, died 1583.

Pirro Ligorio. Born c. 1513, died 1583.

Although Pirro Ligorio may have contributed only superficially to the design of the garden at Bomarzo, we’re certain that he was entirely responsible for the master plan of a nearby garden that belonged to Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este… yet another character in Vicino Orsini’s circle of aristocratic friends. In my next DIARY FOR ARMCHAIR TRAVELERS, we’ll visit Ligorio’s masterpiece: the gardens of Villa d’Este, in Tivoli, which were begun in 1566 (and which are my favorite gardens on the Planet).

But, at Sacro Bosco, the narrative of decorative elements was certainly composed by Vicino Orsini himself. Orsini’s complexities were legendary. Retired soldier. Politician. Poet. Punner. Lover of beautiful women. Pater familias. Guilty husband. Student of the Classics. Our Duke’s brain was full to bursting with ideas about life and death and art. When we stroll through the shaggy remains of the gardens that became his life’s work, what we’re really doing is dipping into the psyche of a Very Interesting Individual.

Drawn-to-scale Plan of Sacro Bosco. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

Drawn-to-scale Plan of Sacro Bosco. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

Path from the Ticket Office, toward the Gate to the Garden at Sacro Bosco

Path from the Ticket Office, toward the Gate to the Garden at Sacro Bosco

Out view of the Orsini Castle, in the village of Bomarzo, as seen from the Gates to the Garden of Sacro Bosco.

Our view of the Orsini Castle, in the village of Bomarzo, as seen from the Gates to the Garden of Sacro Bosco.

Following Vicino Orsini’s death in 1584, the garden he called his “Boschetto” (little wood) immediately began its decline. We do know that in 1604 the large sculptures that adorned Vicino’s Little Wood hadn’t yet become completely overgrown. During that year, the painter Giovanni Guerra visited Bomarzo, and made a series of drawings of the garden’s most striking ornaments. The proof that Orsini’s garden was then forgotten for nearly 350 years is its absence from all of the books that were published, up until 1950, about Italy’s significant gardens. We owe the rediscovery of Sacro Bosco to the enthusiasm of the art critic Mario Praz, who led his good friend Salvador Dali into the thickets that enveloped the Duke of Orsino’s surrealistic sculptures. Dali made a short film about the Garden’s statues, which drew the attention of Jean Cocteau, who in turn sent news of the long-lost wonders of Sacro Bosco out into wider World.

This is a screen grab from the short film showing Salvador Dali at Bomarzo. Here, Dali goes nose-to-nose with the Goddess Demeter.

This is a screen grab from the short film showing Salvador Dali at Bomarzo. Here, Dali goes nose-to-nose with the Goddess Demeter.

Apart from our certainty that Orsini placed his fanciful creations in a largely deciduous forest, we have no idea about the varieties of flowers or hedges that may have been added to the landscape. We only know that a copious supply of water was once available to feed the extensive network of Sacro Bosco’s fountains and pools. Unfortunately, that source of water has been long dry, and all of the water features are now vessels for nothing more than moss and lichen. At present, Sacro Bosco’s wild foliage is largely un-pruned, and shafts of sunlight only occasionally pierce the Garden’s dense canopy of leaves.

Now, let’s begin our extended excursion into the wonderful mind –and garden — of Vicino Orsini:

MAP of the Statues at Sacro Bosco....NOT drawn to scale.

MAP of the Statues at Sacro Bosco….NOT drawn to scale.

INGRESSO–Entrance

Gate to Garden, with view of a Sphinx, just inside.

Gate to Garden, with view of a Sphinx, just inside.

#1 on the Map: DUE SFINGI—Two Sphinxes

One of a pair of Sphinxes, at the entrance

One of a pair of Sphinxes, at the entrance

And here we have Sphinx Number Two!

And here we have Sphinx Number Two!

A better look at the inscription on the base of Sphinx Number Two. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

A better look at the inscription on the base of Sphinx Number Two. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

Vicino, being properly Classical, arranged for his guests to be greeted by twin Sphinxes, one of whom declares: “You who enter here put your mind to it part by part and tell me then if so many wonders were made as trickery or as art.”

#2 on the Map: PAN-GIANO—Carved Herm

A Herm--adjacent to the Sphinxes. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

A Herm–adjacent to the Sphinxes. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

#3 on the Map: PROTEO GLAUCO—Blue-Green, or Glaucous Proteus. Also called “The Mask of Madness”

Glaucous Proteus

Glaucous Proteus

A closer look at the "Mask of Madness." Traces of the original color can still be seen on the globe. Many of the statues at Bomarzo were decorated in vibrant colors; the pigments mixed with a secret formula that included milk, and which thus remained unfaded by weather.

A closer look at the “Mask of Madness.” Traces of the original color can still be seen on the globe. Many of the statues at Bomarzo were decorated in vibrant colors; the pigments mixed with a secret formula that included milk, and which thus remained unfaded by weather.

Engraving of the Mask of Madness, down by Giovanni Guerra in 1604. Guerra (born 1544, died 1618) was a painter and draughtsman, and lived in Modena. In 1604 he visited the already-beginning-to-be-overgrown gardens at Bomarzo, and did a series of drawings of Vicino Orsini's fantastic statues.

Engraving of the Mask of Madness, by Giovanni Guerra in 1604. Guerra (born 1544, died 1618) was a painter and draughtsman, and lived in Modena. In 1604 he visited the already-beginning-to-be-overgrown gardens at Bomarzo, and did a series of drawings of Vicino Orsini’s fantastic statues.

#5 on the Map: MAUSOLEO—The “Ruined” Masoleum…which was built to look like the eroded remains of a Crypt.

Anacleto is about to inspect the Fake Tomb

Anacleto is about to inspect the Fake Tomb

#6 on the Map: ERCOLE & CACO—Hercules Vanquishing the Robber Cacus. Also called’”The Wrestling Colossi”

Ercole & Caco: Hercules vanquishing the Robber Cacus. Donn provides some necessary, human scale!

Ercole & Caco: Hercules vanquishing the Robber Cacus. Donn provides some necessary, human scale!

Inscription at the Wrestling Colossi

Inscription at the Wrestling Colossi

Another snippet, written by Vicino, accompanies his Wrestling Colossi: “If Rhodes of old was elevated by its Colossus, so by this one my wood is made glorious too, and more I cannot do. I do as much as I am able to.”

Engraving of the Colossi. Giovanni Guerra, 1604.

Engraving of the Colossi. Giovanni Guerra, 1604.

Detail of the face of the Robber Cacus

Detail of the face of the Robber Cacus

Detail of Hercules' Helmet & Armor

Detail of Hercules’ Helmet & Armor

#7 on the Map: TARTARUGA—Tortoise carrying the winged figure of Fame, who is balancing upon a sphere. Fame originally was shown blowing a double horn.

Tortoise carrying Fame

Tortoise carrying Fame

This is Vicino Orsini’s illustration of “Festina Lente,” or “Make Haste Slowly.” [Note: I am considering using this image to illustrate my last name. Fame….not important. But the concept of Making Haste Slowly? That’s a Good Idea….]

Engraving of Tortoise & Fame. Giovanni Guerra, 1604.

Engraving of Tortoise & Fame. Giovanni Guerra, 1604.

Detail of Tortoise's head & shell

Detail of Tortoise’s head & shell

Detail of Fame

Detail of Fame

#8 on the Map: ORCA—Whale’s Mouth

View from above of The Tortoise, and the nearby Whale's Mouth. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

View from above of The Tortoise, and the nearby Whale’s Mouth. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

The Whale's Mouth!

The Whale’s Mouth!

#9 on the Map: FONTANA PEGASO—Fountain of Pegasus

Fountain of Pegasus...with a group of VERY excited schoolchildren approaching!

Fountain of Pegasus…with a group of VERY excited schoolchildren approaching!

Rear view of Fountain of Pegasus

Rear view of Fountain of Pegasus

Detail of Pegasus

Detail of Pegasus

#10 on the Map: LE GRAZIE—The Three Graces

Approaching The Three Graces & The Nymphaeum

Approaching The Three Graces & The Nymphaeum

The Three Graces

The Three Graces

#11 on the Map: NINFEO—The Nymphaeum

Nymphaeum...which is adjacent to the Three Graces

Nymphaeum…which is adjacent to the Three Graces

My view from a higher level of the gardens, down to the terrace and bench that are opposite the Nymphaeum & The Three Graces.

My view from a higher level of the gardens, down to the terrace and bench that are opposite the Nymphaeum & The Three Graces.

#12 on the Map: FONTANA DELFINI—Fountain of the Dolphin

A now-dry pool, in the shape of a boat, with Dolphin fountain heads at both ends.

A now-dry pool, in the shape of a boat, with Dolphin fountain heads at both ends.

#13 on the Map: ISIDE—The Grotto of Isis

Approaching the Grotto of Isis, we encounter the giant head of Jupiter Ammon. Water once steamed from Jupiter's mouth; Jupiter was thought to have the power to grant-- or to withhold -- the rain.

Approaching the Grotto of Isis, we encounter the giant head of Jupiter Ammon. Water once streamed from Jupiter’s mouth; Jupiter was thought to have the power to grant– or to withhold — the rain.

The statue of Isis is currently being restored

The statue of Isis is currently being restored

#14 on the Map: TEATRO—The Theatre

As we approach the Theatre, we pass a colonnade of Herms

As we approach the Theatre, we pass a colonnade of Herms

The Theatre

The Theatre

Another view of the Theatre

Another view of the Theatre

A view of the Theatre, from above. The Leaning House is in the background. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

A view of the Theatre, from above. The Leaning House is in the background. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

#15 on the Map: CASA PENDENTE—The Leaning House

Approaching the Leaning House, from the Theatre

Approaching the Leaning House, from the Theatre

Donn, at the base of the Leaning House

Donn, at the base of the Leaning House

The Northeast side of the Leaning House

The Northeast side of the Leaning House

Stairs lead from the Theatre-level of the garden, up to the 2nd floor of the Leaning House.

Stairs lead from the Theatre-level of the garden, up to the 2nd floor of the Leaning House.

The entrance to the Leaning House is at the top of the hill

The entrance to the Leaning House is at the top of the hill

My companions felt seasick while inside the Leaning House, and so exited quickly. I remained in the House...my  good sea legs kept me steady.

My companions felt seasick while inside the Leaning House, and so exited quickly. I remained in the House…my good sea legs kept me steady.

I felt oddly at ease, despite the skewed angles of the Leaning House.

I felt oddly at ease, despite the skewed angles of the Leaning House.

#16 on the Map: TOMBA—Tomb (yet another of Vicino’s ersatz graves)

I wonder....when Vicino was feeling morose, did he climb into this Tomb, just to  get the feel of it?

I wonder….when Vicino was feeling morose, did he climb into this Tomb, just to get the feel of it?

#18 on the Map: PANCA ETRUSCA—Etruscan Bench

Etruscan Bench

Etruscan Bench

More messages, carved into the Etruscan Bench.

More messages, carved into the Etruscan Bench.

An Orsini Rose, carved into the ceiling of the Etruscan Bench

An Orsino Rose, carved into the ceiling of the Etruscan Bench

#19 on the Map: VASO—Giant Vase

GIANT Vase

GIANT Vase

Another view of the Vase

Another view of the Vase

#20 on the Map: ORGO—Ogre, also known as “The Mouth of Hell”

These words are carved around the Mouth: "Abandon all Thought, you who enter here."

These words are carved around the Mouth: “Abandon all Thought, you who enter here.”

Engraving of The Mouth of Hell, by Giovanni Guerra. 1604.

Engraving of The Mouth of Hell, by Giovanni Guerra. 1604.

...and there's a Table in the Gullet. A charming setting for a picnic.

…and there’s a Table in the Gullet. A charming setting for a picnic.

Nan and Donn follow directions, abandon Thought, and enter the Mouth.

Nan and Donn follow directions, abandon Thought, and enter the Mouth.

#21 on the Map: DRAGO—Dragon

A Dragon, being attacked by Lions. Dragons typically represented Satan, while Lions are regarded as noble beasts.

A Dragon, being attacked by Lions. Dragons typically represented Satan, while Lions are regarded as noble beasts.

Detail of Dragon

Detail of Dragon

Detail of Lion

Detail of Lion

Engraving of Dragon & Lions, by Giovanni Guerra. 1604.

Engraving of Dragon & Lions, by Giovanni Guerra. 1604.

View of Dragon & Lions, with the Square of the Vases in the background. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

View of Dragon & Lions, with the Square of the Vases in the background. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

The Dragon & Lions are in deep shade, while an Elephant balancing a Tower on its back is bathed by sunlight.

The Dragon & Lions are in deep shade, while an Elephant balancing a Tower on its back is bathed by sunlight.

#22 on the Map: ELEFANTE—Elephant balancing a tower, and carrying a dead warrior in his trunk, while being ridden by another soldier.

The Elephant, and Company

The Elephant, and Company

Elephants bearing castles were a frequently-used image in Renaissance art, as Hannibal’s use of elephants to invade the Italian peninsula was recalled. And, from time immemorial, elephants have also represented strength and restraint…along with memory.

Another view of the Elephant. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

Another view of the Elephant. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

Engraving of the Elephant, by Giovanni Guerra. 1604.

Engraving of the Elephant, by Giovanni Guerra. 1604.

Detail of Elephant

Detail of Elephant

Detail of Elephant & his Fallen Warrior

Detail of Elephant & his Fallen Warrior

Detail of Elephant's hindquarters

Detail of Elephant’s hindquarters

A final look at the Elephant (yes, I have a THING for Elephant images).

A final look at the Elephant
(yes, I have a THING for Elephant images).

#23 on the Map: CERERE—The Goddess Demeter

Demeter. Remember how small Dali looked next to this Lady? The Goddess is fabulous & HUGE

Demeter. Remember how small Dali looked next to this Lady? The Goddess is fabulous & HUGE

Demeter, in profile

Demeter, in profile

Behind Demeter's head, two ghoulish, fish-tailed sirens dangle a little boy, upside down.

Behind Demeter’s head, two ghoulish, fish-tailed sirens dangle a little boy, upside down.

And a tiny child clings to Demeter's neck. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

And a tiny child clings to Demeter’s neck. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

#24 on the Map: PIAZZALE VASI—Square of the Vases

Square of the Vases, in the shade

Square of the Vases, in the shade

...and sunshine, on the Square of the Vases

…and sunshine, on the Square of the Vases

Every Giant Vase is inscribed with a message from Vicino. This one says: "Night and Day we are vigilant and ready to protect this fountain from any harm." No evidence survives of fountains in this part of Sacro Bosco. I'm trying to imagine what the gardens were like, when every corner was filled with the sounds of splashing water.

Every Giant Vase is inscribed with a message from Vicino. This one says: “Night and Day we are vigilant and ready to protect this fountain from any harm.” No evidence survives of fountains in this part of Sacro Bosco. I’m trying to imagine what the gardens were like, when every corner was filled with the sounds of splashing water.

#25 on the Map: NETTUNO—Neptune

Neptune

Neptune

A closer look at Neptune; that's quite an expression on his face!

A closer look at Neptune; that’s quite an expression on his face!

#26 on the Map: DELFINO—Dolphin’s Head

Neptune is kept company by a Jolly Dolphin. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

Neptune is kept company by a Jolly Dolphin. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

The Dolphin

The Dolphin

#27 on the Map: DONNA DORMIENTE—Sleeping Woman, guarded by her Dog.

Sleeping Woman & Dog

Sleeping Woman & Dog

A closer look at the Lady

A closer look at the Lady

A Seriously Powerful Hand

A Seriously Powerful Hand

Her alert little Dog

Her alert little Dog

#30 on the Map: FURIA— A Siren with double tails, which serve as garden benches

Here we have the most sensual Lady in the Sacro Bosco

Here we have the most sensual Lady in the Sacro Bosco

The Twin-Tailed Siren: a common image in Italy, during the 15th & 16h centuries.

The Twin-Tailed Siren: a common image in Italy, during the 15th & 16h centuries.

the Twin-Tailed Siren: a common image in America, during the 20th & 21st centuries.

The Twin-Tailed Siren: a common image in America, during the 20th & 21st centuries.

A closer look at the Well-Tailed Lady

A closer look at the Well-Tailed Lady

#31 on the Map: LEONI—Lions

A Lion & Lioness rest, between the Two Sirens. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

A Lion & Lioness rest, between the Two Sirens. Image courtesy of THE GARDEN AT BOMARZO, by Jessie Sheeler.

Mr. & Mrs. Lion

Mr. & Mrs. Lion

#32 on the Map: ECHIDNA—The second Siren has a Classic Harpy Configuration, with the head and trunk of a woman, and the tail, wings and talons of a bird.

Winged Siren

Winged Siren

Winged Siren, in profile

Winged Siren, in profile

#33 on the Map: ORSI—Two Bears stand guard, as they embody and also do some punning upon, Vicino’s family name. “Orsini” in Italian means “Little Bears.”

Orsini

Orsini

One Bear holds the Orsino Rose

One Bear holds the Orsino Rose

"Paddington," seen from behind

“Paddington,” seen from behind

#34 on the Map: PIAZZALE PIGNE—Square of the Pine Cones

Square of the Giant Pine Cones. During Orsini's era, acorns were symbols of the Golden Age, whereas pine cones were symbols of Death.

Square of the Giant Pine Cones. During Orsini’s era, acorns were symbols of the Golden Age, whereas pine cones were symbols of Death.

The Bears stand guard at the entrance to the Square of the Pine Cones

The Bears stand guard at the entrance to the Square of the Pine Cones

The Square of the Pine Cones provides yet another soapbox for Vicino Orsini

The Square of the Pine Cones provides yet another soapbox for Vicino Orsini

And another message from the Duke of Orsino: “Memphis and every other marvel too that the world has held in honor until now yield to the holy wood, which is only like itself and nothing else.” Indeed!

Above the Square of the Pine Cones, a Rotunda looms

Above the Square of the Pine Cones, a Rotunda looms

#35 on the Map: PERSEFONE—Persephone

Persephone is at the opposite end of the Square of the Pine Cones. She provides another shady resting spot.

Persephone is at the opposite end of the Square of the Pine Cones. She provides another shady resting spot.

#36 on the Map: CERBERO—Cerberus

Of course Cerberus is nearby, guarding Persephone, and the entry to Hades.

Of course Cerberus is nearby, guarding Persephone, and the entry to Hades.

Every garden needs a 3-headed dog.

Every garden needs a 3-headed dog.

#37 on the Map: TEMPIO DEL VIGNOLA—Temple of Vignola

Vicino Orsini built this Temple to honor the memory of his deceased wife Giulia Farnese.

Vicino Orsini built this Temple to honor the memory of his deceased wife Giulia Farnese.

The Temple was carved from Tufa Stone, found on site. These are the front steps.

The Temple was carved from Tufa Stone, found on site. These are the front steps.

Carving on the vaulted ceiling of the Temple

Carving on the vaulted ceiling of the Temple

A high wall encircles the entire Garden. This Gate separates the meadow by the Temple from the wilderness of the Bomarzo hills.

A high wall encircles the entire Garden. This Gate separates the meadow by the Temple from the wilderness of the Bomarzo hills.

#38 on the Map—ROTONDA—The Rotunda

View of the Rotunda, from the Square of the Pine Cones

View of the Rotunda, from the Square of the Pine Cones

Approaching the Rotunda

Approaching the Rotunda

Atop the Rotunda

Atop the Rotunda

As we made our way to the Uscita (Exit), we passed these boulders, which were entirely covered with velvety blankets of Sedum and Moss:

Beautiful, soft Sedum and Moss envelop a tufa boulder

Beautiful, soft Sedum and Moss envelop a tufa boulder

It’s all too easy to fixate upon Bomarzo’s details; to become a connoisseur of its complexities. The hunt for the Meanings of the Duke of Orsino’s sculptural creations is irresistible. But, to truly absorb the essence of Vicino Orsini’s Boschetto, we should set aside our rational thoughts, and instead accept that we’re temporarily inhabiting the dream world of a Most Singular Gentleman. The schoolchildren who are brought by their teachers to the Sacro Bosco know exactly how to experience the place. They do not try to decipher the carved inscriptions, or to parse the symbolism of the giant sculptures. Instead, they open eyes wide, laugh, and then run pell-mell, in a fever to see more and more and more of the surprises that await, behind every thicket, and around every bend of the shady pathways.

The Mouth of Hell: illuminated a night...to make us Shiver With Excitement! Image courtesy of the Sacro Bosco Garden in Bomarzo.

The Mouth of Hell: illuminated at night…to make us Shiver With Excitement! Image courtesy of the Sacro Bosco Garden in Bomarzo.

Before heading to nearby Bagnaia, and the gardens of Villa Lante, Vannella asked Anacleto to make a detour into the village of Bomarzo itself, and so he maneuvered his vehicle up impossibly narrow and steep streets, to a parking lot just below the Orsini Castle. These were our views:

The Village of Bomarzo

The Village of Bomarzo

The Sacro Bosco Garden and its massive statues are tucked into the fold of a narrow valley...and completely hidden from view by the band of greenery at the center of this photo.

The Sacro Bosco Garden and its massive statues are tucked into the fold of a narrow valley…and completely hidden from view by the band of greenery at the center of this photo.

Anacleto photographs the Castle of the Duke of Orsino.

Anacleto photographs the Castle of the Duke of Orsino.

Laundry Day in Bomarzo

Laundry Day in Bomarzo

Next, to Bagnaia, and the gardens of Villa Lante.

Aerial view of the Gardens of Villa Lante (foreground), and the Village of Bagnaia (background). Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Aerial view of the Gardens of Villa Lante (foreground), and the Village of Bagnaia (background). Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

We were all famished, and so taking a lunch break was imperative. Vannella led us to the restaurant adjoining the B&B da Peppe al Borgo (#23 Cardinal de Gambara, Bagnaia 01100 , Italy ) where we feasted…and feasted (pace yourselves: the servings are enormous). If you visit Villa Lante, be sure also to make time for a meal at this Café, which serves dishes that are particular to Northern Lazio…many of which you’ll never find on the menus of Roman eateries.

The Tented Restaurant, at B&B da Peppe al Borgo, on  Bagnaia's main Piazza.

The Tented Restaurant, at B&B da Peppe al Borgo, on Bagnaia’s main Square: the Piazza XX Settembre

My Lunchtime View, as I dined at the Restaurant of B&B da Peppe al Borgo.

My Lunchtime View, as I dined at the Restaurant of B&B da Peppe al Borgo.

Fountain on Bagnaia's main Piazza

Fountain, on Piazza XX Settembre

Onward, to our Second Garden of the Day:

Villa Lante Gardens
in the Village of Bagnaia

(Bagnaia is a bit over 3 miles to the East of Viterbo, on Route 205 )

The Ticket Office for the Gardens is located at the end of Via Jacopo Barozzi.
Admission Fee: 5 Euros
The gardens are open year-round, from Tuesday through Sunday, but are closed on all Italian holidays

Garden Website

http://www.grandigiardini.it/lang_EN/giardini-scheda.php?id=67

Our visit to Villa Lante’s gardens begins. The gardens at Villa Lante have been long been a Goldmine for Scholars of Garden Design…but, unfortunately, the definitive tome—all 512 pages written by Fritz Barth—has only been published in German. And the Visitor’s Guides to the gardens, exclusively distributed by the Il Pegaso Bookshop which is just outside the gates to the garden, are available in several editions, but none have yet been done in English. During my May 2014 chat with the owner of the Bookshop, he indicated that he hopes to someday also make an English-language guide available. However, several brief, English overviews of the gardens HAVE been written…by Marella Agnelli, by Bruno Adorni, and by that British-gardening-gadabout, Monty Don (who I was fortunate enough to meet at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show, in London, when he admitted to me that the current management of the gardens at Villa Lante could be greatly improved). As introduction to the gardens at Villa Lante, Monty Don’s summary, now quoted in part from his book GREAT GARDENS OF ITALY, will serve us well:

“Villa Lante is not the first great Renaissance garden to be made [my note: more accurately, Villa Lante should be classified as a Late Renaissance, or a Mannerist garden], nor the biggest, most expensive or most innovative in design. Its creator, Cardinal Gambara, was not even the most important or powerful figure in the Viterbo area, let alone the Catholic Church of the mid-16th century. It is not a garden whose code has to be unlocked to be appreciated. It does have, as all gardens of its period did, a number of symbols and images that would have been potent statements and messages for contemporary visitors, but you do not need to understand any of this to enjoy the garden to the full. Yet it is, as far as any man-made construct might be, almost perfect.”

The Client: Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara

The Client: Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara

“In 1566 Cardinal Giovan Francesco Gambara, related by marriage to the Farnese family…and close friend of Cardinal d’Este at Tivoli, as well as his neighbor Vicino Orsini at Bomarzo, was appointed Bishop of Viterbo, and it was he that turned a section of [a hunting] park into the garden that we see now.”

Monty Don concludes: “It has a sureness of touch, a completeness that no other Italian garden possesses. It is small enough to see every inch of and to hold in one’s mind, yet impressively grand enough to soar in the imagination. It is, without question, a masterpiece.”

Unlike the vivid dreams which Vicino Orsini dramatized in his Boschetto at Bomarzo, Cardinal Gambara’s garden isn’t an overtly autobiographical creation. Instead, the Cardinal turned to a committee of the best architects, garden-designers, and hydraulic engineers of the Day. Architect Giacomo Barozzoi, more commonly known as “Il Vignola,” conceived the master plan, and built a series of terraces, which he organized along a central north-south spine of flowing water, which cascades down a hillside. Our very busy friend Pirro Ligorio was summoned to contribute ideas about adding elements of surprise, such as hidden fountains. And Thomaso Chiruchi, a hydraulics specialist, made sure that the water that moved through the elaborate network of rills and pools and fountains performed as intended.

 Architect Giacomo da Vignola—aka Il Vignola (born 1507, died 1573)---was responsible for the master plan of the gardens of Villa Lante

Architect Giacomo da Vignola—aka Il Vignola (born 1507, died 1573)—was responsible for the master plan of the gardens of Villa Lante

On the afternoon of May 14, 2014 when I explored Villa Lante, the weather, which during our morning hours at the gardens of Bomarzo had been fair, became
temperamental. Our visit began under blue skies. But shortly, a hazy overcast prevailed. Soon, dark clouds gathered, and not long after, fat raindrops pelted us. Finally, almost as if Italy was mimicking the mercurial climate of England, golden sunlight reappeared. This made my job as garden-photographer difficult, and so I’ll inject a smattering of sunny-day photos (all courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop) into my sequence of cloudy-day pictures.

We approach the high wall that surrounds the gardens of Villa Lante. This wall was built in 1514, to enclose a 62-acre hunting preserve which was the summer playground for the various Bishops of Viterbo.

We approach the high wall that surrounds the gardens of Villa Lante. This wall was built in 1514, to enclose a 62-acre hunting preserve which was the summer playground for the various Bishops of Viterbo.

Just as Vicino Orsini used images of Bears in his woodland garden at Bomarzo, Cardinal Gambara’s gardens at Villa Lante include much visual-name-punning about “Gamberi”…or “Crayfish.”

Gambara's Coat of Arms, with a Crayfish.

Gambara’s Coat of Arms, with a Crayfish.

When a Mannerist garden-maker had a surname that recalled an animal — or a crustacean — this was occasion for much humor and commotion. God forbid that a garden-maker had NOT possessed a name that was also useful for word-play!

Engraving of Villa Lante, by G.Lauro, done in 1612--1614. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

Engraving of Villa Lante, by G.Lauro, done in 1612–1614. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

Sign at  Garden's Entry Gate

Sign at Garden’s Entry Gate

Cross-Section Diagram of the Main Garden Areas

Cross-Section Diagram of the Main Garden Areas

But, before we enter the Gardens Proper, we encounter Pegasus.

Sign at the Pegasus Fountain

Sign at the Pegasus Fountain

Approaching the Pegasus  Fountain

Approaching the Pegasus
Fountain

A closer look at the Pegasus Fountain. Above the Fountain, the 2nd story and cupola of one of the Garden's two pavilions is visible.

A closer look at the Pegasus Fountain. Above the Fountain, the 2nd story and cupola of one of the Garden’s two pavilions is visible.

Detail of some of the Fountainheads behind Pegasus

Detail of some of the Fountainheads behind Pegasus

Pegasus

Pegasus

The Pegasus Fountain

The Pegasus Fountain

We climb, up toward the Main Garden.

Steps from the Pegasus Fountain, up the the lowest terrace of the Main Garden.

Steps from the Pegasus Fountain, up the the lowest terrace of the Main Garden.

View from the Steps, back toward the Entry Gate, and then to the Village of Bagnaia.

View from the Steps, back toward the Entry Gate, and then to the Village of Bagnaia.

Drawn-to-scale MAP of the Main Gardens at Villa Lante. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

Drawn-to-scale MAP of the Main Gardens at Villa Lante. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

KEY to the Garden Areas at Villa Lante. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

KEY to the Garden Areas at Villa Lante. Image from THE ARCHITECTURE OF WESTERN GARDENS, courtesy of The MIT Press.

The Main Garden has twelve sections.

#1: Fountain of the Deluge (Grotto)

#2: Houses of the Muses

#3: Fountain of the Dolphins

#4: Water Chain

#5: Fountain of the Giants

#6: The Cardinal’s (Water) Table

#7: Fountain of the Lights (or Cave)

#8: Grotto of Venus

#9: Grotto of Neptune

#10: Palazzina Gambara

#11: Palazzina Montalto

#12: Fountain of the Moors (Water Garden surrounded by extensive knot gardens)

Area #12 is on the lowest level of the gardens. Area #1 is at the highest level. Visitors currently are directed to enter the gardens at the bottom of the hill, where they begin their garden walks by the Fountain of the Moors. But this sequence REVERSES the order in which Vignola intended the areas of the gardens to be discovered.

Aerial View of the Gardens of Villa Lante. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Aerial View of the Gardens of Villa Lante. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

During Cardinal Gambara’s time, his visitors began their garden perambulations by the rustic and vine-covered Grotto of the Fountain of the Deluge, at the top of the hill. As Gambara’s guests proceeded down through the garden, they followed the course of a stream which was channeled through various garden structures and which fed increasingly elaborate fountains, until they ended their wanderings at the severely-geometric water garden named the Fountain of the Moors. The sounds of water as it splashes against rock and cascades down rills and sprays from fountains pervade a visitor’s senses. This tension between the dynamism of moving water and the immobility of the stones which Gambara’s masons carved to direct the downward flow of the stream provides the dialogue—both visual and aural— for this particular garden. Being a Mannerist-era design, the detailing of the garden’s ornaments are often surprising. A long Rill, with edges composed of stone carvings that replicate the legs of hundreds of crayfish (yet another pun on the name of the garden’s owner), directs rapidly-gushing water toward a long, stone table, where a central channel of languidly-flowing water provided a setting for elaborate banquets. Platters of delicacies were floated along the stream, put there to be snatched by Gambara’s hungry guests. Ahhh….’twas good to be a Cardinal!

In the spirit of living, for just a little while, like guests of this particular Cardinal, we’ll take a stroll through his gardens. But we’ll pretend that we’ve been declared Very Special Visitors, and are thus allowed to encounter his garden areas in their intended sequence…from top to bottom. We’ll first climb toward the highest point of his property, and through the parklands which were once a hunting preserve.

IL PARCO

The Parklands at Villa Lante. From the highest point of this Park, we'll soon enter the Gardens Proper, through a gate which leads to the Fountain of the Deluge. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

The Parklands at Villa Lante. From the highest point of this Park, we’ll soon enter the Gardens Proper, through a gate which leads to the Fountain of the Deluge. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

#1 on the Map: FOUNTAIN OF THE DELUGE, & #2 on the Map: THE HOUSES OF THE MUSES

Two little Temples, called the Houses of the Muses, flank the Fountain of the Deluge. We're at the top of the hill.

Two little Temples, called the Houses of the Muses, flank the Fountain of the Deluge. We’re at the top of the hill. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

The Cardinal's ever-present Crayfish adorns a Temple

The Cardinal’s ever-present Crayfish adorns a Temple

Diagram of Fountain of the Deluge & The Houses of the Muses

Diagram of Fountain of the Deluge & The Houses of the Muses

The Grotto of the Fountain of the Deluge. The water supply for the entire Garden issues from the Grotto.

The Grotto of the Fountain of the Deluge. The water supply for the entire Garden issues from the Grotto.

a Four-Faced Herm, in the courtyard of the Fountain of the Deluge

a Four-Faced Herm, in the courtyard of the Fountain of the Deluge

To the East, behind the balustrade: a parterre, and rose bushes.

To the East, behind the balustrade: a parterre, and rose bushes.

Anacleto strolls through the courtyard of the Fountain of the Deluge

Anacleto and Vannella stroll through the courtyard of the Fountain of the Deluge

#3 on the Map: FOUNTAIN OF THE DOLPHINS

The Fountain of the Dolphins was once enclosed with a wooden trellis, which was covered with vines. Joke fountains were triggered by the movements of passers-by....step on the wrong stone, and you got soaked.

The Fountain of the Dolphins was once enclosed with a wooden trellis, which was covered with vines. Joke fountains were triggered by the movements of passers-by….step on the wrong stone, and you got soaked.

Urn near the Fountain of the Dolphins

Urn near the Fountain of the Dolphins

#4 on the Map: WATER CHAIN

Diagram of the Water Chain

Diagram of the Water Chain

My view of the distant Village of Bagnaia, from the top of the Water Chain.

My view of the distant Village of Bagnaia, from the top of the Water Chain. Half-way down the slope, you can see a portion of the Cardinal’s Table.

Another view down the Water Chain. We're looking due North.

Another view down the Water Chain. We’re looking due North.

A sunnier-day view down the Water Chain. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

A sunnier-day view down the Water Chain. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

And now, a view UP the Water Chain. To take this photo, I paused, about a quarter of the way up from the bottom of the chain.

And now, a view UP the Water Chain. To take this photo, I paused, about a quarter of the way up from the bottom of the chain.

Another view UP the Water Chain.

Another view UP the Water Chain.

Two Obelisks mark the lowest point of the Water Chain. Directly below the balustrade is the Fountain of the Giants (or Rivers).

Two Obelisks mark the lowest point of the Water Chain. Directly below the balustrade is the Fountain of the Giants (or Rivers).

And details are ALL: Here's an end flourish, on the Water Chain.

And details are ALL: Here’s an end flourish, on the Water Chain.

Steps lead from the Water Chain, around and down to the Fountain of the Giants.

Steps lead from the Water Chain, around and down to the Fountain of the Giants.

#5 on the Map: FOUNTAIN OF THE GIANTS (or RIVERS)

The Fountain of the Giants

The Fountain of the Giants

Diagram of The Fountain of the Giants AND of The Cardinal's Table

Diagram of The Fountain of the Giants AND of The Cardinal’s Table

A sudden squall soaks Donn and Vannella, who're patiently waiting while I take photos at the Fountain of the Giants.

A sudden squall soaks Donn and Vannella, who’re patiently waiting while I take photos at the Fountain of the Giants.

Another exotic water source in the Fountain of the Giants

Another exotic water source in the Fountain of the Giants

The Fountain of the Giants

The Fountain of the Giants

The Fountain of the Giants

The Fountain of the Giants

The Fountain of the Giants

The Fountain of the Giants

#6 on the Map: CARDINAL’S TABLE

View of the Cardinal's Table, from just above the Fountain of the Giants

View of the Cardinal’s Table, from just above the Fountain of the Giants

The Weather suddenly changed, and a mob of umbrella-toting school kids appeared.

The Weather suddenly changed, and a mob of umbrella-toting school kids appeared.

But in another instant, the kids had surged uphill and the Cardinal's Table was again bare.

But in another instant, the kids had surged uphill and the Cardinal’s Table was again bare.

What an ODD thing to imagine: platters of food, floating by, at the Cardinal's Table.

What an ODD thing to imagine: platters of food, floating by, at the Cardinal’s Table.

We're at the northern-most end of the Cardinal's Table. In the background: The Fountain of the Giants.

We’re at the northern-most end of the Cardinal’s Table. In the background: The Fountain of the Giants.

Another group of schoolchildren appears, by the Cardinal's Table.

Another group of schoolchildren appears, by the Cardinal’s Table.

A sunny-day view of the Cardinal's Table. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

A sunny-day view of the Cardinal’s Table. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Here's where the water exits the Cardinal's Table. At this point, water enters an underground pipe, which then feeds the Fountain of the Lights.

Here’s where the water exits the Cardinal’s Table. At this point, water enters an underground pipe, which then feeds the Fountain of the Lights.

#7 on the Map: FOUNTAIN OF THE LIGHTS (or of the Cave)

From the terrace by the Cardinal's Table, we look downhill, to the Fountain of the Lights.

From the terrace by the Cardinal’s Table, we look downhill, to the Fountain of the Lights.

Diagram of the Fountain of the Lights

Diagram of the Fountain of the Lights

Another view of the Fountain of the Lights

Another view of the Fountain of the Lights

My view from the Fountain of the Lights, down across the Fountain of the Moors, and then to the Village of Bagnaia.

My view from the Fountain of the Lights, down across the Fountain of the Moors, and then to the Village of Bagnaia.

#s 8 & 9 on the Map: GROTTOES OF VENUS, AND OF NEPTUNE

The Grotto of Neptune. In both of these nearly-identical grottoes, the statues of their Name-Gods have been long-since removed.

The Grotto of Neptune. In both of these nearly-identical grottoes, the statues of their Name-Gods have been long-since removed.

JUST BELOW THE FOUNTAIN OF THE LIGHTS:

A Procession of Urns

A Procession of Urns

Beautiful deposits of lichen, on an Urn

Beautiful deposits of lichen, on an Urn

Donn heads toward the triangular parterres of boxwood which separate the Palazzina Gambera (seen in the background) from its twin, the Palazzina Montalto.

Donn heads toward the triangular parterres of boxwood which separate the Palazzina Gambera (seen in the background) from its twin, the Palazzina Montalto.

The Triangular Parterres, viewed as I stood among the much-curvier boxwood hedges that surround the Fountain of the Moors.

The Triangular Parterres, viewed as I stood among the much-curvier boxwood hedges that surround the Fountain of the Moors.

#s 10 & 11 on the Maps: PALAZZINA GAMBARA & PALAZZINA MONTALTO

The land upon which the gardens were built had long been used as a summer residence by the various Bishops of Viterbo. Due to the fleeting nature of the Bishops’ occupancies, relatively “simple” structures were required to house them. Thus, both the Palazzina Gambara, and its twin Palazzina Montalto, are small. Each consists of a garden-level loggia used for entertaining, with an apartment on the upper floor.

Palazzina Montalto (on the left) and Palazzina Gambara (on the right), as viewed from within the boxwood parterres that surround the Fountain of the Moors.

Palazzina Montalto (on the left) and Palazzina Gambara (on the right), as viewed from within the boxwood parterres that surround the Fountain of the Moors.

Sunny-day view of the Central Fountain in the Fountain of the Moors Garden, with the Palazzina Montalto, and the Palazzina Gambara in the background. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Sunny-day view of the Central Fountain in the Fountain of the Moors Garden, with the Palazzina Montalto, and the Palazzina Gambara in the background. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Another sunshiny view of the two garden pavilions, seen from within the parterres of the Fountain of the Moors Garden. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Another sunshiny view of the two garden pavilions, seen from within the parterres of the Fountain of the Moors Garden. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Oddly, interior photography is allowed at the Palazzina Montalto, but prohibited at the Palazzina Gambara. These little party pavilions are named for the various Cardinals who commissioned them. Cardinal Gambara’s “casino” was erected in 1578. His successor, Cardinal Montalto, completed a twin garden pavilion
in 1590. The ground-level loggias of both pavilions are decorated with exquisite frescoes which cover the walls and ceilings.

First, my photos of the interior of the Palazzina Montalto:

Palazzina Montalto Loggia--wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia–wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia--ceiling detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia–ceiling detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia--ceiling detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia–ceiling detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia--wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia–wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia--wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia–wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia--wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia–wall detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia--ceiling detail

Palazzina Montalto Loggia–ceiling detail

Now, Il Pegaso Bookshop’s photos of the interior of Palazzina Gambara:

Palazzina Gambara Loggia. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Palazzina Gambara Loggia.
Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Palazzina Gambara Loggia. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Palazzina Gambara Loggia. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Palazzina Gambara Loggia. A depiction of the gardens of Villa Farnese, in nearby Caprarola. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Palazzina Gambara Loggia. A depiction of the gardens of Villa Farnese, in nearby Caprarola. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Palazzina Gambara Loggia. A fresco of Villa Lante's own gardens. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Palazzina Gambara Loggia. A fresco of Villa Lante’s own gardens. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

#12 on the Map: THE FOUNTAIN OF THE MOORS (or the WATER SQUARE ), with elaborate boxwood parterres, surrounding the water garden

A sunny-day view of the Fountain of the Moors, as seen from the triangular parterre garden that's between the Palazzina Gambara and the Palazzina Montalto. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

A sunny-day view of the Fountain of the Moors, as seen from the triangular parterre garden that’s between the Palazzina Gambara and the Palazzina Montalto. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

My rainy-afternoon view of the Fountain of the Moors gardens.

My rainy-afternoon view of the Fountain of the Moors gardens.

Dramatic skies, over the island in the Fountain of the Moors water garden

Dramatic skies, over the island in the Fountain of the Moors water garden

My view of the central figures, on the Island

My view of the central figures, on the Island

In better weather: the figures on the Island in the Fountain of the Moors garden. In the background is a gate, beyond which is the Village. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

In better weather: the figures on the Island in the Fountain of the Moors garden. In the background is a gate, beyond which is the Village.
Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

The ubiquitous Gambara Crayfish, on a bridge to the Island in the Fountain of the Moors water garden.

The ubiquitous Gambara Crayfish, on a bridge to the Island in the Fountain of the Moors water garden.

One of four bridges that leads to the Island. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

One of four bridges that lead to the Island. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

One of the four  (very cool) Stone Boats, which adorn the pools around the Island.

One of the four (very cool) Stone Boats, which adorn the pools around the Island.

Another cloudy-afternoon look at the still waters of the Fountain of Moors water garden

Another cloudy-afternoon look at the still waters of the Fountain of Moors water garden

This path, on the east side of the Water Garden, leads to the Gate between the garden and the Village

This path, on the east side of the Water Garden, leads to the Gate between the garden and the Village

My view through the bars of the locked Gate, which separates the Fantasy of the Garden, from the Reality of the Village.

My view through the bars of the locked Gate, which separates the Fantasy of the Garden, from the Reality of the Village.

I turned my back upon Reality, and headed back into the Gardens

I turned my back upon Reality, and headed back into the Gardens

The Parterre in the Fountain of the Moors garden, with distant hills...

The Parterre in the Fountain of the Moors garden, with distant hills…

More cloudy-day views of the gardens

More cloudy-day views of the gardens

Curlicues Galore, on a sunny day, in the Fountain of the Moors gardens. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Curlicues Galore, on a sunny day, in the Fountain of the Moors gardens. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

View of the Fountain of the Moors gardens, as seen from the cupola of the Palazzina Gambara. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

View of the Fountain of the Moors gardens, as seen from the cupola of the Palazzina Gambara. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

I swear...the Birds have got the best views of all, at the gardens of the Villa Lante. Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

I swear…the Birds have got the best views of all, at the gardens of the Villa Lante.
Image courtesy of Il Pegaso Bookshop, in Bagnaia.

Following our hours in Cardinal Gambara’s pleasure-gardens, we ducked into Il Pegaso Bookshop, where I was surprised at the dearth of English-language documentation about Villa Lante. Nevertheless, I was overjoyed to acquire their Italian-language booklet, with all of its beautiful, sunny-day photos.
Using my primitive but effective Italian communication skills (which consist of scribbled drawings, many Pleases and Thank-yous, along with Nouns aplenty…but with absolutely no Verbs, because conjugations would intimidate me into complete Silence), the Bookshop’s owner (who speaks little English)
managed to make me understand how distraught he has become about the relatively small number of visitors—both foreign AND Italian–who make an effort to visit Villa Lante. I sympathized, and told him that, apart from groups of schoolchildren (both at Villa Lante, and in Bomarzo’s Sacred Wood), my companions and I had that day encountered very few other visitors during our garden walks.

 Donn inspects the goods. Il Pegaso Bookshop is located near the Gates to Villa Lante, on Via Jacopo Barozzi, in Bagnaia

Donn inspects the goods. Il Pegaso Bookshop is
located near the Gates to Villa Lante, on Via Jacopo Barozzi, in Bagnaia

This same worry about the meager stream of tourists into Town was also expressed to me by the owner of the Café on Bagnaia’s central Piazza, where we’d enjoyed our lunch. Granted, using public transportation to travel from Rome to Northern Lazio isn’t a practical option, but considering the two World-class gardens in the area, planning a little trek to Bomarzo, and then to Bagnaia, is well worth an investment of time and money.

And so, what to make of our Day’s two very different gardens….gardens which were created more or less simultaneously by erudite men who had decades and fortunes to devote to the process? Bomarzo’s mysterious decorations and somewhat disorienting landscape, and Villa Lante’s operatic waterworks and highly-geometric structure, were clearly created in fevers of artistic expression. Those fevers were further heightened by the spirit of competitive garden-making which had come alive in Italy during the Renaissance. Both Vicino Orsini and Cardinal Gambara were clear about their intentions to make gardens with wonders which would astonish their visitors. But the end results show us the polar extremes of the Mannerist era.

At the Gardens of Villa Lante, architect Vignola still had one design-foot planted firmly and conservatively in the Renaissance. After all, he was designing a highly-visible garden: a showplace for a Cardinal, and by extension for the Church itself. But Vignola’s other design-foot had already begun to mosey over into the Mannerist Realm. While observing the conventions of Renaissance garden-design, where Man’s dominion over Nature’s Chaos was asserted via the rigors of geometry and the wonders of hydraulic technology, Vignola nevertheless was peppering his gardens with visual flourishes that were grotesque and fanciful. Nary a statue in the gardens at Villa Lante is vaguely Classical or Ecumenical in appearance. Giant, roughly-hewn River Gods lounge in splashing waters. Boats made of stone, which should surely sink, instead float serenely upon the surfaces of reflecting pools. Fountainheads and Urns and Herms abound…all decorated with the faces of imps and trolls and creatures who are not to be found in the real world.

Villa Lante--Urn

Villa Lante–Urn

Villa Lante--Urn

Villa Lante–Urn

For Villa Lante’s astounding Water Chain, Cardinal Gambara’s architects bowed to natural forms, as they modeled stone carvings upon the leg joints of a 30 million-year-old sea creature. The Water Chain presents a perfect synthesis of organic forms and human technology, and suggests that, at least in this part of the garden, a
truce had been called by man in his struggle to dominate Gaia.
But, during Cardinal Gambara’s tenure, quite of bit of water-mischief was also at play, as joke-fountains drenched unsuspecting passers-by. And the stone claws of an enormous Crayfish curl over the balustrade above the Fountain of the Giants. This is a garden that exalts reason and order, but Villa Lante is also a place with gentle wonders that fill a visitor with the emotions of surprise and happiness.

Giant Crayfish Claws, at the end of the Water Chain

Giant Crayfish Claws, at the end of the Water Chain

In the design of his Sacred Grove in Bomarzo, Vicino Orsini made few geometrical efforts to impose order upon the garden that he’d chosen to locate in a nearly-invisible fold of the Earth. Except for laying out two Squares (the Piazzale of the Vases, and the Piazzale of the Pine Cones), Vicino was content to allow the character of the land to determine the course of his garden paths. This was an utterly UN-Renaissance-like approach to garden-making, because, by leaving the Land intact, the Duke was conceding that Nature was not in need of taming. Many of the statues that he commissioned were carved from living rock. And so, although the multitude of ragged tufa boulders which had always jutted out from the ground were refashioned into images which reflected Vicino’s myriad preoccupations — about sex and poetry and warfare and myth and politics and fear and mortality — the statues are still essentially of the Earth. The carved figures’ random locations and imposing scales remind us that, despite the artistic alterations that Vicino made — which imposed his human voice upon lumps of porous limestone — each of those statues comes from natural Rock, and so continues to rest on the spot where it, as a Rock, has always been.

An amateur psychologist might conclude that, when designing his garden, Orsini gave free reign to his Id. Within his woodland, Orsini created a refuge where disorganization was acceptable… where his Protean nature could express itself, without regard to the fashions of the time or the demands of reality. Each time Vicino climbed back up the hill to his Castle, he had to reassume the responsibilities of being the Duke of Orsino. But when he wandered back down into his Boschetto, he was temporarily the King…not of Nature, but of a world that reflected his deepest thoughts and instincts. Vicino etched volumes of riddles and maxims into the rock of his garden. Upon an obelisk is this, his simplest, and most telling message: “Just to Set the Heart Free.”

This Herm is one of the first Sights to greet the Sacro Bosco's visitors.

This Herm is one of the first Sights to greet the Sacro Bosco’s visitors.

Copyright 2015. Nan Quick—Nan Quick’s Diaries for Armchair Travelers. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express & written permission from Nan Quick is strictly prohibited.

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My Recipe for a Stress-Free Week in Rome

This end-of-trip photo of the Restless Author (taken in late afternoon, on the roof terrace of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, on Saturday May 17, 2014 ) proves that a Rome-Stay CAN indeed be relaxing, instead of exhausting. I'll tell you how to keep calm, while visiting one of the fabulously frantic cities in the World. Photo by Donn Brous.

This end-of-trip photo of the Restless Author — taken in late afternoon, on the roof terrace of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, on Saturday May 17, 2014… after nine extraordinarily productive days in Rome and environs —proves that a Rome-Stay CAN indeed be relaxing, instead of nerve-wracking. I’ll tell you how to keep calm, while visiting one of the most frantic cities in the World. Photo by Donn Brous.

November 2014

Winter has just arrived in New Hampshire…with typically indecent haste. For all of us who thrive during summertime, these first days of snow and chill — which promise months of the same to follow — pose a challenge: how indeed, are we to cope cheerfully with the absence of regularly-appearing sunshine, of green-growing landscapes, of warming breezes?

My New Hampshire meadow & pond, on Nov. 14, 2014. This has now given me incentive to write about Warmer Places.

My New Hampshire meadow & pond, on Nov. 14, 2014. This has now given me incentive to write about Warmer Places.

From a travel-writer’s perspective, however, this early advent of Winter provided a necessary kick-start. Before the snow began to fly, I’d loitered at my desk…had pondered how best to begin work on an extensive, three-part series about my most recent visit to Italy.

In May, I’d further explored Rome (which you’ll read about here). I’d traveled to the hills of northern Lazio to investigate the water features at Villa Lante, and the monstrous stone carvings at Sacro Bomarzo…two very different Mannerist gardens from the mid-1500’s. And I’d returned to Tivoli, where I once again marveled at the archaeological site of Hadrian’s Villa, and also made a very emotional third pilgrimage to my favorite garden in All the World…the Villa d’Este.

The sturm und drang of New England’s weather has now given me the incentive I needed to turn my thoughts to the beauties of Italy in mid-May. Turbulent winds howl down from the slopes of Mount Monadnock, and across my gardens, where tree surgeons are currently chain-sawing their way through the broken trunks and limbs which forceful gales have recently left in their wake. But I’m transporting my mind back into the perfect warmth of Rome, in late-Springtime, when roses were in full bloom, and the fragrance of jasmine filled the air. It’s sixteen degrees Fahrenheit outside, with another ice storm on the way? Who cares! I’m thinking of Rome as it was, during its most welcoming season.

My previous visit to Rome occurred in June of 2011, and I reported about that sojourn for New York Social Diary. Since Rome is the Eternal City, much of what I wrote three years ago does, of course, still apply to the Rome I visited in May of 2014. Thus, where appropriate, I’ll weave a few passages and pictures from my 2011 article into these new, infinitely more detailed Travel Diaries.

As I’ve made return trips to Rome, my attitude toward the City has evolved, and my ability to rise to its challenges has matured. I now enter the City with
an awareness that I’m but one of approximately 10 million extremely fortunate tourists who’ll visit, over the course of a “normal” year (that count can double, in high holy years). This means that, should I encounter any of Rome’s 2.9 million citizens whose behavior is a tad brusque, I must bear in mind that the natives are being incessantly pummeled by a veritable stampede of we who are just passing though. Sure, that pummeling also contributes mightily to Rome’s economic health (although the words “healthy” and “economy” in Italy these days do not go hand-in-hand), but still, living in one of the major tourist attractions on the planet has got to be patience-taxing, and so visitors should try to remain compassionate towards the locals.

I cannot hope to have a native’s understanding of Rome. But I’ve progressed beyond my first, long-ago hours of feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by the enormous scale of the city that I yearned to discover. I’m done with my days of being annoyed at the crowds and hucksters. I’m sanguine about the high cost of enjoying food in restaurants that are located on the city’s most famous piazzas. I’ve survived my carelessly-chosen ride in a gypsy cab, and have skirted mobs of voracious pickpockets. I no longer fume throughout sleepless nights, as noisy tourists who seem never to need to rest party into the wee hours. While I try studiously to learn from others’ mistakes, I’ve learned alot from my own. And I’ve relentlessly picked the brains of the Locals — be they Italian-Born, or Transplants-by-Choice — about how best to mine the treasures in and around Rome. Over the years, these six brilliant ladies have been especially generous about sharing their Rome-Lore with me:
Jill Carlson De Carli (who, much to my sorrow, died in 2007), Valentina Grossi Orzalesi, Dr. Giovanna Terzulli, Mia Thomas-Ruzic, Dr. Vanella della Chiesa, and Vanessa Caredda.

Combining cautionary tales harvested from my past travel snafus with touring tips offered by my friends has finally allowed me to become relaxed whenever I’m being a Temporary Roman. Here are my formulas for a stress-free visit to the city which, next to London, has become my Favorite Whirlwind on the planet.

Rome's Coat of Arms.  Senatus Populusque Romanus: "The Senate and the People of Rome."

Rome’s Coat of Arms.
Senatus Populusque Romanus: “The Senate and the People of Rome.”

Rome, like London, is incomprehensibly, horizontally vast. To reach the Centro Storico (or Historic Center), the entirety of which comprises one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, you must first penetrate and then thread your way through miles and miles of urban sprawl which surround the ancient Caput Mundi…the Capital of the World.

A Pretty Impressive set of Real-Estate Holdings.

A Pretty Impressive set of Real-Estate Holdings.

There are treasures on every corner and Rome’s inhabitants either zip past them all at frantic speed, or idle in what seem at times to be perpetual gridlocks of traffic. Whether you travel to Rome via plane, landing at Fiumicino Airport (aka Leonardo da Vinci), or arrive in the City via train,
disembarking at the Stazione Termini, for calm entry into the Roman Maelstrom, it’s critical that visitors hail a Legitimate Taxi. Legions of illegal, unsanctioned cabs haunt the airport and train station, and pose the hazards of dangerously inept drivers, who demand exorbitant fees.

This is what a Legitimate Roman Taxi looks like.

This is what a Legitimate Roman Taxi looks like.

And so our Tutorial for a Stress-Free Roman Visit begins with this first, most important item: When in Rome, ONLY step foot into the Comune di Roma’s WHITE cabs…those with taxi signs on the roof, and the words “ROMA CAPITALE” printed on the door, alongside the taxi’s license number.

Your most-useful Coin.

Your most-useful Coin.

Your next Travel Tactic applies when you’re visiting any part of the Italian peninsula. Immediately after you’ve set foot on Italian soil (and even before you take that first taxi ride), stop thinking of Italy as “ITALY.” Instead, know that this country is actually “THE LAND OF EXACT CHANGE,” and point yourself toward the nearest Bureau de Change outlet at the airport. If you want to ingratiate yourself with Italian vendors, be advised that nothing will engender goodwill faster than your offerings of small bills and abundant coin. Certainly, your credit cards will also be welcomed, but only reliably at hotels and boutiques. As you go about your daily business of touring, you’ll discover that most museums won’t make change for admission fees, and that taxi fares must be paid exactly (and always remember to tip drivers generously to show how glad you are to have survived your rides). Many restaurants frown at tabs being settled with large bills, and even front desk staff at fine hotels grimace when asked to break 100 Euro notes into smaller denominations. Before you head out each morning, remember to fill your change-purse to jangling, and stuff your wallet with as many 5 Euro notes as will fit. You’ll thus be met with smiles, whenever you spend money.

And the most-welcome Bills

And the most-welcome Bills

The third, important rule for a Happy Roman Idyll is to secure a HOME-BASE IN A LESS TRAFFIC-AFFLICTED CORNER OF THE CITY. I have always gravitated to TRASTEVERE, which is on the west bank of the Tiber River. Trastevere is the 13th Rione (“Rione” means a traditional administrative division of the city of Rome) and has been settled since Etruscan times.

Trastevere is on the west side of the Tiber River. The name of this division of the City comes from the Latin: "trans Tiberim,' meaning "beyond, or across, the Tiber."

Trastevere is on the west side of the Tiber River. The name of this division of the City comes from the Latin: “trans Tiberim,” meaning “beyond, or across, the Tiber.”

Certainly, the too-many-cars-trucks-and-motorbikes situation in Trastevere is as bonkers as it is throughout the rest of Rome…

How to park in Rome.

How to park in Rome.

…but because much of the neighborhood has been turned into an Area Pedonale (pedestrians only area) — especially the sections to the north of Viale di Trastevere (the road which marks the division between the north and south portions of Trastevere) — it’s possible to amble through much of Trastevere without the constant peril of being flattened by an impatient driver.

The Emblem of Trastevere

The Emblem of Trastevere

When you’re in Trastevere, you’re in the thick of a closely-packed part of Rome. On the lower, un-hilly portions of the neighborhood, confounding mazes of narrow, cobbled streets are lined by humble medieval buildings, which stand on the foundations of a significant Jewish community, one that began in Roman times. Occasionally the warren of alleys will widen into a small and irregularly-shaped piazza, but there are no piazzas in Trastevere to rival the expansive, paved spaces which abound on the opposite side of the Tiber. To announce the hour, Trastevere’s churches do not sound their chimes simultaneously. Firstly, the Basilica di Santa Maria’s bells ring (the 12th century mosaics inside the Basilica are jaw-droppingly beautiful). Then, split seconds after Santa Maria’s bells have gone silent, all the other churches in the Rione politely take turns announcing the time, one series of chimes commencing moments after earlier sequences have sounded. Each bell has its own timbre. Time in this quarter becomes a rolling event…subject to whatever church bells you happen to hear. Seagulls squawk and swoop up and down as they ride the thermal winds (a reminder that Rome isn’t too far removed from the Tyrrhenian Sea). People chatter, in a Babel of languages (a nice mix that’s quite soothing). In Trastevere, Real Romans, and Students (six universities are based in the neighborhood); swarms of Sidewalk-Vendors, all selling identical, poorly-made goods (avoid them, always!) ; Wanderers, and Expatriots mingle … it’s a stew of humanity.

Despite being densely-populated and surrounded by busy roadways, the air in the northern sector of Trastevere often has a soft sweetness. On the eastern border, cooling breezes rise from the waters of the Tiber. And, along the the western edge of Trastevere, the lushly-planted acres of the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden), combined with the far longer stretches of tree-dotted parkland on the Gianicolo’s steep hillsides, filter away pollutants. While many other portions of Rome’s Centro Storico seem now only to be soulless and bus-fume-befouled tourist destinations, Trastevere has somehow persevered and remained a vital and very-much-of-this-day neighborhood.

Map of the northern section of Trastevere.

Map of the northern section of Trastevere.

Satellite view of Trastevere's northern section.

Satellite view of Trastevere’s northern section.

After some experimentation, I’ve settled upon the perfect Roman refuge:
The HOTEL DONNA CAMILLA SAVELLI, which is on the slopes of the Gianicolo (or Janiculum Hill). Because the Hotel is situated well above Trastevere’s warren of cobbled streets, and contained within the thick, noise-dampening walls of a fully-restored 17th century monastery, life at the Donna Camilla Savelli is nearly always surreally tranquil.

The Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel. This is my twilight view of the courtyard, as seen from the Hotel's roof terrace, which is built atop Borromini's Church of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori. The window to my too is on the top floor of the former Convent, & just to the right of the corner where two wings of the building meet. Photo taken on Friday, May 9, 2014.

The Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel. This is my twilight view of the courtyard, as seen from the Hotel’s roof terrace, which is built atop Borromini’s Church of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori. The window to my room is on the top floor of the former Convent, & just to the right of the corner where two wings of the building meet. Photo taken on Friday, May 9, 2014.

Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel. #27 via Garibaldi. Trastevere 00153, Rome, Italy. Telephone# +39-06-588861. Website: www.hoteldonnacamillasavelli.com

Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel. #27 via Garibaldi. Trastevere 00153, Rome, Italy. Telephone# +39-06-588861. Website: http://www.hoteldonnacamillasavelli.com

The Hotel itself occupies the rooms of a former convent, that of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori , which was established in 1641 by Camilla Virginia Savelli Farnese, the Duchess of Latera. In 1642, The Duchess asked Francesco Borromini, then at his height of success as an architect, to design a Church, as well as an adjoining convent…to be built upon one of Trastevere’s most desirable sites: a high spot from which most of the Historic Heart of Rome could be admired. Construction commenced in 1643, but sputtered to a halt in 1655, when the fortunes of the House of Farnese declined. Over the next several decades, however, the interiors of the Church, along with the convent wings, were completed. Following is Wikipedia’s snapshot history of the Baroque building, which is one of Borromini’s most important works :

“The convent underwent a number of tribulations during the 19th century, however, it was not deconsecrated in 1873, as were many other monasteries. Since then the nunnery has slowly ebbed, and most of the convent is now the Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli. The Diocese presently lists the church as being in the care of the few remaining nuns of the order of Suore Oblate dei Santo Bambino Gesu. The monastery also served as a place to hide Jews from the Fascist authorities active in the Holocaust during World War II. The façade of the church remains in brick, deprived of decoration. It has a concave front and some odd-shaped windows that underscore Borromini’s Baroque idiosyncrasies.”

Several nuns from the convent continue to live on site, and daily, early-morning services are still held in Borromini’s jewel-box of a Church. A nun very kindly allowed me a private viewing of the Church’s interior…which was exquisite. I refrained from taking photos there, however.

Architect Francesco Borromini. Born 25 Sept. 1599. Died by his own hand on 2 Aug. 1667.

Architect Francesco Borromini. Born 25 Sept. 1599. Died by his own hand on 2 Aug. 1667.

Period etching of Santa Maria die Sette Dolori. The wall shown here is the same wall that still separates the Hotel's entry courtyard from via Garibaldi. Today's visitors to the Hotel still see this brick facade, which is embellished only by Borromini's eccentrically-arranged windows & alcoves.

Period etching of Santa Maria die Sette Dolori. The wall shown here is the same wall that still separates the Hotel’s entry courtyard from via Garibaldi, which makes a 90-degree turn around the property. Today’s visitors to the Hotel see this same brick facade, which is embellished only by Borromini’s eccentrically-arranged windows & alcoves.

About the architect himself, Wikipedia states:

“Francesco Borromini was a leading figure in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture. A keen student of the architecture of Michelangelo and the ruins of Antiquity, Borromini developed an inventive and distinctive architecture, employing manipulations of Classical architectural forms, geometrical rationales in his plans, and symbolic meanings in his buildings. He seems to have had a sound understanding of structures. He appears to have been a self-taught scholar, amassing a large library by the end of his life.”

“Probably because his work is idiosyncratic, his subsequent influence was not widespread. Later critics of the Baroque, such as the English architect
Sir John Soane, were particularly critical of Borromini’s work. From the late 19th century onwards, interest has revived in the works of Borromini and his architecture has become appreciated for its inventiveness.”

Elevation Drawings of the Church of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori. On the bottom: the Church itself.  On the top: exterior elevation of a wing of the Convent.

Elevation Drawings of the Church of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori. On the bottom: the Church itself.
On the top: exterior elevation of a wing of the Convent.

Shortly after my arrival, on the afternoon of Friday, May 9th, I realized that staying for the next nine days at the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel would qualify as an Extraordinary Event in my life as an Architecture-Lover. Here now, my grab-bag of Hotel photos:

The imposing Entry Gate to the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel's front courtyard, as seen from via Garibaldi.

The imposing Entry Gate to the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel’s front courtyard, as seen from via Garibaldi.

From inside the front entry court: the door to the Church at the center; and entry to the Hotel is to the far right.

From inside the front entry court: the door to the Church at the center; and entry to the Hotel is to the far right.

In the front entry courtyard, at night. Image courtesy of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel.

In the front entry courtyard, at night. Image courtesy of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel.

View down the length of the ground floor's Lounge. The Bar & Breakfast Buffet areas are to the right, and doors leading to the Courtyard are to the left. Image courtesy of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel.

View down the length of the ground floor’s Lounge. The Bar & Breakfast Buffet areas are to the right, and doors leading to the Courtyard are to the left. Image courtesy of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel.

My view on May 10th, from the opposite end of the Lounge, as I prepared to climb stairs, to my top-floor room.

My view on May 10th, from the opposite end of the Lounge, as I prepared to climb stairs, to my top-floor room.

My climb upwards begins.

My climb upwards begins.

View down back to the Lounge

View down back to the Lounge

I begin to climb the stairway know as La Scala Borrominiana.

I begin to climb the stairway known as La Scala Borrominiana.

Half-way up La Scala Borrominiana is this wonderful wall relief.

Half-way up La Scala Borrominiana is this wonderful wall relief.

Detail of Wall Relief.

Detail of Wall Relief.

Detail of vaulted ceiling, on the landing of La Scala Borrominiana.

Detail of vaulted ceiling, on the landing of La Scala Borrominiana.

Doorway on the landing of La Scala Borrominiana.

Doorway on the landing of La Scala Borrominiana.

View from the top floor (where I stayed), down to the landing of La Scala Borrominiana.

View from the top floor (where I stayed), down to the landing of La Scala Borrominiana.

The door to my Refuge-in-Rome.

The door to my Refuge-in-Rome.

I've just entered my small but well-appointed quarters, where the most-important feature is a nice bathroom with a huge, marble bathtub!

I’ve just entered my small but well-appointed quarters, where the most-important feature is a nice bathroom with a huge, marble bathtub!

This was first view of Trastevere, from my room, on May 9th, in the late afternoon.

This was my first view of Trastevere, from my room, on May 9th, in the late afternoon.

I looked down into the courtyard, where clouds of jasmine cascaded over pergolas, and tables were being set for the evening meal.

I looked down into the courtyard, where clouds of jasmine cascaded over pergolas, and tables were being set for the evening meal.

I locked my room, and went in search of stairs which would lead me up to the roof terrace.

I locked my room, and went in search of stairs which would lead me up to the roof terrace.

As I entered the roof terrace, this vista greeted me. Life at that moment seemed perfect.

As I stepped foot onto the roof terrace, this vista greeted me. Life at that moment seemed perfect.

I lingered on the roof deck, as night approached. Watch now, as the light changes:

A view uphill, from the roof deck.

A view uphill, from the roof deck.

Shadows deepen over the courtyard.

Shadows deepen over the courtyard.

Up top, looking due east.

Up top, looking due east.

A vertiginous look at the front entry courtyard.

A vertiginous look at the front entry courtyard.

Up top, looking north east.

Up top, looking north east.

Up top, looking north west, toward the Gianicolo.

Up top, looking north west, toward the Gianicolo.

Satellite dishes abound....

Satellite dishes abound….

Detail of roof tile...made in Siena.

Detail of roof tile…made in Siena.

Up top, looking west. At the far right, the ornate white monument is the top portion of the Fontana    dell 'Acqua Paola (a.k.a. "The Big Fountain," which was built in 1585--1588) .

Up top, looking west. At the far right, the ornate white monument is the top portion of the Fontana dell ‘Acqua Paola (a.k.a. “The Big Fountain,” which was built in 1585–1588) .

A closer look at the Fontana  dell' Acqua Paola, which was made on the orders of Pope Paul V. The Pope decided to rebuild and extend a ruined aqueduct which had been constructed by the Emperor Trajan. The Big Fountain thus provided a new source of clean drinking water for residents of Janiculum Hill, who had been forced to take their water from the polluted Tiber.

A closer look at the Fontana dell’ Acqua Paola, which was made on the orders of Pope Paul V. The Pope decided to rebuild and extend a ruined aqueduct which had been constructed by the Emperor Trajan. The Big Fountain thus provided a new source of clean drinking water for residents of Janiculum Hill, who had been forced to take their water from the polluted Tiber.

Back up on the roof terrace of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, night is arriving.

Back up on the roof terrace of the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, night is arriving.

A view to the south, from up top.

A view to the south, from up top.

...and darker still.

…and darker still.

Roman Pines, silhouetted, as the sun sets behind the Gianicolo.

Roman Pines, silhouetted, as the sun sets behind the Gianicolo.

After enjoying a perfect, light supper at a table in the courtyard, I returned to my room, and took this one, last look outside.

The Courtyard, on the night of Friday, May 9, 2014.

The Courtyard, on the night of Friday, May 9, 2014.

On Saturday morning, May 10th, I peered out through my windows, and Rome was still there, right where I’d left her.

The view from my room, at the crack of dawn on Saturday May 10, 2014.

The view from my room, early-morning, on Saturday May 10, 2014.

...and sometime during the night, the tables and chairs in the courtyard had been silently spirited away.

…and sometime during the night, the tables and chairs in the courtyard had been silently spirited away.

Later--sun having risen and tables having been returned--I breakfasted in the courtyard.

Later–sun having risen and tables having been returned–I breakfasted in the courtyard.

This was my -view, as I worked my way through a 3 course breakfast of salad, followed by eggs, and then completed by a slice of almond torte...all fuel for me on an average travel-day, when I walk no fewer than 6 miles.

This was my view, as I worked my way through a 3 course breakfast of salad, followed by eggs, and then completed by a slice of almond torte…all fuel for me on an average travel-day, when I walk no fewer than 6 miles.

SATURDAY MORNING, 10 May 2014

Well-rested after my tranquil night at the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, and fortified by a breakfast feast, my Rome perambulations officially began.

But, no matter how tempting thoughts of sight-seeing are, during each of my first, full days in Rome I always force myself to remain unambitious: I limit myself to neighborhood reconnoitering, which gives me a chance to regain my sense of calm…which has usually been compromised on the previous day by long hours of travel, and airports, and queues at customs (Italian customs agents are often surly and unapologetically sluggish). Because I leave home with only a single, small suitcase, the first order of business must always be to purchase toiletries, followed by foodstuffs, and stamps…LOTS of stamps (I’m an industrial-strength postcard-sender-and-letter-writer.). My ritual of shopping for basic supplies instantly helps my brain to recalibrate to a foreign culture. And so a trip to the local Farmacia (pharmacies are always marked outside by a Green Cross) is an Event Unto Itself.
FarmaciaSign

My favorite Farmacia in Trastevere is on the Piazza di Santa Maria, across from the Basilica. The entrance to the pharmacy is under the little green canopy that's in the center of this picture, to the rear of the fountain.

My favorite Farmacia in Trastevere is on the Piazza di Santa Maria, across from the Basilica. The entrance to the pharmacy is under the little green canopy that’s in the center of this picture, to the rear of the fountain.

The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, is central focus of this part of Rome. A church as been on this plot since the early 3rd century, and the current building is the result of a 12th century remodeling effort. The arches of the front portico were added in 1702.

The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, is central focus of this part of Rome. A church as been on this plot since the early 3rd century, and the current building is the result of a 12th century remodeling effort. The arches of the front portico were added in 1702.

Deciphering Italian labels in pharmacies becomes more and more entertaining (which means I’m easily entertained, but there you are….) as you work your way up from the easily-identifiable products (toothpaste = dentifricio ; sunscreen = lozione), and on through salves and fascinating lotions (antiseptic salve = salve antisettico; basic body lotion = la crema per il corpo…but then good luck figuring out what all of the additives are ) ; and finally to the mysteries of cold remedies (cough syrup = lo sciroppo per la tosse; antihistamine with a decongestant = un antistaminico e un decongestionante) and various disturbing quinine elixirs (don’t mess around with “il chinino” unless you know what you’re doing). For some reason, the germ environment in Italy nearly always causes me to fall ill, and so acquainting myself with a local Farmacia is essential.

AcquaDiParma

I never ventured away from the Hotel without the Lonely Planet’s guidebook to Rome, a mini Larousse dual-language pocket dictionary, a collapsible shopping bag, and a street map… all tucked into the ultimate travel purse: Travelsmith’s totally unglamorous but totally practical Pacsafe Metrosafe 200 Gil Shoulder Bag ( http://www.travelsmith.com ). When I need to add a bit of Glam to the Mix ( which should always be the case when visiting a world-class city like Rome, because Italians, with their appreciation of La Bella Figura, truly like it when visitors make an effort to look presentable ) , I throw on some fake pearls, a pleated outfit designed by Babette of San Francisco ( http://www.babettesf.com ), and a colorful scarf by Emilio Pucci.

Don't step foot out of your hotel without these 2 books.

Don’t step foot out of your hotel without these 2 books.

After you’ve completed your pharmacy-run, and have scoped out the most promising-looking grocery stores in the area…

This is the easy-to-miss Natural Food Store on via Benedetta, in Trastevere, that Mia Thomas-Ruzic revealed to me in 2011.

This is the easy-to-miss Natural Food Store on via Benedetta, in Trastevere, that Mia Thomas-Ruzic revealed to me in 2011.

….begin your stamp-buying mission.

Always save this trip to a Post Office for your last chore of the day, because after you’ve run the gauntlet at an Ufficio Postale, you’ll very likely be in need of a long sit-down and a stiff drink.

POST-Post Office Medicine

POST-Post Office Medicine

Supplied with many Necessities, and feeling quite competent, I continued optimistically down Via della Lungaretta toward the nearest Post Office, at #4 Largo San Giovanni de Matha…

Ufficio Postale. "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Dante knew...he was Italian.

Ufficio Postale. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Dante knew…he was Italian.

…where, in past years, I’d stocked up on stamps. As always, upon entering the Ufficio Postale, I approached a yellow machine by the door, and pushed the button marked “Spedizione,”which spat out a paper slip marked with a ‘P’ and a number. When my number was called, I approached the clerk, and asked to purchase 50 francobolli, and also presented the overweight airmail envelope that I needed to send to America. I smiled and stood before her, confidently offering Exact Change! Although her window was clearly marked as the place to buy stamps, my clerk simply wasn’t in the mood to fetch more stamps from the back room safe, and she refused me, saying “no francobolli, NO FRANCOBOLLI! Attraversare Fiume!” She slouched away from her counter, and I left, defeated…and unwilling to trudge across the Tiber in search of a mythical Post Office that WOULD have stamps. I returned to my Hotel, and asked the concierge if he might find me a Post Office nearby where stamps WERE on the menu. He first called the Ufficio where I’d just been, but they weren’t answering their phones. After a bit of web-searching, my kind gentleman contacted the next-nearest Post Office, which was 2 miles away: he was assured that they would indeed be happy to sell me 50 stamps. And so the rest of my morning was spent on a stamp-acquiring hike.

My Holy Grail

My Holy Grail

During my long walk to and from the Friendlier Post Office in the farthest reaches of Trastevere (located at #158, Viale di Trastevere), I decided not to be annoyed, and instead realized I’d encountered another demonstration of what the New York Times called “the problem of what has become a two-tier work force in Italy. Solidly-protected workers—mostly older—are all but immovable and are still guaranteed ample pensions and retirement benefits. Behind them is a wave of mostly-younger workers who subsist on temporary, usually low-paid contracts, with few or no benefits. Nearly 43 percent of those aged 15 to 24 are currently unemployed.“ The unhelpful postal worker who’d turned me away from the Via della Lungaretta post office has lifetime job security and no fear of being fired, and so felt free to wield a bit of power over a hapless tourist. Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who assumed office in February 2014, has (further quoting from the NYTimes) : “pledged to shake up Italy’s sclerotic system and overcome entrenched interests. Mr.Renzi is pushing for more flexible labor rules to make it easier to hire and fire workers. The Prime Minister argues that a change toward a looser labor market would benefit young people in particular, by creating jobs,” but younger Italians “are deeply skeptical that the proposed change would in fact open jobs to them—so many other overhaul efforts before it have failed to do so. Instead, they are demanding the same guarantees that their parents have had, something it is not at all clear Italy can still afford.”

Moral of Story: Remember that your vacation is happening in the midst of Italy’s profound economic crisis. Be glad and vocally thankful for every helpful soul who you encounter during your stay in Rome. And organize yourself so that you’ll only need to visit a single post office during your visit. Or, for smaller quantities of stamps, a visit to a local Tabaccheria, or Toboccanist shop (identified with a white “T” on a brown sign) will do the trick.

TabacchiSign
SUNDAY, 11 May 2014

Rome is bursting to its seams with museums. Instead of rushing frantically from one to the next (as I used to do), I now prefer to spend the lion’s share of Gallery Hours deepening my knowledge of a place I call the Mother-of-all-Museums … officially known as the Capitoline Museums, or Musei Capitolini.
http://www.museicapitolini.org

Prepare yourself for an overview of the Capitoline Museums, and Vicinity...

Prepare yourself for an overview of the Capitoline Museums, and Vicinity…

Established in 1471, the Capitolini are the world’s oldest national museums, and most of the exhibits come from Rome itself. It’s nice (for a change) to explore a world-class museum where the treasures on display are largely home-grown, and haven’t all been purchased and/or plundered from other countries. But a visit to the Capitoline Museums becomes much more than just an art-jaunt. When you’re on the Capitoline Hill, the history of Rome also confronts you…eager to explain itself.

The museum complex is perched on the Campidoglio (or Capitoline), the smallest of Rome’s seven hills. In Rome’s infancy, the Campidoglio consisted of two hills which were separated by a deep ravine that opened on its eastern end into a wide, swampy valley. Beginning in 600 BC, with the know-how of Etruscan engineers, and much slave labor, the Ancient Romans built one of the world’s earliest sewage systems: the valley’s unhealthful waters were drained, and pavement began to be laid. This newly-habitable area—east of the Capitoline Hills, and north of the Palatine Hill—became the Roman Forum: the Curia was built for meetings of the Senate, and the Comitium, for gatherings of the People.

In 1536, more than a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire, Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio was constructed upon fill that was added to join the two, ancient hills…the Piazza’s pavement rests at 26 feet higher than the floor of the original ravine. Michelangelo was also commissioned to design a new city hall (the Palazzo Senatorio, which was placed atop the ancient Tabularium), and two flanking buildings (which are occupied by the Capitoline Museum).

In 1885, a Medieval neighborhood on the northern portion of the Capitoline Hill was demolished to make way for the hulking Il Vittoriano (the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II), a much-derided mountain of white marble that natives call “the Typewriter, “ or “The Urinal.” This central area has always been the place where Rome’s governments have chosen to erect their most imposing structures. The best way to begin to grasp how two millennia of Rome’s rulers have used monuments made of stone to declare their powers is to walk along the virtual timeline that exists on the Capitoline Hill, and in the Valley of the Forum.

Map of the Capitolum, with Ancient Topography

Map of the Capitolium, with Ancient Topography

Because slopes of the two original hills were very steep, and thus hard to conquer, the Capitoline was made into the citadel of the Ancient Romans. Rome’s most important temple, the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus — dedicated in 509 BC — occupied the highest spot, and was surrounded by a swarm of lesser shrines. Today’s Capitoline Museum complex is built over the foundations of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. The Capitoline Hill was also the headquarters of the Public Roman Archive (aka, the Tabularium…more about which in a moment), and, in the Republican Age, of the Mint.

Map of the Historic Center of Rome. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Map of the Historic Center of Rome. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

KEY to the Map of Historic Center of Rome. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

KEY to the Map of Historic Center of Rome. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

With your visit to the Capitoline, you’ll first get a serious dose of Michelangelo-as-architect (along with a serious dose of exercise), as you climb the seemingly-endless steps of his Cordonata, the stairway that leads from Via del Teatro di Marcello…

Having just crossed the Tiber at Isola Tiberina, I approach the ruins of the Teatro di Marcello. The Theatre of Marcellus was begun by Caesar, and completed by Augustus, in 11BC, when he dedicated the building to the memory of his heir Marcellus. The Theatre had a diameter of 390 feet, rose to a height of 90 feet, and could seat about 15,000 spectators.

Having just crossed the Tiber at Isola Tiberina, I approach the ruins of the Teatro di Marcello. The Theatre of Marcellus was begun by Caesar, and completed by Augustus in 11BC, when he dedicated the building to the memory of his heir Marcellus. The Theatre had a diameter of 426 feet, rose to a height of 99 feet, and could seat about 15,000 spectators.

The ruins of the Teatro di Marcello. Donn Brous, my friend ever since girlhood, provides Human Scale. Donn had just flown over from Georgia, to join me for the remainder of the week.

The ruins of the Teatro di Marcello. Donn Brous, my friend ever since girlhood, provides Human Scale. Donn had just flown over from Georgia, to join me for the remainder of the week.

…up to the top of the Capitoline Hill…

Michelangelo's Cordonata, leading up to the Piazza del Campidoglio.

Michelangelo’s Cordonata, leading up to the Piazza del Campidoglio.

Working our way through dense, pedestrian traffic, we're halfway up the Cordonata.

Working our way through dense, pedestrian traffic, we’re halfway up the Cordonata.

…where you’ll then cross dizzying patterns of paving stone. Michelangelo’s oval Piazza is centrally-anchored by a replica of the enormous equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (the original bronze of Aurelius, which dates from 175 AD, is inside the Museum). Michelangelo shaped his Piazza’s component parts (stairs, buildings, sculptures and decorative paving) into a single, organic unit; this is a place that continues to be one of the World’s greatest built environments.

Michelangelo. Born 6 March 1475. Died 18 February 1564.

Michelangelo. Born 6 March 1475. Died 18 February 1564.

Michelangeo's Piazza del Campidolgio, engraved by Etienne Duperac, in 1568.

Michelangeo’s Piazza del Campidolgio, engraved by Etienne Duperac, in 1568.

Aerial view of the Campidoglio, and the Cordonata. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museums.

Aerial view of the Campidoglio, and the Cordonata. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museums.

Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio, seen from the steps of the Palazzo Senatorio (which rests above the Tabularium).

Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio, seen from the steps of the Palazzo Senatorio (which rests above the Tabularium).

The reproduction of Marcus Aurelius in the foreground, with one of Il Vittoriano's giant, winged statues overhead.

The reproduction of Marcus Aurelius in the foreground, with one of Il Vittoriano’s giant, winged statues overhead.

A clearer look at the intricate paving patterns of the Piazza, with the Palazzo Nuovo wing of the Capitoline Museum at the far edge of the Piazza.

A clearer look at the intricate paving patterns of the Piazza, with the Palazzo Nuovo wing of the Capitoline Museum at the far edge of the Piazza.

Once inside the Museum’s buildings, you’ll find courtyards, fountains, archaeological ruins, paintings, sculptures, artifacts, jewelry,
roof terraces, excellent cafes, and—best of all—a private perch from which to view the Roman Forum.

I’ve found that Sunday morning is the best time to visit the Capitoline Museums: arrive at opening time (9AM), and for a couple of hours at least, you’ll have the place mostly to yourself. At the ticket office, I shelled out 13 Euros (remember…Exact Change!) …

Axonometric projection of the Capitoline Museum's Galleries.

Axonometric projection of the Capitoline Museum’s Galleries.

… and immediately headed downstairs into the bowels of the Museum, scooted halfway down the length of the darkened Galleria Lapidaria…

The Galleria Lapidaria

The Galleria Lapidaria, where hundreds of inscribed marble fragments are displayed. The texts carved into stone present a glimpse of the details of public and private life in Ancient Rome.

…and then climbed another flight of stairs, back toward daylight, and the Galleria del Tabularium. The Tabularium, built in 78BC, was the repository for the official records of Ancient Rome. The Tabularium is only accessible from within the Capitoline Museum, and, from its long Gallery, the view out over the Roman Forum is breathtaking. Of course, at some point in one’s Rome-visiting, setting feet upon the actual pavements of the Roman Forum has to happen, but, at ground level, the Roman Forum
can be confusing. Seen from On High—from the balcony of the Tabularium—however, the pieces fall more easily into place, and so I recommend the Tabularium’s Gallery as the best—and most private—spot from which to first encounter the Roman Forum.

The Tabularium, as it looked in 78BC, when it was built to store the important documents of the Roman Republic. The Romanesque arches of the lower arcade have survived to this day.

The Tabularium, as it looked in 78BC, when it was built to store the important documents of the Roman Republic. The Romanesque arches of the lower arcade have survived to this day.

Top illustration: The Tabularium on the Capitoline Hill, as it is today. Lower Illustration: The Capitoline Hill in the times of the Roman Republic & Empire.

Top illustration: The Tabularium on the Capitoline Hill, as it is today.
Lower Illustration: The Capitoline Hill in the times of the Roman Republic & Empire.

Donn and I are entering the Galleria del Tabularium.

Donn and I are entering the Galleria del Tabularium.

The most spectacular treasure on the Tabularium Gallery: a reassembled frieze from the Temple of Vespasian & Titus (circa 79AD to 88AD.

The most spectacular treasure on the Tabularium Gallery: a reassembled frieze from the Temple of Vespasian & Titus (circa 79AD to 88AD).

From the Gallery, I feasted my eyes upon remnants of the glories of the Roman seat of government. Making sense of the various iterations of the Roman Forum of the Republic, and also of the supplementary Imperial Forums which later extended out from the northern edge of the original Square, is challenging. Julius Caesar added the Forum Julium in 51BC, and then Augustus constructed the Forum Augustum in 20BC. The Forum of Vespasian was added in 71AD, and the Forum of Nerva followed, in 97AD. In 112AD, Trajan’s Forum (Forum Traiani) was the final forum to be built. Throughout the course of the Roman Republic (from 509BC until 27BC), and the Roman Empire (27BC until 476AD), buildings in the Valley of the Forum were constantly erected, altered, or replaced.

Buildings drawn in RED were built during the Roman Republic (509BC--27BC). Buildings drawn in BLACK were built during the Roman Empire (27BC--476AD). The existing ruins generally date from the final, Imperial period.

Buildings drawn in RED were built during the Roman Republic (509BC–27BC). Buildings drawn in BLACK were built during the Roman Empire (27BC–476AD). The existing ruins generally date from the final, Imperial period.

Map of the Entire Historic Center, including Trajan's enormous Forum, built to the north of the Roman Forum. Trajan's Forum (112AD), along with his Market, and Column (more about his COLUMN later...), was the last Imperial Forum to be constructed in Ancient Rome.

Map of the Entire Historic Center, including Trajan’s enormous Forum, built to the north of the Roman Forum. Trajan’s Forum (112AD), along with his Market, and Column (more about his COLUMN later…), was the last Imperial Forum to be constructed in Ancient Rome.

The nucleus of the valley–the Roman Forum—was developed in stages.

The building of the Tabularium in 78BC provided the Forum with a monumental backdrop on its west side. The two long sides of the square were then defined by the Curia (built in 44BC, on the north), and the Basilica Julia (first built in 46BC, on the south). Finally, at the far, eastern end of the square, the Temple of Divus Julius (built in 42BC by Augustus to honor the recently assassinated Julius Caesar) enclosed the square.

Layout of the central, Roman Forum.

Layout of the central, Roman Forum.

From the time of Augustus, although a few new temples were erected, the center of the Roman Forum remained largely unaltered. Per R.A.Staccioli, in his guide, ROME:PAST&PRESENT …

“only from the 3rd century AD and onwards, was the Forum area once again invaded by commemorative and honorary monuments: the Arch of Septimius Severus, squeezed in between the Rostra and the Curia; the seven honorary columns lined up along the south side of the square in front of the Basilica Julia; and the monuments commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Tetrarchy. Indeed, it fell to one of these columns—the one raised in 608AD in honor of the Byzantine emperor Phocas, to become the last monument to be added to the Forum.”

Central Rome at the height of the Empire. The CLOACA MAXIMA sewer (meaning "Greatest Sewer"), which drained the soggy valley, is marked in red.

Central Rome at the height of the Empire. The CLOACA MAXIMA sewer (meaning “Greatest Sewer”), which drained the soggy valley, is marked in red.

Plautus (born 254BC, died 184BC), in his comedy CURCULIO, described the people who frequented the Forum:

“There in the Comitium, where the judges sit and the orators make their speeches from the platform, you can see the perjurers, the liars and the braggarts; down there in the square…are the advocates, the litigants and the witnesses; beside the shops…in front of the basilica, are the strumpets, the bankers, the usurers and the brokers; in the lowest part of the Forum, the serious-minded and the gentlemen who conduct themselves quietly; in the middle, near the canal, the good-for-nothings, parasites waiting for a tip, and drunkards; higher up are the gossips and scandalmongers.”

Plautus

Plautus

Here now, a beginner’s tour of the Roman Forum, and of Caesar’s Forum…seen first from the Tabularium, and then from other vantage points.

Upon entering the Tabularium's Gallery, this is one's first view of the Roman Forum: The Arch of Septimus Severus(Arco di Settimio Severo), erected by the Senate & People of Rome in 202AD. To the far left: the imposing dome of the Church of Santi Luca e Martina, which is not part of the Forum. A church has occupied this site since 228AD, but the current building is relatively modern...with construction that was begun in 1635.

Upon entering the Tabularium’s Gallery, this is one’s first view of the Roman Forum: The Arch of Septimus Severus(Arco di Settimio Severo), erected by the Senate & People of Rome in 202AD. To the far left: the imposing dome of the Church of Santi Luca e Martina, which is not part of the Forum. A church has occupied this site since 228AD, but the current building is relatively modern…with construction that was begun in 1635.

Another view from the Tabularium. Set back, in the center of the grassy rectangle are the Colonna di Foca (added in 609AD), & the Rostrum, which was a Speaker's Platform. The large green expanse marks the Square of the Roman Forum. To the left of the Forum, the long walkway is the Via Sacra. In the left foreground: 3 columns mark the corner of the Temple of Concord. In the right foreground, the tall columns and pediment are the front of the Temple of Saturn.

Another view from the Tabularium. Set back, in the center of the grassy rectangle are the Colonna di Foca (added in 608AD), & the Rostrum, which was a Speaker’s Platform. The large green expanse marks the Square of the Roman Forum. To the left of the Forum, the long walkway is the Via Sacra. In the left foreground: 3 columns mark the corner of the Temple of Concord. In the right foreground, the tall columns and pediment are the front of the Temple of Saturn.

Seen from the Tabularium: in the foreground, another view of the Temple of Concord, & the Temple of Saturn. The orderly progression of column footings in the central, middle-ground mark the location of the Basilica Julia. The Palatine Hill is in the background.

Seen from the Tabularium: in the foreground, another view of the Temple of Concord, & the Temple of Saturn. The orderly progression of column footings in the central, middle-ground mark the location of the Basilica Julia. The Palatine Hill is in the background.

A more complete look at the column remnants of Basilica Julia (or Guilia).

A more complete look at the column remnants of Basilica Julia (or Giulia).

Reconstructed view of the Square of the Roman Forum. This vantage point is from the western end of the Forum, looking back toward the Tabularium & the Capitoline Hill. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Reconstructed view of the Square of the Roman Forum. This vantage point is from the eastern end of the Forum, looking back toward the Tabularium & the Capitoline Hill. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Today's view of the Square of the Roman Forum. The building that looms in the background is composed to two parts. The arched Gallery is that of the Tabularium, where I stood to take my introductory Forum photos. The three floors with evenly-spaced windows that are above the Gallery were added when Michelangelo's Palazzo Senatorio was built. Image courtesy of R.A.Staccioli's ROME:PAST&PRESENT.

Today’s view of the Square of the Roman Forum. The building that looms in the background is composed of two layers. The arched Gallery is that of the Tabularium, where I stood to take my introductory Forum photos. The three floors with evenly-spaced windows that are above the Gallery were added when Michelangelo’s Palazzo Senatorio was built. Image courtesy of R.A.Staccioli’s ROME:PAST&PRESENT.

Top: In the background, the Palazzo Senatorio, in a drawing by Etienne Duperac, circa 1563. In 1563, only one arch of the Tabularium's Gallery remained open to the Roman Forum. Bottom: Palazzo Senatorio, in the 19th century watercolor by Constant Moyaux. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Top: In the background, the Palazzo Senatorio, in a drawing by Etienne Duperac, circa 1563. In 1563, only one arch of the Tabularium’s Gallery remained open to the Roman Forum. Bottom: Palazzo Senatorio, in the 19th century watercolor by Constant Moyaux. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Reconstructed view of the Forum of Caesar, which was built to the north of the Square of the Roman Forum, and west of the Curia. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Reconstructed view of the Forum of Caesar, which was built to the north of the Square of the Roman Forum, and west of the Curia. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Seen from within the Roman Forum, this is today's view of the place where the Forum of Caesar once stood. To the left, a tiny portion of the hulking and always unavoidable Il Vittoriano, which was built in 1885. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Seen from within the Roman Forum, this is today’s view of the place where the Forum of Caesar once stood. To the left, a tiny portion of the hulking and always unavoidable Il Vittoriano, which was built in 1885. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Later on, after I'd completed my visit to the Capitoline Museums, I walked along the edge of the Forum Site. This is my view of the Curia (to the left), and the site of Caesar's Forum (to the right), as seen from the sidewalk along Via del Fori Imperiali.

Later on, after I’d completed my visit to the Capitoline Museums, I walked along the edge of the Forum Site. This is my view of the Curia (to the left), and the site of Caesar’s Forum (to the right), as seen from the sidewalk along Via del Fori Imperiali.

My view of the Curia (to the right) and the site of the Basilica Aemilia (to the left), as seen from the sidewalk along Via del Fori Imperiali.

My view of the Curia (to the right) and the site of the Basilica Aemilia (to the left), as seen from the sidewalk along Via del Fori Imperiali.

A closer look of column fragments from the Basilica  Aemilia, as seen from Via del Fori Imperiali.

A closer look of column fragments from the Basilica Aemilia, as seen from Via del Fori Imperiali.

Time for a snack at a fruit stand on Via del Fori Imperiali, which makes it time for a lesson in Fruit-Buying-Etiquette. When choosing fruit in Italy, if you don't know how to tell the proprietor what you want, politely point at the object of your desire. NEVER fondle the merchandise.

Time for a snack at a fruit stand on Via del Fori Imperiali, which also makes it time for a lesson in Fruit-Buying-Etiquette. When choosing fruit in Italy, if you don’t know how to tell the proprietor what you want, politely point at the object of your desire. NEVER fondle the merchandise.

Back now...inside of the Roman Forum. Reconstructed view of the Temple of Divus Julius (center), and the Temple of Castor & Pollux (far right). These temples defined the eastern edge of the original Forum. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Back now…inside of the Roman Forum. Reconstructed view of the Temple of Divus Julius (center), and the Temple of Castor & Pollux (far right). These temples defined the eastern edge of the original Forum. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Today's view of where the Temples of Divus Julius, and Castor & Pollux once stood. The Palatine Hill is in the background. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

Today’s view of where the Temples of Divus Julius, and Castor & Pollux once stood. The Palatine Hill is in the background. Image courtesy of ROME:PAST&PRESENT, by R.A.Staccioli.

After Forum-Gawking from the Tabularium Gallery (which never fails to overwhelm me, because the view is simultaneously familiar and strange), I always need a Caffe Doppio (and cake) break, and so I made my way up to the not-easy-to-find roof terrace café of the Museum. On Sunday mornings, the Café is populated largely by priests, all talking Shop.

My view from the roof terrace Cafe at the Capitoline Museum...westward, toward Trastevere, and the green expanses of the Janiculum Hill (and to my wonderful Hotel).

My view from the roof terrace Cafe at the Capitoline Museum…westward, toward Trastevere, and the green expanses of the Janiculum Hill (and to my wonderful Hotel).

From the roof terrace Cafe at the Capitoline Museum: the view north, toward Il Vittoriano's winged twins.

From the roof terrace Cafe at the Capitoline Museum: the view north, toward Il Vittoriano’s winged twins.

The roof-level Cafe also opens onto other, quieter terraces.

The roof-level Cafe also opens onto other, quieter terraces.

Another corner of the Cafe's series of roof terraces, where antique and contemporary architecture are seamlessly blended.

A corner of the Cafe’s series of roof terraces, where antique and contemporary architecture are seamlessly blended. The raised expanse of glass encloses the Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius, which we’ll visit shortly. The large atrium below the glass roof was designed by architect Carlo Aymonino to display the ancient equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. The atrium also protects the foundation stones of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, one of Rome’s most sacred sites.

Another view of the glass roof over the Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Another view of the glass roof over the Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Still up on the Cafe's roof terraces, we look down to this street, behind the Museum Complex.

Still up on the Cafe’s roof terraces, we look down to this street, behind the Museum Complex.

Re-enegized by caffeine and sugar, I led Donn on a whirlwind tour of the Capitoline Museum. Here, some images which represent only a surface-skimming of the treasures within the Complex.

Inside the Palazzo dei Conservatori: The Exhedra of Marcus Aurelius:

Equestrian bronze of Marcus Aurelius (circa 176AD--180AD)

Equestrian bronze of Marcus Aurelius (circa 176AD–180AD)

Fragments from the colossal bronze of Constantine: head, globe & hand (4th century AD)

Fragments from the colossal bronze of Constantine: head, globe & hand (4th century AD)

The foundation stones of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. In 509BC, the first year of the Roman Republic, the already-existing Temple was consecrated. The Temple dates back to 585BC, when Tarquinius Priscus, the 5th king of Rome and the first of the Etruscan dynasty, built this Temple to Jupiter, as an offering to ensure his victory in battle against the Sabines. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

The foundation stones of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. In 509BC, the first year of the Roman Republic, the already-existing Temple was consecrated. The Temple dates back to 585BC, when Tarquinius Priscus, the 5th king of Rome and the first of the Etruscan dynasty, built this Temple to Jupiter, as an offering to ensure his victory in battle against the Sabines. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Displayed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori's Halls of the Horti Lamaini: A section of the di Palombara alabaster floor, from a Roman villa dated 3 AD. The fragment comes from a floor that was reputed to measure 79 meters long.

Displayed in the Palazzo dei
Conservatori’s Halls of the Horti Lamaini: A section of the di Palombara alabaster floor, from a Roman villa dated 3 AD. The fragment comes from a floor that was reputed to measure 79 meters long.

The courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori:

Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori

Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori

Various bits of the gigantic stone statue of the Emperor Constantine (created circa 313AD--324AD)

Various bits of the gigantic stone statue of the Emperor Constantine (created circa 313AD–324AD)

Constantine's Right Hand

Constantine’s Right Hand

...and his Foot

…and his Foot

Fragments of decoration from the Temple of the God Hadrian (circa 145AD)

Fragments of decoration from the Temple of the God Hadrian (circa 145AD)

Another ornament from the Temple of the God Hadrian

Another ornament from the Temple of the God Hadrian

In the Palazzo dei Conservatori’s Hall of Triumphs:

The small bronze statue of a boy extracting a thorn from his foot was probably made in the first century BC. Of all the images in the Capitoline Museum, this is the one most copies during the Renaissance. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

The small bronze statue of a boy extracting a thorn from his foot was probably made in the first century BC. Of all the images in the Capitoline Museum, this is the one most copied during the Renaissance. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

The Capitoline She-Wolf, which is the symbol of Rome. Here, Romulus & Remus are being suckled by the wolf who cared for them. This bronze was for centuries attributed to a 5th century BC workshop in Eturia or Magna Graecia, but recent radiocarbon analysis indicated that the wolf-portion of the statue was cast between 1021AD and 1153AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

The Capitoline She-Wolf, which is the symbol of Rome. Here, Romulus & Remus are being suckled by the wolf who cared for them. This bronze was for centuries attributed to a 5th century BC workshop in Eturia or Magna Graecia, but recent radiocarbon analysis indicated that the wolf-portion of the statue was cast between 1021AD and 1153AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Bust of Medusa, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (circa 1630s--1640s). Bernini boasted that his statue had the power to stun, and thus "petrify" all who looked upon it. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Bust of Medusa, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (circa 1630s–1640s). Bernini boasted that his statue had the power to stun, and thus “petrify” all who looked upon it. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Now, to the courtyard of the Palazzo Nuovo:

The magnificent Marforio and his splashing pool.

The magnificent Marforio and his splashing pool.

All about the Big Guy

All about the Big Guy

A better look at Marforio's impressive knuckles.

A better look at Marforio’s impressive knuckles.

Detail of Marforio's fountain

Detail of Marforio’s fountain

Varied rooflines, above Marforio's courtyard.

Varied rooflines, above Marforio’s courtyard.

Inside the Palazzo Nuovo:

Entering the Palazzo Nuovo

Entering the Palazzo Nuovo

Baroque splendor in the Great Hall of the Palazzo Nuovo

Baroque splendor in the Great Hall of the Palazzo Nuovo

Glass Chandelier in the Great Hall

Glass Chandelier in the Great Hall

Mosaic of theatrical masks, displayed in the Palazzo Nuovo. This mosaic was recovered from the site of the Trajan Baths, which were constructed from 249--251AD.

Mosaic of theatrical masks, displayed in the Palazzo Nuovo. This mosaic was recovered from the site of the Trajan Baths, which were constructed from 249–251AD.

The Capitoline Venus. This is a replica of the original by Praxiteles (who lived in the 4th century BC). This copy of Venus was found in Rome around 1666--1670, and it's assumed the statue was made between 96AD and 192AD.

The Capitoline Venus. This is a replica of the original by Praxiteles (who lived in the 4th century BC). This copy of Venus was found in Rome around 1666–1670, and it’s assumed the statue was made between 96AD and 192AD.

Detail of wall decoration in Venus' bailiwick.

Detail of wall decoration the Venus bailiwick.

Another bit of Venusian Decor

Another bit of Venusian Decor

Of the thousands of objects on display in the Museum’s three buildings, I am always most moved by the hundreds of life-sized marble busts of luminaries, from the time of the late Roman Republic to the Early Roman Empire, which are displayed in the Hall of Emperors in the Palazzo Nuovo…

The Hall of Emperors. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

The Hall of Emperors. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

…images-in-the-round of men long-departed, who, by sitting for the artists who recorded their likenesses, seemed to be saying “I know life is short; I hope not to be forgotten.” But those tidy seams at the necklines of many of the busts, separating shoulders and chests of alabaster from the white marble heads above, are reminders of fleeting power, and of Roman practicality.

Disgraced personages, condemned to “damnatio memoria,” would have all public images of themselves removed, and those costly statues would be then recycled with NEW heads depicting the currently-favored. Pragmatic folks, those Romans.

Titus. Sculpted 79--81AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Titus. Sculpted 79–81AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Vespasian. Scuplted 67--79AD

Vespasian. Scuplted 67–79AD

And images of real women … not just of idealized goddesses? After the death of Julius Caesar, portraits of important women related to the imperial family appeared everywhere, celebrated as symbols of dynastic power; as guarantors of continuity and thus of the empire’s stability and peace. But what I found greatly entertaining were how these images set and changed fashion in hair-styling throughout the dominions!

The Museum’s collection of ladies’ heads (sculpted from 50 B.C. to 395 A.D) is a virtual beauty-timeline, which demonstrates some mind-bogglingly complex and various hair arrangements. Daily care of their appearance was of great importance for Roman women of high rank. Specialized maidservants—armed with wigs, hair extensions, curling irons, clips and jeweled pins—took hours to arrange the hair of their noble ladies. Extreme hair colors were preferred: blond, red or raven-black could be obtained with dyes, but also with wigs and extensions of hair cut from captives: blonde from Barbarian women of the North, and black from the heads of Indian women, brought to Rome in the luxury goods trade with the East.

Fonseca. Sculpted at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Fonseca. Sculpted at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Faustina Major. Sculpted 138--161AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Faustina Major. Sculpted 138–161AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Matidia. Sculpted 147--148AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

Matidia. Sculpted 147–148AD. Image courtesy of the Capitoline Museum.

MONDAY, 12 May 2014

On the Monday following my Sunday art-wallow across the river at the Capitoline Museum, I wanted to spend a few hours wandering quietly and close to “home,” with the principal aim of doing some food-reconnaissance in Trastevere. ‘Twas time to remind myself of the locations of my favorite restaurants, and also to scope out new and promising-looking places to eat. My objective while I’m traveling for an extended period of time (the total duration of my time away from America last spring was 40 days) is to remain healthy, and the key to staying well is eating as if I’m NOT away from home. To maintain my roughly 80%–Vegan—and–20%–Human–Diet I must find restaurants that offer a wide range of vegetable dishes. In Rome, once you eliminate pasta, cheese, and most meat from your food-options, the World Of Food that remains is still quite appetizing. By staying at the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel my breakfast needs were splendidly met: I can state categorically that their huge morning buffet presented the most varied and highest quality breakfast foodstuffs that I’ve encountered at any Hotel (which explains why, during my time in Rome, I turned the first meals of my day into leisurely, 3-course feasts).

When you’re in Rome, if you’re in the mood for a relaxing and affordable meal, the first rule about restaurant-choosing is to steer clear of establishments located on piazzas. Restaurants in tourist-heavy, high-foot-traffic areas often station aggressive and highly vocal gentlemen outside their entrances. The huckster’s job is to to flag you down and cajole you to come inside. When such a restaurant employee begins his prattle, smile, keep walking, and know that you’ve just avoided an overpriced meal. Apart from wanting real food at a reasonable price, I’m looking for Roman eateries where at least half of the customers are clearly NOT tourists. If you find places where Locals also choose to dine, rarely will you be served an unpalatable meal.

I’ve enjoyed meals at the following three, utterly un-fancy Trastevere eateries…and on many occasions.

Ristorante il Ponentino: my go-place for a casual lunchtime plate of inexpensive but perfectly-prepared veggie dishes...and also for bread, wine and cookies. Located just south of Viale di Trastevere, on Piazza del Drago, #10.

Ristorante il Ponentino: my go-to-place for a casual lunchtime plate of inexpensive but perfectly-prepared veggie dishes…and also for bread, wine and cookies. Located just south of Viale di Trastevere, on Piazza del Drago, #10.

At mid-day, make your selections from il Ponentino's many platters of home-cooked food. Baked, stuffed tomatoes; grilled zucchini; piselli alls Romana (that would be peas cooked the delicious, Roman way..braised in chicken stock, with romaine lettuce, sage leaves, ham, and onions); roasted artichokes; sautéed spinach with garlic; gorgeous breads...all then plopped unceremoniously o a paper plate. At il Ponentino, it's about the Food, not the Ambience.

At mid-day, make your selections from il Ponentino’s many platters of home-cooked food. Baked, stuffed tomatoes; grilled zucchini; piselli alla Romana (that would be peas cooked the delicious, Roman way..braised in chicken stock, with romaine lettuce, sage leaves, ham, and onions); roasted artichokes; sautéed spinach with garlic; gorgeous breads…all then plopped unceremoniously onto a paper plate. At il Ponentino, it’s about the Food, not the Ambience.

And ALWAYS: a pound of biscotti, to take away.

And ALWAYS: a pound of biscotti, to take away.

Also on the south side of Viale di Trastevere is this top-notch Indian Restaurant: JAIPUR. Located at #56, Via di  San Francesco a Ripa. The waiters are comforting and gentlemanly, and the menu is huge, and reliably delicious. www.ristorantejaipur.it

Also on the south side of Viale di Trastevere is this top-notch Indian Restaurant: JAIPUR. Located at #56, Via di
San Francesco a Ripa. The waiters are comforting and gentlemanly, and the menu is huge, and reliably delicious. http://www.ristorantejaipur.it

Located at #56 Via Garibaldi, just 2 blocks downhill from the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, Marco G's Ristorante offers elegantly-prepared food, with menus that change nightly. Of my recommended eateries in Trastevere, Marco G's is the place to go for a fine, relaxing dinner. Donn and I ate there for 3 nights running: all of our meals were memorable, especially Marco's Saltimbocca. www.marcog.it

Located at #56 Via Garibaldi, just 2 blocks downhill from the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, Marco G’s Ristorante offers elegantly-prepared food, with menus that change nightly. Of my recommended eateries in Trastevere, Marco G’s is the place to go for a fine, relaxing dinner. Donn and I ate there for 3 nights running: all of our meals were memorable, especially Marco’s Saltimbocca.
http://www.marcog.it

Once I’d reassured myself that my gustatory life would be under control, a little art-jaunt in our immediate Trastevere neighborhood was in order.

Donn and I ambled to the bottom of Via Garibaldi...

Donn and I ambled to the bottom of Via Garibaldi…

...and turned left, onto Via della Lungara.

…and turned left, onto Via della Lungara.

Our destination: the Villa Farnesina, a little, early-16th century palace, where almost every interior surface is adorned with the most virtuosically-painted frescoes one could ever hope to see.

The Villa Farnesina. #230 Via della Lungara, Trastevere. Open Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 2PM. Admission fee: 6 Euros. www.villafarnesina.it

The Villa Farnesina. #230 Via della Lungara, Trastevere. Open Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 2PM. Admission fee: 6 Euros. http://www.villafarnesina.it

The Villa Farnesina's location is marked in Red. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Villa Farnesina’s location is marked in Red. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Entry court on the south side of the Villa Farnesina.

Entry court on the south side of the Villa Farnesina.

The north facade of the Villa Farnesina. Unfortunately, the extensive gardens on this side of the Villa aren't open to the public. Behind the arches on the ground floor is the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The north facade of the Villa Farnesina. Unfortunately, the extensive gardens on this side of the Villa aren’t open to the public. Behind the arches on the ground floor is the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Here, a taste of frescoes-to-come, with 5 images captured from the Villa’s website:

VillaFarnesina
VillaFarnesina2
VillaFarnesina3
VillaFarnesina4
VillaFarnesina5

Gianfranco Malafarina’s useful booklet LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA introduces us to the property:

“The Villa Farnesina in Rome, built in the early 16th century for the rich Sienese banker Agostino Chigi and now owned by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, is one of the noblest and most harmonious creations of the Italian Renaissance; a work in which architectural design and pictorial decoration fuse into a single marvelous synthesis. The sober volumetric and spatial articulation in the Villa, devised by the architect Baldassare Peruzzi, is indeed the perfect setting for the rich decorative programme of the interior, frescoed by great masters such as Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (known as Sodoma), and Peruzzi himself.”

Perspective Section of Villa Farnesina, as seen from the east, and north sides. On the ground floor, to the left: The Loggia of Galatea. On the ground floor, in the center: The Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. On the higher floor, in the center: The Hall of Perspective Views. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Perspective Section of Villa Farnesina, as seen from the east, and north sides. On the ground floor, to the left: The Loggia of Galatea. On the ground floor, in the center: The Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. On the higher floor, in the center: The Hall of Perspective Views. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

When I’m out and about in the World, my usual drill is to drag along note pads, reference books and cameras. But during my visits to the Villa Farnesina, I leave all of that work-paraphernalia behind. I turn off my analytical brain, and simply open my eyes and emotions to the wondrous scenes that are painted upon the Villa’s walls. Certainly, Farnesina’s frescoes can be dissected and parsed, but I prefer to innocently marvel at the opulence and artistry of the decorations. Here now, a peek at the place:

Floor Plan of Ground Floor. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Room Plan of Ground Floor. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Entry Hall. This entry vestibule was created in 1861--1863 by architect Antonio Cipolla. The frescoes on the vault were painted by Ludovico Seitz. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Entry Hall. This entry vestibule was created in 1861–1863 by architect Antonio Cipolla. The frescoes on the vault were painted by Ludovico Seitz. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Loggia of Galatea. Used as a setting for banquets, the frescoes in this room were designed in 1510 by Baldassare Peruzzi, but were then painted by an assortment of artists, including Peruzzi himself, Raphael, and Sebastiano del Piombo. Cardinal Girolao Farnese, who owned the Villa during the mid 1650's, also had frescoes of landscapes added to the space. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Loggia of Galatea. Used as a setting for banquets, the frescoes in this room were designed in 1510 by Baldassare Peruzzi, but were then painted by an assortment of artists, including Peruzzi himself, Raphael, and Sebastiano del Piombo. Cardinal Girolao Farnese, who owned the Villa during the mid 1650’s, also had frescoes of landscapes added to the space. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

An upper wall panel in the Loggia of Galatea. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

An upper wall panel in the Loggia of Galatea. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Full height wall fresco, in the Loggia of Galatea. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Full height wall fresco, in the Loggia of Galatea. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The entire length of the vaulted ceiling in the Loggia of Galatea. Astrology was very important to the man who commissioned the Villa: Augustino Chigi waited to lay the cornerstone of his new house until the planets were favorably aligned. On 22 April 1506--a date thought to mark the anniversary of the founding of Rome--construction of his dream-home began. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The entire length of the vaulted ceiling in the Loggia of Galatea. Astrology was very important to the man who commissioned the Villa: Augustino Chigi waited to lay the cornerstone of his new house until the planets were favorably aligned. On 22 April 1506–a date thought to mark the anniversary of the founding of Rome–construction of his dream-home began. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Detail of vaulted ceiling, in the Loggia of Galatea. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Detail of vaulted ceiling, in the Loggia of Galatea. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. This enormous hall was the space through which the Villa was originally entered. The hall measures 60 feet long, by 21 feet deep, and has a ceiling height of about 25 feet. The frescoes were painted in 1518 by Raphael and his assistants. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. This enormous hall was the space through which the Villa was originally entered. The hall measures 65 feet long, by 22 feet deep, and has a ceiling height of about 28 feet. The frescoes were painted in 1518 by Raphael and his assistants. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The entire length of the vaulted ceiling in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The entire length of the vaulted ceiling in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Detail of a spandrel, in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Detail of a spandrel, in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Another spandrel, in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Another spandrel, in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Details of ceiling decorations, in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Details of ceiling decorations, in the Loggia of Cupid & Psyche. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Stairs leading to the upper floor. This great flight of steps was restructured in 1861, by Antonio Cipolla. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Stairs leading to the upper floor. This great flight of steps was restructured in 1861, by Antonio Cipolla. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Room Plan of Upper Floor. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Room Plan of Upper Floor.
Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Hall of Perspective Views: the north wall. This large room was decorated in 1519 by Baldassare Peruzzi. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Hall of Perspective Views: the north wall. This large room was decorated in 1519 by Baldassare Peruzzi. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Hall of Perspective Views: the south wall. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Hall of Perspective Views: the south wall. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Wall panel in the Hall of Perspective Views. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

Wall panel in the Hall of Perspective Views. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great & Roxana. Not surprisingly, this sensual space was originally Agostino Chigi's bedchamber. The Sienese painter Giovanni Antonio Bazzi--known as Sodoma--was commissioned to decorate the walls in 1519. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

The Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great & Roxana. Not surprisingly, this sensual space was originally Agostino Chigi’s bedchamber. The Sienese painter Giovanni Antonio Bazzi–known as Sodoma–was commissioned to decorate the walls in 1519. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

East wall of The Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great & Roxana. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

East wall of The Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great & Roxana. Image courtesy of LA VILLA FARNESINA A ROMA, published by Franco Cosimo Panini.

During of June 2011 stay in Rome, I snapped this photo of the marriage bed, on the the north wall of The Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great & Roxana.

During my June 2011 stay in Rome, I snapped this photo of the marriage bed, on the the north wall of The Room of the Marriage of Alexander the Great & Roxana.

Even the admission tickets to Villa Farnesina are little works of art...I saved mine.

Even the admission tickets to Villa Farnesina are little works of art…I saved mine.

TUESDAY, 13 MAY 2014

Early morning is the best time to embark upon a trek to visit many of the fountains, piazzas and obelisks in the heart of Rome. Rain or shine, such a journey will be wonderful, just so long as you’re on the move well before the streets have become clogged with other gawkers.

Yellow marks our meandering path, as I led Donn away from Trastevere, and on a loop through Rome's Centro Storico.

Yellow marks our meandering path, as I led Donn away from Trastevere, and on a loop through Rome’s Centro Storico.

Leaving Trastevere, Donn and I crossed the Tiber via the Ponte Sisto footbridge (built 1473—1479)… the span that’s distinguished by its central oculus. But the “eye” in the structure wasn’t put there to add Design Oomph. Rather, the circular openings on opposite sides of the bridge served as extra channels for the floods that regularly roiled the Tiber. Whenever the River rose, the oculi allowed the turbulent waters to flow through the bridge, thus sparing the structure from being destroyed by fast-moving currents.

Ponte Sisto, photographed during my June 2011 visit to Rome.

Ponte Sisto, photographed during my June 2011 visit to Rome.

We entered the southern end of Via Giulia, one of Rome’s most charming byways. [Note: Via Giulia is a good shortcut to use, if you want to take a quiet walk sometime, from the Centro Storico, north toward Castel Sant’Angelo.] Via Giulia was laid out by Bramante in 1508, but its most striking feature is an arch (Arco Farnese), which was designed by Michelangelo as part of a grand but never completed scheme to link Farnese family properties that stood on both sides of the street.

Michelangelo's Arco Farnese, at the southern end of Via Giulia, as I saw it in June of 2011.

Michelangelo’s Arco Farnese, at the southern end of Via Giulia, as I saw it in June of 2011.

We then headed east, and one block inland, to the Piazza by Palazzo Farnese.

Piazza Farnese, as I saw it in June of 2011. This was one of those Tourist's-Reality-Check-Moments: Garbage Collection Day! Several odoriferous dumpsters were plopped around a giant TUB Fountain, which the Farnese had placed i the Piazza during the Renaissance.

Piazza Farnese, as I saw it in June of 2011. This was one of those Tourist’s-Reality-Check-Moments: Garbage Collection Day! Several odoriferous dumpsters were plopped around a giant TUB Fountain, which the Farnese had placed on the Piazza during the Renaissance.

In the early 1500’s, as the Farnese family was building their nearby palazzo, they acquired two enormous granite tubs from the ancient Baths of Caracalla. Caracalla (circa 212AD) was a 27 acre Imperial Roman bathing complex, where between 6000 and 8000 people did their ablutions, each day (…the Romans’ ingenuity about all-things-aquatic-and-hygenic is mind-blowing.). The Farnese topped each Tub with a fountain, and crowned each fountain with an Iris…the family symbol.

Etching of Piazza Farnese

Etching of Piazza Farnese

We moved on, past the fruit-flower–and-souvenir stalls on Campo di Fiori…

For centuries, public executions were held in the Campo di Fiori. Today the Square's vibe has become much more cheerful, thanks to the kaleidoscope of potted and cut flowers which are sold there. If you're shopping for a bouquet to offer as a house gift, however, bear in mind that Italians only display chrysanthemums at funerals; red flowers suggest secrecy; yellow blossoms indicate jealousy.  And never give an uneven number of flowers...

For centuries, public executions were held in the Campo di Fiori. Today the Square’s vibe has become much more cheerful, thanks to the kaleidoscope of potted and cut flowers which are sold there. If you’re shopping for a bouquet to offer as a house gift, however, bear in mind that Italians only display chrysanthemums at funerals; red flowers suggest secrecy; yellow blossoms indicate jealousy. And never give an uneven number of flowers…

Etching by Guiseppe Vasi of Campo di Fiori, in the 1740s

Etching by Guiseppe Vasi of Campo di Fiori, in the 1740s

…and continued northward along the Piazza della Cancelleria, sprinted across the traffic-clogged Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, zipped up Via della Cuccagna, and finally reached our first major destination of the Day: the Piazza Navona.

The southern end of the Piazza Navona, where Rome's eternal cycle of reconstruction is evident.  During our morning walk in May, rain clouds were gathering.

The southern end of the Piazza Navona, where Rome’s eternal cycle of reconstruction is evident.
During our morning walk in May, rain clouds were gathering.

Aerial view of Piazza Navona. Image courtesy of R.A.Staccioli's ROME:PAST&PRESENT.

Aerial view of Piazza Navona. Image courtesy of R.A.Staccioli’s ROME:PAST&PRESENT.

The shape of today’s Piazza Navona is dictated by the form of the Stadium of Domitian, which was built on the site, circa 85AD.
The Stadium of the Emperor had a length of 902 feet, a width of 348 feet, and could hold 30,000 spectators. The Stadium was used for athletic events up until the early 5th century AD. Afterwards, it was progressively dismantled, as its stones were reused to build other structures throughout the city. During the Renaissance, a Piazza was built, which conformed exactly to the measurements of the former Stadium’s central track, and new buildings around the Piazza’s periphery were constructed atop foundations of the Stadium’s seat tiers.

This reconstructed view of Domitian's Stadium is from R.A.Staccioli's ROME:PAST&PRESENT.

This reconstructed view of Domitian’s Stadium is from R.A.Staccioli’s ROME:PAST&PRESENT.

At the southernmost end of the Piazza Navona, we encountered Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), the first and the most restrained (in design terms) of the three fountains that decorate the expansive space.

The Fontana del Moro, with its 4 Tritons, was made in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta. Bernini gussied things up in 1653, when he added the central figure, who rides a dolphin.

The Fontana del Moro, with its 4 Tritons, was made in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta. Bernini gussied things up in 1653, when he added the central figure, who rides a dolphin.

Onward then, to the centrally-placed Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), and Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone, the great church which anchors the west side of the Piazza Navona.

Donn approaches Piazza Navona's central fountain

Donn approaches Piazza Navona’s central fountain

More adeptly than any other sculptor, from any other time, the Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini chiseled rock into active, theatrical scenes.
Using travertine and marble, Bernini fashioned Tableaux Vivants…highly symbolic, virtuosic displays where hot emotion seems to emanate from cold stone, and where rapid movement appears to have been flash-frozen.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Born 7 Dec. 1598. Died 28 Nov. 1680.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Born 7 Dec. 1598. Died 28 Nov. 1680.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). Completed in 1651, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and his assistants. I took this photo on a postcard-sunny day, in June of 2011.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). Completed in 1651, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and his assistants. I took this photo on a postcard-sunny day, in June of 2011.

Another of my June 2011 views of the Fountain of the Four Rivers

Another of my June 2011 views of the Fountain of the Four Rivers

Four heroically-scaled marble figures lounge upon the corners of a ragged pedestal of white travertine, which supports a red granite obelisk. The scholar Genevieve Warwick has documented that the “river gods were not carved by Bernini, but were executed by others according to his design.” Despite the imposing presence of the river gods (who are accessorized by carvings of flora and fauna that indicate the Rivers’ various locations on the Globe), the true marvel of the Fountain of the Four Rivers is invisible. The travertine base, which Bernini himself sculpted, is an engineering tour de force. To continue with an excerpt from Warwick’s BERNINI: ART AS THEATRE: “The pierced rock formation, from which water springs and over which the obelisk rests, is the source a delight that strikes the viewer’s curious gaze. The technical feat of placing the weight of an obelisk over a void occasioned breathless marvel [which was], acclaimed by Bernini’s biographers and celebrated as a rock ‘pierced by art,’ on all four sides so that the visitor might continually see the magnificent [Piazza Navona] through “ the craggy arches of the travertine.

We're back to our rainy morning in May with a detail of Bernini's ingeniously-carved travertine base.

We’re back to our rainy morning in May with a detail of Bernini’s ingeniously-carved travertine base.

The red granite obelisk was executed in the 1st century AD as a copy of an Egyptian original. In the late 1630s, the English Earl of Arundel had attempted to purchase this obelisk, but Pope Urban VIII forbade it. In a future Travel Diary I’ll write about Arundel Castle, in West Sussex, and we’ll see the site where the Earl had hoped to mount the artifact.

Bernini's figure of the Rio della Plata, with a tower by Borromini  looming overhead.

Bernini’s figure of the Rio della Plata, with a tower by Borromini looming overhead.

One of the most charming bits of tourist-apocrypha I’ve encountered is that Bernini’s Rio della Plata God seems to recoil and shield his eyes as he considers one of the two towers that Francesco Borromini designed for the Chiesa di Sant’ Agnese in Agone. Unfortunately, the only TRUE part of the story is that Bernini and Borromini disliked each other. The River God’s loathing for Borromini’s Church is wishful thinking: Bernini’s fountain was completed before the Church’s foundations were laid. Borromini was one of several architects who contributed to the design for the Church. His most striking additions were two towers, which bracket the central dome built by his predecessors, the Rainaldis.

The Baroque Chiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone, on the Piazza Navona...a better look at Borromini's two towers.

The Baroque Chiesa di Sant’Agnese in Agone, on the Piazza Navona…a better look at Borromini’s two towers.

Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, in the rain. The south-facing figures: on the left, The River God of the Danube; on the right, The River God of the Ganges.

Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, in the rain. The south-facing figures: on the left, The River God of the Danube; on the right, The River God of the Ganges.

On a building behind the Fountain, a glorious floral display. Photo by Donn Brous.

On a building behind the Fountain, a glorious floral display. Photo by Donn Brous.

A closer look at the River God of the Ganges

A closer look at the River God of the Ganges

The River God of the Nile

The River God of the Nile

The God of Rio della Plata, who represents the Americas.

The God of Rio della Plata, who represents the Americas.

A hard rain began to pelt us as we approached the northern end of Piazza Navona. I would very shortly weaken and abandon my “No Eating in Tourist Traps Rule,” and suggest that we take shelter in a café, under that canopy of white umbrellas at the edge of the Piazza. But, before food, we had one more fountain to inspect….

The northern end of Piazza Navona, on a soggy morning in May

The northern end of Piazza Navona, on a soggy morning in May

…The Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune), which was designed in 1574 by by Giacamo Della Porta, as a companion piece to his other fountain, at the opposite end of the Piazza. The pink marble basin of the Fountain of Neptune was originally unadorned with statues. This water-feature was first called the Fontana dei Calderari, due to its proximity to an alley where many blacksmiths’ shops were located. Only in 1878 did the Piazza’s
northern-most fountain achieve its pleasantly goofy and operatic appearance : Antonio della Bitta added Neptune doing battle with an octopus, and Gregorio Zappala threw in a harem of water maidens.

Fontana del Nettuno. Begun in 1574, completed in 1878.

Fontana del Nettuno. Begun in 1574, completed in 1878.

A closer look at that fabulous octopus

A closer look at that fabulous octopus

Our clothing had suddenly become too rain-soaked for comfort. ‘Twas time to wait out the deluge, and to refuel with an early lunch. We sloshed down along the northeast side of the Piazza, where several sidewalk cafes and their sea of empty tables beckoned. Surrendering to the inevitable, we allowed ourselves to be drawn inside the restaurant where the young-man-at-the-door had grinned the most knowing smile and spoken the most genial nonsense about the great food to be found within…

The price tag for a light repast, consisting of 2 plates of grilled veggies, a glass of wine, a cup of espresso, and 2 dessert? More than 70 Euros. But Donn raised her glass, while I accepted the absurdity of paying to much to eat so little. After all, we were covering the cost of rest to park ourselves for a little while on one of the World's great Piazzas.

The price tag for a light repast, consisting of 2 plates of grilled veggies, a glass of wine, a cup of espresso, and 2 desserts? More than 70 Euros. But Donn raised her glass, while I accepted the absurdity of paying too much to eat so little. After all, we were spending a lot to park ourselves for a little upon one of the World’s great Piazzas.

Marginally drier, nicely rested, and adequately fed, we then walked one block north, to Piazza Sant’Apollinare: I wanted to make a fast visit to the Museo Nazionale Romano, at Palazzo Altemps.

http://archeoroma.beniculturali.it/en/museums/national-roman-museum-palazzo-altempto

Museo Nazionale Romano. Palazzo Altemps. Piazza Sant'Apollinare #44. Rome. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 9AM to 7:45PM. Admission fee: 7 Euros.

Museo Nazionale Romano. Palazzo Altemps. Piazza Sant’Apollinare #44. Rome. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 9AM to 7:45PM. Admission fee: 7 Euros.

Although the collections inside the late 15th-century Palazzo aren’t vast, every piece of Greek and Roman sculpture on display is of the highest quality. Within the intimate spaces of the Museum (into which, for some reason, the tourist-throngs never venture), one can often watch restoration experts hard at their exacting work of cleaning and repairing frescoes and mosaics. And the building itself contains wonderful spaces; among them, an entrancing, paved courtyard, and (my favorite) this 20th-century addition: a M.C.Escher-ish stairwell.

Looking up a stairwell at Palazzo Altemps

Looking up a stairwell at Palazzo Altemps

Well-satisfied from our little museum-fix, we zigzagged three blocks south-eastward, toward the Piazza della Rotonda, and the Pantheon.

The rain stopped (Hurrah!), and so the sunny-day mobs began to assemble on the cobblestones of the Piazza della Rotonda.

The rain stopped (Hurrah!), and so the sunny-day mobs began to assemble on the cobblestones of the Piazza della Rotonda.

A more complete view of the Fontana del Pantheon

A more complete view of the Fontana del Pantheon

Since 1575, a fountain of some sort has occupied the center of the Piazza. Giacomo Della Porta (who also designed two of the fountains in Piazza Navona) was responsible for the fountain’s cluster of marble figures. In 1711, a new basin was built to support the Mancuteo Obelisk, one of a pair from the Temple of Ra in Heliopolis. The Mancuteo was created during the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II (aka Ramesses The Great: ruler of the Egyptian Empire from 1290BC to 1224BC). The Romans—eternal magpies who always claimed the shiniest treasures from the countries they conquered—assembled the largest collection of Egyptian obelisks in the world, eight of which still decorate the Centro Storico.

We then ducked into the Pantheon, but the masses of bodies surging across the marble floors made lingering impossible. During my past stays in Rome, I’ve made a point of visiting the Pantheon at 8:30 on Sunday mornings, before the tourists-yelling-and-clicking-selfies-mayhem has begun. Contemplating the engineering-marvels of the Pantheon’s dome—which was built in 120AD, and which remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever made—and becoming aware of how the sunshine or raindrops which enter the dome through its oculus constantly change the light or create echoes inside, is best done at a more tranquil hour than 1PM, when were dashing through.

Here, before we flee: a few views of changing light—and of the crowd—within the Pantheon.

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My next navigational challenge was to find Piazza Colonna and the Column of Marcus Aurelius. After some map-reading-misfires, which led to wrong turns, which left me thoroughly disoriented, I stuffed map into purse, and simply followed my compass to the northeast (I never leave home without a compass). Ta-da: the Colonna di Marco Aurelio materialized.

Colonna di Marco Aurelio. A Victory Column erected circa 193AD.

Colonna di Marco Aurelio. A Victory Column erected circa 193AD.

Detail:  Column of Marcus Aurelius

Detail: Column of Marcus Aurelius

The Column of Marcus Aurelius, from Views of Rome (circa 1750--1759). By Giovanni Batista Piranesi.

The Column of Marcus Aurelius, from Views of Rome (circa 1750–1759). By Giovanni Batista Piranesi.

The column is 131 feet tall, and, from pavement level, it’s impossible to see the top, or to closely inspect the detailed carvings which spiral up and around its entire shaft. If ever you visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, be sure to linger awhile in their Cast Courts, where a two-part replica of Trajan’s-a-bit-shorter-Column is displayed (Trajan’s tops off at 125 feet). The Column of Marcus Aurelius was modeled upon Trajan’s Column, and, like Trajan’s, its bas reliefs tell the story of the Emperor’s military triumphs. I realize that it’s cretinous of me to admit that I prefer a copy to an original, but, in this instance, to truly appreciate bas reliefs such as those which adorn the columns of Marcus Aurelius — or of Trajan— the Victoria-and-Albert-Faux-Column-Option is preferable. Here now, to plead my Case-for-a-Copy, are a few photos of the V&A’s Cast Court replica of Trajan’s Column (which looks essentially like the later-made, Column of Marcus Aurelius).

In the V&A Museum, the cast of Trajan's Column has been divided into two pieces, which makes the enormity of the Romans' Victory Columns even more apparent. The Cast Court Galleries were opened in 1873. From the Museum's 2nd floor balcony vantage point, one can see the top-most portions of the columns, up close.

In the V&A Museum, the cast of Trajan’s Column has been divided into two pieces, which makes the enormity of the Romans’ Victory Columns even more apparent. The Cast Court Galleries were opened in 1873. From the Museum’s 2nd floor balcony vantage point, one can see the top-most portions of the columns, up close.

Detail: Bas relief carving on the V&A Cast Court copy of Trajan's Column

Detail: Bas relief carving on the V&A Cast Court copy of Trajan’s Column

Violent scenes of battle, on the V&A Cast Court copy of Trajan's Column

Violent scenes of battle, on the V&A Cast Court copy of Trajan’s Column

Gargantuan base on the V&A Cast Court replica of Trajan's Column

Gargantuan base on the V&A Cast Court replica of Trajan’s Column

OK now. Enough of London, and back to Rome, and onward to the Most Crowded Tourist Attraction of the Them All: the Trevi Fountain. Just two blocks east of the Marcus Aurelius Victory Column, the Trevi is shoehorned into a densely-built corner of Rome. Because the Trevi isn’t framed by a wide piazza, and can be reached only by penetrating the warren of narrow streets which radiate from the fountain, the abruptness with which one comes upon the Trevi makes the fountain seem just a bit surreal. You blink, adjust your ears to the roar of the crowd that jostles along the water’s edge…

Water's edge, at the Trevi Fountain

Water’s edge, at the Trevi Fountain

…you elbow your way to stake out a clear spot by the railing…

This is the closest I could get, but I was soon nudged back, by a very pushy fellow-tourist.

This is the closest I could get, but I was soon nudged back, by a very pushy fellow-tourist.

…and finally you try to remember what the place looked like when the sublime Anita Ekberg took her little dip….which is, of course, what everyone else there who’s over a certain age or culturally literate is also doing.

Anita Eckberg, soaked to the skin, in Federico Fellini's 1960 film LA DOLCE VITA.

Anita Ekberg, soaked to the skin, in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film LA DOLCE VITA.

Movie Poster for LA DOLCE VITA

Movie Poster for LA DOLCE VITA

Federico Fellini. Born 20 January 1920. Died 31 October 1993. We'll take a peek at the street where he lived, in a little bit...

Federico Fellini. Born 20 January 1920. Died 31 October 1993. We’ll take a peek at the street where he lived, in a little bit…

During rehearsals, Fellini helps his Star into the Trevi Fountain.

During rehearsals, Fellini helps his Star into the Trevi Fountain.

During the actual filming of Anita's scene, the crowd in 1960 was just as intense as it still is today, on a much-less exciting day in Rome.

During the actual filming of Anita’s scene, the crowd in 1960 was just as intense as it still is today, on a much-less exciting day in Rome.

Marcello Mastroianni embraces Anita Eckberg in the Trevi Fountain scene from LA DOLCE VITA.

Marcello Mastroianni embraces Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain scene from LA DOLCE VITA.

Anita in the Trevi

Anita in the Trevi

Isn't she magnificent! I wish I could be Anita when I grow up....

Isn’t she magnificent! I wish I could be Anita when I grow up….

Since ancient Rome, a fountain has always been on this site. The Trevi Fountain marks the termination of the Acqua Vergine, one of several aqueducts that supply Rome with water. The High Baroque fountain which exists today was designed in 1730 by Nicola Salvi, and construction went on for 30 more years, until the Fountain was completed by Giuseppi Pannini.Most of Fountain (which measures 86 feet high by 161 feet wide) is made of travertine stone, quarried in the mountains of nearby Tivoli. The Fountain’s central arch is superimposed upon the Palazzo Poli, the building directly behind the Fountain….it’s unclear where Fountain ends and Palazzo begins, and this merging of fountain with edifice adds to the general strangeness of the entire scene.

The full expanse of the Trevi Fountain, and the Palazzo Poli. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The full expanse of the Trevi Fountain, and the Palazzo Poli. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

I took a closer look at the central portion of the Trevi.

I took a closer look at the central portion of the Trevi.

My farewell glance at the Trevi Fountain.

My farewell glance at the Trevi Fountain.

From the Trevi, I led our way south and then west, through a maze of narrow streets where the air was incongruously perfumed with the odors of chow mein, and ginger, and fried rice, which emanated from the cluster of Chinese restaurants in that area. A ten minute walk delivered us to our next destination: the blissfully empty Piazza della Minvera…home of ELEFANTINO, the most charming and puzzling statue in all of Rome.

The Elefantino...as rain began to sprinkle down upon the Piazza della Minerva. The dome of the Pantheon looms in the background.

The Elefantino…as rain began to sprinkle down upon the Piazza della Minerva. The dome of the Pantheon looms in the background.

To the east of Elefantino: the austere facade of Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which was built atop the ruins of Diocletian's Temple of Isis.

To the east of Elefantino: the austere facade of Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which was built atop the ruins of Diocletian’s Temple of Isis.

The Elephant’s Burden is a 6th century BC Egyptian obelisk. The obelisk was originally one of a pair from Sais, a high-holy town on the Western Nile Delta. This artifact was brought to Rome by the Emperor Diocletian, who ruled from 284AD until 305AD. Lost for many years after the Fall of Rome, the obelisk was rediscovered in 1655, when it was excavated from the ruins of Diocletian’s Temple of Isis. In 1667, Pope Alexander VII commissioned the monument we see today. The Elephant base, which was designed by Bernini, and then sculpted by Ercole Ferrata, is meant to signify strength, power and wisdom…but I prefer the tale that, when the diminutive pachyderm was unveiled, irreverent locals guffawed and called the piece “Porcino, “ or “Pig.”

A closer look at Elefantino's adorable face.

A closer look at Elefantino’s adorable face.

From Piazza della Minerva, we walked due south, down Via dei Cestari, to Largo di Torre Argentina, where the 21st century, with its traffic-clamor-and-fumes, temporarily reasserted itself. We continued south, and were once again transported back into ancient times as we peered down into the sunken Area Sacra (aka the Sacred Area of Largo Argentina); an archeological site that is closed to visitors…well…at least to Human visitors. Cats, on the other hand, are welcomed there.

On the few acres of the Area Sacra stand some of most ancient ruins in Rome: four Republican-era temples built between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC, and the remains of Pompey’s Theatre, which was dedicated in 55BC.

The Sacred Area of Largo Argentina. The discovery of these ruins was a great surprise. In 1926, during demolitions ordered by Benito Mussolini, workers began to unearth the remains of four, ancient Roman temples.

The Sacred Area of Largo Argentina. The discovery of these ruins was a great surprise. In 1926, during demolitions ordered by Benito Mussolini, workers began to unearth the remains of four, ancient Roman temples.

Map of the temples in the Area Sacra of Largo Argentina. Pompey's Theatre was nearby. Julius Caesar is believed to have been assassinated in the Curia of the Theatre.

Map of the temples in the Area Sacra of Largo Argentina. Pompey’s Theatre was nearby. Julius Caesar is believed to have been assassinated in the Curia of the Theatre.

This circular structure, which archeologists have labeled "Temple B." is thought to have been constructed in 101BC. The Temple was devoted to "The Fortune of This Day."

This circular structure, which archeologists have labeled “Temple B.” is thought to have been constructed in 101BC. The Temple was devoted to “The Fortune of This Day.”

Reconstructed view of the circular Temple B, along with an earlier temple, now identified as Temple A. Temple A was later remodeled as a church, whose apse still exists. Image courtesy of R.A.Staccioli's ROME:PAST&PRESENT.

Reconstructed view of the circular Temple B, along with an earlier temple, now identified as Temple A. Temple A was later remodeled as a church, whose apse still exists. Image courtesy of R.A.Staccioli’s ROME:PAST&PRESENT.