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, E