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Exploring Cornwall’s Seacoast, in Summertime. Part One

The Sheltered Harbor at Mousehole
(pronounced “MOW-zul.”) opens onto Mount’s Bay, and is just three miles south of Penzance. Mousehole, which Dylan Thomas described as “the loveliest village in England,” has existed since at least 1266 (when it was listed as a major fishing port). Two granite quays—the North Quay, dating from the 17th century, and the South Quay, from the 19th—protect the working harbor, where boats unload their catches of fish and shellfish. In this photo, the
opening in the Harbor Wall reveals St. Michael’s Mount, in the distance.

Autumn 2018

Journeys towards Cornwall are not usually entertaining.
When traveling by car from almost anywhere else in England, the drive will likely be tedious, and delay-prone: Britain’s motorways are becoming overwhelmed by ever-increasing volumes of passenger cars, white van men, lorries, coaches, and caravans. Or, assuming that England’s various rail operators aren’t indulging in yet another of their service slowdowns or stoppages, when setting out from London via train, one must expect the ride to be slow, and apt to run behind schedule. The remoteness of Cornwall demands patience of the traveler; but Cornwall then rewards such patience with experiences and sights so varied and so beautiful that even the most optimistic traveler’s expectations will be exceeded.

Cornwall — outlined in Red — in relation to Europe.

The County of Cornwall is outlined in Red. The River Tamar separates Cornwall from Devon, which is directly to the east. The English Channel is south of Cornwall, and the Celtic Sea is west and north of Cornwall.

Satellite View of Cornwall. Penzance, Cornwall’s western-most town, is 250 miles from central London.

I globe-trot: nimbly, and alertly. In crowded places, I fasten my purse strap across my body, and keep my single piece of luggage close … and I never fixate upon a computer screen or an iPhone when surrounded by humanity. Instead, if I must cool my heels as I endure long hours en route, I clear my brain, and settle into quiet observation of my surroundings. Time after time, when I’ve created this serene-eye-of-hurricane-space for myself, interesting people then cross my path.

Saint Piran’s Flag is the flag of Cornwall. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

My most recent visit to England’s southwestern peninsula began in the most propitious way. On a Friday, in late-morning, in mid-June, I’d arrived at London’s Paddington Station ( early, of course, as is my habit ) where I planned to board the Great Western Railway’s Noontime train, bound for Cornwall’s end-of-the-line town of Penzance ( on a good day, this journey, without glitches, will consume more than 5 hours).

Coat-of-arms of the Great Western Railway

As seems always to be the case at the start of a summer weekend, much of London—residents and tourists alike—had felt compelled to flee the city, and Paddington was a madhouse. I found myself a seat, and settled in for an hour-long wait. A bench-spot next to mine opened up, and a handsome, silver-haired man — who was wearing a rumpled-linen suit of an improbable turquoise hue, and a crisply-starched blue and white striped shirt — plopped down next to me.

On a leash: his gorgeous golden retriever.

Without preamble, the man turned to me and asked: “Do you mind if my dog sits her bum on your feet? It makes her feel more secure to do that.” Since the dog was very well-behaved, I hesitated for only a split second: “OK.” Understanding me, Fido immediately settled her warm hindquarters down onto my boots (which actually made ME feel more secure, too), as she gazed up into her master’s eyes. The man explained further: “If she can see my face, everything will be fine.” Turned out the gentleman’s an architect, and so we had plenty of design-world-fads-and-follies to discuss as we killed time, before we boarded the same train, to Penzance. But the architect and his retriever were only the first of my several travel-entertainments, that day.

The Friday-train to Penzance was overflowing: standing room only.
Happily, I’d made a seat reservation, months beforehand (always secure your seat in advance, if you’re planning long-distance rail travel, in England). Because I like to avoid being held hostage
by a chatty seat-mate, I’d booked a free-standing seat, in the First Class carriage. From this private perch I could tune out—or eavesdrop upon—the conversations of those around me. The murmurings of overlapping voices, combined with the clacking of train wheels over metal rails became white-noise, and soothing, and I relaxed into something close to sleep.

A couple of hours into the journey, fatigue had been repaired, and my awareness of my fellow travelers sharpened. Opposite me, a couple from London were quietly reviewing their agenda for the next week, their sentences morphing seamlessly from English into German and back again into English: they were on their way to the Isles of Scilly, where they’d scuba dive and do underwater photography. Behind me, a young man with the refined erudition of an Oxfordian was expounding at length to an elegant lady about his thankless job as a tutor to the “brat son” of a Russian oligarch. Ahead of me, a gentleman farmer began to lecture everyone within earshot about the finer points of dog-breeding. The train’s sole conductor, passing by to do a much-delayed ticket-scan, stopped, enthusiastically whipped out an iPhone, and showed multiple pictures of the litter that HIS prize female had just birthed. Diagonally across the aisle, an exuberant American couple from Florida who were speculating about their soon-to-be-first-time stay in a Cornish village, paused, and, with double yelps presented THEIR phones to the conductor and the farmer: all of these folks owned the same breed of dog. Much hilarious (to dog owners) canine talk ensued. By this time, the train was crossing the River Tamar, and passing from Devon into Cornwall.

Image & Caption courtesy of Tom Jolliffe

Several miles down the track, the train lurched to a stop: the conductor forgot all about dogs, and then rushed forward, to consult with his engineer. Our train idled, and then idled some more: we had reached Cornwall, but were only in its Eastern-most parts. Penzance was still nearly 2 hours away.
A crackly-announcement came over the train’s speakers: Ahead of us, a car had driven into one of the supports of a train bridge…we’d have to remain where we were, until Great Western personnel
could be certain of the bridge’s structural integrity. People grumbled a bit, and then a sour silence descended.

His iPad muted, the posh Oxfordian had been watching the 2018 World Cup Playoffs. Either dispirited or bored by the soccer, he began humming, and then to sing, but very quietly. The German-English Londoner swallowed a mouthful of sushi that his wife had been feeding him, and, looking across at the Oxfordian, also began to sing, making a harmony with the young man. These strangers
( who I later learned partake regularly in the Cornish tradition of spontaneous pub-singing ) — both of them having been blessed with beautiful vocal chords — then sang, in the most offhand but accomplished way, a ditty which has become a Cornish anthem (lyrics follow) :

A seagull and a chough play tug-of-war with a Cornish Pasty. Image courtesy of Stamp-and-Go

CORNWALL MY HOME

I’ve stood on Cape Cornwall in the sun’s evening glow,
On Chywoone Hill at Newlyn to watch the fishing fleets go,
Watched the sheave wheels at Geevor as they spun around
And heard the men singing as they go underground.

And no one will ever move me from this land
Until the Lord calls me to sit at his hand.
For this is my Eden, and I’m not alone.
For this is my Cornwall and this is my home.

I’ve left childish footsteps in the soft Sennen sand,
I’ve chased the maids there, all giggly and tanned.
I’ve stood on the cliff top in a westerly blow
And heard the wave thunder on the rocks far below.

First thing in the morning, on Chapel Carn Brea
And gaze at the Scillies in the blue far away.
For this is my Cornwall, and I’ll tell you why
Because I was born here and here I shall die.

By Harry Glasson (singer/songwriter: born in Cornwall, in 1951)

Songwriter Harry Glasson, with
Singer Will Keating. Image courtesy of Will Keating

Their duet finished, each man nodded at the other, and, respectively, soccer-watching and sushi-eating were resumed.This song had charmed me, and everyone in our carriage; our delay
was forgotten. Then, with nearly poetically-perfect timing, the train soon grunted, and came back to life, and began to move in its proper direction; no serious damage had been done to the railway’s bridge, and so we could proceed, on towards Penzance.

More and more, as I toddle around in the World, I’m convinced that Serendipity is Real, and that Truth is Stranger Than Fiction. Cornwall has always considered itself a Place Apart from
England, and the oddities of my journey that day—as I left London and headed toward Cornwall —had made it very clear to me that I was transitioning from one World into Another.

And so now I begin for you a multi-chapter, region-by-region guide to those places along the Cornish coastline which have most enchanted me.

The Destinations in Part One of our Tour

PENZANCE

The Mayoral Seal of Penzance

Until the 1930s, the severed head of St. John the Baptist was the chosen symbol of Penzance. Not at all macabre, or even particularly religious, this Symbol reflects typically Cornish wit. Over 1000 years ago, a chapel was said to have stood on the hill which overlooks Penzance Harbor. In the Cornish language, “Pennsans,” means “Holy Headland.” And thus the holiest head of them all, belonging to the unfortunate St.John, became the Town’s emblem.
What’s not to love? Cornwall wears its peculiarities proudly.

At Penzance my recent train journey ended, and therefore this is where our Cornwall explorations must begin.

This is my train, just arrived in Penzance, where my dear friends Anne & David Guy awaited me. Over the course of two extended, summertime stays, the Guys led me to all of the places which we’ll discover, in my Cornwall Diaries; were it not for their natives’ knowledge of the area, I would have missed many Cornish Treasures. I take full blame, however, for ALL observations, opinions, and syntheses, contained herein.
Photo courtesy of Anne Guy

Apart from the rolling stock and conductors’ uniforms, not much at the Train Station (which was built in 1879) has changed since this photo was taken in 1915.

During the 1930s, in what has since been declared to be the Golden Age of British Railway Posters, each of England’s four largest regional rail companies developed a distinct, graphic style for their advertisements. The work of the Great Western Railway’s artists, who publicized destinations in Cornwall and Devon, was refined and seductive: what holiday-maker would NOT wish to be spirited away to places such as those illustrated on GWR’s Posters … into (as Hopkins & Cole have described, in their History of the Railway Poster in Britain) “a world of sunshine, sandy beaches, and endless fun!”

But long before the advertising department of the Great Western Railway had begun to paint their rosy pictures of the Cornish coast, the notion of Penzance as a merry place had already become well-established in the popular imagination. In 1879, when W.S.Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan — those Mad-Geniuses of Operetta — first presented “The Pirates of Penzance,” the name of this remote town in Cornwall instantly became well-known, across the World. It’s no stretch to say that, in the 139 years since the debut of this musical confection, during every single month, on yet another stage, somewhere upon Earth, a baritone has belted out “I am the very model of a modern Major-General.” “Pirates” has always been one of G&S’s most crowd-pleasing creations, and, so, in our familiarity with the name “Penzance,” it has been easy for us to imagine that the fantasyland concocted by Gilbert & Sullivan bears some resemblance to the actual Town.

Penzance, as envisioned by Gilbert & Sullivan

I’ll get right to it. Accurate reporting demands this caution: of all the places you’ll visit in my multi-part survey of Cornwall, Penzance will be far and away the least charming, at least upon first glance.

Much like Hastings or Brighton — other end-of-the-train-line seaside towns in England — Penzance, with its melange of fine but often ill-tended Regency and Victorian era buildings, and unfortunate 20th century “improvements,” has the forlorn air of past prosperity and faded glory. The Town is much in need of some sensitive, 21st century rejuvenation.

As described in Historic Cornwall’s survey:

“Penzance lies in the Penwith District, in the extreme west of Cornwall, 10 miles from Land’s End. It is the most south-westerly town not only of Cornwall, but of Britain as a whole. It sits on the north-west shore of the spectacular sweep of Mount’s Bay. With the most temperate climate in Britain, the town is particularly noted for its sub-tropical trees and plants. Penzance is a port, rail and coach route terminus. Sea links with the Isles Of Scilly operate from Penzance harbor and air routes from the nearby Land’s End airport.” [Note: A new Heliport is currently being built, near to the Penzance Train Station.] “The harbor is the most westerly major port in the English Channel, the first reached from the Atlantic, and the principal commercial port west of Falmouth. These connections give Penzance a strategic importance that outweighs its remote location.”

My favorite Postcard Map of South-West Cornwall

And so, although Penzance does not possess the same loveliness as that which draws visitors to her sister towns of Mousehole and Marazion, Penzance is nevertheless an historically significant and worthwhile and USEFUL place: its population of over 21,000 souls allows the businesses ( the likes of which are often harder to find in Cornwall’s less populated and more picturesque regions ) which provide Life’s Necessities, to prosper.

Aerial view of Penzance

We can stock up on the essentials at Sainsbury’s, an enormous and first-rate grocery store; they’ve also got a terrace Café, serving up coffee AND beautiful views of the English Channel (which is just beyond the not-so-lovely A30 road).

Sainsbury’s, in Penzance. Image courtesy of Norclad.

From the 2nd floor Café at Sainsburys: our view across the lanes of the A30, toward St.Michael’s Mount, in Mount’s Bay.
Image courtesy of Anne Guy.

We can shop for high-quality, made-in-Cornwall clothing and soft goods, which are sold at Seasalt’s flagship store, at 1-3 Adelaide Street.

Seasalt was established in 1981 by Don Chadwick, whose studio designs all of their products. I’m addicted to their blouses: each season, unique new prints are introduced to adorn the 100% cotton fabric, which is meant to be twisted and dried after washing…perfect clothing for a Traveling Lady. These are just some of the blouses I’ve collected:

We can browse Barton Books’ impeccably-curated shelves,at 45 Causewayhead.

And in just a few hours of wandering through the Town Centre, we can view a bricks-and-mortar stylebook of architectural fashions from the past 200 years. Unlike many other regions in England, where centuries-old structures are commonplace, most of the buildings we now see in Penzance are relatively new, and date from the early 1800s, and onward into the present day.

Although archaeologists know that humans have been knocking about in Penzance since the Bronze Age, the first documented mention of “Pennsans” is dated 1284. By the early 1300s, market days were being held in the area, and tax collection records indicate that by 1322 Penzance was considered to be a Town. With the granting of its Royal Market status in 1404, Penzance began an extended period of relative prosperity, which continued for five centuries, despite the area being regularly sacked by various, seafaring aggressors. During the Middle Ages, Barbary Pirates made frequent raids. In 1595, four Spanish galleons landed, sacked Penzance and the surrounding villages (including Mousehole), and then set fires, which reduced nearly all of the area’s structures to ash. Such are the perils of being situated upon England’s southwestern-most peninsula…the first port of call, for belligerent and avaricious sailors.

A Spanish Galleon. Or, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, in his tale of the ship REVENGE: better to
“Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain.”

We’ll take a fast stroll now, along some of the Town Centre’s more interesting streets ( most of which are within the earliest-settled areas of Penzance, indicated by the Purple zone, on the following map).

Map of the Historic Development of Penzance. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

Market Jew Street, during Golowan (the Feast of St.John and a Pagan celebration of midsummer). We’re half way up the Street, which rises with the hill. We pause, turn around, and then look back, in the direction of the Harbor. Image courtesy of Anne Guy

On Market Jew Street we find what has always been Penzance’s main shopping district. Wikipedia’s summary of this thoroughfare explains its name:

“The name ‘Market Jew’ comes from the Cornish language’s
‘Marghas Yow,’ meaning ‘Thursday Market,’ the name of a nearby village now absorbed into Marazion,” towards which Market Jew Street points.
[Note: In Part Two of my Cornwall guide we’ll visit Marazion, the location of St.Michael’s Mount.]
These days, Market Jew Street isn’t particularly distinguished by its vendors. Rather, The Terrace — with its flights of stairs, and dual-level granite walkways which run along the entire length of the steeply-sloping northwestern side of the Street — is the Street’s defining feature. The Victorians built this odd but functional streetscape—which is essentially an extended Stage–when they transformed what had been a narrow, muddy and sewage-tainted lane into a hygienic place for the townsfolk to do some serious promenading.

Market Jew Street in 1953. Image courtesy of Francis Firth.

Market Jew Street in 1990. Courtesy of Historic Cornwall.

At the top of Market Jew Street is the Market House: Penzance’s little temple of Commerce, which was built in 1838. Until the early 1600s, twice-weekly market days in Penzance had been open-air events. In 1614, James I made Penzance a charter town, and the town fathers, proud of this improved status, saw fit to design a permanent structure to accommodate the Tuesday and Thursday Markets. Considering what additional uses might be made of their new building, the town fathers also added prison cells (which soon became notorious) to the design programme. That building lasted for over two centuries, until it was replaced by the current edifice (which is now a branch of Lloyds Bank).

The West side of the Market House, on Market Place. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall.

Behind Market Place, we turn left, and connect with Chapel Street ( Penzance Centre’s other, major roadway ) : we’ll follow this route as we continue our gradual ascent through the hilly Town, toward St.Mary’s Church, which is at the top-most point on Chapel Street. Along Chapel Street we’ll pass many of the Town’s most significant buildings, which were constructed between 1750 and 1850. During this 100-year stretch, Chapel Street became the focus of what the folks at Historic Cornwall have described as “Penzance’s First Age of Elegance, when the cultural, leisure and religious life of the Town….of polite society and the luxury trades,” began to flourish. Historic Cornwall further explains: “Penzance was an important naval, postal and victualling station during the long French wars of 1793-1815. As with many other south coast ports, the effective closure of Europe to travellers during this period also stimulated a nascent tourist industry. The mildness of the air, the agreeableness of its inhabitants rendered Penzance particularly inviting to residence.”

Penzance Streetscapes. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

My view up Chapel Street, toward the tower of St.Mary’s Chuch

The most eye-catching sight on Chapel Street is The Egyptian House.

The Egyptian House, on Chapel Street

The Landmark Trust acquired The Egyptian House in 1973 and they describe this treasure as “a rare and noble survivor of a style that enjoyed a vogue after Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt in 1798.”

But the exotic appeal of the Egyptian House is only skin deep. In 1800 the building was an unremarkable town house. In 1835, the antiquarian John Lavin purchased the property, and instructed his architect to renovate the façade in an ersatz-Egyptian style, by applying Coade stone, which was then painted in vivid colors. Local reactions to Lavin’s newly-gussied-up street-face weren’t positive: “astonishingly gaudy” seems to have been the most positive verdict.

Rooms (which — Alas — look perfectly ordinary) in Penzance’s Egyptian House are available as self-catering, holiday rentals, through the Landmark Trust.
http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk

Interior of the 1st floor, of The Egyptian House. Image courtesy of The Landmark Trust

The Egyptian House. Detail of the Fabulous Chapel Street Facade

The Egyptian House. Detail of Coade stone façade. The recipe for Coade stone was developed in the late 18th century. This artificial stone is easily moulded into intricate shapes, is thus particularly suited for making sculptural pieces and architectural decorations, and is tough and nearly impervious to weather.

And still further up Chapel Street we find the Admiral Benbow Pub and Inn, which dates from the 17th century.

The Admiral Benbow, on Chapel Street

In TREASURE ISLAND, Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of “buccaneers and buried gold,” the author used the Admiral Benbow as the fictional home of his hero, Jim Hawkins. On the roof, the present owners of the Pub have mounted a figure of smuggler Octavius Lanyon, the ringleader of the Benbow Brandy Men. During the “Golden Age of Smuggling,“ from 1750 until 1830, Cornwall’s impoverished fishermen and laborers turned to smuggling to survive, when the tax burden upon ordinary citizens—levied on a vast range of everyday goods and imposed by a far-away central government to fund foreign wars—became enormous and untenable.

As we draw closer to the end of Chapel Street, we pass Abbey Street, which is worth a little detour. This area, on a bluff overlooking what was Penzance’s original Harbor, is the most long-established section of Town.

Abbey House, on Abbey Street, overlooking Penzance’s Quay. Until 2016, this was Jean Shrimpton’s Abbey Hotel.

For more than 30 years, Jean Shrimpton, the world’s first supermodel, owned and operated The Abbey Hotel with her husband, Michael Cox. In 2016 they retired, and their son now manages the site as a self-catering holiday rental, which is suitable for groups of up to 14 guests.

Jean Shrimpton in the 1960s, before she turned her back upon Fame.

In her early 30s, Shrimpton, weary after many years of being one of the World’s most photographed models, first moved from London to southwest Cornwall…to nearby Marazion, where she ran an antiques shop. Soon thereafter, she bought Abbey House, which she completely renovated and then glammed-up into an award-winning Hotel.

My glimpse of the private garden, behind the former Abbey Hotel. The foundations and cellars of the main building date from 1660. In the 1820s the original house was remodeled in the Georgian/Gothic style, which has survived to the present day.

Interior décor at The Abbey was done
by Jean Shrimpton. The Abbey, Self-Catering Holiday Mansion.
7 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms. Property # 918888, available through
http://www.sykescottages.co.uk

View from New Street (which is just below the former Abbey Hotel) of the Quay.

Chapel Street ends, appropriately, at St.Mary’s: the Mother Church of Penzance. St.Mary’s is situated atop a hill; upon the same “Holy Headland,” with its commanding views across the Bay, where the ancient chapel which inspired the naming of the Town originally stood. The tower of St.Mary’s is Penzance’s dominant landmark, both for townspeople, and for sailors on Mount’s Bay.

St.Mary’s Church. Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

Our final waterside destination in Central Penzance is the Art-Deco era, Jubilee Pool, at the Battery Rocks. If you refer to the second Great Western Railway Poster which appears earlier in this Diary, you’ll see that it features an enormous, glisteningly-white, triangular pool, which extends into Mount’s Bay. GWR’s artists didn’t have to idealize the View: in its heyday, the Jubilee Pool, an open-to-the-elements Lido, was an artistic and engineering Marvel, and a Great Crowd-Puller.

Aerial view of Jubilee Pool, with St.Mary’s Church in the upper left hand portion of the photo. Image courtesy of the Jubilee Pool.

A closer look at the Jubilee Pool.
Image courtesy of Historic Cornwall

Perched between land and sea, the Lido has inevitably been battered by Winter storms, the worst of which came in 2014, when the very underpinnings of the structure were nearly destroyed.

Here’s another illustration of just how vulnerable Penzance’s waterfront is to Mother Nature’s Fury. An Autumn Storm batters the Promenade (which is adjacent to the Lido) in Penzance,
on 13 October 2018.
Photo courtesy of the GUARDIAN.

A nationally-funded campaign allowed for total restoration of 2014’s storm damage, and currently the managers of the Lido report that:

“ work is underway to drill a geothermal well which will provide enough renewable energy to heat a section of the water to 35 degrees C. This will mean that, for the first time, the Pool will
have heated water, transforming it into an all-year-round attraction, which we hope to open in May of 2019.”

The Future, at the Jubilee Pool. Image courtesy of the Jubilee Pool.

As we wrap up our Penzance-stroll, we’ll head inland, toward Penlee Park. In the early years of the Victorian Age, the fields that lay to the west of Chapel Street provided much-needed expansion space for the Town. Terrace housing to accommodate the growing population of middle-class workers sprang up, and, today, most of those buildings are still residences.

Stuccoed Terraces, and Front Gardens Aplenty, in the Morrab Gardens neighborhood

The Morrab Gardens neighborhood: Pedestrian Friendly, but Parking Hell.

Approaching Penlee Park along a pedestrian lane, with lush greenery cascading over boundary walls.

Greg’s Cottage, with a Bird of Paradise: blooming, for the pleasure of all who pass by.

Date palms flourish, in Penlee Park’s semi-tropical gardens. Image courtesy of Anne Guy

During our day-long walks, Anne and David and I stop frequently for coffee, and food. Our destination: The Orangery Café, at the Penlee House Gallery & Museum. Penlee House was built in 1860 by the Branwells, who were wealthy cousins of the Bronte sisters. In 1946, when the Branwell family line had finally fizzled out, the property was offered to Penzance’s Town Council, who promptly repurposed the estate into a park and a museum. In the Museum you’ll find displays by the Penwith Natural History Society, as well as a selection of the work by painters of the Newlyn School (which I’ll mention, in just a bit).

Penlee House Gallery & Museum.
The Orangery Café. I recommend having lunch on the Cafe’s tented terrace. Be advised, however, that diabolically clever seagulls lurk there, and will swoop through the tent to snatch any unattended food. http://www.penleehouse.org.uk

Adjacent to the Orangey Café is a recently-installed bronze sculpture, titled “The Broccoli Juggler.” Look closely, and you’ll see that this faceless man is in fact juggling cauliflowers…..yet another instance of a Cornish word meaning something Different from what that word means, Elsewhere.

THE BROCCOLI JUGGLER, by Kurt Jackson.
Image courtesy of Anne Guy.

I’ll quote the Artist, Kurt Jackson, in his Statement:

“I live and work within an agricultural community here in the far west of Cornwall; many of my friends and neighbors are farmers. The landscape has been shaped by their activities and by their ancestors before them. In the last few decades their livelihoods have become more tenuous, less certain with market prices falling; labour, transport and production costs rising, and the disruption from extreme weather events more frequent. ‘The Broccoli Juggler’
juggles precariously, throwing up cauliflowers (broccoli in the local dialect), a small tractor and a home whilst perched, balanced on the remains of a cast iron ancient carcass of the ancestors’ farm machinery.”

Kurt Jackson’s sculpture will be a permanent presence on Penlee’s Terrace. That the Town Council chose to acquire this particular work of art — where the sculptor’s serious intent and love for this region is illustrated with a disturbing yet endearingly daft image — seems to sum up the enduring complexities, and humor, of the Cornish people.

In Cornwall, Cauliflower is called Broccoli

NEWLYN

Having cleared up some questions about the cruciferous vegetables in Penlee Park, we now turn our attention to Fish, and thus to the Harbor at nearby Newlyn.

Newlyn’s 40 acre Harbor is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the United Kingdom. Image courtesy of
Town of Newlyn.

Newlyn has been a fishing settlement since at least the 13th century, and the vessels which frequent the Harbor now contribute many tens of millions of British Pounds to the Cornish economy, each and every year. But unless you hanker for just-caught-fish, you’ll find few other reasons to visit Newlyn; this is a working-town, and not a place which lends itself to hours of sightseeing. Because the port was sacked and burned by the Spanish in 1595, no vestiges of the medieval town survived. By the late 19th century, Newlyn’s built environment consisted largely of granite or white-painted cottages, and those affordable accommodations attracted a cluster of plein air painters, who called themselves The Newlyn School, an art colony which flourished from the 1880s until the early 20th century. However, a good portion of the remaining charm of the Town was erased by the “slum” clearance which occurred in the 1930s.

THE RAIN IT RAINETH EVERY DAY, by Norman Garstin, shows the Promenade, in Penzance. Garstin (b.1847, d.1926) was one of the earliest members of the Newlyn art colony. Image courtesy of the Penlee House Museum.

SELF PORTRAIT WITH NUDE–1913, by Dame Laura Knight, is an extraordinarily bold (for its time) and well-done composition. Dame Knight (b.1877, d.1970) was part of the second wave of artists who settled in Newlyn. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

But, back to freshly-caught Fish, and THE reason to make a detour to Newlyn. During my sojourns in Western Cornwall with Anne and David Guy, we have rented a house with first-rate kitchen facilities, and so have regularly bought fish for ourselves at Stevenson Newlyn: these folks are the BEST fishmongers in Town (or perhaps in all of the UK).

Stevenson Newlyn,
The Strand, Newlyn, Cornwall
TR18 5HA
Image courtesy of
Anne Guy

Feel like frying up some fish? Go to Stevenson’s!
http://www.newlynfreshfish.co.uk
Image courtesy of
Anne Guy

For my Final Newlyn Tip: I’ll let the website of the United Kingdom’s National Tide Gauge Network speak for itself about the importance of the Newlyn Tidal Observatory:

Image courtesy of the Newlyn Tidal Observatory

Anne Guy wisely suggested that I include mention of Newlyn’s critically important Tidal Observatory. She took this photo of the plaque, on the Quayside, several years ago.

MOUSEHOLE

Remember, it’s pronounced MOW-zul

Two and a half miles south of Penzance, on the western shore of Mount’s Bay, is the tiny village and man-made harbor of Mousehole. At the 2011 census, 697 year-round residents were recorded, but on a fine summer’s day—or during the village’s annual festival of Christmas lights— the nose-count in Mousehole is always considerably larger. This community, which until 100 years ago was a bustling fishing port but is now dependent upon day-tripper visitors for its financial survival, has somehow retained an authenticity which is absent in most tourist-magnets.

Aerial View of Mousehole, Cornwall

For your visit, don’t even think about driving anywhere near to Mousehole’s Harbor. Instead, as Anne and David and I did, park your car in the municipal lot on the northern edge of the village. A five minute stroll, downhill toward the Bay,
will transport you onto lanes and past cottages which date from the 17th century.

Unsurprisingly, Mousehole’s seaside setting and well-preserved architecture have beguiled some of England’s most discerning honeymooners. As mentioned in my caption which accompanies this Diary’s lead photo, Dylan Thomas, who in 1937 spent his wedding night with Caitlin Macnamara at the now-defunct Lobster Pot guest house, declared Mousehole to be England’s loveliest village. And Winston Graham has written that, in 1939, he and his new wife Jean Williamson “spent the few days of our honeymoon at Mousehole.”

Prolific British Author, Winston Graham
(born-1908 Manchester; died-2003 Sussex)

At this mention of Winston Graham in Mousehole, the whiskers of some of my more alert Readers may have begun to twitch. Graham churned out books about a wide range of subjects, but is today most acclaimed as the author of the Poldark series of 12 historical novels. Graham moved to Cornwall when he was 17, and lived there for the next 34 years of his very long life. He adored Cornwall, and knew it intimately, and his Poldark stories draw upon that emotion and knowledge. As Graham explained: ”Anyway, for better or worse, the Poldark world is one I have myself inhabited over long periods of my life.”

Cornwall’s culture and landscapes have been woven into the novels of many other British authors. Cornwall-loving writers include Daphne du Maurier, Virginia Woolf, John le Carre, Rosamunde Pilcher, and Anyone who has written about the Arthurian Legends.

Many of my Readers, when learning about my plans to write a multi-part Cornwall Diary, have inquired if I’ll be showing sites where the recent BBC adaptations of the Poldark books have been filmed. Yes: in my forthcoming Cornwall Parts 3, 4 and 5, ravishing places — tin mines, rock cliffs, windblown bluffs, churches, hidden coves, and beaches — on Cornwall’s northern, western, and southern coastlines which have served as filming locations will indeed be featured. For those Poldark Fans who’d prefer to forego my broadly-based commentaries about Cornwall, and who’d like, instead, to drill directly down to Poldark-as-seen-on-TV, in future Diaries I’ll bookmark the Poldark sections with the
following thumbnail :

Aidan Turner as Poldark.
Image courtesy of the BBC

But now — back to Mousehole — as I retrace the steps that Anne and David I took, during a balmy afternoon in June.

We approach the Harbor. To our left: the North Quay of the Harbor, constructed with granite from nearby quarries in Lamorna, dates from the 17th century.

Mousehole’s manmade Harbor, and its little sandy beach. Straight ahead, out past the Harbor, is
the English Channel.

Just beyond the North Quay, a small cluster of rocks in Mount’s Bay—called St.Clement’s Isle—is said to have been the (very uncomfortable) home of an ancient hermit.

What ELSE could they have named this strategically-located Gift Shop, which is on North Cliff (Mousehole’s Main street)? And just TRY to leave the Village
without a Mousehole mug, tea towel, and postcard!

From North Cliff: our view of the boat ramp and beach

The Essentials:
Town Clock. Post Box.
Phone Booth.

Now on South Cliff, we have a view of both Harbor Quays. The southern Quay (to the right), which is wider and taller than the northern Quay, dates from the 19th century.
St.Clement’s Isle is the mid-distance, and far, far away we can
see just a low sliver of the eastern-most shores of Mount’s Bay

A view of the North Quay, with the mainland in the distance.

The Fitzroy Barometer

EVERY village ought to have its own Barometer….

A typical lane in Mousehole

A fine fish, for a door knocker

Site of the home of Dolly Pentreath, who was one of the last speakers of the Cornish language.

Dolly Pentreath. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Anne and David (both sensibly be-hatted, on that hot, sunny day) lead me down into the Harbor.

From the beach, we’re able to peer through the central opening in the Quay.

We’ve reached the southernmost end of the Harbor, and are on Gurnick Street. A little boat with a beautiful,
terra-cotta colored sail, is in the distance. Look carefully, past the upper left of the sailboat, and, above the horizon, you’ll see the peaked roofs of St.Michael’s Mount (which we’ll visit in Part Two).

Another view of St.Clement’s Isle. The
red ship is one of the many seagoing vessels which were anchored that day, in the Bay.

On Gurnick Street: I passed these two animal-doors, and was reminded by Anne that, a couple of years ago, she’d sent me an email reporting HER discovery of these same doors.

As Anne had written to me, in 2016:
“We saw a beautifully tended tiny garden overlooking Mount’s Bay. We met a man coming out of his house to let his pet duck into the garden! His duck was of course called Donald but was lovely even though he thought I had food and pecked my hand! Apparently the man takes Donald to the pub on Tuesdays and Thursdays where the duck eats pork crisps and drinks Guinness! Donald also has his own duck flap as he couldn’t get in the one the man had made for his previous pet rabbit!”

Unfortunately, during MY visit to Mousehole, neither man nor duck appeared. But, without Anne and David — wonderful travel companions, who share my fascination for Distinctly Odd Places — my Cornish explorations would clearly have been far less entertaining.

A stretch of Harborside gardens run alongside Gurnick Street. Per Anne Guy (who is also my Horticulture Guru), the rather Dr.Seuss-ish tree to the left is Cordyline australis (or Cabbage Tree, or Cornish Palm). This tree is native to New Zealand.

My view down Gurnick Street, back into Town

Another Bay View, from Gurnick Street. The flowers cascading over the edge of the seawall are Erigeron glaucus (or beach asters). These flowers are native to the coastlines of Oregon and California.

Per Anne: “The orange flowers on the stone wall are Gazanias, and the pink ones Lampranthus.” Both types of flowers are native to South Africa.

As is obvious: British Gardeners are horticultural magpies. They collect odds and ends of plants, from around the entire Planet, and they’re not afraid to then try to get those plants to flourish, on their own northern-hemisphere Island.

A last look at the garden on Gurnick Street

The clear waters of Mount’s Bay

The breakwater, at the base of the Harbor Wall

Another reminder that Cornwall is also the Land of Merlin & King Arthur

Per Wikipedia: “Mousehole, like Penzance, Newlyn and Paul, was destroyed in the 1595 raid on Mount’s Bay by Spaniard
Carlos de Amesquita. “ This building, which is called the “Keigwin Arms,” is the only building that survived, when the Spaniards set
fire to the Village. The structure is now a private residence.

A closer look at the imposing portico of Keigwin Arms

Tragically, although this building survived, the Master of the House did not.

Flowers WILL grow where they want to be. Here, a clump of Centranthus (or Red Valerian) has taken root, high up in the wall of a stone house.

T’was time for Tea, and Anne and David began to search for a watering hole.

We ended our afternoon in Mousehole with a Proper Tea, at Jessie’s Dairy (11 Fore Street). Image courtesy of David Guy

TREMENHEERE SCULPTURE GARDENS
near Gulval, Penzance, Cornwall TR20 8YL

http://www.tremenheere.co.uk

Aerial view of Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

Plan of the Sculpture Garden

In the general context of British gardens, Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, which is being established upon land which its owner acquired in 1997, is still in its infancy. In England, even large-scale gardens which have been continuously developed for 40 years are still considered to be merely adolescent, and so garden-snobs will just have to be patient, while the physical reality of Tremenheere catches up to what it must already be, in the imagination of its creator,
Dr. Neil Armstrong.

That said, when visiting southwestern Cornwall, these 22 acres of parklands and semi-tropical gardens are NOT to be missed. Sprawling across a steep hillside which is split by a valley, the gardens offer spectacular views of St.Michael’s Mount and of Mount’s Bay. Tremenheere is embellished by cutting-edge architectural follies, decorated with large-scale sculptures, enlivened by a first-class plant nursery, and enriched by an art gallery. And the presence of its excellent Café makes a day-trip to the gardens very satisfying, in every respect.

Since I don’t rephrase what others have already stated quite well, I’ll quote from Tremenheere’s Visitors’ Brochure, which explains the History:

“Prior to 1294 the land at Tremenheere was owned by the monks of St.Michael’s Mount. Michael De Tremenheere bought the land at that time…and thus began an unbroken lineage of 600 years where the owner of the land carried the name Tremenheere. This persisted until 1890 with the last Tremenheere being Seymour.
The gardens are greatly indebted to this man as it was he who planted the beech, the oak, the sweet chestnut and holly throughout the woods in or around 1830.”

“The land at Tremenheere was said to be the vineyard for the Mount in the 15th Century. Much later in the 1800s it was a noted strawberry growing area with products being exported to Newfoundland.”

“The land is south facing with good soil. It is early favoured land, largely sheltered from prevailing winds by the mature woodland and the particular valley landscape. A free flowing stream runs through the bottom of the valley and several substantial ponds are aligned nearby. The total area amounts to 22 acres and is situated a mile east of Penzance along a stretch of land known as the Golden Mile.”

“After the Tremenheere lineage fell away the Pearce family farmed the land for 4 generations until 1997, when Dr. Neil Armstrong acquired the core valley to which other fields were added in the interim. Neil acquainted himself with the land in tackling heavily overgrown scrubby woodland with 10 foot high brambles, wild rhododendron and impenetrable swamp.”

“The land however immediately announced itself as having tremendous potential with its natural assets – the habitats were varied from pond to dry, arid slopes. A planting scheme and landscape design was largely dictated by these natural features.”

“There was no big house or driveway, which allowed him to create paths to follow the natural camber of the hillsides using directional prompts and framing vistas as appropriate. The steep terrain dictated the need for access tracks and these conveniently compartmentalized the garden, creating slightly different moods in different areas.”

“The guiding principle has been to evolve a naturalistic, arcadian space blending the elements of landscape, planting and art to create a place for contemplation and wonder.”

Dr. Neil Armstrong (NOT the astronaut!)

Is this an Ambitious Enterprise? Yes Indeed. As he creates his garden, Dr. Armstrong is doing what fewer and fewer people in England—or anyplace else—have the will or the means to accomplish. Dr. Armstrong is part of a select group of people, who—instead of lavishing their time and money upon yachts or sports teams—are continuing the grand, deeply civilized tradition of creating World-Class Gardens, from scratch. Such endeavors, even if they might be perceived by some as vanity projects, ultimately benefit all of us who cherish gardens.

Now, a slight Detour, with a Note: During my annual visits to England, I’ve found four other relatively-NEW, expansive, and uniquely-styled gardens, which have already achieved world-class significance. In future Armchair Diaries, which will cover more regions in England, I’ll take you on tours of the following extraordinary places:

#1: Broughton-Grange Garden, in Oxfordshire.
Land acquired in 1992, and a massive garden expansion begun in 2001.
Designer: Tom Stuart-Smith.

The Parterre, at Broughton Grange

#2: Upton Wold Garden, in Gloucestershire.
Land acquired in 1973. Initial garden plan
by designer Hal Moggridge, with continual
additions by the owners, Caroline & Ian Bond,
as well as by other designers.

Upton Wold’s Labyrinth (designed by Hall Moggridge)

#3: Wollerton Old Hall Garden, in Shropshire.
Since 1984, designed and developed by the owners,
Leslie and John Jenkins.

Wollerton Old Hall,
The Upper Rill

#4: East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden, in Norfolk.
Land acquired 40 years ago, with gardens designed
entirely by the owners, Alan Gray and Graham Robeson.

East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden, The Desert Wash

Let’s return to Tremenheere, where we’ll begin our Tour of the Site.

[Note: the Gardens are closed, from late October through mid-February.
The Kitchen Restaurant is open, year-round. Daily: 10AM—4PM;
and on Friday & Saturday, from 6PM until “late.”]

In the Car Park, a Rusty Reclining Man

The Plant Nursery

The Nursery’s Living Roof

Anne & David bought this Air Plant, which they then carried for the next 2 weeks of our travels….this is when a car’s front-seat cup-holders come in handy! The unfussy plant took well to tourism, and very soon produced this blossom. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy

A beautifully-composed display of succulent plants, at the Nursery

Succulents

Pots and Pots of Plants, for sale at the Nursery

Succulents

Yes! They ship….to anywhere in the World.

A Not-So-Comfy-Chair, near the Plant Nursery.
Photo courtesy of David Guy.

Adjacent to the Kitchen Restaurant, a Radiating Assemblage of Cornish Slate Tiles

Tremenheere’s Kitchen Restaurant has both indoor and outdoor tables. I highly recommend their Tempura of Seasonal Vegetables, with sweet chili dip.

The view from our outdoor table, at the Kitchen Restaurant. St. Michael’s Mount—a tidal island in Mount’s Bay—is in the distance.

At the Gift Shop: Just-picked Posies, grown on-site. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

More Nosegays, in the Gift Shop. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

We begin to hike uphill, towards the Gardens, but are immediately distracted and then utterly waylaid by a Marvelous Contraption. A wooden temple is balanced upon an iron platform, whose black legs seem spiderish. The Temple’s dilapidated columns are quivering, or sometimes swaying every which way…their unpredictable movements prompted by the merest whispers of the ocean breezes which blow, up from Mount’s Bay. Beneath the platform, multiple pendulums are swinging slowly and purposefully. Although clearly an Architectural Thing, this Looming and Wondrous Construction feels Alive, and is the brainchild of Penny Saunders, who unveiled her RESTLESS TEMPLE at Tremenheere in 2015.

RESTLESS TEMPLE, by Penny Saunders

The Artist’s Statement, about RESTLESS TEMPLE

Penny Saunders. The artist worked for 35 years making mechanized sets and props with Folkbeard Fantasy, the theatre and animation company. She says that she’s now “moved outdoors into natural light and the realities of nature.”

RESTLESS TEMPLE. My frozen-moment-in-time photo cannot show how this machine of wood and metal and concrete NEVER stays still. The TEMPLE actually seems to fidget; its columns seem undecided, and do not necessarily all tilt in the same direction when the wind blows.
Below-decks, the heavy pendulums, which also continually move,
seem deliberate, and almost calm.

RESTLESS TEMPLE: detail of columns, which are clad with thin pieces of cedar

RESTLESS TEMPLE: detail of base, from which hang circular concrete pendulum-weights

RESTLESS TEMPLE, with a distant view of St.Michael’s Mount, in Mount’s Bay. The close-by teepees are
fixtures of Tremenheere’s Marquee Site.

As the RESTLESS TEMPLE shifts, it is simultaneously familiar, unnerving, funny, thought-provoking, delightful, and hypnotic.

As seen from the RESTLESS TEMPLE site: Tremenheere’s Gallery building is in the foreground. In the distance, St.Michael’s Mount is in the Bay. When I took this photo, the tide was IN, and the causeway which connects The Mount to Marazion, on the mainland, was totally submerged.

We enter the Gardens. David leads the way, up a long path which bisects the Palm Garden.

Over 50 distinct garden areas have been established at Tremenheere. Grouped within each area are perennials and trees which have been chosen to flourish in each, specific micro-climate. Tremenheere’s website includes exhaustive lists of every plant
which the gardeners have added to the site. I include the following map of the garden areas, simply to illustrate the complexity of this ambitious horticultural enterprise.

Locations of the various garden areas, at Tremenheere. [Note: for complete lists of plant species in each area, consult the Tremenheere website.] Image courtesy of Tremenheere.

Lush, semi-tropical plantings. Yes, those are banana trees, flourishing in Cornwall. None of the thousands of non-native plants and trees which are planted the
Gardens require coddling, in Wintertime.

The banana plant, originating in Southeast Asia, is the World’s largest herbaceous flowering plant. This close look at a banana flower, courtesy of Anne Guy.

Alongside the path, more exotic gardens, with plant IDs kindly supplied by Anne Guy. Front: pink flowers are Lampranthus (from Southern Africa). Center left: Agave (from Mexico). Center: Cactus (South and Central Americas). Rear: orange flowers on tree are Isoplexis (Canary Islands).

A beautifully-balanced composition of plants. Per Anne:
Spiky tree at far left is Xanthorrhoea Grass Tree (from Australia).
Yellowish plants in foreground, middle and left are all Cycads (which have been on Earth since the Jurassic age).
Fan shaped plant is Trachycarpus Palm (from the Himalayas).

Per Anne: At the front, Protea (South Africa), with its vivid orange blossoms. A Banana is at the rear.

Protea blossom, close up. Photo courtesy of Anne Guy.

Contrasts of texture, form, and color. As identified by Anne: Yellow pyramid flowers are Tree Aeoniums (Canary Islands), with Restio grass (South Africa) behind them. Orange flower is Isoplexis. Front shrub is a variety of South African pine.

More plant IDs, courtesy of Anne: Banana at back. Bottlebrush callistemon (Australia) below. Front right Cycad. Behind that, is a tatty date palm– Phoenix species. Behind that, the wavy grass is Restio.


Now above the Palm Garden, we approach a Pavilion, which has a rooftop Observation Deck. What we haven’t yet discovered is that, through the Pavilion, we’ll soon enter an underground corridor which leads to a mysterious, elliptical Domed Chamber. In the distance, the top-most towers of
St.Michael’s Mount are JUST visible.

This Domed Chamber, which is buried under the hillside, was designed by the American artist James Turrell (born 1943, in LA, CA). On Turrell’s website he describes his medium as “pure light.”
He explains: “My work has no object, no image, and no focus….what is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought.”

We pass between the columns of the Pavilion which is
below the Observation Deck. Looking back, I appreciate the
exquisitely-done stonework, and the lush vegetation beyond.

Leading us away from the entry Pavilion, along a subterranean corridor, Anne is silhouetted against the bright, white light which emanates from the Domed Chamber that’s
ahead of us.

Turrell describes this construction, which is called TEWLWOLOW KERNOW (Cornish for “Twilight in Cornwall”) as
“A temple, at the prominent site at the high point in the valley, entered from the base of the hill through an underground corridor. One is led along a rising passageway to an interior space, an elliptical chamber whose ceiling frames the sky. Discreet background illumination under-lights the ceiling of the space, and provides a telling contrast with the sky. The shifting balance between the interior and exterior light provides a hypnotic transition.”

Once inside the elliptical Domed Chamber, it takes my eyes a while to adjust to the contrasts between the bright sky, and the dark access corridor, and the dim natural light that washes across the walls.

At the top of the domed Chamber: an
Oculus frames the sky

The Guys Sky-Bathe, inside the Chamber. During our summers of traveling together, I’ve taken many photos of
David and Anne. This is one of my favorite portraits of my treasured friends.

From within the Chamber: our view of the dark corridor which will lead us back outside.

Complex forms and shadows, in the Chamber.

We’re back outside, and have climbed to the
observation deck, above the columned entry pavilion

Nan and Anne, taking in the View. And NO, we don’t intentionally coordinate our outfits….it just happens, more often than not. Photo courtesy of David Guy.

My zoom-lens view of St.Michael’s Mount,
seen from the Observation deck

Uphill from the Domed Chamber, aligned exactly north-south, Richard Long has planted a simple line of ornamental grasses, which he calls TREMENHEERE LINE. I consider this the most UNDERwhelming art in the Gardens.

We follow a path that runs along the upper edge of the Palm Gardens. Image courtesy of Tremenheere.

On a wooded hillside, we encounter THE MINOTAUR, by Tim Shaw

An untitled work by Kishio Suga: a large scaffolding cage encloses bamboo poles.

SLIP OF THE LIP, by Peter Randall-Page. An interlocking
work, in Hassan Marble.

Detail: SLIP OF THE LIP. Peter Randall-Page developed
this piece from drawings of Eucalyptus seed pods.

Detail: SLIP OF THE LIP. In the words of the sculptor: “The male and female forms are ambiguous and somewhat
hermaphrodite.”

Nearby: stone shards, arranged with Intention (Arranger unknown)

SKHIMZA, by Ken Gill: described by the artist as “an installation using glass to honor an ancient fissure in a rock face.”

BLACK MOUND, by David Nash, who says this
“Powerful collection of charred oak shapes in a sculptured huddle is sited to resonate with the mature oak woodland and bluebells in season.”

In a field, at the highest point of the Gardens, a changing collection of brightly colored kinetic artwork. On display now: PERSPEX WIND SCULPTURE, by Michaels Chaikin.

A former Chelsea Show Garden, by Darren Hawkes.

At the lowest point in the Gardens, adjacent to a pair of ponds, we find a cascade of steps and terraces—all made of Cornish slate. The original version of this Garden was designed by Darren Hawkes, for display at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show, in London. At Chelsea, Hawkes’ entry was awarded a Gold medal by the Royal Horticultural Society. Every year, after the week-long Chelsea Flower Show, most of the massively expensive Show Gardens are then dismantled…a VERY wasteful habit indeed. Instead, in a laudable demonstration of Show-Garden-Recycling,the Designer’s Chelsea garden was moved to Tremenheeree, and reconfigured
to create this restful vantage point, near water.

A floating sculpture, near to the Cornish slate terrace.

Detail of exquisite Cornish slate stepping stones.

Afloat: a lacquered red vessel

Nearby, Cornish stone mason Richard Marsh’s
UNTITLED X3

Another look at how the Chelsea Flower Show Recycled Hardscape, along with masses of newly-added plant material, have been seamlessly integrated into the natural landscape, in the Darren Hawkes garden at Tremenheere.

Our garden rambles at Tremenheere had come to an end, but, as we headed downhill, and back towards the car park, ‘twas impossible not to stop for a little bit longer, to once again admire the RESTLESS TEMPLE.

The Restless Temple, by Penny Saunders, at night. Image courtesy of Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens

As I wrap up Part One of our Cornwall explorations, consider that the wonderful places in and around Penzance which I’ve shown you here are contained within about a dozen square miles. Such abundance—of history, of culture, and, most importantly, of glorious stretches of land and of sea—and all conveniently compressed (which of course will spare a Visitor many wasted hours of driving), is typical of all of the Cornish coastal regions which we’ll visit in my forthcoming Diaries.

Here’s what I’ll be working on, so that we can continue to celebrate Cornwall’s endlessly interesting and varied seacoast:

PART TWO. Mount’s Bay, and Environs: Praa Sands, Godolphin House, Marazion, St.Michael’s Mount

PART THREE. Western-most Cornwall: Merry Maidens Stone Circle, Boscawen-un Stone Circle, Porthcurno Bay and the Telegraph Cable, Minack Theatre (& YES: there will be a Poldark-Alert, in this Diary)

PART FOUR. North-western-most Cornwall: Sennen Cove, Levant Mine & Beam Engine, St. Ives, Gwennap Pit ( with yet another Poldark-alert)

PART FIVE. England’s southern-most spit of land: Lizard Point; along with Porthleven (This part will contain the final Poldark-alert)

PART SIX. The central, southern coast, near to Helford River and Frenchman’s Creek: Trebah Garden, and Glendurgan Garden (with this Chapter we’ll begin some Daphne duMaruier-alerts)

PART SEVEN. The Roseland Peninsula: Trelissick Garden, King Harry Ferry, St.Mawes, Lamorran House Gardens, St.Just in Roseland

PART EIGHT. The eastern, southern coast, with a pinch of Bodmin Moor added to what has been a largely watery mix of locations:
Fowey, a cautionary tale about the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pinsla Garden,Jamaica Inn, Altarnun (for our 2nd duMaurier alert)

Copyright 2018. 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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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.

DartingtonBanner

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

DartingtonBookCover

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