The Best Walled Garden in the World is in Suffolk

This  year walled garden curiosity has quietly gripped me.  It started on the Isle of Mull in a squall, taking refuge behind the mossy stone of a 4 acre walled garden.  The kind climate of the Gulf Stream had allowed the rarest of shrubs and trees to flourish.  Back in Suffolk, a walk  through sandy…

The hen and rooster Miracle

Santo Domingo de la Calzado had a hard time of it.  He applied to become a monk but two holy orders  turned him down.  Instead  he became a hermit and devoted himself to helping pilgrims on the way to Santiago.  The original causeway over the rocky torrents of the Oja river was built by him. …

Rest assured at Wrest Park

Bedfordshire?  Never given it much thought beyond gritting my teeth over the drive to Luton airport.  A prejudice I don’t mind defending as many have never heard of Suffolk, where I’m from, at all. This non view got swept into a cocked hat or french drain two days back when travels along a beaded necklace…

If you go into the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise

Serried timber trees, broad trunked with fly agaric mushrooms poking through dead leaves.  Why is this the popular image  of a wood?  Should we blame Racey Helps or Beatrix Potter?  Apparently not.  According to  Oliver Rackham,  (the historian of the English countryside)  this woodland askew view is to be blamed on the  “scientists and savants…

St Catherine’s Hill and St Cross

The top of the hill was an Iron Age fort.  Stand there and look around.  The beech woods slide down the earthworks and delve you down into the valley of the river Itchen.  Tributaries of chalk streams of the tickled brown trout and some of the best fly-fishing in England.  Behind the hill the traffic…

A quick gallop through some garden history

The first gardens that archeology uncovers are those made by the Egyptians.  Walled cool courtyards carved out of the arid desert and based round water, the formal planting of date palms, papyrus and figs in rows.   Since the making of the earliest gardens, there has  been a certain tension between the garden as a…

Do not throw stones: a love affair with Palm Houses

In a new city, the beeline I make is to the Botanic Gardens.  Once there the homing in is on the palm house. A building that smacks of such self confidence and an era when we were on the march upwards.  In the 21st century with all the advances in construction technique and glass science,…

Oh lovely Damascus.

Damascene rose, damask fabric and as the guidebook would have it, Dimashq.  The old town is an ellipse – bounded more or less by walls and divided up into different districts – the original pattern is christian, jewish, muslim.  The oldest inhabited city in the world, perhaps.  The Romans came and went, Tamerlane shot through,…

Il Sacro Bosco. The Garden of Dreams.

Il Sacro Bosco is a wierd and perplexing garden set in a ravine below the town of Bomarzo in the Sabine Hills.  The Orsini palace, scowling above, is built on an outcrop of tufa,  the local volcanic rock.  Below it, hidden in a fold of the land,  a collection of giant statues carved out of…