Coop House in Cumbria before Christmas

we are here

The tree is decorated, the presents have been bought and the cards have been written and posted. But there’s still shopping and cooking to be done and there are gifts to be wrapped so what better time could there be to take off for a 2 night pre-Christmas break, literally away-from-it-all, at a Landmark at Netherby in Cumbria – Coop House? Continue reading


Wentworth Castle Gardens Revisited

In June 2013 I wrote about my visit to Wentworth Castle Gardens mentioning that I hoped to return to inspect the completed restoration of the Victorian Glasshouse. Yesterday, at last, I managed to get back there and noticed that the trust, the employees, contractors and volunteers had made many further improvements and additions.


The Fully Restored Victorian Glasshouse

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Folly! at Fountains

folly leaflet

Folly! is the first of a three year programme that creatively brings the stories of Studley Royal to life, through the vision of some of the country’s most innovative artists and designers.

The original designers of the Studley Royal Water Garden, the Aislabie family, created many follies on this vast and beautiful estate to surprise and delight their eighteenth-century guests. These fashionable, whimsical buildings or structures were often used by garden designers to catch the eye or draw attention to a carefully created vista.

‘Folly!’ will see the temples and follies of this World Heritage Site garden dramatically re-imagined as places of visual trickery and untold histories.

Seek out the Octagon Tower, Temple of Fame, Banqueting House and Temple of Piety this summer and be amazed by installations created by twenty-first century artists in response to the opulent past of this unique place.”

folly map

I’ve written several times here about visits to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal – it’s one of my favourite places and easy to get to from home.

My first stop was at The Banqueting Hall. At weekends and during the school holidays the follies are open during the afternoon so I was able to go inside and see Gary McCann’s ‘Scavenger’ close to.


‘Scavenger’ by Gary McCann

Inside The Temple of Piety, which overlooks the Moon Ponds, is The Curious Tale of the Professor and The Temple created by Simon Costin, theatre and set designer. Supported by the jewellers Swarovski, the lavish display is purportedly based on the papers of a Professor Dennistoun of Ripon who died in 1959. He thought Fountains Abbey was the ‘Ancient place of worship now in ruins’ – a line from a prophecy of Old Mother Shipton from nearby Knaresbrough.


An ancient place of worship, now in ruin, One family shall come to dwell in. But lest the old un’s are kept entertained, No male heirs shall take the reins.

in tofp


Diana, the goddess of hunting


I don’t know why the goddess Flora is a teapot!

Next up was The Octagon Tower and a Hall of Mirrors by Irene Brown. It was impossible to take a picture inside so here’s a little video made by the Trust :

octagon tower

The Octagon Tower

Finally, ‘Lost Property’ also by Gary McCann is the Scavenger’s ‘nest’.

lost property

Within the smooth classical pillars of the Temple of Fame the invasion of the landscape continues. Intertwined within the artist’s creation is lost property. Collected from visitors, it provides sustenance to fantastical creatures which have taken up residence in spaces previously controlled by man

folly map cover

A marvellously magical and mysterious day out. I’m still mystified by what I saw!

The Broadway Tower

After our Hailes Abbey walk followed by lunch in the Abbey grounds last Sunday we had enough time to drive towards Broadway and to visit The Broadway Tower.

Broadway Tower

Situated on the second highest point along the Cotswold Escarpment Broadway Tower is a unique folly the brainchild of the great 18th Century landscape designer, Capability Brown. His vision was carried out for George William 6th Earl of Coventry with the help of renowned architect James Wyatt and completed in 1798. So it had connections with the Earl of Coventry’s Croome Park which I visited on the previous Thursday.

View from Tower

View from the top of the Tower

The Tower has  had a fascinating history and this is illustrated through the current exhibitions on each floor.

Throughout the centuries, Broadway Tower has always inspired and with this inspiration came a large number of uses, such as home to the printing press of Sir Thomas Phillips, perhaps the greatest collector of manuscripts and books in history.

Members of the Arts and Crafts movement used Broadway Tower as a holiday retreat. Pre-Raphaelite artists William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones were frequent visitors. Indeed, it was Broadway and the Tower that sparked Morris’ campaign for the preservation of historic monuments.

Morris curtain

Morris Larkspur Curtain at the Tower Window

The Royal Observer Corps used the unique vantage point to track enemy planes over England during the world wars of the 20th Century and later constructed a nuclear bunker to report nuclear attacks during the “Cold War“.” From the Tower’s website.

ROC window

View from the Royal Observer Corps Exhibition Floor

Wentworth Castle Gardens : Restoration in Action

Back in March 2012 (was it really so long ago?) I attended a talk organised by the Leeds Library and given by Patrick Eyres celebrating 30 years of The New Arcadian Journal. I wrote about it here.

Wentworth Gardens Book

The substitute for the 2012 edition of the Journal is the publication of the proceedings of a 2010 conference : “Wentworth Castle and Georgian Political Gardening : Jacobites, Tories and Dissident Whigs“. It’s edited by Patrick Eyres and I recently borrowed it from the Library and read it with great interest.

Wentworth Castle

Wentworth Castle Front

The next step, obviously, was to visit the Castle itself. Or rather, the gardens surrounding the Castle. The Castle itself is a private College and not generally open to the public. I decided to visit the gardens on Tuesday this week on my way to visit my son in Sheffield. What a lovely place it is. The weather was also kind, so it was a real pleasure to spend a couple of hours exploring the gardens and features of Wentworth Castle Gardens not far from Junction 37 of the M1 motorway.

The View from Wentworth Castle

The View from Wentworth Castle


Garden Volunteers taking a tea-break

I got the impression that over the last few years there’s been a lot of work going on in order to recreate the gardens and restore the many garden features.


The latest exciting project is the Wentworth Castle Victorian Glasshouse Restoration Project.

“Made famous by the BBC’s Restoration programme in 2003, this beautiful iron glasshouse was in danger of being lost forever until it became the main focus of our restoration plans.  In 2011, the Trust finally succeeded in raising the £3.74million needed to rescue the delicate structure and was able to work up the final plans for the restoration project.”

Notice board

It is expected that it will be open late summer 2013. Read more about the work being undertaken here.

The Glasshouse is just behind the main castle building and the gardens rise behind them on a gentle slope. There are formal gardens and woodland, a lovely cedar walk, a garish azalea garden, a stumpery and fernery, and an informal ‘wilderness’.

Corinthian Temple

The Corinthian Temple


The ornate plasterwork of the Temple

Archer's Hill gate

Archer’s Hill Gate

Sun Monument

The Sun Monument to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Lady Mary Montagu

Stainborough Castle

Stainborough Castle

The view

The View from Stainborough Castle Tower

Lady Lucy's Walk

Lady Lucy’s Walk

Going back to the Wentworth Garden book I mentioned at the beginning there was one particularly interesting chapter towards the end. It wasn’t about gardens at all but about the Wentworths and Jane Austen novels. “A Big Name: Jane Austen and the Wentworths” is by Janine Barchas and in it she points out every instance of the appearance of a Wentworth-related name in Austen’s novels.

“In the long eighteenth century, the Wentworth family enjoyed pride of place among “abnormally interesting people” we now term celebrities.” Here are just some examples : Wentworth (Persuasion); Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice); Darcy (Pride and Prejudice); Woodhouse (Emma); Watson (The Watsons). Fascinating!

A Walk to a Swiss Garden

I’m always amazed at the talents of Landmarkers as reflected in the Log Books at each property. For me it’s usually a very last minute scribble listing a few suggestions of places I’ve enjoyed visiting during my stay or some other usually inane comment. There are wonderful examples of calligraphy, witty poems and imaginative prose, sometimes photographs and some beautiful drawings, sketches, watercolours and cartoons.


The visitors before us at Keepers devoted some time to illustrating and commenting on a walk that they had done straight from the cottage door – my favourite kind. I would have loved to have completed this walk but I was longing to visit the renowned Swiss Garden at The Shuttleworth Collection so decided on the first morning to just do part of the walk and extend it to the garden which, amazingly, is open all year.

Little Cottage in a Wood

Keeper’s Cottage lies deep in the woods of Warden Warren and you need to unlock two gates and drive along bumpy tracks to get to it by car but on foot it is much simpler – open one gate and pass through a kissing gate to emerge onto the road. It’s a quiet road and not far along is the familiar ‘Public Footpath’ sign and I set off on a tramp along a field edge path.

Footpath signs

Field path Warden Warren

Not far away the guns were out but as I approached the ‘Shooting party’ were returning to their vehicles and, no doubt, some hot coffee and toddy.

Shooting party

The path skirts the woodland and then suddenly there’s a roar and an old ‘plane could be seen taxiing in the neighbouring field. I’d arrived at the edge of the famous Shuttleworth Collection.

Shuttleworth Warning

Eventually the path joined another tarmac road and turning left and keeping well into the side I finally arrived at the Shuttleworth Museum entrance. There’s a separate charge and entrance to the Swiss Garden.

The Swiss Garden

Apart from gardeners busily clearing an island in one of the lakes as you go in I think I was the only person, and certainly the only visitor that morning.

From the guidebook :

“The Swiss Garden is a late regency, nine acre garden, which forms an integral part of the designed landscape in Old Warden Park, Bedfordshire. The garden was created by the third Lord Ongley between 1820 and 1835 and is laid out in the Romantic and Swiss Picturesque manner.

In 1872, Old Warden Park was purchased by Joseph Shuttleworth who began a series of improvements to the Park. Victorian fashions were introduced into the landscape of the Swiss garden, such as the Pulhamite features, and some cast iron work.”

Since 1976 the garden has been in the care of the local county council and I see from the website that a major renovation is to take place next year with much financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This will be exciting work and the garden will be closed until at least 2016. I’m glad that I got to see it “before” and hope maybe to return and see the “after” effect.

After spending about two hours at the garden, including hot warming soup in the Shuttleworth cafe, D picked me up to bring me back to the cottage and plan another expedition.

An illustrated tour of the Swiss Garden :

Thatched seat and poem

The Thatched Seat “ingeniously built to accommodate the annual growth of the tree” 

Indian kiosk

Indian Kiosk

Grotto entrance

Entrance to the Grotto and Fernery

Inside the grotto

Inside the Grotto


The Two-Seater Privy

Two seater privvy

The Two Seats – “The privy is a traditional earth closet. One seat would be locked for six months while the other was open”.

Upper Pond

Eagle, Upper Pond and Harbour

Swiss cottage2

The Swiss Cottage – focal point of the garden and licensed for civil weddings

Swiss cottage

Quite what is Swiss about this garden I am not too sure but it comprises an interesting collection of plants and trees and a peacock and follies and had I visited a day later I should have seen it looking slightly more Swiss than usual with a covering of snow!

In Praise of Nature and A Manifesto for Modernity : From Marie Antoinette to Le Corbusier

An architect friend of mine, following a trip to the Paris region last year, told me about his visit to the Villa Savoye (as the villa “Les Heures Claires” is best known) in Poissy, Ile de France.

Upon investigation I discovered the existence of (roughly) the French equivalent of English Heritage – Centre des Monuments Nationaux – of which the Villa S is one. Further searching of the CMN website revealed a) that Poissy is directly on our favoured route between Gif sur Yvette and Le Shuttle and b) there were other CMN sites “worth a detour” within easy reach of Gif itself.


The Queen’s Dairy [Laiterie de la Reine] and the Shell Cottage [La Chaumiere aux Coquillages] are both follies within the vast park surrounding the Chateau of Rambouillet, a mere 30 minutes drive away. It’s a charming town, dominated by the Castle and with a large church on a hill. Like all other French towns it is pretty much shut down on Monday mornings. Of course, I missed the morning tours so bought a ticket for the 2pm show. We bought foodstuffs for a picnic in the Chateau grounds from the Carrefour Express (only food shop open in town) and headed towards the follies to be sure not to miss the guided tour. The Chateau itself is the Official Residence of the President of France and is also open to the public but it was the follies that I most wished to see and enjoy the sunshine whilst it lasted.

The Queen’s Dairy was built for Queen Marie Antoinette by her husband Louis XVI. It’s a plain building from the outside but once inside you are in a vast rotunda where the tasting took place – all veined marble, sandstone walls and a grey and white floor to give a milky atmosphere.

Beyond the rotunda is the cooling room (above) at the back of which is a grotto containing the figure of Jupiter as a child suckling Amalthea’s nanny-goat. There are various other roundels and friezes depicting mythological creatures and characters. Apparently after the French Revolution these ended up in England and were only finally restored to their original location just a few years ago in 2009.

The Shell Cottage in another part of the grounds is equally breathtaking. It has a thatched roof and ox bones built into the walls. It’s a copy of a late 18th century rural building but inside is an amazing shell-decorated room with original furniture and fireplaces. Of course, no photography is allowed which is even more of a shame as the postcards definitely did not show the interiors to the best advantage. The guided tours are in French which would be OK but the guide spoke at break-neck speed it was hard to follow everything he said.


I would like to say that it was like going from the sublime to the ridiculous going from Rambouillet one day to Poissy the next but there is nothing ridiculous about the Villa Savoye. It is an amazing visionary building so far ahead of its time. I just felt that it was so sad that it did not have the care and attention devoted to it as had the Rambouillet properties.

Built between 1928 and 1931 by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier “this ‘box in the air’ was the culmination of the architect’s formal research and implementation of The Five Points of New Architecture”.  Briefly these points are :

Stilts  – by using stilts he built his ‘box in the air’ as if just sitting on the grass

Roof Gardens – the flat roof is a usable terrace and flowers may be planted

Open-plan – reinforced concrete frees the interior of load-bearing and separating walls. Light partitions are sufficient to separate the different areas

Free-floating facade – the facades are free of the load-bearing structure, and placed freely on the stilts.

Horizontal window – the non-load-bearing facades can have long windows creating light and airy interiors. (See the exterior pictures above)

Corbusier Chaise Longue

Le Grand Confort Armchair

Pony Hide Lounge Chairs

To be said in its favour it was possible to tour the building in your own time, take photos at will, sit in the various architect-designed chairs and generally please yourself!

Also there was an excellent bookshop – much better than the one at Rambouillet.