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A Walk in the Park – Part One – The Walled Garden

Near to us, a mere half hour drive away is situated the parkland of  a National Trust Property called Attingham Park, which is a place we often visit for an afternoon walk. The parkland affords us the opportunity of following different lengths of walk depending on the time we have and how fit we feel and of course on what the weather chooses to present us with. The parkland contains huge collections of trees and shrubs but few actual gardens, formal or naturalistic. It does however have the added element of a productive walled kitchen garden which the NT has lovingly and meticulously restored. So there is plenty to love about Attingham Park. We hope you will enjoy meeting the parkland and getting to understand its sense of place, or put more simply getting to know it like a new friend.

In 2017, rather than make monthly visits to a garden and reporting these visits in blog posts on a monthly basis we will visit Attingham Park each month of the year looking at both the Walled Garden and one of the walks. So there will be 2 posts featuring Attingham each month.

To help introduce you to Attingham Park we enjoyed a sunny day visit in November to take in an autumnal woodland walk and a quick exploration of the walled garden. Just a taster really for what we hope to share with you in 2017.

The Walled Garden

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After a half mile simple level walk along a woodchip track we found the Walled Garden. To reach it we walked beneath giant hardwoods and softwoods, deciduous trees and evergreens from many parts of the world discovered and brought here by some of the great plant hunters.

A first glance through the mature gnarled tree giants highlighted the gardeners’  bothy  framed in low boughs almost parallel to the leaf littered ground. What a setting!

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The walled garden features restored glasshouses, bothy, gardeners’ stores and outbuildings as well as an orchard and the main productive vegetable borders.

The glasshouses looked magnificent wrapped up in their thick coats of fresh white paint. The yards around them were clear but we will see great changes throughout next year’s visits. Sugar mouse pink Nerine blooms provided neon strip of colour along the bases of the glasshouses.

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The orchard hosts rows of ancient fruit trees gnarled and their boughs leaning low to the ground. On this visit it was home to a “Remembrance Tree” and a collection of photographs of the staff “then and now”.

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Displays in the bothy showed the plants of the season, the pumpkins in all their orange glory and they also were used as parchment for messages written in them all about the garden in wartime.

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The garden staff and volunteers had grown cordon tomato plants up against the inner brick wall of the productive garden, Tomato Andine Cornue. They were “forcing” chickory and endive to sweeten them and here we discovered even more pumpkins.

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As we begin our Attingham monthly forays early in 2017 we will have a look at the main body of the productive walled garden.

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fruit and veg gardens open to the public kitchen gardens memorials National Trust remembrance Shrewsbury Shropshire The National Trust walled gardens walled kitchen gardens

Tree of Remembrance

In the words of the children’s song, “If you go down to the woods today are in for a big surprise!” proved to be true this week when we went for a walk around the National Trust property, Attingham Park.

And we were! I shall share these few moments with you when we felt very emotional by this surprise awaiting us. The gardening staff had created a “remembrance tree” by decorating, very tastefully, an old gnarled apple tree in the orchard abutting the old walled garden. It was a very special, personal way for the current team of gardeners and volunteers to remember the gardeners who worked at Attingham Park walled garden when war broke out and sadly never returned.

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Salisbury – a cathedral city

We hadn’t visited the city of Salisbury for many years so as we traveled down to Hampshire for a mid-week break we decided to drop off there on our way. We wondered if any memories were stirred up.

We wandered through the city following tourist signs which directed us to the cathedral. As we passed through the streets we tried to see if we remembered anywhere but it all seemed such a long time ago.

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We found the ancient stone gateway which led us to the Cathedral Close, a peaceful open grassed area where couples sat talking and individuals sat with a book or newspaper. A group of youngsters played a game of cricket appreciating all the freedom the space gave them.

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We wandered around the Close to gain views of the vast building and discovered the occasional piece of sculpture.

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The Cathedral in Salisbury is well known for two main features, the Magna Carta and its wonderfully preserved cloisters. When we walked around the four sides of the square Cloisters memories began to stir. We remembered this part of the building clearly.

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There were small reminders around the Cloisters about the importance of the Magna Carta. We loved this piece of calligraphy on the floor. “Responsibilty, Society, Change, Freedom, Justice, Liberty”. We found the historically important document itself carefully protected from the light and visitors’ fingers deep within the Cathedral building.

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The document itself was displayed in the Chapter House where a new display showed replicas of King John’s seal and a piece of vellum on a stretcher. When we saw the Magna Carta we were in total awe at being so close to possibly the most important document ever written. Our hearts skipped a beat! It was incredible to think that this document was written in 1215 and it was still in perfect condition.

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We loved this quotation from Franklin Roosevelt!

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The Chapter House which housed the Magna Carta was beautiful in its own right especially its vaulted ceiling. A Peppa Pig helium balloon had floated to the ceiling and added  a splash of colour, bright cerise pink! Jude was pleased to find a kneeler dedicated to St Jude!

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Wandering around the Cathedral we found many interesting artifacts  illustrating many centuries, including the world’s oldest surviving mechanical clock created in 1386 and a memorial plaque from the Burma Campaign.

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A much more recent and very eye-catching piece was this font designed by William Pye. It reflected the stained glass windows and produced a gentle sound of running water.

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The huge stone pillars in the nave were decorated with fabric hangings once again reflecting the thinking behind the Magna Carta. They said so much and also added great beauty and colour.

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Art work hung from the roof of the side aisle depicting the colours and falling leaves of autumn. They were fascinating and intensely beautiful, moving in the slightest breeze.

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Salisbury was so full of interest I will continue in part two.

 

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Walking the Shrewsbury Battlefield – Part 2

Back at the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury we return to look more closely at the church and the sculptural tree. First though it might be a good idea to say a little about the battle itself. The Battle of Shrewsbury took place in 1403 just north of the town. Here two armies met in what was to be a ferocious and bloody battle. The rebel army of Sir Henry Percy, locally known as Harry Hotspur, met the Royal army of Henry IV on the land of the medieval Manor of Albright Hussey. There is now no sign of the village but there is a building known as the Albright Hussey which was built over a century after the battle in 1524. So many lives were lost during the battle that a memorial chapel was built in 1406 in their memory.

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This church is now known as St Mary Magdalene’s Church. Below is my photographic record of our visit to the church. We loved the detailing around the door knocker with its design based on a crown, and all the different gargoyles around the top of the building from which would originally have spouted rainwater.

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Inside the church we soon found its famous stained glass windows, but we were also drawn to the reed lamp holders and the oak carved figures on the ends of the pews.

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The ancient lych gate is looking worse for wear but its intricate carved detailing is still here to be enjoyed and appreciated, but I wonder for how much longer.

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Over 5000 men died in this battle and their remains lie in an unmarked mass grave below the churchyard. Some of the headstones found in the churchyard here are very simple and others show very stylised carving.

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When we finished looking around the church and its surroundings we made our way back along the footpaths around the site of the Battle Field. Half way back we spotted a pool in the middle of a field which still showed signs of medieval ridge and furrow farming patterns. Close to the hedge we saw a wonderfully sculptural old tree. The tree must have fallen years ago and has now lost its bark so was smooth in texture. This is Mother Nature at her most creative. Please enjoy looking at my photos of this natural piece of sculpture.

 

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The National Memorial Arboretum Part Two

We return in this second post about the National Memorial Arboretum where we left off.

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This was a quiet place, full of bird song and the quiet voices of the visitors deeply affected by the sense of the place.

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Seats to sit upon

to sit and think

to sit and to remember

lost ones.

Share now a few images of the place to show its variety, its beauty and its sadness.

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We walked slowly up a gentle sloping path giving us a spiral route to the “Armed Services Memorial” with a solemn “wall of names”. The sculptural pieces here were astonishing, powerful and thought provoking.

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Below, the sculpted hand indicates the place where a shaft of sunlight pierces two slits in two walls. They line up on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month each year the time when the First World War ended. It is the time the nation remembers each year the members of the armed forces lost serving their country.

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A massive curving wall has carved into it the names of all armed service personel who have died in service since the end of the Second Wall War. To see all these names together illustrates the futility of war so clearly. Worst of all was the huge area left blank as space for those yet to die. The United Nations should hold their meetings here and every Member of Parliament from every nation should spend some time here at the beginning of every session of their parliament. I wonder if it would make any difference?

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We found smaller memorials which were more specific and sometimes outside the realms of armed conflicts.

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The essential work of the Bevin Boys, the miners who kept the mines open during WW2 was celebrated in these wonderful relief carvings. Powerful just like the Bevin boys themselves.

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Men who lost their lives building the railways in the Far East as prisoners of war were commemorated by a garden of many varieties of Sorbus growing around reconstructed sections of railway lines.

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A few of the gardens help us remember the loss of lives of those serving the nation but not in the armed services. Here we celebrate the bravery of the men of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. A sturdy figure carved from stone reflects the strength of character of these people as he looks over a seaside landscape.

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One of the most incredible memorials was a tribute to the men of the railways.

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We even found a memorial to the soldiers from our home county of Shropshire.

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The Jewish Memorial was a truly beautiful piece of art as well as a moving memorial piece.

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As the light faded over the memorial arboretum the trees tops began to fill with the sounds of starlings settling down to roost. To the birds this garden is a home giving them shelter, food and a place to nest.

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I will leave you with a few deeply moving pictures.

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And finally a picture of the Bazra Wall to illustrate that we never learn. With all the waste of lives over the centuries it still goes on.

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