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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park December

We made our monthly visit to Attingham Park, our last one for 2017, just as Christmas was making itself known at this National Trust property. Before we even reached the coffee shop for our usual warm drink to get us fueled up for our walk, we had been met by a snowman, a Christmas tree and we were entertained to some 1940’s music and dancing. The hall was decorated in a 1940’s style so the dancing set the scene.

 

The trees were decorated with wartime decorations, based on the idea of “make and make do”, as were the decorations in the coffee shop, where paper chains were made from newspaper. The trees were themed with one based on children’s games from the 1940’s and another was book based.

 

We came across a few other Snowmen, as we followed the one-mile trail, to amuse us on this chilly day. I managed to get around this month without my wheelchair as my recovery from leg surgery is coming along nicely. I walked the mile using a crutch which was very pleasing and rewarding!

      

Wandering through the woodland areas beneath tall mature trees, we noticed that a few browned leaves were managing to hang on to the branches but the majority were bare skeletons. These frameworks of trunks, branches and twigs were magnificent with no green leaves to hide their structure.

   

New buds were already waiting patiently on some branches anticipating spring far off on the horizon, while on other neighbouring trees a few dried leaves hung on. One patch of trees still showed some green in its canopy. A few old seed pods hung on having defied the storms, rains and gales of autumn, seed heads of trees, shrubs and perennial plants.

 

  

We wandered around the walled garden now virtually clear of crops, leaving hazel pole structures bare of the bean plants that once adorned them. The volunteer staff here are adept at creating beautiful and original plant structures.

   

A green flowered cauliflower had recently been attacked by frost, so had browned a little. Celeriac though recently cropped awaited storage.

 

The gardeners’ bothy was simply decorated but full of atmosphere, added to by the gardeners and volunteers enjoying their break so the aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingled with the smell of wood smoke.

Whatever time of year you explore the countryside, parkland or even more so a garden, there are always surprises awaiting. An out of season flower, a bud bursting at an inappropriate time or sadly at times the sudden death of a favourite plant. Two surprises were awaiting us at Attingham this December. First were lemon yellow catkins hanging fresh and healthily from hazel shrubs. These are usually key features of the month of February. In December they provided a beautiful diversion for me and my camera lens!

The second surprise was a Rhododendron shrub in flower!

  

Now that we have explored the parkland at Attingham Park every month during 2017, we need to decide where our monthly visit will be next year. We need somewhere open all year and of interest every month too. We shall let you know in the new year! I hope you have enjoyed visiting Attingham with us each month during 2017.

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham in January – Part 1 – The Walled Garden

So here we are with the first of this year’s monthly visits to our chosen patch, Attingham Park, a National Trust property and without doubt one of the most popular. It is so popular simply because there is such a choice of walks. For our January visit we chose a cold but bright day and we enjoyed the company of the winter sun.

We began our wander by visiting the walled garden to see what the gardeners have been getting up to within the protection of its walls. We took the soft path where the surface is made from chipped bark which feels friendlier and more natural under our feet than the alternative gravel path which runs almost parallel. It is good to feel a path giving slightly beneath each footstep. The path leads us beneath tall mature deciduous trees bare of their leaves. The leaves from the fall remain carpeting the ground as a reminder of autumn but there are also signs of things to come, the leaves of bulbs have broken the surface and look like green spears thrusting towards the sky. It won’t be long until they are flowering away brightening up the woodlands. Buds on the branches of the trees are fattening up ready to open in the spring and clothe the woodland with greenery.

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As we approached the walled garden the freshly painted bench glowed white strongly contrasting with the brick-red wall which provided support for trained fruit trees.

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Entering the walled garden we could appreciate the vastness of it and marvel at the amount of produce grown in the past for the “big house”.

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We could see straight away that the gardening team of employed gardeners and volunteer gardeners had been busy creating beautiful structures from hazel and willow for climbing crops to clamber up. They had also been spreading a thick layer of rich compost as a mulch where needed, in between which deep layers of chipped bark had been lain to make soft comfortable paths.

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The most important crops remaining in the ground and currently being harvested are the members of the brassica family, such as cabbages, kales and sprouts. They are very decorative crops with their coloured leaves with each cultivar sporting its own texture. One crop is hidden away beneath terracotta forcers, keeping the light off their developing stalks, rhubarb. The forced stalks will be pale-coloured and sweet-tasting.

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Blackboards keep visitors informed of the current gardening tasks being carried out in the garden. The one info board sadly explained that the chickens were under cover because of the current “bird flu” scare.

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An annex to the walled garden is enclosed in a similar fashion but contains the range of glasshouses and cut flower beds. In this area there is a collection of the herbaceous bulb, Camassia. In the summer their many shades of blue and white will brighten up their corner border.

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On entering the bothy we discovered the gardeners and volunteers enjoying their mid-morning break and a chance to get together to discuss the work in hand. They were a happy bunch laughing and enjoying their company. As always the bothy had interesting displays on view for visitors to enjoy and learn from.

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We left the walled garden via the wooden doorway into the orchard. We found that the trees had been treated to a dose of wood ash from the bothy’s fire and woodburner. The outer walls are also used for training fruits possibly grape vines or kiwi fruit. We shall find out when the leaf buds unfurl.

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The volunteers and gardeners followed us out of the walled garden each wheeling a wheelbarrow in which they would soon be loading more mulch for top-dressing the veg beds. Leaving the productive area of the park we decided to move forward and follow the path leading us to the Woodland Walk. In part two of my January Attingham post we will share the woodland walk experience with you.

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