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Houghton Hall Part 1 – Richard Long at Houghton

This post, one of two about Houghton Hall in Norfolk wasn’t published at the time so here it is now, found again and ready to be sent out albeit rather late!

Richard Long is one of our favourite land artists and until this year we had only seen a few isolated examples of his work. While travelling towards our holiday venue in Norfolk we noticed, as we drove along, large signs advertising an exhibition of his work at Houghton Hall. We could not believe our luck! We soon set aside a day to visit the garden and exhibition.

The exhibition was called Earth Sky and we had seen a few of the pieces there in the past and thought it a great location for his work.

There were a couple of pieces we particularly wished to study, “A Line in Norfolk” and “North South East West”. We have already seen a similar piece to “A Line in Norfolk” at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park a few times over the last few years. There, the line of sandstone ran like a perfectly straight path into a lake. It looked amazing and magical. The other piece we wished to see had been featured in a magazine article and simply looked so perfect and satisfying sitting dead centre in a room in the house itself.

“A Line in Norfolk”


“North South East West”


As well as the pieces exhibited within the grounds a selection of much smaller pieces were on display along a corridor within the hall itself, delicate prints on driftwood and recycled pieces of wood.


Long experimented with splashes of white paint carefully and very deliberately thrown nto wall recesses previously painted black in readiness. The effects were fascinating and got the creative thinking going in overdrive. We saw simple but beautiful patterns, water falls, landscapes and much more within the lively white paint marks.

“White Water Falls”

I shall put more “White Water Falls” pics in the following gallery along with more photos of Richard Long pieces from his exhibition at Houghton Hall. Enjoy!



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New Year’s Day at the seaside

This post was written right at the beginning of the year but I never got round to publishing it, so here it is a day spent at the seaside to celebrate the arrival of a new year, 2019.

It has become a tradition with Jude and I to spend New Year’s Day at the seaside, sometime on the north coast, sometimes mid-wales. For 2019 we made the trip to mid-wales settling on Aberystwyth as our venue for the day. Daughter Jo and son-in-law Rob joined us so it was extra special.


We are always amazed when at the coast how both Mother Nature and visiting humans produce little creations with pebbles and driftwood.


As the day wore on the light changed and a warm light lit up the sea and the rocks where the tide rushed in with frothy waves.

So now we can look forward to January 1st 2020 a new year’s day seaside amble and of course a new decade’s day amble too!

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A family holiday to Scotland – Part 3- Little Sparta

For a long time we have wanted to visit the garden at Little Sparta near Glasgow, so when holidaying nearby we just had to pay it a visit. Often places you have waited for with high expectations turn out to be less than you hope for but Little Sparta proved to be more than expected. Jude and I visited with our son and daughter-in-law, Jamie and Sam and our granddaughter Arabella, a twenty-month old garden and nature lover.

Little Sparta is the garden created by artist Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006).  It was started 50 years ago, created from the natural landscape and is described in the leaflet given to garden visitors as “a beautiful and shaded place, with trees, flower beds, running streams, bridges, ponds and paths, which lead you past more than 200 artworks many of them carved with inscriptions that will take you into the world of classical Greece and Rome, poetry and philosophy, but also the French Revolution, naval ships, armed conflict and weapons of war.”

So we arrived with expectations of surprises and originality.

We parked in the tiny carpark and followed a rough gravel track for almost half a mile up the slope to the garden entrance. We can’t remember visiting many gardens without vehicle access at least reasonably close. The walk up took us through beautiful Scottish farmland complete with sheep and cattle.


The gateway presented a warm welcome but was somewhat of a trick as it was not the actual entrance to the garden which was a short distance along the stone wall.


With every turn of a path new and very varied vistas presented themselves, close tight places and larger open landscapes.


Surprises in the form of stone sculptures and stone calligraphy add to the delight of this garden and help us understand its designer.


A real surprise was a fruit and veg patch which had the feel of a true old-fashioned allotment.




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Hauser and Wirth – a return to Piet Oudolf’s gallery garden

We have visited the Piet Oudolf gardens at the Hauser and Wirth Galleries in Bruton, Somerset twice already. We wanted to visit once more to see how these amazing new perennial style gardens had matured.

We had to pass between the gallery buildings to reach the gardens but were drawn to these gently planted containers and gardens in the courtyards.


A sculpture piece by Richard Long graced one area of grass, but after a quick look and photo, we hurried through the gallery buildings and out into the main gardens. We were to find another Richard Long piece at the far end of the main garden, one of his circular works.


To give a true picture of the gardens here at the gallery I need to share a gallery with you showing views across board, plant compinations and a few individual plants too. Enjoy by clicking on the right arrow and navigate as usual using the arrows.


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The Line – a simple tribute to Richard Long

Jude and I are great fans of land artists and are proud of our British contingency of these sculptors with big ideas. We have sought out pieces around the UK and loved the work of Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and Richard Long in particular.

Leaving a wooded shaded area and entering a open grassland mown short by the munching mouths of deer and sheep, the sunlight caught the purity of the white fibres of the sheep wool. A simple white line, a reminder of the work of Richard Long.


Richard Long and his landscape art would soon come back to our thoughts and eyes, as we continued our wandering in the woodlands at our local National Trust property with its wonderful parkland, woodland and walled garden, we had to take a detour veering away from our usual routeway. We took a poorly marked diversion beneath open woodland of long stretched trees with narrow trunks and branches way up creating a high canopy.

Some of these trees, although relatively young tend to weaken due to competition from their neighbours simply growing too closely, and then either die off or get blown over by strong winds. On this day in late November the bright sunshine shone so low down that it lit up the felled trunks. Below I share my photograph of a thin silver line lying beneath the narrow black verticals, a broken birch bough beneath living conifers stretching to reach the light.


It put in my mind the work of Richard Long, the part played in his creativity of lines and paths. I took a few shots to put together as a short appreciation of his work.





sb1-18 The end of the line ………………..

……………………… for now. Soon more broken bright green moss covered fallen boughs cut across our pathway. the richest green cutting through the deeply carpeted dried browns of fallen autumn leaves.


More lines appear before your eyes when you have Richard Long’s work in your mind, the wash left as a white line across the dark surface of the river, the bright line of light vertically drawn down the trunk of an ancient proud tree.

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So our visit to Attingham Park was made even more special and the experience raised even higher by linking it to Richard Long’s creativity. What a surprise!


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A Sculpted Landscape – Boughton House

We were planning our journey to the North Norfolk coast to visit a couple of RSPB nature reserves and were seeking somewhere to visit on the way. We came across Boughton House marked on our map so googled it to find our more. We were so glad we did! The buildings were of a beautiful simple architectural style with French influences. Even the stable blocks impressed. Soft gentle lines and delicate grey-brown coloured stone.

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We discovered that the grounds around the house were sculpted in the C18 in an unusual manner and recently more landforms were added by Kim Wilkie, a modern landscape architect and one of our favourites.

But to get to the grounds we passed through a courtyard of cobbles and gravel which featured some subtle planting combinations in containers. The strange alien-like fruits belong to the grey leaved plant, which was completely unknown to us.

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Off into the parkland and we came across long avenues of lime trees and huge canal features, constructed way back in the C18. These original features were supposed to have been inspired by Versailles.

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Of course the problem with all these sloping areas of grass is mowing them. When originally conceived the landowners would not have required their grass to be cut as short as modern gardeners want. So their scythes were perfectly up to the job. The gardeners at Boughton today use ingenious remote-controlled mowers with caterpillar tracks instead of wheels to give extra grip on the steep gradients.

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As we reached the far end of these long canals we passed a larger lake and gained views of the house at the far end of a vast expanse of lawn.

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The modern landforms fitted so well into the original landscapes that it was hard to see identify where one finished and another started.

This stimulating piece of land art was based on the structure of the spiral in nature such as the framework that gives sea shells their strength. It gave us a feeling of satisfaction as it seemed so settled into the landscape and invited exploration.

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Sitting together nearby were “The Mount” and “Orpheus”, two landforms that matched, were based on the same pyramidal shape, juxtaposed perfectly but were conceived and constructed 3 centuries apart.

Kim Wilkie’s “Orpheus” is a hole in the ground which mirrors “The Mount” in both shape and dimensions.

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Although it was along way down to the bottom of Orpheus the path that led you there was very gentle and seemed almost level. Without effort we easily found ourselves at the bottom looking into the black water of the square pool.

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To understand the scale of the landform, see if you can spot Jude, The Undergardener in the two photos below. Clue – she has a blue-grey jumper on.

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Next we climbed “The Mount” which was the exact opposite experience. It afforded us a different perspective on the landscape through which we had walked.

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Boughton though had more to offer. After a quick coffee break, with cake as well of course, we explored the more intimate gardens closer to the house. But that is another story for my next posting.

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Allotment Open Day 2013

Sunday July 14th was the day we opened our allotment community gardens for everyone to come and have a look at what we get up to, and to help raise money for charities under the auspices of the National Garden Scheme. We are proud to be part of this great scheme and we love seeing our lotties featured in their famous Yellow Book.

Visitors were greeted by committee members Di and Jill, who took the entry fees and gave out tickets, trail sheets, children’s quiz sheets and competition voting forms (more about that later).

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The allotmenteers had been busy the week prior to our opening mowing the grass, edging and weeding the communal borders and ensuring their own plots were looking at their best. And it did look good! As chairman I felt proud of what was achieved that week.

Bunting was hung from sheds and a pair of galvanised watering cans planted up with diascias and blue fescue grasses  decorated the entrance to the central grass pathway. We made sure all information signs were clear and visible.

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Some members even provided extra little sitting areas alongside their plots with shade over comfy seats. Phil and Doreen created an outdoor lounge. It looked brilliant and drew many admirers and many visitors stopped off for a rest and a chat.

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A popular part of our day is the tea shop which we create around our communal huts enhanced with gazebos and an assortment of tables and chairs all brought in for the day by lottie members. Sherlie, an allotmenteer and florist, added beautiful floral decorations to the centre of each table. Members bake all week prior to the event and the array of cakes is stunning and oh so tempting.

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A feature of our open days is the involvement of our visitors in selecting the winners of our annual site competitions. Each year we hold a scarecrow competition and the theme this year was occupations and as always our members’ imaginations ran wild. We were treated to the sight of a scarecrow undertaker, a pilot, a school crossing lady, a farm labourer, a lumberjack, a nurse, a doctor a tractor driver

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I had the rather over-ambitious idea that I could make a “Biggles the Pilot” scarecrow, which was quite a task and needed the help of gardening mate Pete to put it up on top of our central arbor. Pete is a good foot taller than me!

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We persuaded one of our newer members to open her shed for all to see as it has such a beautiful interior. We call it the “Chic Shed”. It is painted all white inside with a storage bench with padded seat on top, a lovely dresser and even colouring books, pencils and crayons etc for her granddaughter.

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Another competition this year was a new one and again we asked our visitors to choose the winners. It was for land art/sculpture and it proved to be very popular with lots of pieces for our guests to consider.

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Jude the Undergardener won this competition with her woven twisted willow.

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For the children on our site we held a competition where we asked them to plant up an item of footwear, and we saw colourful flowers grown in slippers, boots and wellies. In the pictures below they are shown lined up in front of the two mini-allotments grown for display in the town square later.

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As well as the tea shop we had a plants sale table where Jude, aka Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, sold plants she had raised from seeds and cuttings, both herbaceous perennials, herbs and vegetables. We had a display from Linton, one of Shropshire’s Master Composters who answered visitors’ queries concerning their composting.

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So just how successful was the day? We had lots of visitors many of whom stayed all day and obviously enjoyed their walk around, helping us choose our competition winners and indulging in the offerings of the tea shop and the plant stall. We raised £1065 to send in to the National Garden Scheme, a figure of which we are most proud.

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David Nash at Kew Gardens – Part 1

Can you have a better day than this? Outdoor sculpture collection with one of the world’s best exponents – David Nash. The only World Heritage Site that is a garden – Kew. And the best company possible – Jude and our four kids (we started off with two but they each gained another).

And here they are (well just four of them) taking a break in the Temperate House. Apart from Jude and Sam we are all camera-toters so it is impossible to get a pic of us all together as there is always at least one left somewhere composing their artistic endeavours.

We drove down to London in drizzle and mist – a miserable journey through beautiful countryside we couldn’t see, but after a night’s rest in a comfy hotel room we met our four kids in the White Peaks Cafe just inside the world of Kew. The day was a great improvement over yesterday but as we left the car our ears were subjected to the cacophony of noise made by the parakeets now dominating the parks of the capital. They do not fit here at all. Our native Jays in their subtle outfits of pink and blue were much more in keeping.

Lattes and lemonades safely stored away we followed the Kew App that sent us on the trail of the collection of David Nash pieces. It was over a year since we had seen his retrospective exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park so we were more than ready to appreciate his work again.

Two of my favourite pieces were created from strips of cork oak bark, a huge cone in the conservatory and a low dome out in the open.

As with much of his work there is beauty in the details.

Suddenly I was presented with a sighting of a wonderful juxtaposition.

So another amazing exhibition of the work of David Nash. I wonder when we shall be treated to his next?

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Jo’s Jewelry

In a couple of earlier posts I featured some jewelery made by my daughter, Jo and the land art she created as stimuli for her creations.

This month saw her finish her work towards a “City and Guilds” award, which she has been studying for at Westhope College in South Shropshire. The culmination of the course was an exhibition at the college when each faculty at the college displayed the work of their students. The displays were put together by the students themselves.

Here are two of the land art creations.

The other major influence on her work was finding a skeletal poppy-seed heads and a skeletal bract of an eryngium in the garden. She studied structures in nature such as the mathematics of spirals and the Fibonacci sequence. The photo below is of one of her final pieces based on progression of spirals. Most of her current pieces are of silver some with touches of copper.

Setting up the exhibition was great fun. We loaded my car to the gunwales with all the course work and materials needed to put the work up in as effective a way as possible. To get to the college we drove through narrow lanes which ran with rainwater flooding off the fields and creating rivulets for us to drive through. When we arrived at the college it took several shunts to get the car through the narrow gates off the narrow lane, but once through we reversed up to the doorway to unload.

Once inside we saw we had our work cut out. The display boards were hard and staple guns banned and there was a window right in the middle of the area! Nevertheless we set to work covering the boards with fabrics to prepare suitable backgrounds for the displays.

Jude and Jo get to work.
Fabrics in place.
Cleaning pebbles to create a spiral for the display afforded a chance for some fresh air.

With the preparation complete we got on with the task of showing Jo’s work, the development sheets, ideas books, designs and final pieces.

As the photo below shows it was all worthwhile as Jo was awarded a Distinction for her work and received a cup a “Best Student of the Year”. To see more of Jo’s work go to her website which is in the process of being set up so is still unfinished.

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Land Art in the Garden

I spent a most enjoyable day in the garden recently when our Daughter, Jo came over to create land art on a garden scale on our grass using materials from the garden. It was great fun and the results were really pleasing. See what you think!

It began with a phone call, “Dad, can you do me a favour?” Jo is currently following a jewelry course and thought that land art could provide inspiration for future pieces. I think she may be right.

All creations and photographs are by Jo Mollart-Highfield.