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A Week in Cornwall – Part 5 – The Japanese Garden

As we left Cornwall after our week’s holiday we spent the morning at The Japanese Garden which was part way back to Devon where we were going to stay for a few days. We had visited this garden years ago but could not remember it at all, so it would all be a surprise.

A Japanese gardens has certain elements that make it a Japanese garden, a feeling of welcome, topiarised trees and shrubs, stone sculptures often in the form of lanterns, beautiful calm vistas, paths to invite calm slow wandering and moss in abundance, plus of course that essential water.

Let us begin at our Cornwall garden to see if it gave us a warm welcome, and see if there were areas that gave us the right feeling of calm and peace. Throughout this look at the Cornwall Japanese Garden you will notice how powerful the sense of light and shade can be in creating an atmospheric garden.

 

Peaceful areas appeared regularly at the end of winding paths or through archways.

   

Moss featured here as groundcover or growing on branches and tree trunks in the damp atmosphere. These patches of moss either on the ground or aerial are great for wildlife especially as they are always moist. Overall wildlife feels happy in Japanese gardens in the UK, and effecively act as predatorial pest controllers.

    

Training trees is an ancient Japanese art practised for centuries by Japanese gardeners following set rules using coniferous ans deciduous trees alike. It is a skill just coming into being in 21st century Britain. I love using it in the garden!

    

Stone sculptures were visible throughout including many forms of lantern. We use a few of these in our interpretation of a Japanese garden her at home in our Plealey patch.

       

Bamboo of course is another essential element of any Japanese garden, either growing in its many forms or used as a fencing or building material. It is beautiful and structural whichever way it is used.

 

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of the Cornwall Japanese Garden as much as we did. There is so much Western gardeners can learn from Japanese garden design and from the skills of Japanese gardeners. They can teach us a lot about creating peace and harmony in our gardens.

 

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A Walk in the Park – February at Attingham Park – Part 2

After enjoying time exploring the walled garden and its outbuildings we continued our wanderings towards the beginning of “The Mile Walk”, passing along the way this tree half covered by orange lichen, which looked so colourful on this dull day.

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On the way we noticed how much moss was growing at the bases of the mature trees and how bright their green colours were. Of course we enjoyed the white sparkles of snowdrops on the way.

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There is a wide variety of coniferous evergreens growing close to the path, collected centuries ago under the guidance of Lord Berwick, a keen tree and shrub collector. We looked closely at the freshest of branches to compare colours and shapes.

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It is only in the depth of winter that we can really appreciate the beautifully gnarled lower stem structure of rhododendron bushes.

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Old tree trunks hollowed out over centuries always bring the child out in us. We were drawn to it as soon as we spotted it along the riverbank.

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Closer study revealed wide varieties of texture and pattern.

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It is always good to find a little humour in gardens and parks. This worm was enjoying nibbling away at the big apple. What a great way to take advantage of an old uprooted tree stump. The final photo shows a seat which we imagines was rarely used particularly as it was just a few feet from the river!

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Our next visit to Attingham Park will be in March so we are already looking forward to searching for changes. Of course we will be full of anticipation knowing that the new coffee shop is getting close to its opening date!

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A Walk in the Park – Attingham in January – Part Two – Woodland Walk

Back with the second part of our report of our January visit to Attingham Park we find ourselves taking the path into the woodland at this Shropshire National Trust property.

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When leaving the walled garden the visitor has the choice of two walks and we decided to follow the 3 mile “Woodland Walk” as the weather seemed set dry for the day. Next month when we make our February visit we will follow the “Mile Walk”.

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Just a short way into our walk we came across the “Burning Site” marked by a wooden deer complete with impressive antlers. We like gardens with a touch of humour so we were delighted to discover this family of owls created from wood offcuts left after trees surgery work. They were created by the gardeners as a competition. We loved them all!

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Walking in woodlands in the winter helps highlight textures and patterns not easily spotted when the trees and shrubs are in full leaf. The gentle colours of lichens and mosses are more easily appreciated too as they carpet tree trunks. Please follow the gallery below featuring bark textures and the colours of lichen and mosses. The texture of fallen trees is changed over the years by the huge array of hard-working fungi present in the woodlands. Without these fungi the fallen wood would pile up so the fungi’s function of breaking down the dead trees is essential to the well-being of the woodland ecosystem. Click on the first photo and navigate using the right hand arrow.

Woodland walks are made more interesting by the manner in which rays of light penetrate the canopy, creating patterns and patches of strong contrasting light.

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After enjoying exploring the woodland following the Woodland Walk way-marked path we cut back across the parkland to the house itself. First glimpse of the house is through a framework of Cupressus trees. To find this view we crossed over two stone bridges which took the path over water and the stonework attracted as much lichen as the tree trunks did.

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Our return to Attingham Park will be in February when we will look at the Walled Garden again and then follow the much shorter walk, the Mile Walk.

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Waterfall Walkabout

We made a quick visit to the waterfall at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, in Powys  last year and vowed to return. So in late august we did just that not thinking that being still in the holiday period it would be so much busier than our previous spring visit. But many people were walking off into the hills so our wander was still quite quiet.

After our usual coffee and cakes which we enjoyed in the cafe at the base of the falls we set off up a narrow path and quickly found the stream that flowed rapidly from the falls themselves. The cafe is part of an interesting and unusual endeavour, a business which involves a campsite and retreat as well as the cafe, a little empire to nourish the body, the soul and the mind. It is a place to find peace and get close to nature.

We heard the falls well before we saw them, the roaring and rushing  of water dropping over 100 feet splashing on rock outcrops as it falls. When the falls come into view we are always forced to stop just to stare and take in the scene. It is simply beautiful, a place where the gentle beauty of nature is disturbed by the sheer power of water. A mist of spray drifts among the trees. All around is green, bright almost fluorescent green. Ferns, mosses and lichen reveling in an atmosphere full of droplets of water, very pure clean water, not yet subjected to man’s pollution. It won’t be long before this stream, crystal clear but for a hint of the coffee brown stain from peat, will be subject to agricultural run-off. Nitrates, herbicides and sheep dip chemicals. But for now its purity adds to the delight of the place.

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After enjoying being close to the roar and rumble of the waterfall we took a narrow track into the valley. Our feet made no sound on the pine needles that covered the path so we could hear the sound of the falling water getting quieter as we moved deeper into the heavily wooded slopes of the valley side. The trees grew close together so had grown tall in their search for light.

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Every boulder and the bases of every tree trunk were carpeted in mosses and lichens, soft and silky to the touch.

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The boulders had been rolled down the slope by the forces of gravity after the equally powerful force of erosion had separated them from the rock faces of the vertical outcrops towering above the tree line. Erosion had also removed the soil and scree that once anchored this tree and its roots to the ground. Today it somehow remains upright by holding on with only half of its giant roots still in the ground.

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The openness at the end of the woodland afforded us vast views of the mountain range underneath which we had driven to find the waterfalls.

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In a place dominated by huge trees, massive mountains and rugged rock faces it is good to study tiny delicate things as a contrast. There can be no more delicate flower then the Harebell and no smaller plants than mosses, lichens and algae (algae and lichen are not strictly speaking plants). Although the beetles we came across were small at only a centimetre or so long they certainly did not look delicate. They looked tough as they moved through the grass with purpose. Theses little chaps are powerful predators in the mini-beast world.

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Fruit was colouring up on Hawthorns, Rowans and wild Crab Apples. We imagined that once the migrant thrushes passed through Wales they would home in on this valley side and gorge themselves on this fruit bounty.

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On the more exposed slopes of the valley trees live short lives and they grow stunted by the harsh winds and cold winters. This does though give them beautiful shapes, their branches and trunks taking on bonsai like twists and turns. The clean air here meant they wear coats of lichen, moss and algae. The first three pictures below are of a dead tree, partly felled but still giving a home to these tiny members of the plant world.

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On our return back along the track we took a detour to see if we could get a closer look at the falls by going upwards. The path rose steeply and we found ourselves on a ledge almost halfway up the falls so we did get different views but not as dramatic as we had hoped for.

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What a great place this is, possibly as close to wilderness as we can find in this part of Wales. The walk isn’t easy or indeed sensible for either of us – me walking with a crutch and one leg without any feeling and Jude being scared of heights and hating walking with a gap alongside. But we did it and we enjoyed! And we will probably do it again! No – we will definitely do it again!

 

 

 

 

 

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Our First Woodland Walk of the Autumn – Part Three

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We begin part three just as we draw close to the lake itself. The trees dripped with more moss and the fungi seemed to get more colourful.

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We reached the lakeside where we found the calm surface created the clearest of reflections.

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Our return journey along the woodland path afforded us glimpses of the hills that surround the lake and its wooded fringes.

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So our memories of this lovely woodland walk have helped us escape the wild, wet and windy days of January. Now we can look forward to a warmer and brighter spring leading to an even warmer and even brighter summer!

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Our First Woodland Walk of Autumn – Part Two

Back to Vyrnwy the woodland nature reserve of the RSPB based around a huge reservoir, where we continue our walk enjoying the sights, scents and sounds of an autumn wood.

We moved on to where the path turns a corner and we cross a tiny stream over a wooden bridge. Today the bridge looked very different. Each side was covered in a growth of ginger brown fungi. We were literally stopped in our tracks in amazement! We had never before seen such a sight and probably never will again.

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In the close vicinity the atmosphere was so humid that you could feel the dampness in the air. Moss enjoyed the sauna-like conditions and grew on tree trunks. The trunks dripped with the moss, making them look like little green figures beneath the trees. We continued to find a variety of fungi some of which grew high off the ground. One in particular looked as if a frisbee had been thrown so fiercely that it had dug deep into the tree trunk.

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The humidity here, partnered with the bright light creeping through the branches, made the shades of greens and brown glow richly.

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The air got damper and the shafts of sunlight lower as we passed this old moss-covered stone wall and reached the lake. We shall find the lake in the third and final part of my First Woodland Walk of Autumn – Part Three.

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Lichen in our garden.

One of the highlights of enjoying your garden in winter is noticing things that you take for granted the rest of the year. Little special details. Lichen, mosses and algae.

In our Japanese Garden the low rays of the winter sun brighten up lichen, mosses and algae on the lanterns. The greens and greys create a mosaic of soft textures.

Tints of green add interest to the greys of our specimen slate stones.

Even the Buddha is given a splattering of green emphasising the shapes of the fabric folds of the robe and curls of hair.

Lush green mosses find perfect conditions to flourish in side a terra-cotta flower-pot.