Monday, 29 December 2014

A Flavour of Charlecote

Took ourselves off for a winters walk in the sunshine at Charlecote Park this afternoon. Not as adventurous as some I admit, but quite an achievement given the toss up between another feet-up-in-the-warm day and the hard frost that awaited any adventure!

It turned out to be a brilliant afternoon, and as it was a family visit, I opted not to take all the camera kit, just the DSLR slung over my shoulder.... and typically, due to the frost and sunlight, there was a photo opportunity at every step!

Anyway, here's a selection of my better results - can't wait to get out & take some more!

Looking from Charlecote village area towards the house, a couple of isolated fallow deer keep their heads down near an old tree grove.

Friday, 19 December 2014

All Fenced In

Experimenting with my mobile editing package, after final day of planting & guarding in the East Park at Compton Verney

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Landscape Tour at Hagley Hall

I count myself fortunate to have made a visit recently to Hagley Hall, Worcestershire for a seminar arranged by the Historic Houses Association. Held in the grand mansion, the focus of the day was the commercial opportunities for Gardens and Parkland, and after the seminar came the chance to tour of some of the extensive landscape garden.

Hagley Hall, from 1754 by Sanderson Miller. © Gary Webb 2014

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Whichford Pottery: An afternoon for Head Gardeners.

Whichford Pottery, the Cotswold based company responsible for beautiful pots, clay ware and more, hosted an afternoon for Head Gardeners this week with twenty six folks attending from around the region. Fortunately, the sun shone brightly and I was able to attend on behalf of Compton Verney.


 I really wasn't sure what to expect, but there were a few familiar faces, and I found myself in the company of respected gardeners from well known gardens such as Hidcote, Waterperry, Daylesford, Kenilworth, Upton - and many more!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Cedar Tree Following

I chose to 'follow' a cedar tree at my works location of Compton Verney. The choice was helped by knowing that we had quite some work planned for this tree this year, which I thought would make a good story. That is almost by-the-by, as other works and projects to the estate soon overtook me, and I haven't blogged on this subject for ages - until now!


Friday, 22 August 2014

Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North

Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North, opened to the public in 2012. She was two years in the making and many more in planning, the whole project triggered by the desire for mining on adjacent land. If I have grasped the idea correctly, this was a 'restoration first' project to provide a resource for the local community and for tourists, a sort of gift in kind - and from where I stand, it seems to tick every box.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Middleton Hall, Staffordshire.

Middleton Hall came to my attention a while back in a lecture at Birmingham University by Professor Ian Dillamore, who introduced the work of John Ray, an English naturalist (1627 - 1705) who stayed a while at Middleton. This post is to focus on the garden itself, not Ray, but I'd urge anyone who hasn't heard the name John Ray to at least read through the Wikipedia page dedicated to him; he made a significant contribution to botanical classification and deserves more appreciation.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Garden Reviews

Changing times for me as a garden visitor, and I find myself these days less drawn to writing reviews following a garden visit. This is in part due to the lack of time to sit and type up an honest review, and also due to my acceptance now that any garden as I experience it wouldn't have been created purely for my pleasure; it will be a creation formed with any number of constraints.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Hill Close Gardens - Food and Flowers

A lovely sunny spring day and a spare afternoon triggered a brief but refreshing visit to an old haunt of mine: Hill Close Gardens in Warwick.

After a warm welcome from volunteers, we were off to tour the individual garden plots that collectively form this wonderful little restored Victorian garden - merely a stones throw from the middle of Warwick. 

Around two acres survive of these gardens that were in their heyday rented or purchased for private recreation and growing produce. Back in the day, hedges and fences provided private spaces for affluent business people who didn't have the luxury of a garden with their main accommodation, as many of them lived above their shop so to speak. Each plot was invaluable for escaping the pressures of work, and after years of nurturing, many plots were retained by families who handed them down through generations.

 Accounts survive that list the quantities of fruit trees that existed on each plot, and given the size of each space, trees must have been expertly trained to fit them all in! Many of the garden plots feature dainty summerhouses that are simply the sweetest of garden buildings; each one placed perfectly to make the most of the passing sun and views. 

There was a hierarchy of plots across the sloped site - higher plots with better views across the common were more expensive, indicating higher status and wealth. Some of the larger summerhouses have basements for tool and produce storage, and cute fireplaces to ward off autumnal chills, but all offered shelter, a place to rest, and views over their garden. 

Today, the houses are used to display early tools and information, but have lost none of their charm through the process of restoration, all being matched closely to their original form after investigation and research. There's also an excellent, if slightly uphill, path network, that allows relatively easy access to most garden plots.

Hill Close Gardens are now largely cared for by an employed gardener and a large team of volunteers, some of whom have been granted care of individual plots, though many of the gardens supply fruit and veg' for sale - in support of the gardens. There's an education team, the visitor centre hosts a range of horticultural events, and the gardens are an important link to our Victorian gardening heritage.

What I love about Hill Close however, is that after huge initial investment, they settled down to eventually become neglected - almost lost forever. But after public rescue and restoration, the gardens are once again settling down, and ultimately are back in the hands of gardeners who like their Victorian counterparts; are using the spaces creatively for food & flowers.

Hill Close remains team work of many hands, and is a superb example of these early town or 'Guinea' gardens. Naturally, I would find interest if there was nothing but a pot plant and bench, but these gardens work on a variety of levels and offer so much - not the least being its variety of planting. There are plenty of plant packed borders arranged largely in a cottage style. Spring bedding areas were going over for my visit but the Auricula's were beaming on their display shelves, and the herbaceous planting was coming through strongly.   

I think variety is one of the strengths of Hill Close. Not only is it a heritage asset, it is a thriving garden and relevant to many local folk - too many to list. I remember many visitors rediscovering vegetables and fruits that their parents or grandparents used to grow, and it was touching to hear their recollections of a family garden previously forgotten - quite emotional and evocative discussions in some cases. 

After a wander through the Victorian style glasshouse, used for modern day propagation and display, and of course a check of the plants on sale, I ventured beyond the centre to a hidden plot - the education garden. This garden is a little closer to my heart as I was heavily involved in its creation, and it was good to see it maturing nicely. The top fruit and hedges I planted, staked and tied were growing strongly, the perennials were clumping up, and the hogging paths, that some thought would be washed away, were holding well after a very wet winter. On the whole, this little garden area was singing along and as with all the plots at Hill Close - looks in good order and very much loved.  

Hill Close Gardens - a real gemstone in Warwickshire's garden network - be sure to make a visit!
Images © Gary Webb 2014

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Tree Following - A Warwickshire Cedar

I’ve been following my cedar for all of a month now, but have known it for quite some time - four years to be precise. It’s a character-packed mature tree, having originally been planted, I believe, as part of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s landscaping c1770.

If there is a problem with this tree, it has to be that I see it almost every weekday on my walk into work, and I have to admit that in some ways – it can become part of the furniture! That’s where Tree Following, I hope, will bring this tree firmly back into focus. Already I’ve found myself looking closer – I just need to capture some images that portray what I see!


It is a tree that looks vigorous and full of life, but on closer inspection it has wounds and scars that prove a long and full life. It would have been a juvenile

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Gervase Markham

'There is to be required at the hands of every perfect Gardiner three especiall vertues - Diligence, Industry, and Art'

Gervase Markham
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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Tree Following

Trees don't move, so how can one be followed? Please read on - it isn't as crazy as might first sound!

Most of us will pass a tree or two when out on our travels. Maybe you can think of one that you see frequently, possibly a young, establishing specimen in your garden. It could be a random tree among a roadside group that speaks out to you, or one that stands proud in a nearby field location. Basically, it could be anywhere, any tree, any size - they are all unique!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Barreto Trenching

Short clip of trenching operation for cable laying. Very muddy conditions, but the Barreto machine on hire worked efficiently & with minimal ground disturbance.
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