Sunday, October 27, 2013

A walk in the park

I’m sitting at my desk this grey, wet Sunday afternoon, with the leaves from the ash trees whirling past my study window as the rising gale tears them from the branches. The radio and TV news is full of dire predictions of the worst storm in years for the southern half of the UK, so I've taken refuge in remembering the very pleasant weekend away DH and I enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.

We had gathered for the weekend with DH’s two younger brothers and their wives at the home of my dear mother-in-law in the Cotswolds and the weather wasn't promising. It had rained almost non-stop the previous day, so when the sun broke through the clouds on the Saturday afternoon we took advantage of the respite to go for a walk in a local beauty spot, Batsford Arboretum

The house is privately-owned and not open to the public, but the fifty acres of beautifully-landscaped parkland which surround it contain a wonderful collection of specimen trees, always an attraction for my tree-loving (though not, so far as I know, tree-hugging) husband. The landscaping we still see dates back to the 1860s and predates the rebuilding of the house in the 1890s, but both were the work of members of the Mitford family, who owned the estate for several decades. During World War One it was the home of the famous (to some perhaps infamous) Mitford sisters until it was sold in 1919.

A parkland vista
And in the far distance deer may safely graze

Though our visit was in early October there was sadly little of the glorious autumn colour we had been hoping for. The very cold late spring seems to have pushed the subsequent seasons back by several weeks and most things were still very green as we strolled happily among the trees and admired the views. I can only hope that the forecast storm won’t wreak havoc among the magnificent old giants that stand with such dignity in their beautiful setting, having survived the Great Storm of 1987, when so many millions of their fellows were not so fortunate.

Just in case here are some more images from our lovely afternoon walk in quintessentially English landscaped countryside.

Batsford House in its setting

A few glimpses of colour


Living sculpture


A magnificent beech 

Such grandeur

Trio in a green study

59 comments:

  1. What a magnificent place to visit...but isn't it strange how the seasons seem to be out of kilter all over the world.
    And was that a photograph with eyes wide open?
    Good luck with the weather...mother tells me that the winds are already strong in Southampton.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ir's super, Helen, and my MiL always likes to take visitors there at different seasons. This year she was a bit disappointed at the lack of scarlet and gold.

      It was indeed a photo with eyes as wide-open as I can manage without taping my eyelids back. I'm the despair of my optician and consultant. :-) I was helped by being in deep shade, as bright sunlight almost blinds me until I get this cataract sorted out.

      I think we'll be mostly OK as far north as Mid-Wales - heavy rain, but not such strong winds as further south. The south coast sounds like it's in for a bit of a battering, so i hope your mother and her neighbours will be OK.

      Delete
  2. What a delightful post Perpetua! I do see what you mean about a relative absence of Autumn colours which you would certainly normally expect in the UK in October. Here we have Autumn colours in abundance though many of the leaves are now on the ground with some trees almost bare. I do hope the forecast storm doesn't do too much damage. At least this time, the meteorologists have given everyone plenty of warning of what to expect from what I read on the BBC News website.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ricky. It was a lovely afternoon, but the leaves were indeed still largely green and very few had fallen.It as nothing like the gorgeous scenes in your post on the park. In fact the same is largely true a fortnight later, with most leaves still on the trees, which is why the storm could be so damaging. Let's hope the prognostications of doom prove to have been exaggerated. I'm guessing that the forecasters would do almost anything not to make poor Michael Fish's mistake.

      Delete
  3. I think the colours are magnificent, Perpetua and absolutely share your hope that the forecast storm doesn't do any serious damage here. Lovely old place.
    And a great final photo...as Helen noticed, with eyes wide open - Hurray!!! Axxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What colours i could find were wonderful, Annie, but most leaves had barely even started to turn. It's been fairly mild and wet with not a hint of frost as yet, so the leaves the wind is detaching are not as colourful as usual. Sadly trees are already starting to be uprooted in places, but we can hope there won't be too many.

      As for the photo, i think part of the reason, other than what I said to Helen above, is that i didn't know the photo was being taken, which is always a signal for me to blink. DH's zoom lens is very powerful :-)

      Delete
  4. Let's hope the storm predictions have been exaggerated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we're all hoping that. The duration has recently been downrated by the Met Office, so let's hope the severity will also prove less.

      Delete
  5. Those trees really have the 'Wow' factor. Autumn does seem to be dragging its heels this year. Not that I'm complaining at all - the weather is very mild. I have a few chrysanthemums which would normally be out by now - they're still in bud as yet. I remember the storm of 1987 and I hope too that this one doesn't wreak the havoc it did then and also that people are kept safe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The single specimen trees were awe-inspiring, Molly, as many of them must be around 150 years old and at their full height. The beech was particularly impressive, but there was a sequoia and a couple of cedars which also took my breath away. It's a very odd autumn, with the leaves hanging on so long and summer flowers in bloom where it should be autumn ones. With vivid memories of the chaos and destruction of 1987, I too hope this won't be anything like a repeat.

      Delete
  6. Those trees are beautiful no matter what the season.....and where there are autumn colours, they are just beautiful. Caunes was looking more autumnal than Yorkshire this week, but that is due to the great colours of the vines, now bereft of grapes. It seems that as soon as the grapes are gone, the leaves change colour. Fingers crossed here too, that the storms are not too bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are magnificent and another year we must go when the leaves have truly turned. Here it's still quite a muted autumn with many leaves barely starting to change colour even now. Those Minervois grape vines must be spectacular and I do hope you've been taking photos. :-) Thankfully the real storm missed us, though it was very wet overnight.

      Delete
  7. Terrific pictures Perpetua, especially the beech, what a beaut.
    John and i went to Batsford on a terribly wet Autumn day about 8 years ago but were staggered by the variety and colours of the trees.
    I particularly remember a small (I think, prunus of some kind) with a beautiful dark red satiny bark.
    Or it may have been a Betula, not sure, but a fabulous collection whatever the weather.
    Keep safe tonight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ray, but I can take no credit, as I'd left my camera at home in Wales, so DH was the photographer. The beech was truly awe-inspiring in its size and majesty, with us little humans so puny beside it. I'd love to visit Batsford again when the colour is at its best, preferably with a knowledgeable guide like you to tell me the proper names of the trees. :-)

      We were fine overnight, thanks, and trust you were the same.

      Delete
    2. Ah, you must come and visit our trees some day, Perpetua! They would welcome such a sympathetic visitor. :)

      Delete
    3. DB, I would love to, as would DH. All we have to do is plan something, once travel becomes a possibility for us again.

      Delete
  8. Hari OM
    Oh dear, yes, this 'hurricane' prediction is all rather disturbing and my dear friend over in Suffolk has been battening down the hatches! am praying it is a fizzler for you.

    As to your park visit - fabuloso!!! Will have to put that place on my list for future viewings.

    Hugs from a Sydney undergoing an a-typical spring. It's everywhere, this out of kilter bizzo. Tsk. That is nature. YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the good wishes, Yam, and I'm grateful we were lucky enough to escape the full force of the storm. I have a feeling that Suffolk was right in its path, so I hope your friend is OK.

      Glad you enjoyed the park visit. Batsford would certainly be worth a detour as you eventually head north. In the meantime, I hope life in NSW is not proving too stressful with the dreadful bush fires that we've been seeing in the media. Surely it's too early in the season for these? It makes one wonder what the summer will be like.

      Delete
    2. Hello Perpetua, We are fine, it was a bit scarry about 8 this morning for an hour or so. A few trees down around us but our house and garden are fine. Hope you are okay too. Delayed my trip to work so not so bad either. Vicki wasn't keen on going out this morning and the electricity was only off for about an hour so we were very lucky. Love the photos of Batsford,looks a wonderful place. Hilary

      Delete
    3. Apologies for not responding to this, Hilary, but for some reason Blogger omitted to notify me and I've only just spotted it. Glad to hear you escaped without damage, though I'm sure it was scary, as a friend in Berkshire said things went a bit mad where she was first thing that morning.
      Batsford is lovely and the gorunds were laid out by someone who really loved trees. Well worth a visit.

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. It's a lovely place and very typical of British garden landscaping. The trio photo was completely unposed. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I just happened to be standing there lost in contemplation..

      Delete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What impressive and beautiful grounds. I took a moment to read up on the Mitfords. I knew the name,but could't recall a thing about them. I found them really interesting, too. The trees really do grace the property with an added measure of beauty and interest. I can see why DH really enjoyed himself. I hope whatever storm is headed your way (or is already on your doorstep) doesn't cause any harm. Be safe! ox Debra (http://www.breathelighter.wordpress.com) P.S. I deleted my original comment because Blogger redirected you to an old blog of mine I no longer support. I just thought it was confusing. :-)

      Delete
    2. Sorry you've been having trouble commenting, Debra. Blogger does seem to have these fits of making life difficult for WordPress users.

      Batsford Park is really lovely and the trees are most impressive. The house is late Victorian and I didn't know about the Mitford connection until I started to research this post.Of course the Mitford sisters were very famous in the UK at one time, but the only one still living is Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. The family home, Chatsworth House - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatsworth_House - makes Batsford house look like a cottage. :-)

      The storm went through quickly, south of us, and caused a lot of travel disruption.

      Delete
  11. Wonderful photos Perpetua. Thank you. I always like photos of English countryside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DH's new camera takes excellent photos, Susan, and Batsford Park is certainly worth photographing. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Delete
  12. Ah, yes, the Mitfords. I'm remembering this estate from one of the Mitford books the Duchess of Devonshire wrote. The stories those walls could tell; instead, it is a pleasure to hear the stories your pictures tell of this magnificent arboretum. I love beeches! I would love to have a copper beech here, though we would never live long enough to see it reach the proportion of the ones you show here.
    We've been hearing of the storms coming your way. I"m hoping it settled down before hitting land and send thoughts your way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Mitford sisters were a remarkable bunch, Penny, not always for what we would now consider acceptable reasons, but remarkable nonetheless. For one thing several were good writers of novels and non-fiction, despite not having had any formal education at school, and they led very colourful lives.

      The largest of the trees at Batsford must be well over a century old now, if not two centuries in some cases, so it would probably be our several times great-grandchildren who would see any beech we plated in its full-grown magnificence. :-)

      The storm thankfully caused very little loss of life, though quite a lot of damage in places and a great deal of disruption to travel for a while.

      Delete
  13. What a glorious walk, Perpetua! And such a nice memory to have given the weather forecast. I hope and pray that you get through this storm safely and with no property damage. Wish we could send you some Arizona sunshine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was super, Kathy, and we really enjoyed it. Thank goodness our weekend get-together was a fortnight ago and not the weekend just past. We were safe, thanks, as the storm passed through south of us, but some weren't so lucky. Some warm, bright sunshine would be very welcome. :-)

      Delete
  14. I've been sitting here this morning avoiding taking the delinquent dog on his usual woodland walk in case of falling branches, so this post was a lovely treat. I hope all is well with you, here at least it didn't amount to much at all - a relief!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure where you are, Anny, but here in Mid-Wales we escaped it too, though we did have rather a lot of rain overnight.Still wise to avoid woodland walks I'd have thought, as even without the storm proper there's a lot of leaf and twig debris. You'll have to give the delinquent dog extra ball-chasing instead. :-)

      Delete
  15. Perhaps not as many golden leaves as you normally have in October, but it is the lovely green grass which captivates me, as our lack of rain turns ours a dirty brown! I never tire of the stately homes of England and the Mitford house looks intriguing, maybe more so because it is not open for tours... Hope you survived the storms intact, Perpetua.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The storm missed us, thank goodness, but I wish I could share some of our rain with you. It's been very wet, with no frost as yet, which why everything is still so green. The Mitford sisters actually only lived at Batsford for 3 years after their father inherited before he had to sell it and move somewhere smaller. Like many aristocrats in the years after WW1, they no longer had enough money money to support their inherited lifestyle.

      Delete
  16. Absolutely stunning photos Perpetua.
    Those trees must be so old.
    How wonderful to be able to live in such a magnificent house and setting.
    I have been following the news re the storms in southern england.
    I dont think its as bad as the 1987.! but see there is some damage.
    I hope that all is well at your home.!

    note.. as you can see. I eventually managed to get back again. I think sometimes blogger goes walking away in the sphere.. thank you Perpetua.. xxxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I shall tell DH you enjoyed his photos, Val. :-) The biggest trees probably date from around the time the gardens were landscaped 150 years ago. As you say it's a lovely house in a gorgeous setting.

      No, the storm wasn't as bad as 1987, though the biggest gusts of wind were nearly 100 mph in places and a fair number of trees were blown down.in the south of England. We were north of the storm, thank goodness.

      I'm glad your Blogger problems sorted themselves out.

      Delete
  17. Hi Perpetua
    I had a lovely visit to Batsford on a lovely sunny day in late July on a day outing I helped organise for our local Parkinson’s support group. Batsford is really well laid out & organised so that even those with very limited mobility could enjoy the wonderful surroundings, if only from the café terrace overlooking the valley. Two of our members enjoyed the freedom provided by the two all-terrain mobility scooters on loan there. One could keep pace with her grandchildren using one of these and said that, on that, they considered her a ‘cool dude granny’!
    I am sure you would all have had a lovely day there with your dear mother-in-law.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet Batsford looked fantastic on a sunny day in July, PolkaDot. It was impressive enough in much more mixed weather in October. :-) We noticed how well laid out it was and i saw a number of people with limited mobility enjoying gentle strolls on the more level of the paths. Mum managed even the sloping paths very well with the aid of an arm or two and had a wonderful time, but it's useful to know about the mobility scooters in case they might be useful on a future visit. Next time I visit I'd like it to be in spring, with flowering tress and shrubs. :-)

      Delete
  18. How wonderful! My parents lived for many years in various places on the Wilts/Glos border and Batsford was a favourite day out. Since they moved closer to us here in Wales we've not been back there and must try harder to take a trip that way :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was super, Annie. DH and I have been to lots of Cotswold beauty spots over the yearshis mother has lived there, but for some reason have never visited Batsford, so it was a real treat. It's obviously immensely popular, but even though there were lots of cars there, the grounds are so big we often felt we were there on our own, which was great. I'm sure your parents would enjoy revisiting it.

      Delete
  19. What a beautiful place!
    We've escaped the worst of the storm -- a bit of a 'blow' but nothing more. As far as autumnal colours -- the cherry tree in front of my study window is quite beautiful -- and still has most of its leaves -- despite the winds!
    My mother loved reading about the Mitford girls -- they really were 'something else'! Their antics did amount to many books being written about their antics -- which meant that I always had a good read to send my mother for Christmas and birthdays!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'd love it, Broad, as the landscaping is so long-established and the planting so varied and interesting. I gather the colours are now much better than when we were there, much more like your cherry tree. Isn't it amazing how many leaves are still on the trees despite the recent wind? It was pretty blowy here too, but not a storm, though we had a lot of rain overnight.

      The Mitford sisters were a fascinating, if not always likeable, bunch and they wrote rather a lot, as well as having a lot written about them. For six sisters to have such varied and high-profile lives is quite something. No wonder you mother enjoyed reading about them. :-)

      Delete
  20. Hope all is well with you as there's been a lot of news on the radio about falling trees and other disruption. I have two books about the Mitfords that I have been dipping into recently. There are one or two photos of the house included in one of the books so it was good to see your photos of the grounds and those magnificent trees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We haven't been out today to check elsewhere, but all is well in our little domaine, thanks, as the worst winds were quite a long way south of us. It's still quite wet and breezy, though, as befits the end of October. I'm glad my post coincided with your reading about the Mitfords. I didn't even know of their connection with Batsford until I read up about the house after our visit to the arboretum,but i know much more now. :-)

      Delete
  21. It was so nice seeing your pictures from the Cotswolds. We realized when we were there in September for three short days that we had not allowed enough time to see everything there. It's a beautiful area. I hope you have come through the storm okay, with no damage to your property.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought they would take you back, Kristie. You obviously loved your time in the Cotswolds and saw a lot in 3 days. You'd need 3 weeks or preferably 3 months to see everything, or even most things.

      We were fortunate in that the storm was well to the south of us, though it was still windy with a lot of rain, but no damage.

      Delete
  22. Dear Perpetua, thank you for sharing these photographs of such a lovely estate. I enjoyed wandering through the woodlands with you. And I'm so relieved that DH is now fine again. Peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed them, Dee. The English countryside is very beautiful and we have some very fine country houses and estates.

      DH is very much better, thanks, though it's proving difficult to get his blood pressure back to normal, but I'm sure we'll get there eventually.

      Delete
  23. I read part of a book from one of the Mitford sisters and then got side-tracked – but I remember that she talked about a large house and garden. The garden you show us is really handsome. Your photos were lovely. I heard that there had been some terrible storms in Europe- I hope they did not come your way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Large British country houses tend to have extensive gardens and Batsford is no exception. In this case it has specialised in trees, some of which were planted by the grandfather of the Mitford sisters who landscaped the grounds. The girls were young when they lived here and indeed the youngest wasn't born until after they had left for a smaller house.

      Yes, there was a very bad storm in southern England on Monday which moved across to north-west Europe, but we were lucky enough not to be in its path.

      Delete
  24. Wonderful pictures, so English, so green! Lovely to see too where those Mitfords lived!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's archetypal English countryside, isn't it? It's been a very green autumn, with the colour coming unusually late. The Mitfords only had a short time in the house, but the older girls would have remembered it.

      Delete
  25. I can only echo Sarah, above, and I do hope that the trees survived the gale.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, so do I, DB. Given the path of the storm I think it's very likely they came through unscathed this time. The thought of that mighty beech being toppled is too awful.

      Delete
  26. Lovely post Perpetua. What a shame the house is not open to the public. I have a book called Letters between the Mitford sisters which I dip into every so often. Must pick it up again. Sorry this is late, just catching up on my reading. Hope you are well. When are you having your op? Hope I haven't missed a post. Good luck anyway.
    Patricia x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Patricia. Interestingly, the whole estate was donated to a charitable trust in 1983, but later the family bought the house back for their own private use. Visiting the arboretum certainly reawakened my interest in the Mitfords.

      My rescheduled op is next Tuesday (5th) so you haven't missed it. :-) I'll be glad when it's finally over.

      Delete
  27. I do hope the grandeur of the gardens we spared during the recent storm in England. I loved seeing the beauty of it all and was interested to read it had once been home to the Mitford family. I have read a biography about the sisters.

    Autumn color is nearly gone here. It is interesting to see that the colors have not arrived in your part of the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so to, Sally, and I think it's probably the case. The worst of the storm passed through more to the south, along the coastal area. The Mitford sisters were rather extraordinary, very different from each other, but each made her mark in her own way.

      The photos were taken 3 weeks ago, so I imagine the colour has arrived by now. Autumn has been very late this year.

      Delete

I welcome your comments and will always try to respond to them. Thank you for reading.