The Walnut Tree

My father’s father was a walnut grower and harvester in his homestead land of Wisconsin, and then again an orchardman at his turn of the century farm in Hood River, Oregon, where my father was born.   Because of this connection, walnuts have always been a favorite of mine.  That may have been a factor when I chose a place to stay in Somerset during a recent two-week research trip.

The Walnut Tree Hotel in North Petherton, Somerset is a restored and modernized 18th century coaching Inn right on the major road between Taunton and Bridgwater in the smaller village of North Petherton. The Hotel boasts not one, but three areas to choose to settle in for your meals – The bar, ably hosted by Trevor; the Bistro, cosy and comfortable in white wicker and the elegant Lemon Tree restaurant, gracefully appointed in deep blue and yellow.  Indeed, the color scheme of blue and yellow can be found throughout the hotel, in the wonderfully appointed guest rooms, in the guest lounge, and in the restaurant areas.  This blend of colors is restful, sophisticated and friendly all at the same time, and makes one feel immediately at home.

The fine staff at the Walnut Tree Hotel also go to great lengths to make one feel comfortable, rested, welcomed and a part of a friendly and ebullient family.  I stayed so long I joked with the frequently present owner, Steven Williams, that I was becoming part owner!

Walnut Tree Hotel, sunny halllway to my room

Walnut Tree Hotel, sunny hallway to my room

Resident's Lounge, Walnut Tree Hotel

Resident's Lounge, Walnut Tree Hotel

Walnut Tree Hotel - cheerful reception staff, always with a smile of welcome

Walnut Tree Hotel - cheerful reception staff, always with a smile of welcome

Lemon Tree Dining Room, Walnut Tree Hotel

Lemon Tree Dining Room, Walnut Tree Hotel

Lemon Tree Resturant at the Walnut Tree Hotel, North Petherton, Somerset

Lemon Tree restaurant at the Walnut Tree Hotel, North Petherton, Somerset

Green hotel honors for the Walnut Tree Hotel

Green hotel honors for the Walnut Tree Hotel, Restaurant & Bar in North Petherton, Somerset

Walnut Tree Hotel owner Stephen x, staff x, and x

Walnut Tree Hotel owner Stephen Williams, reception staff Sue and Lynn

Deb and Chef  Luke at the Walnut Tree Hotel resturant kitchen. Incredible meals!

Deb and Chef Luke at the Walnut Tree Hotel restaurant kitchen. Incredible meals!

Walnut Tree Hotel and Bar staff -x, x, x

Walnut Tree Hotel and Bar. Friendly staff members Simon, Trevor and Andy.

Walnut Tree bar staff

Walnut Tree bar - Trevor and Andy

The bar, complete with fireplace and single malt

The bar, complete with fireplace and single malt whiskey

The lovely Bistro dining room at the Walnut Tree Hotel

The lovely Bistro dining room at the Walnut Tree Hotel

www.wa lnuttreehotel.com

So, if you have the wonderful opportunity to visit Somerset, England, I highly recommend the Walnut Tree Hotel, Restaurant and Bar as THE place to stay.

 

Hestercombe House and Gardens, paradise restored

Beautiful stacked stone wall and arch leading to the formal gardens designed by Gertrude Jekell at Hestercombe Gardens

Beautiful stacked stone wall and arch leading to the formal gardens designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekell at Hestercombe Gardens.

Hestercombe is located on the southern side of the Quantock Hills in Somerset. The first mention of Hestercombe was in the Charter of 854 during Anglo-Saxon times. From 1391 until 1872 the Warre family owned the property. A mention of a garden at the site was made in 1249 as a record of “my Lord of Hestercombe’s garden.” The property was sold to the Somerset County Council in 1978, and restoration of the gardens began in earnest in 2003.  Remarkably, the original drawings of Gertrude Jekyll’s planting plans were located in a drawer in the potting shed in 1973.

The garden contains three distinct areas. The largest, a thirty-five acre site of  the “Landscape Garden” , “a secret wooded valley revealing an Arcadian scene of cascades and urns with sheep grazing beside a pear-shaped lake. The garden was constructed in a long narrow valley (Hester Combe) that runs due north south.  It was designed by Coplestone Warren Bampfylde between 1750 and 1786 as a circuit with surprises, variations and subtle changes of mood together with a number of carefully orchestrated views each comprised as if they were a landscape painting; hence the description  Landscape garden.” (Hestercombe Gardens, An Illustrated History and Guide, Hestercombe Gardens Trust, Ltd.Copyright  Philip White, 1999, 2006.)

The second garden area was developed originally in the Victorian period, and today can be seen restored as the Victorian Terrace near the house.

The third, and most significant area of the gardens is the collaborative effort of friends and colleagues Sir Edwin Lutyens and incredible plants-woman Gertrude Jekyll. Known as the Formal Garden, it was designed in 1904 by Lutyens, with planting plans developed and completed between 1904 and 1908 by Gertrude Jekyll. Most of my images below are of the incredible “bones” of this gorgeous garden which can best be viewed in winter and early spring, rather than the later glory of the plantings.

All photographs copyright Susan Holland, Digging Dakota.

In the "Landscape Garden" designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde betweeen 1750 and 1786 in the naturalistic style that features "scenes" as one would view in a landscape painting, and thus called a Landscape garden. This image shows the Great Cascade.

In the "Landscape Garden" designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde between 1750 and 1786 in the naturalistic style that features "scenes" as one would view in a landscape painting, and thus called a Landscape garden. This image shows the Great Cascade.

A walkway into the rustic "Landscape" gardens of Hestercombe Gardens

A walkway into the rustic "Landscape" gardens of Hestercombe Gardens

The Witch House, a delight for the eighteenth century visitors. "The murmur of the water the gloom of the wood the fanciful ornaments of the Cave renders this spot a piece of poetic scenery that is infinitely pleasing." Henry Hawkins Tremayne writing in 1785.

The Witch House, a delight for the eighteenth century visitors. "The murmur of the water the gloom of the wood the fanciful ornaments of the Cave renders this spot a piece of poetic scenery that is infinitely pleasing." Henry Hawkins Tremayne writing in 1785.

Timber and rush roof of shelter at Hestercombe Gardens

Timber and rush roof of shelter at Hestercombe Gardens

 

Another lovely ceiling / roof structure at Hestercombe

Another lovely ceiling / roof structure at Hestercombe

Hestercombe bench

Hestercombe bench

Hestercombe House estate lands

Hestercombe House estate lands

Gate

Gate

Looking toward Hestercombe House from the Formal Gardens

Looking toward Hestercombe House from the Formal Gardens

Spring growth in the Gray Walk

Spring growth in the Gray Walk

Stone poetry

Stone poetry

 

Hestercombe House from the Gardens

Hestercombe House from the Formal Gardens, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll between 1904 and 1908.

Pathway toward stone arch at Hestercombe House

Pathway toward stone arch at Hestercombe House

Innovative used of space under stone arch for multi media presentation at Hestercombe House

Innovative used of space under stone arch for multi media presentation at Hestercombe House

 

Luscious grays and greens in the garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll

Luscious grays and greens in the garden designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll

Looking west toward the Orangery at Hestercombe Gardens

Looking west toward the Orangery at Hestercombe Gardens. The south Somerset yellow Ham stone is used by Lutyens to great advantage, as it seems to glow above the local slate.

Inside the Orangery looking west

Inside the Orangery looking west

Inside the Orangery

Inside the Orangery

Stone basin to keep the humidity levels high in the Orangery

Stone basin to keep the humidity levels high in the Orangery

 

Knarly plant root and stone wall

Knarly plant root and stone wall

Incredible patterns made by shadow on plant stems and stone

Incredible patterns made by shadow on plant stems and stone

Superb stonework at Hestercombe Gardens

Superb stonework at Hestercombe Gardens

Window onto the gardens at Hestercombe highlighting the incredible partnership between Gertrude Jekyll and architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Window onto the gardens at Hestercombe highlighting the incredible partnership between Gertrude Jekyll and architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Stone terrace

Stone terrace

Stone details

Stone details

 

Stone patterns

Stone patterns

Stone layers

Stone layers. The local silvery-grey morte slate, a sedimentary sandstone is used to great effect in this formal garden, accented to great effect by the use of south Somerset yellow Ham stone.

Hestercombe House

Hestercombe House

Annual planting bed at Hestercombe House

Annual planting bed at Hestercombe House

 

Looking south at the formal gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll, April 6, 2012

Looking south at the formal gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll. April 6, 2012

Hestercombe walkway

Hestercombe walkway

Hestercombe covered walkway

Hestercombe covered walkway

 

One of two water 'rill", a narrow canal moving water to the pools.

One of two water 'rill", a narrow canal moving water to the pools. Later in the season they will be lush with water-loving plants, such as iris, arums, water forget-me-nots and yellow musk.

.Further Resources:

The Stones of Hestercombe. Geological Tour of the Rocks and Stonework of Hestercombe Gardens. By Hugh Prudden and Philip White. Copyright Hestercombe Gardens Trust, 2007.

http://hestercombe.com

http://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk

 

Quantock Hills and Fyne Court

While in Somerset, I had the great pleasure of  experiencing the Quantock Hills.  These lovely, gently rolling hillsides are quintessential Somerset, and should never be adversely impacted by development or other unnatural impacts.  This area is a protected zone, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is a lush area full of variety, including farming, forestry and woodlands, wildlife, historic landscapes, recreation, and several places of education and information. The site of Fyne Court, formerly the home of the Cross family, is currently cared for by the English National Trust as a natural area.   My colleague, Sue Law from North Petherton served as my guide to this lovely area, and we spent an incredible afternoon exploring the hillsides.  Here we saw native plants emerging in their spring glory, fields brilliant yellow with crops of vibrantly blooming rape plants, the seeds harvested for its valuable oils.  It was lambing season, and all the sheep had little miniature ‘sheeplets’ at their sides.

Butterflies were everywhere, and we saw this lovely beauty.

Butterfly on spring flowers- Quantock Hills

Butterfly on spring flowers- Quantock Hills

Rape seed in full bloom, Quantock Hills, Somerset, England

Rapeseed (Brassica napus) in full bloom, Quantock Hills, Somerset, England

Rapeseed (Brassica napus), also known as rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi, rapaseed (and in the case of one particular group of cultivars, canola), is a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family). The name derives from the Latin for turnip, rāpa or rāpum, and is first recorded in English at the end of the 14th century. Older writers usually distinguished the turnip and rape by the adjectives round and long(-rooted) respectively.[2] See also Brassica napobrassica, which may be considered a variety of Brassica napus. Some botanists include the closely related Brassica campestris within B. napus. (Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapeseed and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/5407832/The-rapeseed-revolution.html

Narrow lanes and high hedgerows

Narrow lanes and high hedgerows

Map of the Quantock Hills

Map of the Quantock Hills

Thousands of daffodils in bloom along the Quantock Hills lanes

Thousands of daffodils in bloom along the Quantock Hills lanes

Quantock Hills

Quantock Hills

Quantock Hills

Quantock Hills

A beautiful National Trust site called Fyne Court is a must see natural area high on the Quantock Hills, near the little village of Broomfield.

Spring growth along a stone wall at Fyne Court

Spring growth along a stone wall at Fyne Court

Stone Wall with lovely moss at Fyne Court Five Pond nature trail

Stone Wall with lovely moss at Fyne Court Five Pond nature trail

Path in the Fyne Court Pond

Path on the Fyne Court Pond trail

Moss growing in the undergrowth at Fyne Court

Moss growing in the undergrowth at Fyne Court

Further Information:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fyne-court/

https://www.facebook.com/somersetcountrysideNT

 

 

 

Train to Somerset

View from train, England

View from train, England

As I traveled on the train from London to North Petherton, Somerset, I snapped some images out the train window.  Not sterling examples of photographic skills, just a glimpse of the changing landscape one sees from a fast-moving train window.

waterway along train tracks, heading toward Taunton

waterway along train tracks, heading toward Taunton

train view

train view

train view

train view

Train view

Train view

 

Spring Fourth – My 4 Springs of 2012

When I planned my month-long research trip, I did not have the gardens I would see and their stages of spring development in the forefront of my mind.  I was focused on what I planned to research, where, and with whom I would direct my queries. However, as I travelled from North Dakota to New York, then to London, and on to Somerset, England, ending up back in North Dakota, I had the great joy of witnessing spring in my changing environment four times.  That does not happen very often in one’s life, so I want to share some images and thoughts with you about what I saw.

Snow on the emerging daylily bed in Bismarck, North Dakota

Snow on the emerging daylily bed in Bismarck, North Dakota

Color remaining from fall 2011 - Epimedium 'Bandit'

Color remaining from fall 2011 - Epimedium 'Bandit'

Spring at the New York Botanical Gardens near the Mertz Library

Spring at the New York Botanical Gardens near the Mertz Library

The approach to the Merz Library, New York Botanical Gardens

The approach to the Mertz Library, New York Botanical Gardens

Crown Imperial Fritillaria (Fritillaria imperialis) native to the Kurdistan area, blooming at the Chelsea Botanic Garden, London, England

Crown Imperial Fritillaria (Fritillaria imperialis) native to the Kurdistan area, blooming at the Chelsea Botanic Garden, London, England

Garden Center open and thriving, Somerset, England April 26, 2012

Garden Center open and thriving, Somerset, England April 26, 2012

Blooming in Bismarck, North Dakota on April 25, 2012

Blooming in Bismarck, North Dakota on April 25, 2012

I will be posting more images of the New York Botanical Gardens, Hestercombe – paradise restored,  and Somerset, England, including the best hotel in Somerset – the Walnut Tree Hotel.   

New Adventures in New York, London and Somerset

For the next month I will be living the life of a professional researcher, reaching out to seek further information and insight on a topic I am writing about.  I am going to keep you in suspense for now about the TOPIC of my research, but I will enjoy sharing with you the experiences that I encounter in my pursuit.

Photo Of Mertz Library courtsey of NYBG - Photographer Robert Benson

Photo Of Mertz Library courtesy of NYBG - Photographer Robert Benson

Monday I leave Bismarck, North Dakota (where winter never happened, and the unseasonable temps are in the 50’s and 60’s and higher) and head to the Bronx, New York. There I will be meeting a wonderful colleague, a world-class botanical artist, and together we will be exploring the library and archives of the New York Botanical Garden.  Two weeks in the Garden archives at the incredible LuESTHER T. MERTZ LIBRARY  – oh what a wonderful opportunity. After New York I travel on to London, then Somerset, England until April 15.

Fountain of Life. Image courtesy of the NYBG, photographed by David Allison

Fountain of Life. Image courtesy of the NYBG, photographed by David Allison

A link to further information about this amazing fountain can be found here http://www.nybg.org/media/press_releases_results.php?id_press_release=94

One upcoming event at the New york Botanical Garden sounds incredibly enticing to me.The title says it all.

MONET’S GARDEN,

A New York Botanical Garden Tribute to the Master,

Highlights His Passion for Gardening and Its Influence on His Art

 http://www.nybg.org/press_releases/MonetsGarden-Overview.pdf

Well friends, I will be visiting here often to share this wonderful journey.