Well, our couple of days jaunt started at Wightwick Manor, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, so that’s where I’ll begin. Belying its exterior, the Manor was only 50 years old when it was given to the National Trust in 1937 by the local Mander family (of paint fame). I have been there a couple of times previously and will always happily go there again because of its beautiful William Morris and Arts and Crafts interior, including Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Rossetti and Burne-Jones. Built as a family home, it retains that character despite this simple richness. The garden is known for its yew hedges and roses, but by September colour was mainly from dahlias and pumpkins…..
The next day to Church Stretton and a walk through part of Carding Mill Valley and an instant reminder that Shropshire borders Wales and that the Shropshire Hills are really more akin to mountains than hills. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this is an important place for wildlife, geology and archaeology and justifiably popular – I was oddly thrilled to see those parts nearest the National trust Car parks teeming with people of every description, from families with small children, groups of young people, dog walkers, and serious walkers decked out in full walking gear. Relatively close to the West Midland conurbation it is clear that this is well-used and much-loved area, and justifiably so of course. These pictures are all taken within 2 or 3 miles of Church Stretton:
A short visit to Wilderhope Manor, another National Trust property doubling as a Youth Hostel, an Elizabethan manor house with lovely chimneys and amazing wooden stairs, and (nearby) the horseshoe sculpture from Wordless Wednesday (hovering the mouse over the picture would have shown its location, but I suspect this feature does not work on a tablet):
Then on to the main visit of the day, the gardens of the Dower House at Morville Hall, home of ‘The Morville Hours’ author, Katherine Swift:
You would be forgiven for thinking I might have been disappointed by the relative lack of colour in the garden, but in fact it was a reminder that most of us do indeed seem to plant for prolonged colour, whereas Katherine has a different agenda. Starting from scratch and the Benedictine origins of the locality, she created a sequence of separate gardens designed in the style of different historical periods, each linked to a particular individual or family in the history of the house. Having gorged on every detail of the book it was a delight to see the contents come alive by visiting it in person, to see the Victorian Rose Garden, the Nuttery and Wild Orchard, the Plum Walk, the Cloister Garden and the Canal Garden, not forgetting the Turf Maze and the other sections, all with their own appropriate names. If you have read the book you will appreciate the thought and planning that went into the garden – if not, then it’s a must!
Although the Dower House Garden was a definite on my ‘bucket list’, I am so pleased that we also planned to visit Powis Castle too, over the border into Wales, on Monday morning before we came home.
We have been here once before, but on a cold and out-of-season day when there was little to tarry for in the garden – unlike on this visit when we tarried at length. Wow and double wow! What do they have in their borders earlier in the year we wondered? For those who don’t know the property, the castle was built in a commanding position in around 1200, but remodelled in the intervening years, the world famous gardens now being one of the few baroque gardens to have survived almost intact since the 1680s. It has grand Italianate terraces taking advantage of the hillside position, lavish herbaceous borders, lead statues and the most amazing clipped yews, and the following collage can only give you a brief taste of our visit, a very pleasurable few hours.