Where Do I Begin…?

IMG_2997Well, 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…..

wheretobeginwheretobegin.2and especially those pumpkins…..!

IMG_2994On to Much Wenlock (and an amazingly silk-like but real pink in a pretty café):

wheretobegin.3The 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:

wheretobegin.4A 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):

wheretobegin.5Then 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:


IMG_3032You 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!

wheretobegin.6Although 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.

IMG_3088We 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.

wheretobegin.7So, where to next in the campervan….?

This entry was posted in Gardens, Visiting gardens & days out and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Where Do I Begin…?

  1. wow, Cathy I feel puffed just reading about all your rushing from place to place, you fitted a lot in, some interesting places to see, the countryside around Church Stretton looks beautiful no wonder people visit for a breath of fresh air, the different Dower house gardens look interesting and I like the look of the gardens at Powis castle, I shall think of it now when I see my artemisia of the same name, glad you had such a great time, sounds like there is no stopping the 2 of you now, enjoy, Frances

    • Cathy says:

      And yet with having the campervan we didn’t ‘rush’ quite as much as we might have done in the past, Frances, or had such a full itinerary – perhaps we are learning to ‘slow down’ a bit 🙂

  2. wellywoman says:

    Sounds like a fantastic trip. We haven’t spent any real time in Shropshire, other than day trips to Ludlow. I’ve read Katherine Swift’s book so it would be good to see the garden in the flesh. Isn’t Powis fabulous? We went 2 or 3 years ago now in July and the borders were incredible. I think the location and scale of the gardens is quite breath-taking. Would love to go back there.

    • Cathy says:

      And it’s brilliant how they have managed to keep the terraces looking so wonderful for the whole season, particularly with the dry summer.

  3. rusty duck says:

    Powis sounds like one for me with all those different levels. Great trip Cathy!

  4. Julie says:

    What a wonderful trip, all of your destinations look very interesting, Carding Mill Valley looks beautiful.

  5. Cathy says:

    Wonderful! Love all your photos Cathy. Sounds like you packed in a lot in those few days, and the Powis garden in particular looks like it’s well worth a visit. Thanks for sharing!

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Looks like a fabulous trip Cathy. You took some great pictures.

  7. That had to have been one busy trip…The photos are such great fun to look at, thank you for sharing them.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Charlie – I am never sure how much people like looking at pictures of places they are unlikely to be able to visit themselves….

  8. You have had a great time! We’ve visited many of those places ourselves. I love Wightwick, and Powis is definitely, “Wow”! We were lucky to visit there one lovely sunny day, en route to Aberystwyth, coinciding with a WWII memorial event on the esplanade, complete with costume, music, and dancing, as well as various displays taking place over its great expanses of lawns. What an atmosphere! A step back in time! The views there are amazing! The Dower House is a new one to me and sounds interesting. Must investigate!

    • Cathy says:

      Powis would certainly make a good vantage point for such an event! Oh and DO read the Morville Hours – I suspect it would resonate with you as much as it did with me

  9. sueturner31 says:

    Love Wightwick Manor could move in just as it is…. 🙂

  10. croftgarden says:

    I’m pleased you enjoyed Powis Castle, it was one of the gardens we enjoyed visiting before we became exiles. I was interested to see the Dower House, although the Morville Hours is one of my favourite books we never managed a visit, so it has always been a garden of the mind.

  11. Pauline says:

    What a wonderful time you seem to have had, you packed so much into your journey! Powis is a favourite of ours and Morville has been on my wish list since I read the book. There will be no stopping you now you have the campervan!

    • Cathy says:

      But still only a day or two at a time usually, Pauline – don’t like to be away from home for long! ps do visit the Dower House when you can, but it’s only open Weds/Suns normally so plan round that!

  12. Chloris says:

    What a great trip. I love Powis, we went in May and it looked wonderful then. And how fascinating to to see Katherine Swift’ s garden. I read the book and loved it too. I would love to see the garden.

  13. ricki grady says:

    This should keep all the stateside anglophiles satisfied until the next season of Downton Abbey.

  14. Anna says:

    Oh what a fabulous couple of jam-packed days Cathy. We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Shropshire over the years but have not come across Wilderhope Manor and although signposts for Cardingmill Valley have been espied we’ve never actually got there. Must remedy the situation. So pleased that you got to the ‘Dower House’ and such a visit does make the book come to life. Powis certainly makes you stand and gulp and wonder. Duuuuuh – guilty m’lud – I should have hovered my mouse over that horse!

  15. bittster says:

    That collage from Powis Castle is amazing. I’ve seen photos before and know it’s a wonderful garden, but to see it at the end of the year is a whole new treat.
    I believe the pictures I’ve seen before were all taken in early summer, full of campanulas and other color. The borders looked just as full then so I don’t know how they keep it up all year!
    I love the tropicals planted out on the slope, and the trimmed yew is a treasure as valuable as the building.

  16. You certainly managed to cram a lot in! Glad you are having fun in your campervan, I’ve never lingered in that area, clearly a mistake. Should we be expecting to see some spectacular topiary making an appearance in your own garden?

Comments are closed.