Posts Tagged ‘ gardens ’

The Blog is Back

The summer seems to have passed in a long soggy flash, if you can imagine such a thing. I can’t believe I’ve not blogged since March – I plead far too much travel in mitigation. Repeated trips to the Veneto, to Sicily and Malta and a long visit to Japan resulted in an appalling deluge of pictures and an unwillingness to spend further time in front of the computer. I’m just back from Venice having completed my part of Gardens of Venice & the Veneto. A lot of fun to shoot thanks to the huge efforts of the author, the talented and beautiful Jenny Condie who has tracked down some extraordinary new places for our book, as well as the usual suspects. Among them are a Masonic garden with a skull-shaped grotto, a subterranean aquarium, monasteries, mazes and, this being the Veneto, more stone dwarfs than you can shake a stick at (if that’s your idea of a good time, as the great Groucho used to say). All this is just to whet your appetites – no pictures until nearer publication, I’m afraid. Well all right, just one –

Palazzo Soranzo Cappello, Venice

During my time off I found it impossible to take many photographs in Venice. Too many familiar views, too many cameras (and iPhones and iPads), too easy to take a quick snap instead of looking. I rather agree with those tribes who are said to believe that photographs steal their souls, and I begin to think that it may be true of places as well. I did succumb on occasion, though, particularly as one visit coincided with the annual Regata Storica.

Racing gondolas on the lagoon

the regata storico

Racing on the Grand Canal

the regata storico

A fanfare for a Doge

Further afield I’m working on a book on Zen temple gardens. I begin to understand a little more about these remarkable places, and how to look at them. The Japanese passion for stones became clear to me when I found this specimen, whose textured surface reveals a whole landscape.

Stone at Myoshinji

My last trip to Kyoto coincided with firefly season. Above the stream near my hotel the air was full of them, whirling up like sparks from a bonfire

Firefly

Shoden-ji, Kyoto

Todai-ji, Nara – the largest wooden building in the world

And finally, for those of you who are local, I’m sharing a small exhibition – In Our Empty Rooms – at the Sidney Nolan Trust of work made in collaboration with the sculptor Justine Cook, from the 13th-20th October. It will be a pleasure to see you at the opening on Friday 12th October, 5-7 pm. More information at www.sidneynolantrust.org

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Hot Off The Press

Gardens of Cornwall is published today, with a lovely text by Katherine Lambert and (of course) pictures by me. If you know the south-west then you’ll know how wonderful these gardens are – if you don’t, buy the book and then go yourself. Now is the moment to be there. One picture below, but more can be found here.

magnolia wilsonii

Magnolia wilsonii at Cotehele

The weekend saw a quick trip to Brighton, famous for dodgy antiques and mad regency architecture among many other things. It should also be famous for the daily flypast of the vast flocks of starlings that roost under the pier, a sight that regularly draws the crowds from the slot machines and reduces them to awed silence – pictures below (clicking on them gives you a larger image):

starling flock at sunset

starling flock at sunsetstarling flock at sunset

starling flock at sunsetstarling flock at sunset

Moving On

The time has come. Nine months ago we first conceived the idea of moving; as of today our home for the last sixteen years is up for sale. UPDATEHere is a link to the house details with the correct location. The agents’ office can be found here. If you know of anyone who might be interested in moving to Presteigne (according to Country Life magazine one of the three best places in Britain in which to live), please spread the word. Leaving our little rus in urbe will be a wrench, no question, but we’re sure it’s the right thing to do.

the kitchen garden

south front, with irises

summer in the 'dining room'

Other, though lesser, news: a feature in the March issue of The English Garden on Trevarno in Cornwall, written by Katherine Lambert. This garden also appears in Gardens of Cornwall (Frances Lincoln Ltd) by Katherine and myself, which will be published on the 1st of March.

Trevarno, Cornwall

Great Gardens of Britain

Stourhead

Great Gardens of Britain is out at last and so far to a good reception, judging by the first reviews. We’ve enjoyed seeing the other European editions, too – Germany is currently in the lead for the best foreign title with Gartenlust. Should you happen to be in Devon and anywhere near Totnes tomorrow (Tuesday 12th July), Helena Attlee and I are speaking about this book and related matters at the Ways With Words festival at Dartington Hall (4.00 pm.). And if you can find a moment, we’re always grateful for reviews on Amazon!

Just one other picture with this hasty blog post, but I couldn’t resist it – freshly churned butter in the artist Anne Belgrave‘s ‘Self-Reliant Kitchen’, open as part of the local ‘eco weekend’.

real butter

Of Courts and Courtiers

A spell of feverish activity has at last resulted in my finishing The Gardens of Cornwall. The mad rush at the end was caused by a summons to undertake jury service, a potentially open-ended and unavoidable commitment. About the case itself I can say nothing at all, for obvious reasons, but it was one of the most absorbing weeks I’ve spent for a long time. Having someone’s future in your hands concentrates the mind wonderfully. The drama is intense, however trivial the matter. The faces, the body language – are they lying, are they simply nervous? And then the atmosphere of the court, all heavily grained Victorian woodwork with the hook still to be seen where the judge’s black cap once hung.

From one court to another. There’s been a royal visit to David and Sara Bamford’s carpet workshop here in Presteigne. I found myself on the royal press rota and being firmly briefed by the (glamorous and charming) Clarence House press officer as to what I might and might not do. It’s tricky, trying to photograph people and yet keep moving backwards in front of them, so that it’s as if you don’t exist and they are moving freely through an empty room. A strange illusion of total freedom for the royal couple, who are at all times surrounded by staff anxiously counting down the seconds until the next stage of the occasion.

Meeting and greeting

A pat on the back for Phil

The Cornish book finished on a definite high with a wonderful last day, an early morning at the open-air Minack Theatre, with low sun striking across the waves beating at the cliffs below the amphitheatre. More Cornish pictures to be seen here.

The Minack Theatre, Cornwall

The Minack Theatre

The ancient chestnut trees at Dartington Hall

With that out of the way I’m free to concentrate on the imminent publication of our latest book, Great Gardens of Britain, due out on the 15th of July. We’ll be holding a small event locally to celebrate, about which more information later. Helena Attlee and I are also speaking about the book at the Ways With Words Festival at Dartington Hall near Totnes. That will be at 4.00pm on the 12th of July (all information on their website, www.wayswithwords.co.uk). I hope we’ll also get a chance to tell some stories about the weird and wonderful things that have happened to us while working together on our books. Incidentally, there are a couple of good reviews of the book out now, one by David Wheeler in the current (July) issue of Gardens Illustrated and the other by Claire Masset in the July issue of The English Garden.

The present order is the disorder of the future - Saint-Just. Little Sparta, Scotland

Somebody got married last week

Yup, Presteigne has celebrated in style, with bunting, balloons and sandwiches. The high street was impressively packed, and a lot of people had worked hard to feed the five thousand (or thereabouts). A van was selling plastic tat which neatly divided the hordes of children into two camps, tiara’ed pink princesses or riotous small boys with machine guns – gender stereotyping, anyone? A good time had by all, I think.

More party pictures can be seen on Facebook here

In other news, the M5 is becoming far too familiar as I beat a path down it to continue work on my Cornish gardens book. I do find myself in some incredibly beautiful places at the far end of it, though, so I’m not complaining unduly. Some pictures below, with more to be found here

Magnolia petals and primroses

Bluebells at Glendurgan

A champion magnolia at Trewidden

The perfectly composed view at Trelissick

still at it

Another busy patch with the deadline looming for Great Gardens of Britain. First to Northern Ireland and the garden at Mount Stewart, filled with eccentric statues and topiary, including an Irish harp and the Red Hand of Ulster laid out in begonias. Sounds naff, and indeed some of it is, but much more is amazingly beautiful and wildly ambitious. The setting is good too, on the shores of Strangford Lough looking across to the Mourne Mountains.

The Mourne Mountains

The mountains of Mourne

Concrete statues abound – dodos, pigs, monkeys and even a benign Disney dinosaur, below.

I pulled off the road in the evening to admire the view at a point plainly favoured by couples in cars. Overlooking this spot an offended member of the local church had made their feelings known.

Then home and immediately up to Yorkshire to shoot Scampston Hall and down to London to snatch some autumn pictures at Kew. Finally to the joyous venue of Heathrow’s Terminal 4, to meet Helena on her return from a research trip to Calabria and coincidentally to wave off some friends on their way to India. What a depressing and banal building for somewhere that should be buzzing with anticipation.

Heathrow Terminal Four

Heathrow, Terminal Four

 

Heathrow Terminal Four

Heathrow, Terminal Four

Most unusually for me, a line of verse came into my mind while driving north. It wouldn’t go away, so that by the end of the day I not only had some satisfactory pictures but also the better part of a clumsy sonnet – on the short side, so a sort of reduced-fat sonnet. I’m not sure what to call it – ‘Photographer at work’? – ‘Lines composed while on the M62’? I haven’t attempted a poem since I was eight; anyway, at serious risk of ridicule, here it is:

The rising sun strikes sideways. Pixels sing.
Each leaf and branch reveals its own true form.
I put the icy burden of my camera down
With fingers rendered clumsy by the cold.
A chilly hour waiting through the dawn –
No price to pay for this small shard of time
Unlike all others since the world began
And different from all those still unborn.
A homage paid to beauty, I give thanks
That I was here today and I saw this.
One day, an epitaph. Yes. I SAW THIS

 

magnolia

Kew Gardens: magnolia acuminata

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