Posts Tagged ‘ great gardens of britain ’

Ways With Words

Just back from a lovely couple of days doing Ways With Words at Dartington Hall, I think the nicest festival we’ve yet taken part in. A fantastically beautiful setting, of course, and a pleasing intimacy of scale about the whole affair. The organisers couldn’t have been more hospitable, and meals in particular were something to look forward to – generous quantities of food and wine, and invariably interesting neighbours to chat to (even at breakfast). Great Gardens of Britain drew a good crowd to hear Helena and myself in joint conversation with Lorna Duffin, discussing the book and the whole process of working together. We went to as many events as we could fit in – one highlight was Helen Dunmore speaking with subtle clarity about researching and writing The Betrayal, set during Stalin’s final months. Another was Peter Snow’s brilliant high-speed exposition of Wellington’s campaigns during the Napoleonic wars. Anyone who remembers him with the famous election swingometer will get the picture – he gave both the clearest and the fastest description I have ever heard of the battle of Waterloo.

We finished with a quick trip to smell the sea at Brixham, and rounded everything off by staying a night with friends near Totnes; a perfect few days away. Pics below.

Ways With Words, Dartington Hall

Readers queue for the next event - ours, perhaps?

Fishing off the sea wall at Brixham

Summer on the English Riviera

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

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