Posts Tagged ‘ presteigne ’

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

You’ll Believe A Horse Can Fly . . .

. . . well, you might if you were lucky enough to see Presteigne’s annual panto, Presteigne, Rome of the Free last week. A fantastic effort recalling the town’s erstwhile position on the lunatic fringe of the Roman empire, featuring drunken centurions, louche Roman ladies and bloodthirsty Celts. Not forgetting HRH and his royal consort, together with Pegasus who took to the air with the greatest of ease – surely a first for any local pantomime (watch a short video here). Cue many jokes about the town and the wider political situation and some great songs including a version of I’m a Believer that truly had to be heard to be believed. A few pictures below with many more to be found here. Roll on next year.

The Judge’s Lodging

Rather wonderfully, The World of Interiors have given a full twelve pages of their January issue (out now) to Presteigne’s amazing museum, The Judge’s Lodging. Read, enjoy and visit! A few more pictures below, and a small portfolio of others to be found here

hip bath

Personal hygiene

To the regret of many, one of Herefordshire’s more eccentric landmarks is up for sale on eBay – here it is:

And finally, this month’s new moon seen from Stonewall Hill:

Silver Linings

Just as you feel sunk into winter gloom along comes a day of perfect cloudless beauty. Sunday the 6th of November 2011 deserves to be commemorated here, whatever it may have been like elsewhere. Mushrooming on Offa’s Dyke under a moon just off the full, then walking back with the space station crawling across the sky and disappearing behind the Whimble – even the dog was happy.

Offa's Dyke

The Black Mixen

A couple of particularly entertaining shoots have also helped to brighten this dark end of the year. One was at Levens Hall in Cumbria – two days in the most haunted house in Britain. No spooks, but fantastic interiors and lovely light.

The other was more local at a bizarre museum in Shropshire called the Land of Lost Content. A collection of all (and I do mean all) those trivial items we’ve forgotten but that once were the unacknowledged background to our lives. If ever you’re passing through Craven Arms, something most people do as quickly as possible, take the time to see it. Highly recommended.

Shameless self-promotion warning: Please vote here for Helena Attlee’s Great Gardens of Britain in the Horticultural Channel Awards. You’ll find it under the resounding title of ‘best non-practical gardening book of 2011’. (Click ‘submit survey’ when you’ve voted).

Finally, did I mention that Sunday was a cloudless day? One cloud did darken it a little; returning home to find some thieving toerag had just slipped out of the kitchen with a laptop under his arm. Not a disaster by any means, but a nuisance, and unexpected in this town. “Don’t often get a chance to do this in Presteigne, sir” said the scene-of-crime officer as he dusted down the kitchen for fingerprints. Long may that be true.

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, 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

Put Out (yet) More Flags

The Welsh Guards are given the Freedom of the County in Presteigne

The High Street

The town remains as usual neatly balanced with one eye to the future and the other fixed firmly on the past. The last few days have demonstrated this to perfection. First, what is still the world’s only rally for the electric bike took place, as usual a combination of mad costumes and futuristic technology. This was almost immediately followed by the Welsh Guards marching through the town to the Judge’s Lodging, where they were awarded the Freedom of the County. Said freedom being not, as some hopefully suggested, to drink the pubs dry and ravish the female half of Presteigne, but to march with ‘bayonets fixed, drums beating and banners flying’. The occasion was straight out of Thomas Hardy, and was attended by all the great and the good of the district, plus the rest of us. The rain mostly held off on both days, though when it did arrive it was tropical. Scroll down for some pictures, while more pictures of the Tour de Presteigne are here and of the Guards are here.

Tour de Presteigne 2011

They're off

Tour de Presteigne 2011

Pete Mustill, organiser of the Tour de Presteigne, takes it easy

The Welsh Guards are given the Freedom of the County in Presteigne

The Guards arrive

Tour de Presteigne 2011

Boudicca on her tricycle

The Welsh Guards are given the Freedom of the County in Presteigne

Outside the Judge's Lodging

Tour de Presteigne 2011

Ian Marchant and fans take shelter

The Welsh Guards are given the Freedom of the County in Presteigne

Through the churchyard

The Welsh Guards are given the Freedom of the County in Presteigne

Broad Street

Tour de Presteigne 2011

Britannia rules

The Welsh Guards are given the Freedom of the County in Presteigne

Queen Victoria and friends

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

A new feature (Oslo) and other matters

A new feature in the April issue of The World of Interiors on Oslo’s extraordinary City Hall, or RĂ„dhus, filled with murals and frescoes as dazzling as anything to be found in a medieval council chamber in Tuscany. Also an article and a mildly scabrous book review in the first issue (out now) of the excellent Marine Quarterly, a new journal covering all matters seafaring.

mural in Oslo City Hall

German invaders attempt to destroy the state of Norway

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying shooting at The Judge’s Lodging here in Presteigne for a magazine feature. The sepulchral gloom of the servants’ quarters, lit only by the occasional flare of gas, presented some interesting technical problems.

victorian kitchen

The kitchen at the Judge's Lodging


handmade candles in the pantry

As a break from the darkness and the smell of gas I followed a friend’s suggestion to explore a local valley unknown to me, where a ruined cottage stood surrounded by snowdrops at the foot of the still bare woods.


The long awaited sun is fetching us all outside at last, blinking but grateful.

Tony Bird, Presteigne antique dealer, and Sally

A quick trip to Oxford to go to the local launch of James Attlee’s new book Nocturne: a Journey in Search of Moonlight, timed to coincide with the appearance of Saturday’s ‘super moon’. Helena and I waited expectantly on the cold hills above the White Horse at Uffington, but a cloudbank rolled in and nothing could be seen. Then as we drove towards Oxford the huge and impossibly apricot-coloured disc hung over the city like the star over Bethlehem.

Many thanks to all those who’ve kindly responded to my fundraising effort for the disaster in Japan. Your prints will be sent out later this week – I shall be in touch where necessary regarding payment, addresses etc. It’s not too late to order – click here to find out about it.

And finally I believe an explanation has now been found for the shortage of wildlife in our rivers here – see below

Wassail, wassail

A new year, and this infant blog reaches its first anniversary. Quite soon it will be capable of stumbling forward on its own two tiny feet and one day perhaps breaking into articulate speech. That, however, is in an uncertain future. What we do know for certain is that Spring will return and the sun will be seen again – for Presteigne has held its Wassail, without which the world (Radnorshire, anyway) would remain forever in winter darkness. A good crowd gathered in the town orchard to drink quantities of mulled cider and eat everything possible that can be made from apples.





Under a clear starry sky and lit by blazing torches, songs (ancient & modern) were sung and the trees’ good health was drunk. All traditions have to start somewhere, so the songs included that antique ditty We Are Wassailing (trad., attr. Mr. Rod Stewart). Then the sun’s continued rising was ensured in a fiery ritual.



The Apple Queen lights the Sun


Spring will come again

A happy New Year to all

Life continues

A lot going on these last few days. First to Stratford to see a really good Antony and Cleopatra, a generous and appropriate birthday present for someone of my advanced years, the play dealing as it does with middle-aged passion. (School parties in the audience could practically be felt resisting the temptation to go ‘yeuchh’). Next up, the (possibly) world-famous ‘Tour de Presteigne’, the world’s only rally dedicated to the electric bike.The culminating fancy-dress parade (five high speed laps of the town) made up in mad inventiveness what it lacked in fashion sense, or indeed any other kind of sense.

Under starter's orders

Then it was off to Sussex to start shooting a couple of gardens for our next book, Great Dixter and Sissinghurst, both looking wonderful as expected and gloriously different from each other.

Finally to the election. I hope – how I hope – that I’m being pessimistic, but the words that spring first to mind are, of course, from the closing lines of Animal Farm – “the creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which

%d bloggers like this: