Posts Tagged ‘ scotland ’

Northern Delights

Another garden trip to the North – 1200 miles and six gardens in seven days. I was back in the Garden of Cosmic Speculation on the night of the Perseid meteor shower – could there be a better spot? I had hopes of lying on the Snail Mound while stars fell around me – but clouds rolled across the sky and all thoughts of poetry dissolved in a fine Scots drizzle. A couple of days later after completing the photography for three gardens in the Borders, Helena and I met at Edinburgh airport and we drove up to Crathes Castle outside Aberdeen, where sunrise the next morning brought the kind of light I hope they have in heaven. Then back to our B&B for one of the worst breakfasts I’ve ever encountered, not excluding that bowl of Iranian goat’s-head soup complete with eyes and teeth.

crathes castle

Crathes Castle

Back down to Edinburgh to stay with friends and do a bit of the Fringe, and on to Alnwick Castle, an occasionally maligned and, I think, misunderstood garden. It was packed with people and above all with small children having a fantastic time, which is how it should be seen and indeed photographed, though that can be difficult when the pictures are for publication.

The Alnwick Garden at Alnwick Castle

The Alnwick Garden

Home next via Scampston in Yorkshire – a sample of Piet Oudolf’s naturalistic planting.

blue thistle and grasses


Among other things recently a couple of nice interior shoots, one at Shobdon Church in Herefordshire, a pretty piece of Strawberry Hill Gothic – though I still think I’d rather have the astonishing Norman stonework that was lost in the rebuilding.

shobdon church

Shobdon Church, Herefordshire

The other was of a sensitive renovation of a 14th century gatehouse, undertaken for the Vivat Trust

Polesworth Abbey gatehouse

Polesworth Abbey gatehouse

Polesworth Abbey gatehouse

Polesworth Abbey gatehouse

Finally, a couple of books to recommend. First, David Mitchell’s fine novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The other is a joint production by the photographer Norman McBeath and the poet Paul Muldoon, Plan B. I don’t think I’ve seen such a close and subtle collaboration since Fay Godwin and Ted Hughes did Remains of Elmet, years ago. See the exhibition if you can – on at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, and I hope it will travel south.

Time flies

As usual, I don’t know where the time has gone since my last post at the back end of May. Work on the Great Gardens of Britain continues frantically as green turns to brown across much of the country. There was another trip north in June taking in three utterly different and remarkable gardens. First was Levens Hall in Cumbria, famous for its deeply peculiar topiary. This really demands to be photographed by moonlight – I’ll try to time my next visit appropriately.

Levens Hall, Cumbria

Levens Hall

Next to Dumfries and Charles Jencks’ extraordinary Garden of Cosmic Speculation, which rewrites the history of the cosmos and of the evolution of consciousness in terms of landscape. Quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. From a photographer’s point of view it needs to be seen in brilliant light – we had one perfect evening, but cloud the next morning, so that’s also a return trip.

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

The Snake Mound and the Snail Mound

Then north-east to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta in the Pentland Hills, a garden deeply rooted in the wider European culture, filled with quotation and wordplay.

Other news; The Gardens of Japan continues to do well, with a German edition also now due. More excellent reviews, too: from the lovely and deeply mourned Elspeth Thompson in the May edition of The World of Interiors, from David Wheeler in House & Garden and from Jake Hobson in Topiarius. Saving Churches by Matthew Saunders, is now out and contains quite a lot of my work (see below). The churches were an absolute joy to visit and work in – long may the charity (The Friends of Friendless Churches) thrive.

St Baglan, Llanfaglan

St Baglan, Llanfaglan

Old St Luke's, Milland, Sussex

Celtic Fringes

To Scotland and both top and bottom corners of Wales this last week. The Scots trip was to photograph the garden at Crarae on Loch Fyne, though it has to be said that the real high (or low) point came with a possibly illicit visit to the anatomy museum at the Gormenghast-like University of Glasgow. The university buildings are awe-inspiring, late Victorian Gothic with bits of Scottish Renaissance mixed in. Where Pugin’s buildings look as if they might lift off, these massive towers seem like natural outcrops from some geological layer deep in the earth’s crust. At the base of one of the towers steps covered in pigeon droppings spiral their way down into darkness. Eventually one emerges into a dim light and a smell of formalin, and enters the museum itself, filled with William Hunter’s beautifully prepared eighteenth-century specimens, bones, and fortunately¬† unidentifiable objects floating in murky bottles.

foetal skeletons

Foetal skeletons

Next to Bodnant in North Wales, where the azaleas were rioting their little hearts out all over the precipitous slopes of the dell. I was last there on the same day two years ago to shoot the laburnum tunnel (then at its peak). This year it wasn’t nearly out; this Spring it seems we’re running about two weeks behind.

Azaleas at Bodnant

Finally to the other corner of Wales, to accompany a friend sailing to the bird sanctuary of Skomer Island, where we passed the night in an anchorage of amazing beauty, surrounded by every variety of seabird, and seals full of the joys of Spring. What a delight, after far too many motorway miles, to wake there early on a still Sunday morning.


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