Sunday, 22 April 2018

Castell Powis

A medieval Welsh castle sitting high above garden terraces created in an Italianate style could be considered strange bedfellows, but together they produce a scene of perfect harmony.
As we made our way up the long driveway, the sun was just minutes away from breaking through the early morning mist.  
The castle was begun in 1283 by a Welsh Prince, Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn. He was given permission to built the fortress for his loyalty to Edward l during the Welsh Wars which ended in 1282.



Three hundred years later in 1587 the Herbert family purchased the castle and then spent more than 400 years transforming it into the comfortable home seen today. There are no images allowed inside, but it is furnished sumptuously with fabrics and exquisite works of art from around the world reflecting the Elizabethan to the Edwardian periods. It houses the largest private collection of Indian treasures accumulated by:-
The centre piece of the collection is an exquisite gold bejewelled tiger's head finial from the throne of Tipu, Sultan of Mysore, set with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and saphires. 
courtesy Wiki
"I would rather live two days like a tiger than 200 years like a  sheep" - Tipu, Sultan of Mysore
In 1784, Lord Powis’s daughter, Lady Henrietta Herbert, married Edward Clive,  the eldest son of Clive of India. Their marriage led to the union of the Clive and Powis estates. 












'No Percy, not that way'.....'The hens are behind you, they're hiding in the bushes'!!! 

Lysichiton americanus - yellow skunk cabbage - I tried to grow this years ago, but our pond has paved edges and is far too dry.

A male pheasant dressed in his finest Spring colours.












The southern side of Castell Powis showing the Italianate terraces.

 Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom'
As we returned back to our hotel along the narrow, twisty, country roads, we suddenly realised that we were travelling through the tiny hamlet of Tregynon, a place known to us from many years ago. We couldn't resist the opportunity to visit a property we used to know well called Gregynog Hall, a place where we have stayed many times. We decided to visit it for old times sake, and see whether it still looked just as we remembered it. The hall was left to the University of Wales in 1960 along with some of its treasures by Gwendoline and Margaret Davis, the granddaughters, of David Davis, who made a huge fortune during the industrialisation of Victorian Wales. 
Over the past 50+ years it served as a Welsh cultural resource within the University. However, recently, and with institutional changes within the current setup of the University of Wales, we can only assume that it had become an increasing financial burden, and as a result it has now been made into an independent charitable trust. 
The maiden sisters, Gwendoline and Margaret, bought the hall in 1920, and it may surprise you to learn that it is not a Tudor building but one of the earliest large-scale domestic British buildings made from concrete over 175 years ago. If you are interested to know more about the sisters and their wonderful treasures, which are now housed in the 'Davis Sisters Collection' at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, there is a further post that I wrote here several years ago.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Fritillaria meleagris

I always look forward to the arrival of the delightful Snakeshead fritillaries in our garden where they can now be seen in great abundance. Knowing how rarely they are seen in the wild these days makes me feel particularly protective of this precious lily. Checking on them today revealled four naughty red lily beetles who had already sought them out, but they were promptly vanquished. In a matter of days four could become many and then they would all start descending on my newly emerging summer lilies. I had thought that the cold winter might have killed the beetle's lavae, but I was mistaken.
The pretty Erythroniums have also arrived on the scene in yellow, white, and pink, they too are members of the lily family - this one is called pagoda, but luckily they are not preyed on by the lily beetle
Judging by the blossom I am anticipating making delicious plum jam, plum pies, and plum crumble during the fruiting season.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Croeso i Ganol Cymru - Welcome to Mid Wales

We stayed at a lovely Victorian spa hotel in Llandrindod Wells which has been owned by the same family for the past 120 years. 

Llandrindod Wells is close to the English border, and just a few miles away from the beautiful Elan Valley known as the Welsh Lake District.
 A majestic landscape of rivers and lakes, set within the Cambrian Mountains, and a perfect recreational area for walking, water sports, cycling, or for simply appreciating being at one with nature.
The Elan Valley has 5 reservoirs which principally supply water to the city of Birmingham and its surrounding area.
The mighty roar and the power of the rushing water over the various dams was indicative of the winter weather recently experienced, and it appears that there should be no water shortages during the forthcoming summer even in the unlikely event of a heatwave!!!

After a brisk walk by the river, and a wander along several of the reservoir parapets we looked forward to relaxing back at the hotel before having a much anticipated evening meal.
The countryside is my classroom  
The wisest and noblest teacher is nature itself
Leonardo da Vinci 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A Mosaic of Garden Flowers

Having just returned home from a short Spring break, I was keen to see what flowers had opened in our absence. It was lovely to discover that both the pink and the cream Snakeshead fritillaries had finally opened. Having checked my images from last year they are now only one week later than in previous years - it appears that spring may be finally catching up with herself. 

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Pugin Floor Tile

There was a tangible golden ambience in Stanbrook Abbey chapel created by morning sunlight streaming through the windows, bouncing off the woodwork, and dancing across the floor tiles.
These exquisite floor tiles made by Mintons were designed by Edward Welby Pugin, the eldest son of eminent architect/designer, Augustus Welby Pugin.
The design of this tile captured our attention. It was used in the floor area separating the Eastern Chapel from the main body of the chapel known as The Choir

Originally the Eastern chapel had an elaborate metal screen which afforded privacy to The Choir area. A visiting priest could give his sermon from behind the screen unseen by the nuns sitting in The Choir. When the nuns stopped being an enclosed order during the early 1970s the screen had been removed.

   I found the design intriguing - what did it represent?
 

What was the bird - a Raven or a Crow

What did it carry in it's beak and was it of any significance?  
After exploring several blind alleys, I considered the fact that the nuns belonged to a Benedictine Order,
  and happily discovered that I was finally travelling along the right road.


 St. Benedict lived as a hermit, in spiritual isolation in a cave. Upon the death of an abbot in a nearby monastery, St. Benedict, who was known for his sanctity, was asked to become the new abbot. However, the strict discipline and obedience that he demanded so angered the other monks that they added poison to his bread. Each morning St. Benedict would feed pieces of his bread to a raven, but detecting the poison Benedict taught the bird to fly away with the deadly bread to a place where it could do no harm. St. Benedict decided to leave the monastery and returned to live in the wilderness that he loved. 

courtesy wiki
Saint Benedict of Nursia 480-543 Detail from a fresco by Fra Angelico (c. 1400-1455) in the Friary of San Marco, Florence
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Nursia has now been renamed Norcia. It is a remote Italian town surrounded by the Apennines in Umbria. Norcia was at the epicentre of the Italian earthquake 18 months ago. Norcia is reknowned in Italy for its wild boar hams and sausages, along with its much sought after black truffles. We travelled there many years ago, but did not realise the significance of St. Benedict to the town at that time