Tuesday, 28 February 2012

February Snowdrops at Kingston Lacey

A walk through the snowdrop woods at Kingston Lacey has become a family tradition. A February treat after cold, grey days and an uplifting way to see the first signs of a new spring.

From the parkland, we passed through the great gates into the courtyard, and round through an entrance in the yew hedge, to the back of the house. Kingston Lacey House was built by the Bankes Family in the seventeenth century and is a treasure house of centuries of art collecting.
The house and estate now belong to the National Trust and more information can be found at their website on http://nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacey or on the Wikipedia website. The house remains closed in the winter, although we could see that repairs were in progress on the bell shaped dome on the roof.

At the side of the house, formal gardens gave way to fine views across landscaped parkland.

We turned away from the house and followed the path into the old walled garden. Here were the first snowdrops, planted in drifts among companion plants like this small black grass .....

......delicate cyclamen......

....and some of the year`s first daffodils, brightly flowering in sheltered sunshine.

A water feature, built like a cairn from rocks and stones, grew velvet-green moss and damp- loving ferns.

Owl sculpture........

....and out along the woodland path were borders of early iris.....

...and yellow aconite.

Pathways bordered with banks of drifting white snowdrops. Most visitors just love the snowdrops as harbingers of spring, whatever their variety may be. For true Galanthophiles, who are lovers and collectors of snowdrops, this is a collection worth travelling many miles to see.

We walked through the wild wood , where masses of snowdrops grow at will among fallen tree trunks and undergrowth. Along the pathway where new beds of camelias and rhodedendrons are being planted, the trunks of old, dead specimen trees had been left as store cupboards where woodpeckers could drill for insects.....

....and as beautiful , natural sculptures among the newer , more formal beds.

The fine tree collection in this garden showed mature specimen trees both deciduous and evergreen. Young trees are growing here, planted alongside trees as old as the house itself. A living, changing arboretum that links generations of those who love to walk among trees.


...and the grave of a much loved pony, Silvertail. Such a poignant marker of the life of a family friend. Especially in the year 1915, when the young men of Dorset were being slaughtered across the Channel on the battlefields of World War I.

I stayed for a few moments with Silvertail, to find that our family group had moved on. I did not rush to join them, but wandered among trees and snowdrops in a glade left silent, apart from the song of robin, chaffinch and great tit.

The sun shone brilliant and warm onto the peeling bark of a young specimen tree.

Through dappled shade and snowdrops.....

...I walked to find the parkland gate that led out of the woods.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Grandcats meet Granddaughter, after a Grand Afternoon Out!

The weather turned warm yesterday and the sun came out this morning. We had planned an afternoon out at Kingston Lacey House near Wimborne, where the snowdrops are at their best.
As we set off along our lane, we found a sleepy group of young New Forest ponies sunbathing on the green.

At Kingston Lacey, we joined our sons and their families for a walk around the gardens. A lovely , gentle walk among trees and spring flowers. Expect a longer post soon!

Afterwards, we drove down towards the Purbecks for tea at Elder Son`s. The two new cats were shy at first, but Figgy soon grew bolder.

Gizzy hid under the table, but little Granddaughter tempted him to play with a furry "tail on a string" and they spent a happy hour getting to know each other.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A Short Winter Walk on the Castleman Corkscrew

A milder day of low light and grey clouds over the heath. A small group from our village met up to walk for an hour or two. The path across the heath followed a stream along the valley bottom. In the wet stream borders there are thickets of alder, willow and blackthorn, where birds will nest when spring arrives.

Bullrushes in the bog were starting to seed.

Little Black J , part Labrador, enjoyed the water.

Hampshire has now been designated an area of drought, because rainfall has been so low over the past two years. This stream should have been much fuller at this time of year.

Lowering grey skies above winter trees, lightened by occasional patches of blue sky between the clouds.

We crossed the valley and found the old, broken, red-bricked railway bridge that used to cross the now abandoned railway line. Now a footpath and bridleway, the old railway was once part of the Castleman Corkscrew line that joined Brockenhurst to Dorchester, in the days when Bournemouth was a small settlement on heath-covered cliff tops and not worthy of a railway station of its own.

Walking along the railway line, we found ourselves raised above the bog and heath. Old brickwork, gate posts, bridges and fence posts remained in the undergrowth. A reminder of days when this line carried not just passengers, but wood from the Forest saw mills and gravel from the quarries.

This was the railway line where the soldiers of both Word Wars would enter and leave the New Forest training grounds. Before the D Day Landings in June 1944, soldiers and airmen camped, trained and waited in the New Forest airfields and around the villages. The Castleman Corkscrew would have carried many of them to Southampton along this line, on their way to the landing ships destined for the Normandy Beaches.

This was also the railway that took Forest people to work in the towns, to the Grammar School in Brockenhurst, to market and to long remembered days at the seaside, a few more miles along the tracks.

There was once a Victorian railway cottage on this site. The resident railwayman would have been responsible for opening and closing the gates of the manual level crossing here.

Now, after much controversy and a fire, a modern house has replaced the cottage. Apparently this house is "eco friendly" in its design, but it is not well regarded by local people and its modernist style seems out of keeping with the local vernacular architecture.

Beside the track, a pair of New Forest mares dozed. They looked well after the relatively mild winter.

Trees and shrubs beside the track would have been cleared in the days of the railway, to prevent Forest fires from sparks flying out of the steam engines` fires. Now vegetation is allowed to grow and provide shelter and habitat for wildlife.

Across Holmsley bog and the wintery valley.

Reinforced concrete posts from the old railway fence. When these crumble, the metalwork can prove dangerous to cattle and ponies, so a careful watch is made and broken posts removed.

Woodland at Holmsley.

Winter trees, green moss, reflections and a dog who loves to paddle.

Ironwork on the bridge above the old underpass, where livestock could cross underneath the railway line.......

...and where a well constructed causeway leads invitingly up into broad leafed woodland on the hill.

The New Forest is now a National Park and is popular with visitors. Most respect the Forest way of life, but the building of dams across natural steams is not so helpful.

Nor is this the way to dispose of your dog`s droppings!

We walked as far as Holmsley Tea Rooms today. Sadly, we found that they were closed when we arrived, so we shared some chocolate, turned round and set off back again along the track.

Here are the old railway platforms at what was Holmsley Station. A place that could tell so many human stories of arrivals and departures, until Dr Beeching closed the Castleman line in the 1950s.

We retraced our steps and cut back across the heath once more, only stopping to find the old steep well that had served several cottages on the village edge, until running water was installed in the post war years.

In the foreground is the bog where the water seeped into the well. In the valley beyond, a small herd of commoners` cattle was lumbering down the hill towards the stream banks. Pale golden beef cattle on their way to find a welcome, precious drink.