Killerton’s stunning new costume exhibition

Dressing up, dressing down Killerton's new costume exhibition

Why did our ancestors change their clothes so many times a day?  This week I managed to get a sneaky view of the new wonderful new ‘Dressing Up, Dressing Down’ costume exhibition at Killerton prior to its opening to the public this saturday.

The atmospheric displays and room sets for ‘Dressing Up. Dressing Down’ have been fashioned out of the 4,000 items in the Killerton costume collection which was begun by Paulise de Bush who saved many exquisite 18th and 19th century costumes from destruction during World War II.

What was the first thing an Edwardian child put on in the morning? What did Victorian gentlemen keep in their pockets? When would a Georgian lady put on her best jewellery and how would you get ready for a good night’s sleep in the 1920s? The answers to all these questions and the reasons behind our ancestors changing their clothing so many times during the day are uncovered in this new stunning exhibition.

Shelly Tobin, Killerton’s Costume Curator explained, ‘There was a huge amount of intricate work involved in creating our new exhibition. We had 19th– century silk afternoon dresses to measure and fit to mannequins, 20th-century jewellery to clean and we’ve delicately mounted a splendid hand-embroidered Chinese silk banyan (dressing gown).’

Visitors can also see rare and specially conserved pieces including a patchwork and appliqué coverlet made in 1810, fragments of printed textiles originally part of bed-hangings recently discovered at Godolphin House and a children’s nursery dating back to 1890.

‘Dressing up Dressing Down’ open daily from 12 February, 12-4pm and then 11am-5pm from 12 March. More details from our website at

A stunning sign of spring at Overbeck’s

Overbeck's Magnolia

A stroll in any of our gardens at this time of year is always lovely but if you’re lucky enough to get to Overbeck’s nr Salcombe like I did this week, take a moment to go and view the stunning 110 year old Magnolia Campbellii ‘Overbecks’. This stunning tree year on year attracts the crowds and with a backdrop that includes the Salcombe estuary its almost overwhelming in its beauty.

The garden has undergone quite a makeover recently with the planting of 1000 spring bulbs, 300 rare endangered species. Combine a visit with a made to order picnic or a Otto cream tea (or maybe both) and there is no better place to relax and rejuvenate after the cold winter months.

Overbeck’s opens for its new season this Saturday 12th March. More details from our website at

Magnificent Speaker’s State Coach to go on display at Arlington Court

A superb state coach – last used at the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 – is to go on display at the National Trust’s Arlington Court in Devon.

The Speaker’s State Coach, a symbol of the power and status of the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been in use for state occasions since the early 18th century.

The loan of the coach by the House of Commons is the first in a series of exhibitions around the country where it can be seen and enjoyed by the public.

The coach will be the star attraction at Arlington Court’s Carriage Museum which houses a renowned collection of historic British carriages and coaches that were used for every occasion.

Still image from a film of the Speakers Carriage taken in 1953, reproduced by kind permission of British Pathe

The spectacular painted and gilded Speaker’s Coach – the work of a number of highly skilled woodcarvers – is believed to have been made in 1698 for King William III. It was presented to the Speaker a few years later by Queen Anne.  You can watch some historical British Pathé footage of the carriage here

In the last three hundred years, the coach has been the subject of many repairs and refurbishments.

Last used by Speaker Thomas in 1981, the coach was then displayed at various venues in London before being removed for conservation work to begin.

The conservation now complete, the original and vibrant beauty and colours of the unique coach can be appreciated once more.

Ana Chylak, National Trust Property Manager said:

”Our historic carriages at Arlington range from those used every day to ones reserved for special occasions, so we are thrilled to be able to display the Speaker’s State Coach which is very special indeed. In its restored condition, its detail and decoration are absolutely breath-taking.

“I am sure that our visitors will be enthralled to see such a wonderful part of our country’s heritage in our collection.”

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:  “The state coach is a magnificent example of an early 18th century carriage and an important piece of the United Kingdom’s parliamentary heritage. Therefore I am delighted that now it no longer has any practical role in parliamentary life it can be passed into the care of the National Trust and viewed by as wide an audience as possible. The carriage museum at Arlington Court, with its extensive collection, was an obvious place for the coach and we hope it will be the first of a series of appropriate exhibition venues around the country where the coach might be seen and enjoyed by the public.”

The Speaker’s State Coach will go on display at Arlington Court, near Barnstaple, Devon, from Saturday 12 March. For opening times and further information visit or telephone 01271 850296.

South Milton Sands wins Sustainability South West ‘Planting Places’ Award

This week the National Trust’s South Milton Sands has collected another award for its work to re-landscape a popular beach in South Devon and challenge people’s perceptions toward coastal change

The Planting Places awards recognise projects which have had a strong and continued involvement with their local communities to work to promote and understand the benefits of green (and blue) spaces in supporting healthy lifestyles and providing valuable habitats for wildlife.

At South Milton Sands, the National trust has worked extensively over the last 6 years with local people to find and implement a shared solution for the long term future of the beach. As a result of climate change, South Milton Sands was identified as a high risk site to changes in sea levels and erosion within the next 20 years. The beach fronted car park was protected from the sea by an old timber coastal defence in need of replacement. The project sought to involve the local community to develop a sustainable approach to management of the beach that would work with natural coastal processes rather than against them. The result was to re-establish a soft and flexible sand dune system

The 4 year projects sought to openly and honestly, listen and communicate with local people through, events, talks, and the formation of a stakeholders group. As the project progressed more people got physically involved in shaping the beach landscape. A very successful programme of community marram planting resulted in over 16,500 marram grasses being planted across the new sand dunes. Participants now proudly return to inspect their work and watch the dunes develop.

National Trust Ranger Simon Hill said “This award is fantastic recognition for the National Trust South Devon Countryside who invested much energy and enthusiasm into the project, challenging people’s views on coastal change and involving them in the decision making processes.  I hope the award highlights how genuine, long lasting relationships can be forged through bringing people on a journey with us rather than delivering our solution.”

Never before had the property delivered such a significant project; re-landscaping a popular beach; challenging people’s views on coastal change and involving them in the decision making processes. SMS has become a blueprint of how we want to work in the future and involve communities each step of the way.

Building bridges at Trelissick

the new bridge at Trelissick

A voyage up the National Trust at Trelissick’s Lamouth Creek by oyster punt has led to a new bridge being built for walkers setting out towards Roundwood Quay.

Eighteen months ago the Trust’s Area Warden Neil Stevenson and timber frame expert Tom Beer travelled by water up the creek to hatch a plan for a replacement bridge for the rotting tropical hardwood structure that had lasted twenty-five years’ in the damp environment. The pair set out to use timber from local sources in the construction – preferably finding by-products of other forestry operations.

The majority of the bridge’s construction is green oak sourced from the Trust’s Lanhydrock estate near Bodmin. The oak tree providing the timber had to be felled due to tree safety and to provide better access. The remainder of the timber for the bridge is sweet chestnut from the Trust’s land at Turnaware, on the opposite side of the River Fal to Trelissick. The removal of the sweet chestnut also supports the management of the sessile oak woodlands at Turnaware which are a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). A generous grant from the Forestry Commission enabled the chestnut removal and subsequent timber supply to the bridge. The Commission also funded part of the actual bridge construction.

Tom designed and built the bridge in sections in an outbuilding at Pill Farm on the Trelissick estate, taking inspiration for its curving shape from the wheels of farm carts housed at the Farm. Its installation at the head of Lamouth Creek has been a source of great interest to walkers over the half-term period – with the added interest of heavy horses working in the woods around the bridge to extract timber from coppicing, pollarding and thinning activity.

Area warden Neil Stevenson said ‘Building this beautiful new bridge here has mixed a lot of different elements together into one really fulfilling project – high quality conservation of the SSSI sessile oak woodland at Turnaware through removal of chestnut trees, enabling better access at Lanhydrock through the felling of their unsafe oak tree which was used to make the bridge, employing local craftspeople and sawmills and adding a real source of beauty to this area of the estate at the same time as providing access. I’m incredibly grateful to the Forestry Commission for their financial support at many levels within this project – and hope that we’ve ensured most of the bridge lasts for many decades to come’

The new bridge is open for both two- and four-legged walkers and is part of the network of paths around Trelissick which take in woodland, open parkland and water-side parts of the estate. The full Trelissick walk can be downloaded from the Trust’s walking site: In November 2010 Trelissick’s woodland walk was featured as the Telegraph website’s walk of the week.

Photographs of the bridge in construction can be found on Trelissick’s Facebook page ‘National Trust – Heart of Cornwall’. The walks at Trelissick are open all year with a £3.50 car parking charge for non-National Trust members.

See Tyntesfield unwrapped for spring

An impressive sight awaits you at the National Trust’s Tyntesfield in North Somerset when the Gothic Victorian house and chapel re-open today. For the first time in nearly two years you can see the spectacular Victorian mansion unobscured by scaffolding.

See 28 miles of scaffolding disappear before your very eyes on this time lapse film video. Now you can admire the dramatic Gothic architecture of the house and chapel in all its glory. For over 18 months the roof has been hidden behind one of the largest temporary free standing roof structures in Europe, the size of 10 tennis courts while repairs and restoration work were taking place. Keep up to date on our conservation activities by visiting Tyntesfield’s blog.

Stylish again for spring

Unwrapped, the romantic vista of turrets and pinnacles, chimneys and gables that make up the Tyntesfield skyline are revealed once more. Watertight and weatherproof the newly restored black and red tiles display the complex geometric pattern that had been unseen for generations; its bold colour scheme a striking contrast to the golden tones of the Bath stone of the house itself.

Fresh interiors

Inside, rooms that had been stripped of their contents, covered in dust sheets or used as storage during the renovation works have been unwrapped too. Objects that were carefully packed away and moved into storage by trained staff and specialists have returned.

Meghan Wilton, Acting House Manager explained:

“This colossal project has been a bit like moving house, but imagine a house with over 100 rooms and more than 40, 000 objects, ranging from Victorian cooking utensils and toys to rare and delicate pieces of furniture.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to see all the work complete as we begin to re-present the rooms, evoking the different ways all four generations of the Gibbs’ family used the house. The Main Hall, for example, with its chairs and jigsaw puzzles, recalls its time as a family living room in the 1890s, making it the perfect place to stop off and relax. I can’t wait to see the visitors’ reactions.”

Come and see us

Tyntesfield house and chapel opens on Monday 28 February 10.30am -5pm (Saturday- Wednesday; 01275 461900).

The garden and estate are open everyday from Monday 28 February from 10am-6pm.

Home Farm, visitor centre’s restaurant, shop and café are free to visit and open everyday from Monday 28 February from 10.30am-4.30pm.

Spring is here so get out and grab it

Well its happened! Spring has finally arrived with the usual great show of colour in our wonderful South Weset gardens.

Rhododendrons, Magnolias and Camellias all bursting out in glorious blooms. This week blue skies are forecast and this will be a perfect opportunity to see these spectacular plants against a backdrop of true clear Blue Sky.

Camellias and Rhododendrons appear to be particularly good this year but the good old favourite Magnolias are still providing wonderful value for money and the ‘ohs and ahs’ as only they can do.

The only thing is don’t hang around and miss this visit one of our National Trust gardens soon, and put a bit of natures light back into your life. Check our website for more details

Uncover history in our Cornish gardens this spring

When wondering through one of our Cornish garden’s in spring head up looking at spectacular magnolia and camellia blooms against a perfect blue sky (well one can dream) you could be forgiven for not noticing the less blousy show offs whether plant or feature.

So I would recommend slowing down, taking a good look around and try and take it all in. To help you on the way I will share some of my favourite but lesser known stories and facts from our great gardens.

Gustav Hamel pictured with the Bolitho family at Trengwainton

Starting on the balmy banks of the Helford sits Glendurgan.  What was it that attracted Alfred Fox in the 1820s to take up residence and start of this truly spectacular valley garden? Perhaps it was the orchards that benefited from the sheltered climate of the valley, something the team at Glendurgan had been long keen to re-establish and so in 2009 planted a new orchard just above the maze.

Moving further west to Trengwainton, perhaps lesser known is that one of the earliest ever aircraft landed in the field near the garden terrace and was piloted by Gustav Hamel, the son of a German born royal physician.  Hamel was a pioneering aviator and the exploit for which he is best known is flying a Bleriot aircraft on September 9th 1911, covering the 21 miles between Hendon and Windsor in 10 minutes to deliver the first official airmail to the Postmaster General.

When he was at Trengwainton the Bolitho family built a canvas hangar for the plane while he stayed there as a guest.  This all caused quite a stir in West Cornwall, no one was thinking of carbon footprints or claiming air miles in those days!

Ok, but what about the plants I hear you cry… the reason the enormous Magnolia cambellii has such a vast spreading canopy at Trengwainton is because of pure greed…. Well greed for flowers, pruning the non flowering straight shoots every year has caused the tree to keep growing out whilst putting all of its energy into flowering at its best not producing more suckers.

Just West of Bodmin Moor sits Lanhydrock; if you have visited before did something catch your eye?  Eye catchers were often used in gardens to draw attention whilst walking, at Lanhydrock If you stand in the circular herbaceous border look at the building to the North, its not quite what it seems. Actually it’s a functional barn but given an Ornamental Gothic façade in the early 19th century to make it stand out and catch your eye from the garden.

Climb to the top of the garden and enjoy the view and a rest in the small thatched summer house.  It was built to commemorate two things; all the work the National Trust gardeners did to repair the enormous damage caused by the great storm in 1990 and the 27 years of work Head Gardener Peter Borlaise BEM did at Lanhydrock.

Just before you get to the Tamar, drop into Cotehele where recent changes have seen the planting of a Mother Orchard.  Filled with old Tamar varieties of apples, some which are at risk of being lost from cultivation.

But Cotehele has a long rich past, a hint of which might be gained by sitting in the small summer house at the head of the valley garden where you overlook the ornamental pond, which started life as a medieval stew pond where fish were kept for food and the 15th century Dovecot, both which helped stock the larder in those days!

I must finish by saying there is lots more to discover so go and find out for yourself, and what a perfect time of year in which to do so.

Ian Wright

National Trust Garden’s Advisor

Nature’s floral barometer indicates the onset of spring

National Trust annual flower count taking place at Trengwainton Garden

December 2010 was the coldest this century the Met Office have said, and rewarded many with a white Christmas. Fortunately this unprecedented cold snap took place when flower buds were at their tightest, giving them most protection, however it also had the effect of greatly chilling the ground.

Coupled with a distinct lack of sun to inject some warmth into the ground, the cold has slowed up some of the emerging early flowers. Plants like the appropriately named Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ only now fully out in flower West Cornwall, and Magnolia cambellii still in bud with only the slightest hint of pink beginning to show.

Our annual flower count has been conducted by National Trust gardeners and volunteers in Devon & Cornwall each February since 2006 and provides us with an annual snapshot of the heralding of spring.

This year, 1395 plants were recorded in flower across 16 gardens in Devon and Cornwall compared to 1,115 last year and 3,335 in 2008, when the highest count was recorded, giving a 75% increase in plants in bloom.  The highest number of flowers recorded in Devon this year was at Killerton with 200 in bloom (up from 172 last year) and at Glendurgan in Cornwall with 149 (up from 45 recorded last year).

Although Camellias have been flowering in Cornish gardens even before the cold period, our gardens are really only now beginning to burst into flower although a touch behind compared with other years.

The ever favourite Rhododendron is towering over great drifts of snowdrops and daffodils both are bravely popping their heads above the parapet hoping for some caressing valentine warmth, rather another visit from Jack Frost. Even the birds have been increasing the intensity of their dawn chorus during the last few days.

Ian Wright, National Trust South West Gardens Advisor said: ‘Our annual flower count is a simple and fun way of recording how our garden plants react and adapt to changes in weather patterns, a kind ‘floral barometer’, its not a scientific exercise but it is a simple indicator of the weather we have experienced and the season ahead. This fun and slightly competitive count is something you can try in your own garden. Our gardens are just beginning to burst into life; the worst that could happen now is a late cold period which would damage the buds which have already begun to open.

‘Last year we saw a spectacular display of a magnolias this year Rhododendrons look like being particularly good, when we do get some warmth from the elusive sun, our gardens will be under starters orders and quite frankly bursting with blooms, blossoms and flowering bulbs, our gardens should be a riot of colour once again, he added.

Many National Trust gardens are now open, including many of those in Devon and Cornwall.  Properties currently open are:

Devon – A la Ronde (open Sat – Weds 12-27 Feb, weekends to 6 March, Sat – Weds from 12 March).  Arlington Court (open daily). Buckland Abbey (open daily 18-27 Feb, Fri-Sun to 6 March, daily from 12 March). Castle Drogo (open daily  19-27 Feb and from 12 March. Killerton (garden open all year). Knightshayes Court (open daily – except Friday 19-27 Feb, weekends to 6 March, daily (except Friday) from 12 March). Lydford Gorge (Whitelady Waterfall Walk open daily all year). Overbeck’s (open Sat – Thurs daily). Saltram (Park open daily all year. Restaurant, shop and gardens open daily, except Friday, to 10 March then daily from 12 March)

Cornwall – Cotehele (garden and estate open all year). Glendurgan (open Tues-Sat from 12 February). Lanhydrock (garden open all year). Trelissick (open daily). Trengwainton (garden open Sun-Thurs from 13 Feb).

Grow your own mistletoe ‘kit’ makes perfect Valentine’s gift

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to start growing your own mistletoe.

Mistletoe berries ripen in February and March, making this the best time to try and germinate them and stock up a lifetime of Christmas kisses.

Gardeners will need plenty of mistletoe berries, available in grow your own kits for those without access to a local supply, and a suitable host tree, such as apple, poplar or hawthorn.

The berries need to be squeezed to reveal the seed inside, and these are then smeared on to branches of the host.

Kate Merry, Orchard Officer at the National Trust, said: “Mistletoe is normally spread by birds but with a bit of luck, and a lot of patience, it is possible to grow your own and play a role in securing the future of this fascinating plant.

“Though you might have to wait a bit for that first home-grown Christmas kiss, hopefully you’ll be harvesting your own mistletoe by 2015.”

A campaign to encourage Britons to buy local or sustainable sourced mistletoe, as a way of supporting the income of small traditional orchards, was launched by the Trust in December.

Though mistletoe can be found across the UK, its heartland and future is linked to that of small orchards.  The demise of traditional orchards in the last sixty years has affected the amount of easily accessible mistletoe and means that it has an uncertain future in the West Country and West Midlands.

The National Trust and Natural England have been working on a project to revive the fortunes of traditional orchards since 2009.

Mistletoe is an important winter food source for the mistle thrush and blackcap, while also providing a habitat for the specially-adapted mistletoe marble moth and the kiss me slow weevil.

Although it is a semi-parasitic plant, mistletoe and its host tree can live in harmony if managed carefully. In apple trees it will reduce fruit yield and left unchecked can completely swamp the tree. However, regular careful pruning will result in a healthy tree, a mistletoe crop and all of the benefits it has for wildlife.

Kate Merry added, “The chemistry required between trees and mistletoe is like the happiest and most long lasting of relationships, it’s all about give and take.”