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 www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks. 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.

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 www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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

Your outdoor nation

We’re keen to develop what we can offer in terms of outdoor spaces and experiences, so we’ve launched a 6 month campaign to raise awareness of the outdoors.

We’re well known for our work with houses, but less known for our work with the outdoors. Yet we manage great swathes of countryside and coastline which are available for people to use for walking, cycling, camping and simply enjoying being outside. The majority of our houses have spectacular outdoor spaces and places that are available throughout the year too, yet many people believe everything stops in October when most of our houses close for winter cleaning and restoration.

Outdoor Nation Plym Woods

We’ve extended our opening hours so people can enjoy our gardens, parklands and woods and we’re opening many of our shops, tea rooms and restaurants throughout the winter months. So we’re creating a debate – conversation not consultation – to gather people’s views on what Britain feels about outdoors, whether we are losing touch with the countryside and what we need to do to rekindle that love affair

Please visit www.outdoornation.org.uk to let us know your views or you can let us know what you think here on your South West blog.