Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Warley Place - my annual pilgrimage

Every year I make a pilgrimage to Warley Place, one of our Essex hidden gems. This was once a magnificent house and estate, and in 1875, aged 17, Ellen Willmott moved here with her family. Over the years Ellen created a garden here at Warley, and a reputation for herself as a plantswoman. She subsidised the excursions of plant-hunters who would bring back plants for her and sometimes name species in her honour. 

Ellen never married and lived at Warley Place until she died there alone, in 1934. Ellen was quite a character and sadly her fortunes dwindled over the years due to her excessive spending. Warley Place was sold to a developer to pay off Ellen's debts but luckily the proposed plans were rejected. The war came, and after that the land was declared Green Belt. But by this time the house and its buildings were in such bad state that they were demolished. 

Over the years the land became overgrown and a haven for wild life. The loss of the garden is a travesty, but thankfully, in more recent times, The Essex Wildlife Trust leased this wilderness and started to reclaim it. Gradually, just like Heligan Gardens in Cornwall, Warley Place has slowly began to reveal some of her history and splender. Let me show you....

Here is one of the gateways into the former garden.

Among a field of narcissus stands this ancient walnut tree, part of
its trunk now artificially supported.

And here is the same tree, with Ellen Willmott taking tea.

This is part of the formal garden. If you look at the wall closely  you will find metal pins which once supported climbing plants.  It is said that Ellen was a harsh employer and she would sack a gardener who left a weed in place. Nowadays foxgloves and wild flowers are now left to grow freely. I'm not sure what Ellen would say, but I know I love to walk between these shoulder high plants that line the woodland paths!

Where the house once stood you will find this wonderful basement kitchen with it's glazed tiles.  Listen quietly and you can almost hear the chatter of scullery maids and a bustle, as meals are prepared.  

This plant tag is dated 1859 - it's handwriting still as legible as the day it was written.

Other plant tags found in the garden are beautifully stamped. But it is the collection of handwritten labels that I admire and wonder about. What was the name of the person who wrote them?  And did they shared Ellen's passion for gardening, or was their labour a means of providing a roof over their head and food on the table?

If you look for them, there are lots of hidden clues and remains to find as you wander around the garden.  I liked the layers of rust and beautiful shape of these gates. They were once the entrance to a gazebo that is currently being rebuilt. 

And this lovely flint is the original floor of the gazebo. How exciting it must be to clear the thick undergrowth and find original features such as this.  Gradually the garden is revealing her glory, though there are no plans to rebuild it.  I like that it will always retain its mystery and be a haven for wildlife.

This is the former conservatory where Ellen Willmott would sit and write letters. You can still see the remains of its mosaic floor and channel where the central heating pipes ran.

There is a story that John Evelyn, diarist, bought the Manor of Warley Magna in 1649 and planted a row of sweet chestnut trees. The first tree in this photo has been dated to around this time, so could this be one that still stands? I bet it's gnarled trunk could tell a story or two.

And finally, the reason for my annual pilgrimage. How could I miss these spectacular drifts of narcissus?  It  is fitting that a track runs through Warley Place, the original route for travellers going to Canterbury in the Middle Ages. It is a place of sanctuary and solitude and I feel blessed that it is somewhere I can visit whenever I choose.

If you would like to read more about Warley Place this is a brief but interesting article.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

5 in 5 - Melanie - March 2017

Melanie is my friend who lives in Australia and she loves photography.  Every month since the start of this challenge Melanie has taken part in this monthly meme and as she doesn't have her own blog I post here. I love that we have found a way for her to take part, so over to you Melanie:

March 5th arrived and signalled that a sixth of the year has come and gone.  The reality of it now being March hits hard what happened to the first two months of 2017?  So many things I thought would get done in January and February still wait for my attention.  I have not neglected the 5 in 5 photos though finding it something that even if I am exhausted I can still fit in as indeed happened this month.  I had spent March 5th listening to authors talk from 9am until 6pm and bombarding my head with so much conversation which definitely left me exhausted.  It was the annual Adelaide Writers Week an event I usually make sure I am around for and this year was no exception on each of the six days it runs you could find me amongst the crowd that flocks to hear authors speak.  March 5th was day two and during the day I heard authors talk on subjects of crime, war, politics and history and about books of fiction and non-fiction.  When I got home I needed a photographic subject that required little effort from me and shells sprung to mind.  When I first moved to a home near the beach I was fascinated by the variety of shells to be found on the beach and rarely took a walk on the beach without bring home a few of them.  Soon a jar which used to hold spaghetti was full to the brim with small shells and shells lined my kitchen window sill.  Thankfully over the years my fascination with shells dwindled else  we might have had to build a new room on the house just for shells.  They I hope will proved an interesting subject for my March 5 in 5 using a few photos of those on the window sill and a picture of the jar with small shells.   Maybe one of these days I will look more into shells and their classification but in the meantime I will just enjoy their beauty.  One thing the photos of the shells on the window sill has shown me is that they have collected rather a lot of dust so I guess it is time I gave them a wash.

Thank you for sharing these photos, Melanie, and as always for taking part, especially as the busy Writers Week is a good distraction. I hope you enjoyed the event, I know how much it appeals with your love of books.

I am fascinated by shells too, they have such wonderful shapes and patterns. When ever I get the chance I love to visit shell grottos, often making detours or special journeys to do this. And I have shells dotted around my garden collected from different beaches around the country, they make memories of happy times and places. I am fascinated by the spirals and the way creatures make these their home.  Do you collect shells or have an interest in these, I wonder?

Hopefully Melanie will be back next month and I look forward to you joining us. Thank you for popping by, it is great to have your company.

If this has inspired you to pick up your camera and join in please go to the original post where you will also find out how to link in.

And to find out more about this monthly photo challenge, and how this started, please go to this post.

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