A Surprise Garden…..




Osgood Mackenzie had a wealthy and generous mother. She bought him a rather large piece of ground on the shores of Loch Ewe close to Poolewe. That gift was the start of the creation of a wonderful surprise for this far north and on the rugged coast of Scotland. Taking advantage of the North Atlantic Drift (Gulf Stream) the area enjoys a climate that is just a little warmer.  So in 1862 the start of what is now know as Inverewe Gardens was made.

Even though our visit was early October the garden was still packed with colour….true the very best of summers herbaceous borders was fading and the autumn colours were not yet in full flourish but the garden still offered a colourfull display with a tropical flavour……so come along inside and share the pleasures…

The Gardens are now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, and apart from the Christmas New Year Period, are open all year….


17th October

(C) David Oakes 2017



Wordless Wednesday….Another Favourite Place


Location:-  Biddulph Grange Gardens, Staffordshire

2nd August

(C) David Oakes 2017

A House and Gardens of Historic Note….


Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire

Hidden away behind high walls is one o Derbyshire’s oldest and most historic yet it is  one of the least known.  That is perhaps because it is still a family home and for the most part of the year its privacy is strongly guarded. House visits are restricted to August and the gardens over the summers months

Built in the 12th century as a Bishop’s Palace for when the Bishop of Carlisle visited the Melbourne Church of St Michael and St. Mary. Today it is the home of Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr the Marquess of Lothian.  Between times the house has had numerous connections to Royalty and many very notable names from history as occupants.  Amongst them being Thomas Cromwell, James I and the Earl of Shrewsbury.

ln Victorian times it was the home of Prime Minister William Lamb who later became 2nd Viscount Melbourne who gave his name to the now famous Australian City.


The gardens are of equally Historic importance and although the famous Birdcage is a main attraction the gardens have much else to offer the visitor.  The layout of the gardens is substantially lawn and woodland.  Lawns are set out on a downward slope from the Hall in a strong geometric mosaic principle and leading you to the Pond and its Birdcage.


Note the trimmed Yew Hedge behind the Birdcage.  This runs around all the main gardens providing both shelter and privacy and in places a shady walkway…

For the most part the trees provide the sculptural architecture for these extensive grounds where ‘hidden’ bowers protect some interesting gardens

Apart from the Yew Hedge the whole is also enclose behind a high red brick wall which only adds the feeling of a secret house, garden and numerous out buildings, some used today as Craft Workshops…

As for the Bishop…well he may no longer be a resident but his Church still stands strong below its stubby Norman Tower…very definitely well worth a visit in its own right…


Saint Michael and Saint Mary’s Church, Melbourne

27th August

(C) David Oakes 2016


The Bird has Flown……..


The Birdcage Arbour, Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire

Once upon a time, along time ago….there lived a Blacksmith named  Robert Bakewell (1682 -1752). In 1706 he was engaged to build a Arbour in the gardens of Melbourne Hall.  It was his first major work of art and it showed off his skills as a creative Blacksmith.  The Arbour was built to overlook the main garden pond and to provide uninterrupted views over the lawns to the Hall…


Descriptively named the Birdcage it was never intended as an aviary.  It is a creative  and intricate construction of interlaced ironwork all decorated with entwined metal leaves and a gilt symbols.


In over 300 years the Birdcage has remained unchanged and I guess the view back to Melbourne Hall is also much the same as in 1706…still imposing.


Robert Bakewell creation of the Birdcage was only the start of a creative lifetime. His Blacksmith skills were used in Churches and Houses across Derbyshire…but along with the Birdcage I guess it is the Iron Rood Screen in Derby Cathedral are the most noteable…and yes, you can detect the same craftsman style, his handwriting so to speak, in what is a very different tribute to his skills.


The Rood Screen, Derby Cathedral

As for Melbourne Hall….well that is another  piece of Derbyshire history.  I will share that with you tomorrow and reveal its Australian connection.

26th August

(C) David Oakes 2016

A Botanical Delight…(Part two)


The Palm House, The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew

There is much more to Kew than the Palm House but I guess it was where most visitors made a bee line for.  Understandably so, this is just one of the so called ‘Glass Palaces’ of Kew. Built in 1845 and restored in 1989 these wondrous glass  house spans the ‘Rainforests’.  Divided into 3 main sections you have Africa, the Americas and then Asia and the Australasia’s. Here is a taster of what you can see…but you have to be there to feel the real rainforest atmosphere….and thanks to a high level balcony you can walk the forest canopy….



k14 - Copy

On this brief tour lets now move onto the Waterlily House, original built in 1852 to house the Giant Amazonian Water Lily….


As well as a few of the Giant Lilies  there are many more colour packed Lilies to feast your eyes upon…some brash others more delicate but all beautiful…



Next we enter one of the newer glasshouse, but in truth it replaces a number of original structures, they housed the original collections of Princess Augusta, Prince of Wales who founded the gardens and its collections.  Known as The Princess of Wales Conservatory it was reopened in its new multilevel style in1987 by Diana, Princess of Wales….


Once inside you are taken through 10 different environments from Dessert to the wet Tropics…..



The ‘star’ in this display has to be the Lotus Flower in the Lily Lagoon…..


Such are the many different areas within Kew gardens that it is impossible to see and digest everything in one visit.  Davies Alpine House is just one of several displays we had to miss on this trip…but if the dynamic exterior is any indicator the interior should be quite dramatic….


But Kew is also a vast Arboretum….a collection of Heritage and  Ancient trees, over 14,000 I am told.  I guess the best time to admire their full glory will be autumn ……..but for now and on a sunny day they are just the ideal spot to laze and read…


Kew  is also home for many historic and iconic buildings. Kew Palace (1631) was originally known as the Dutch House built for a rich London Merchant. The Royal connection began with George ll leasing the house for his family…..


The Pagoda is another of Kew’s iconic ‘trade mark’ buildings, recently restored this 10 storey and 50meters high the Pagoda dates back to 1762………


For many it is the spectacular giant Temperate House they come to see.  Well just at the moment (and for a few years to come) you are restricted to exterior views of the Worlds largest Victorian glass house…..4880 sq.meters….


Building was started in 1859 as space was running out for the tender exotic’s.  It was renovated in 1980’s but is now about to undergo a major restoration project.  At the moment they are removing for safe keeping the plant collections and preliminary work has started on the structure. This gives us a unique opportunity to experience the true scale and architecture of this unique building….


I hope these images and the slide show following gives you a taste of Kew.  There is just too much to cover on one visit.  The Botanist will love the museums, The Artist will love the Art Galleries, Wildlife lovers will love the wild walks and the wildlife whilst anyone will just love a pick-nick in the grounds….enjoy.







23rd June

© David Oakes 2014