Tag Archives: gardens

Day out: Kenilworth Castle

19 Oct

Kenilworth Castle. Hundreds of years of history wrapped up in one beautiful ruined package. It merits so much more time than I am going to spend on it. I’m in a hurry, you see, with too much to do, and “Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!”

You could rummage through the excellent-as-always English Heritage page for the Castle, and even download some of the research materials or guides for teachers — I did before our visit!  My kids didn’t even mind!  Mostly because I bribed them with cakes in the beautiful cafe!

Take a peek at the Tudor stables.  Inside is an interactive museum and the lovely tearoom.

Turn your back on the stables, which are part of the ancient walls surrounding Kenilworth, and begin to take in the several buildings which make up the castle.  To the right, the original Norman tower, built by Geoffrey de Clinton in the twelfth century.  In the background, the great hall built by John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, and the manly origin of the Lancastrian dynasty.  And here’s your trivia for the day: Chaucer’s wife’s sister was John of Gaunt’s third wife.  Small world.  Small, rich world.

IMG_4059edOff to one side is the Elizabethan gatehouse, later enclosed and turned into a freestanding home.  Downstairs, where the carriages and wagons once rolled through the gatehouse, the rooms are quite large.  That large bay window in the center of the photo is where the gate used to be.  Inside the house, more interactive and interesting pieces of the history of the castle and the families who lived there.

IMG_4072edThe gardens were considered a marvel of their time.  Dudley had them designed and built as a private garden, specifically for the enjoyment of Elizabeth I on her visits.  Really, much of the work put into the castle and grounds during the 16th century were a massive and expensive effort to convince Elizabeth to marry Dudley.  The garden was lost to inattention and decay, but has been lovingly and painstakingly restored to something close to it’s original glory.

IMG_4076edAnd interior view of the Norman keep.  The original windows were all like the small slit in the lower level.  Later owners modernized the keep with large windows (and expensive panes of glass), and even added a ‘loggia’ to the entrance, in Italianate style.

IMG_4104edI love this photo for the lovely woman who is SWEEPING the ruins.  Talk about keeping things tidy.  You also get a good sense of just how fallen about the castle is now, how thick the walls were, and a bit of the scope of the facilities.  Taking this photo, I’m standing near the edge of the castle kitchens, which were the largest in Europe.  There was even a separate kitchen next to the main kitchens (which have a cauldron so large it is built into the foundation of the walls) where the foods for the high table were prepared.

IMG_4111edHere we’re standing on top of the stairs you just saw, looking back over the kitchens, part of the great hall, the old keep, and the inner courtyard.

IMG_4120edAnd here, turning around, you can look over what used to be a massive interior lake — the Great Mere created by John I in the thirteenth century.  The gate you see slightly sunk into the hill would have been a water entrance to the castle.

IMG_4125edDecorative vandalism can be found all over the castle, carved into the soft sandstone.

IMG_4129edIt’s not hard to see how the ruins at Kenilworth inspired so many romantic authors, like Sir Walter Scott.

IMG_4133edIt’s funny because it’s true:

IMG_4142edThe view from the newly scaffolded Leicester Tower (built by Dudley for Elizabeth I) is spectacular.  Here see Gaunt’s Oriel tower and great hall once again.

IMG_4158edAnd hold on tight before you look DOWN.  This view is from Elizabeth’s personal chamber, where she could watch interior entertainments to the left, and look out the window to see entertainers on the lawn.  Dudley pulled out all the stops.

IMG_4160edOne of my favorite things to see was all the jackdaws.  They are a cackling, sociable sort of crow who love rocky ruins like this.  Their call sings “England” to me.  (Click on “audio” to give a listen: http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/j/jackdaw/)

IMG_4162edIt was easy to spend hours wandering the grounds.

IMG_4177edIf you could only see one castle in England, should this be it?  I’m not sure, but … maybe.  There’s a bit of almost everything here, architecture from the Norman conquest to today, cultural history, fascinating personalities, human drama, literary inspirations, wild examples of humans shaping and reshaping their environment, and, of course, fairly tasty cakes and tea.


Sudeley Snapshots: St. Mary’s Chapel

7 Oct

In the intermittent but ongoing Sudeley Snapshot series, I present to you: St. Mary’s Chapel in the spring.


Viewed from the Queen’s garden.  (Here’s a close up of those purple blooms.)IMG_6780e

From the front, with random stranger.  On a side note, I think I’ve done pretty well these past few years to capture photos without random strangers in frame.  How have I managed to do that?IMG_6781e

The white roses in bloom, for the white queen.IMG_6783e

The interior was decorated for a wedding.  Fragrant.IMG_6785e

The altar was stunning.IMG_6786e

I’ve mentioned before — this side chapel memorial to Katherine Parr is an eerie mix of sentimental and Edgar Allan Poe.IMG_6788eAnd a final peek of the church from the secret garden.

Day out: Croome Court

26 Sep

Croome Court has everything but the kitchen sink.  From Georgian mega-wealth to World War II canteens to Hare Krishnas to boys’ schools to bats … it’s like a giant example of ‘make do and mend’ — nothing in this estate has gone to waste.


Eeek.  You can view the bats’ roosts from a electronic viewpoint in the old RAF Defford buildings.  Very cool.IMG_0409e

The forties-era canteen serves hot and cold food and plenty of tea.IMG_0419e

The medieval church was pulled down, moved, and redesigned to suit the modern (for the mid-eighteenth century) tastes of the mega-wealthy Earl of Coventry and his friend Capability Brown (interior by Robert Adam).IMG_0423e

The  ice house shows off an older form of food preservation.IMG_0437e

Pan looks over the ‘natural’ landscape.  (This natural landscape was created entirely by design.  Not sure how to call that natural, but leave it be, leave it be…)


Look back and see that perfectly situated church of St Mary Magdalene.IMG_0439e

The Trust has set out some civilized lawn chairs, next to the ha-ha and a herd of pretty cows.  What could be more picturesque?IMG_0440e

The Temple Greenhouse.  Just a little thing.  The gardens here once had a collection of rare and exotic plants second only to Kew Palace Gardens.IMG_0455e

And those pretty cows.  They were not too impressed with me, I think.IMG_0457e

Yes, still here in the greenhouse, with a view towards Croome Court, over that natural landscape once again. IMG_0459e

The late eighteenth century druid gives a think.IMG_0462e

The carriage court road from Worcester.IMG_0468e

The Punch Bowl Gates on the entrance from that road to Worcester.IMG_0469e

They have not been opened in … quite some time …IMG_0471e

The tufa and limestone grotto, with a statue of the nymph Sabrina (representing the river Severn).  The surfaces were once covered with semi precious gems.  As one does.IMG_0474e

The lake, which was dug out by hand, for a truly natural look.  Across the lake you can see an urn raised in honor of the 1788 visit of George III.  (Seen more clearly in watery reflection than in the air.)IMG_0476e

The Island Pavilion, brought back from vandalism and disrepair to the beauty it is today.IMG_0484e

Inside the house, very little furniture, but a loving and detailed effort to restore the house to its days of glory.  This is the Long Hall.  The Tapestry Tea Room was closed during our visit, but it smelled delicious.  The upstairs is inaccessible due to beetles; the basement has interesting bits of servants’ history along with slightly sad rows of old school cubbies.IMG_0493e

What house doesn’t do well to have topless sphinx women on the stairs?IMG_0501e

The Rotunda sits half a mile from the house.  The Earl used to entertain guests here with banquets.  Pity the poor servants who had to haul up burgers with all the fixin’s (or the eighteenth century equivalents) all that way.IMG_0504eWe hit every spot on the visitors’ map … every spot but the Park Seat, with its commanding view over the grounds, that is.  See it, waaaaay over there?  No?  Right under the arrow.  Yeah, after walking five or six miles around the estate, I decided a zoom lens view was going to be close enough.

IMG_0497edAnother picture-perfect day in Camelot.

Here are things about Croome which I found amazing and don’t plan to tell you about — just because I’m mean that way:

Did you know one of the beautiful Gunning sisters married the Earl of Coventry and lived HERE at Croome?  (Regency Romance fans UNITE!)

Did you know the SECRET WEAPON that WON THE WAR was developed here at RAF Defford?

Did you know Neo-Palladian is one of my FAVORITE WORDS?

Did you know Croome Court has the largest collection of Coade Stone in the country?

Did you know there is an annual Hare Krishna festival at Croome?

Did you??

Well, I’m swamped with trying to get through photos from other days out, so I’ll leave you to seek and find information about those tidbits on your own, if you like.