Some Well-Dressed Wells in Derbyshire

Well dressing involves the dressing, or decorating, of wells and springs with flower petals, and, as such, it is sometimes known as well flowering. The custom is an ancient one and seems to be unique to England. It is particularly associated with the limestone villages of the Peak District of Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire (which I’ll say more about in the next few posts) although one or two other areas also practise the tradition.

Map of the Peak District National Park, UK. Source: Office of National Statistics Geography. Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion, created using O.S. data

The origins of the custom are still uncertain. Some maintain it could have developed from a pagan custom of sacrificing to the gods of wells and springs in order to ensure the continuing supply of fresh water. As many other traditions, it was later adopted by the Christian Church as a means of giving thanks to God for supplies of drinking water. A tradition of well dressing in the Malverns (a range of hills in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucester) dates from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Some sources hold that the practice began following the Black Death (plague) of 1348-9. A third of the population of England was wiped out at that time, although a few of the villages were untouched.

The Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) by Michael Wolgemut in 1493. Public Domain

The people of those fortunate villages attributed their luck to the clean fresh water supply from their wells and started dressing them as a way of giving thanks. Still other people believe the custom arose during a prolonged drought of 1615 when people celebrated their own wells’ reliability. Then there are those who attribute the custom to the time of another plague – the Great Plague of 1665 – during which time many Derbyshire villages, including Eyam, were decimated. Yet some villages had remained untouched, like nearby Tissington, and the people gave thanks at their wells for their deliverance.

Whatever its origins, well dressing seems to have disappeared for some time in most Derbyshire villages, with only a few still celebrating it in the 19th century. The main one of those villages was Tissington, as mentioned by Ebenezer Rhodes in his book ‘Peak Scenery’ in 1835. The custom was introduced in the town of Buxton in 1840 and was  recorded as being followed in Wirksworth in 1860. With the arrival of piped water supplies, the tradition was extended to include the dressing of not only wells, but taps, too.

The custom of well dressing rose and fell in popularity over the following years. Then, in the 1930s, the Shinwell family of Tideswell made considerable efforts to revive it. Well dressing has since been restored in many villages and small towns and, throughout the summer months, it is one of the attractions that draws people from all over the world to Derbyshire.

Today, the first well dressings are in May, with Tissington village being the first. Naturally, the flower petals don’t last for long, so the villages follow a regular calendar each year. While we  were in Derbyshire last week, we managed to visit four of the five places with newly dressed wells for that week.

Our first view of well dressings was in Buxton, a spa town which has the reputation of having  ‘the highest elevation …. of any market town in England’. These are a few ph0tos of the three ‘dressed’ wells in the town:

The next well dressing we visited was in the busy village of Hathersage. (Little John of the Robin Hood stories is said to have been born in Hathersage and buried in the churchyard there.) These are photos of the well we found. The theme of this one, as can be seen on the board itself, is ‘Give Peace a Chance’.

Peak Forest was the third of the well dressing villages we got to. It’s a small village and its one ‘well dressing’ was beside a tap. The theme was a very rural one:

On the last day of our stay in Derbyshire we headed out to the small town of Chapel-en-le-Frith (which translates from the Norman French as Chapel in the Forest). We found seven well dressings here, all with the theme of ‘Famous Britons’. Some had been created by children’s groups.

The construction of a well dressing is a long and skilful process which can take up to ten days. It often involves the whole population of the village. First, wooden frames are constructed and wet clay is spread to a depth of a couple of inches across the wooden backing board. The required design is sketched out on paper and ‘pricked out’ onto the wet clay.  The picture is then filled out with natural materials such as flower petal and leaves, entire flower heads, moss, sheep’s wool, wheat or barley straw, berries and nuts e.g. beech nuts, as on the Buxton Children’s well, and even immature fruits like the tiny apples on the Isaac Newton well dressing in Chapel-en-le-Frith. Coloured (or painted) stones, pebbles and gravel are sometimes used, too.

Throughout the well dressing season, some of the villages hold festivals or galas and decorate the streets with colourful and fun models. These are a few we came across in Hathersage:

It was very enjoyable visiting all these wells and looking at how they’re constructed. I think next year we’ll try to get out to Tissington in May. It’s a very quaint village, only a couple of miles from where we were staying, and we met some lovely ‘locals’ there. We’re looking forward to going back.

Posted in Customs and Traditions, Travel and History | Tagged , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Jogging Along to July!

In Britain, when we think of July we think of  summer, as it’s generally the warmest month of the year, in common with the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, July is the equivalent our our January: in other words, it’s a winter month. In Britain the six week summer holiday for schools starts sometime around July 17th – 22nd (dependent on the area and/or individual schools) and we all start thinking about enjoying some sunshine. Unfortunately, we’re often disappointed in that. Our maritime climate can be very mean to us at times. Some of us will head off to the seaside towns; others choose a quiet – or sometimes a ‘sporting’ – break in the countryside. Some of us fly off to some sunny destination overseas.

Summer is a time for summer dress, barbecues and outdoor living in general. There’s always something special about summer music, too: it has such a lighthearted appeal. In 1970, this song by Mungo Jerry could be heard blasting out all over the place. It sounds so dated now, but back then it really got people singing along with it. The hairstyles are a scream and some of the lyrics are questionable today. The video was uploaded by Carlos Fracoso on October 4 2010.

So what else is interesting about July? Here are a few facts:

  • July is the seventh month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and is one of the seven months with thirty one days. It was named by the Roman senate in 44 BC in honour of the Roman general, Julius Caesar.

  • Prior to that time July was called Quintillis as it was the fifth month of the Roman year, which then started in March. (Quin means five in Latin – as in quintet and quintuplet.)
  • Until the 18th century the word July in English had the stress on the first syllable and rhymed with duly or truly.
  • The Anglo Saxon names for July included Haymonath, referring to haymaking activities at that time, and Maedmonath, referring to the flowering of meadows.
  •  July starts on the same day of the week as April every common year and January in leap years.
  • July’s birthstone is the ruby. The flower is the water lily:

And these are a some facts from folklore. All three are about the weather:

  • ‘If ant hills are high in July,
    Winter will be snowy.
  • ‘If the first of July it be rainy weather
    Twill rain more or less for four weeks together.’
  • St Swithin’s Day is July 15.  If it rains on that day, it will rain for the next 40 days.

St Swithin of Winchester from the Bendictional of St Aethelwold illuminated manuscript in the British library. 10th century. Author: Monk. Public Domain

Many anniversaries are celebrated in July worldwide and I was hard pushed to pick out just a few as examples. These first few are British:

  • July 25 1586 First potatoes arrived from Columbia
  • July 28 1901 First fingerprints used for identification
  • July 2 1928 Equal voting rights granted to women in Britain
  • July 1 1937 999 emergency service introduced
  • July 3 1938 The Mallard broke the speed record for steam engines by reaching 126 mph.

The Mallard at York Railway Museum. Author: PTG Dudva Creative Commons

And these are a few non-British anniversaries:

  • July 1  Canada Day (obviously in Canada) and International Joke Day
  • July 2 World UFO Day
  • July 4 Independence Day, USA
  • July 6 International Kissing Day
  • July 14 Bastille Day in France
  • July 21 1968 Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon.
  • July 29 International Tiger Day

The lanes around our village have taken on a different look since the spring blossom died off. Now autumn fruits are developing, cereal crops are ripening and summer flowers are blooming.

In our garden the fruits are swelling nicely and are the most noticeable feature at present. The first flush of roses have almost all gone, most totally bashed by the heavy rains of last week. We should see a second flush around late August. But other flowers are adding colour to the garden, in the flower beds as well as the hanging baskets. These are a few photos taken earlier today (July 1st):

To finish with, here are some short poems about July:

The glowing Ruby should adorn
Those who in warm July are born,
Then will they be exempt and free
From love’s doubt and anxiety.
― Anonymous

The Summer looks out from her brazen tower,
Through the flashing bars of July.
― Francis Thompson

‘A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.’

‘Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.’
– Sara Coleridge, Pretty Lessons in Verse

(Gillyflower definition: any of a number of fragrant flowers, such as the wallflower or white stock.)


Posted in Month by Month | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Paint Me Green!

Paint Me Green!

Sidney waited for the groundsman to put him down and stared at the figure ahead of him. ‘Glud…’ he croaked, confused and a little scared. ‘Where are we? ’

Glud turned and Sidney hooted. ‘Oh boy, you should see the size of your eyes! They never looked like that before they painted you.’

The green man bristled. ‘Well you should see the size of your teeth! And weren’t you listening to those blokes who painted us? They were making us look interesting so someone would buy us for their garden.’

‘Why would they do that?’

‘We’re garden ornaments, Sidney. Don’t you Earthlings know anything?  I’m green with big eyes ’cos I’m an alien, and they’re always popular. I think you’re a squirrel.’

‘Oh no! That means I’ll have to eat nuts. Yuk!’

‘We’ll soon find out. Smile nicely and these folks approaching might buy us.’

‘Don’t leave me!’ Sidney squeaked as Glud was carried away by a nice-looking family. ‘Paint me green and I’d look like an alien, too. Aliens can have big teeth…’


Word Count: 175

This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. I thought I’d have a bit of fun with this great prompt, which was kindly provided by anymark66

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:


Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

A Visit to Beamish Museum: Part 2

There is so much to see at Beamish Museum in County Durham that I’ve had to split my post about it into two parts. Part 1 was an introduction to the museum in general and a look at the first of the four main areas on the site: the 1900s Town.

In this post I’ll show the three other main areas of the site: the 1900s Pit Village, the 1940’s Home Farm and finally the 1820s Pockerley Hall. Between them, the four sites give visitors a good overview of the life and work of people in the North East of England over the centuries.

The Pit Village naturally sits alongside the Colliery. It is opposite the town and is the closest of the sites to the entrance on the above map. As most villages, it catered for the immediate needs of the people who would, perhaps, take trips into the Town for goods that couldn’t be bought in the village, or go to the bank, or to visit professionals such as the dentist or solicitor. For a special treat they may well head to the Town Park on a Sunday to listen to the brass band play.

These are a few photos of the Pit Village, the biggest attractions there being the old school, the Wesleyan Chapel (in which Sunday School was held) and the Village Hall. One group of visiting primary school children were dressed up in period costume for their lesson with a rather strict schoolmistress.

And these are a few views of the colliery:

We didn’t go into the drift mine on this occasion, or into the winding engine house and adjoining heapstead building where the coal was weighed and the large lumps separated from the  fragments and dust. Time was ticking on and we’d been in these places a couple of times on previous visits.

Next we moved on to Home Farm, which represents farm life in the area during the 1940s. and, of course, WW2. In the photos below, the bedroom shown had two single beds to accommodate two land girls. In one of the outside barns was a cafe for visitors to buy tea, coffee and small snacks, decorated as cafes had looked during wartime.

We then hopped on another tram and headed to Pockerley Hall, which represents the house of a well-to-do tenant farmer in the 1820s. The lands around the hall that he would have farmed can be seen on the plan above. A house has stood on this slight hilltop since 1183, and its defensive location suggests there could have been an Iron Age hill fort there long before that. I won’t go into the history of the families who have lived in this hall, except to say that it was linked to the de Pockerleys in the 13th century, as well as several other families over the years. A tenant farmer lived in the hall until 1990 when it became part of Beamish Museun. After restoration work, the hall opened to visitors in 1995.

The following picture shows how Pockerley New Hall (red-brown roof) was built to adjoin Pockerley Old House (right hand side of photo).

These are a few more photos of  the 1820s hall and gardens:

The adjoining Old House is a medieval strong house, dating back to the 1440s. It would have been a place of refuge during conflict and raids (border reivers) and boasts very thick walls and small windows. It was very dark in most of the rooms inside so I’m afraid some photos aren’t very clear.

And finally we headed over to the 1820s Pockerley Waggonway. It represents the year 1825, when the Stockton and Datlington Railway opened.

The first waggonways opened in Britain around 1600 and by the 1800 they were common in industrial areas. The North East was Britain’s biggest coal producing area and coal was taken to rivers like the Tyne and the Wear by waggonway. After 1800, iron rails and steam engines started to replace horse or gravity powered ones: the modern railway had arrived.

We saw replicas of three different early engines there, including the famous Puffing Billy. The engine in use for pulling the little train on the day we visited was the Steam Elephant.

Posted in Travel and History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Fiery Breath of Dragons – FFfAW

The Fiery Breath of Dragons

They came before the land had wakened, as Groshan had known they would. Three mighty dragons, their fiery breaths patterning the pre-dawn sky with a brilliance as great as the Sun-god’s rise.

From the entrance to his cave-world, deep in the mountain, the overlord seethed as the dragons swooped over his city below, their terrible flames reducing it to smouldering ash. If not for his vision, the townsfolk would have shared that fate.

Having no other choice, Groshan had led his people to a place in the mountain’s veiled depths, with its black and bottomless pool: the source of his wisdom and power. His age-old enemy would not win this time, despite his dragons.

‘Come back to the caves, Husband. This will soon end and Styras will think he’s destroyed us. We’ll leave by night and build a new city far away.’

Groshan turned to Ailis. ‘Our son will guide you all to the lands across the sea. I will follow, once Styras lies dead at my feet and my powers are no longer needed.’


Word Count: 175


This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a little late this week and hastily written.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Footy and Foodie.

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:


Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

A Visit to Beamish Museum: Part 1

‘Tiny Tim’ the steam hammer at the entrance to Beamish Museum. A very autumnal photo from Wikipedia. Public Domain

Last week we were up in Yorkshire again for a short break. Needless to say, we visited some great sites to add to my ever growing list of posts to be written up. The site I’ve decided to write about first is one we’ve already visited three times in past years, and it wasn’t exactly one ‘just around the corner’ from our hotel. Nor was it in Yorkshire. But it’s a great place, with so much of interest to people of all ages., and well worth the 77 mile drive from our hotel near York.

So where am I talking about…? Why, BEAMISH of course!

Set in 300 acres of beautiful countryside in the county of Durham in North-East England…

….Beamish is described as a living, working museum. It includes a number of distinct areas, each very interesting in its own right. The four main areas are: the 1900s Town, the 1900s Pit Village, a 1940s Farm, and Pockerley Old Hall, dating from 1820. This photo of a map on one of the information boards at the site shows the location of these. Unfortunately, it isn’t too clear:

The buildings used to create the various areas of the Museum have been collected from across the north-eastern region, the primary aim being to present visitors with a realistic experience of the region’s past.

The various areas are spaced out around the site, so a number of trams and omnibuses are available for transporting visitors from one place to another. Most people choose to ride in the old vehicles, some for the experience of it; for others who would find the walking too difficult or just too much, the vehicles are a necessity.

Children find them great fun. In fact, on the day we were there, there were several groups of primary children enjoying a day out as the SATs exams had just finished. There were also a couple of groups of older students – all armed with questionnaires – probably studying the Industrial Revolution,or some topic related to one or more of the four sites.

At each of the sites, costumed staff and volunteers work hard to bring their roles to life. We can simply watch them carrying out their everyday tasks, or become involved in conversation and learn about the work they do and the goods or produce they are handling. They are impressively knowledgeable as well as helpful.

So, onto the 1900s town which was our first port of call after hopping onto a tram close to the Entrance:Beamish Town is somewhere we could have spent so much longer looking round. There are lots of interesting buildings and areas of the town that deserve more than a fleeting glance. This very long gallery shows some of them:

On walking along the town’s main street, you can’t fail to notice the Town Park with it’s welcomed greenery. In the 1900s, parks were important places in which townspeople could unwind and enjoy some exercise and fresh air after work in summer and at weekends all year. Sundays would see the many of the community coming together to hear a brass band entertaining them from the band stand.

Before we made our way along the road to the railway station on the edge of town we had a quick look at the livery stables across the road from the park:

We continued walking along the road heading towards Rowley Railway Station on the edge of town. The station was moved to Beamish from the village of Rowley, near Consett, County Durham. The guide book tells us that the North East led the way in the development of the railways. and by 1880, the North East Railway had a network of lines across Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire. Rowley Station was built in 1867 and it represents the Edwardian period at Beamish.

And to finish Part 1 of my Beamish post, here are a few photos of the Funfair on a field across the road from the station. To be honest, it was by no means the busiest area of the museum. Most people were far more interested in soaking up the history of the place.

Posted in Travel and History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

The Emotional Wheel

An interesting and useful tool for all writers to have to hand. Some words say so much more than others… Please leave likes and comments on MG’s post.



writer wheel bw

View original post

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Say ‘Hello’ to Henry VIII at Gainsborough Old Hall

On Sunday we decided to take a short drive up to Gainsborough Old Hall. We’d noticed some events advertised for this weekend and despite having lived only 15 miles from Gainsborough for many years, we’d never visited this lovely old manor. So we thought it was time to change things. But before I delve into the exhibition we enjoyed this weekend, I’ll say a few words about the town of Gainsborough and the Old Hall in general.

The town of Gainsborough is situated in the West Lindsey region of the county of Lincolnshire and is 18 miles north-west of the city of Lincoln. At one time Gainsborough was an important port with trade downstream to Hull on the Humber estuary and, at 55 miles from the sea, was the most important inland port in England.

Gainsborough Old Hall was built by the Burgh family around 1460 and is one of the best preserved timber-framed late-medieval manor houses in the UK. It has a wonderful great hall, a strong brick tower, and the original medieval kitchen. Not to mention a ghost corridor. Both Richard III and Henry VIII stayed at the Old Hall. It was sold to the Hickman family in 1596. Today the Hall holds a variety of events and exhibitions and an award-winning schools’ education programme. On the day we visited there were two distinct attractions to enjoy, in addition to being able to look round this wonderful old building.

The site of this Hall is a little different to many other manors and stately homes we’ve visited, in that it’s in the middle of the town and therefore surrounded by streets and buildings. It also means that there is little in the way of grounds – although that would have been different centuries ago. So we headed into the grounds at the back of the Hall and stopped to glance at the information board:

 As we had twenty minutes to spare before opening time, we strolled around the outside taking a few photos here and there…

By the time we’d got round to the front, the hall doors were opening and out came Henry VIII to greet his guests. Oh yes, Henry knew how to turn on the charm!

Then in we went, to be greeted by this cheery display:

Gainborough Old Hall is managed by both English Heritage and Lincolnshire County Council and as we’re members of English Heritage, we had nothing to pay. So we duly followed Henry to hear his first audience of the day.

In the following gallery, I’ve included photos of the Great Hall, where the audience took place, and a couple of photos of Henry still going strong at performances later on. He did six during the day, and I can only say he was brilliant! Not only did he look the part, but his booming voice resonated round the hall, rising and falling perfectly in order to place emphasis where it was needed. Despite his fearsome presence he knew where to add a touch of humour. There was nothing he didn’t know about Henry’s life and he answered questions at the end of sessions brilliantly. He performs this role at venues all over the country, including Windsor Castle. He was attended by a serving woman who added humour to the act as she popped in and out and insisted we all bowed or curtsied and addressed Henry correctly when we spoke to him. ‘Yes, your majesty…’

Following this excellent entertainment we wandered around the house just having a general look round. The original medieval kitchens with two huge hearths, bread ovens, storage areas and a servery was certainly interesting and gave real insight into cooking and meals of that time:

These photos are just some of the different areas of the Hall we photographed as we looked round. In 1541, Henry VIII really did visit Gainsborough Hall, with his fourth wife Catherine Howard, who naturally, still had her head in the right place at that time. (Henry’s tirade about her and several other wives during his audience was superb.)

The ghost, known as the Grey Lady, is thought to be the daughter of the Lord of the Manor who fell in love with a penniless soldier and planned to elope with him. On discovering the plan, her father locked her in the tower where she died of a broken heart. Legend holds that the girl’s spirit still wanders the tower waiting for her lover to come.

Unfortunately, the lady did not come out to say hello to us.

Eventually we arrived in the Upper Great Chamber to see the display of costumes from the TV drama, Wolf Hall, from the novel written by Hilary Mantel. I won’t go into detail regarding actors or their characters here as it would take too long! The exhibition runs from 29th April to 28th August. Many of the photos aren’t too good due to the glare through the large windows but the display itself was excellent.

After a quick bite to eat in the Coffee Shop, we finished our visit with a look at the  Medieval Gardens. Although these cover quite a small area, they are interesting because the species of plants and flowers are mostly those that would have been grown in medieval times. A wall poster in the hall gave a list, which I photographed but it isn’t very clear unfortunately. If you click on it a couple of times it enlarges the flower and herb names across the bottom enough to be read:

Thankfully, the photos from outside are quite clear:

This is a rather long post (although most of it is photos) so I’ll finish off by saying that we had a fascinating trip back in time on Sunday. Now it’s back to 21st century reality.

Posted in Travel and History | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Pathway Home – FFfAW

The Pathway Home

It had been a sacred place for as long as anyone could remember. The stones pulsed with an awesome, deep-rooted power. Some said the gods had blessed them; others believed the stones were cursed. Only Grainne knew the truth.

She knelt on the large flat stone, her heartbeat in unison with its rhythmic throb. Around her the forest trees shivered, anticipating something extraordinary…something their boughs would remember for generations to come.

‘Arawn,’ she whispered, pressing her brow to the cool, grey stone. ‘I’ve endured two hundred years in the world of humankind. Let me return…’

The stones rumbled but Grainne did not move. ‘I won’t go till you let me through! I never meant to hurt you. I still love you!’

The rocks groaned and shifted, creating a fissure in the earth below. Grainne dropped from the stone and into the widening gap.

‘Return to me, beloved,’ the god of the otherworld murmured. ‘You’ve paid the price for turning your back on our ways. Our people want their queen back…

And so do I.’


Word Count: 175

Note: After reading a couple of comments that made me smile, I’ve decided to fish out my judge’s wig and reconsider Grainne’s case…

On this occasion, I’ve decided to show lenience and reduce her sentence to 200 years. Even an immortal would probably go bonkers living with the dreaded humans for 2,000 years! 😀

This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Pamela S. Canepa

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:


Posted in Flash Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

A Look at Cornwall (6): Saint Michael’s Mount Part 2: The Terrace Gardens

The Terrace Gardens at St Michael’s Mount adorn the steep granite slopes on the south-eastern side of the island. Today the gardens attract 65 thousand visitors a year from April to September – the number of days they’re open being restricted to safeguard them from too much erosion. The gardens are carefully and lovingly tended by the head gardener, Lottie Allen and her team of three.

To many visitors, it may seem strange that these beautiful gardens exist at all in such a location. The steep granite cliffs, with the sea thrashing against the shore beneath and the brisk, salty winds and harsher gales – make it an unlikely place for any type of garden. Yet that is far from the truth. Gardens cover 12 of the island’s 21 acres.

The waters of the Gulf Stream moderate the climate so that frosts are rare and the granite rocks of the cliffs act like a great radiator, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night:

Bare granite cliffs of the isle

This creates a micro climate in which a variety of plants flourish. Abundant blooms and exotic plants have thrived here since 1780: aloes, agapanthus, puya, agave, rosemary, cornilla and lavender – amongst a whole host of others – fill the gardens with texture, shape and colour. Winding paths and stone steps lead visitors on a wonderful journey of exploration along which cameras continuously click. As did ours.

So how did these unusual gardens come about?

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post yesterday, the castle has been owned by the St Aubyn family since 1659. It is thought that, in 1780, the four Misses St Aubyn of that time initiated the building of the Walled Garden, a delightful and relatively sheltered space for the family to enjoy. Today it is positioned between the East and West Terraces, which were created during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The gardens as we see them today were designed in 1987 by Michael Paul Harvey along with Lord St Levan, who died in 2013. (Lord Levan was grandfather to the current castle resident, James St Aubyn.) The development of the gardens are still under the guidance of Michael Paul Harvey.

These are a few more of the dozens of photos we took that day.

Naturally, all visitors are advised regarding the safety aspects of visiting the gardens. As it says on the leaflet, ‘A guide to the Gardens‘:

There are steep drops from the lawns down to the rocks below as well as significant drops within the garden. The paths and steps are steep, rocky and uneven and in some places there are no handrails…. Sensible footwear is essential…. Please see that children are supervised at all times… Please do not handle the plants or pick the flowers as some may be hazardous to health… Dogs are not allowed in the garden… People with limited mobility or significant health problems will find the terrain challenging…

Much of that information may seem like common sense to most people, but I think the warnings are excellent and an important reminder to those about to embark on a walk round these wonderful gardens.

There is so much more I could have said about Saint Michael’s Mount, as even two posts haven’t really done it justice. All I can say is that we enjoyed our visit immensely and learned a lot about this lovely isle.

Posted in Travel and History | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments