My sister, daughter and I took my mother to Versailles for her 70th birthday as a surprise. I won’t be blogging about that but I would love to share with you a post about the gardens and grounds. The Palace itself is huge and does not disappoint! It is a true palace with gold and marble, restored to it’s former glory since the French revolution. It is not until you see the grounds and gardens however, that you realise quite how much opulence and decadence there was from a time when France was THE superpower in the world at that time. Versailles is valued at over £50 Billion now so try to imagine the scale and size! A Russian Oligarch’s dream! It is over 500 hectares in size and is beautifully manicured and formal in design.
It was such a rainy weekend so the photos are not quite as clear as I would have liked.
Louis XIV or the sun king as he was known, commissioned the designer, André Le Nôtre, to redesign the grounds of the palace as originally, it was a mere hunting lodge. Under the title Controller General of the King’s Garden, Le Nôtre began revamping the grounds of Versailles in 1662. His design formed a crucifix shape to which he added two parterres closest to the palace. These parterres were designed to reflect light into the windows of the Hall of Mirrors and have pools of water with statues of nymphs, men and children.
There is a large canal which is over a mile long. This is called the Grand Canal after the one in Venice and Louis sailed gondolas on it. They also skated on it when it froze in Winter.
There are 11 main, famous fountains. They have statues from Roman and Greek mythology surrounding them and various sprays and jets. Apparently, they were more spectacular during Louis XIV’s reign but couldn’t all be cascading at the same time so they would work when the royal family were passing! The largest is called The Apollo fountain.
As part of our ticket, you can stop and listen to the music that accompanies the fountain show.
The king enjoyed his morning breakfast and an Orangery was constructed to house orange, lemon and pomegranate trees. Many of the trees today are over 200 years old! The orangery was my favourite part; it is over 7.5 acres and is mind blowing! As we were visiting during the summer (!) the trees were outside.
Our son was training in Bristol this Sunday so we decided to make the most of the lovely weather and take a trip to Tyntesfield, near Bristol. We went to look at the gardens but you can’t go somewhere like Tyntesfield without visiting the house too!
Tyntesfield was bought by the National Trust in 2001 with help from the local community. It was extended as a family home in the 1860’s by William Gibbs who, at that time, was the richest commoner in England, having made his fortune from the sale of guano which was used as fertiliser. When it was sold, the owner of the time, Richard Gibbs was living in just 3 rooms as it needed so much work doing to it. The work that the National Trust has done is clear yet impressive. The house is a Victorian Gothic Revival House of wonder with over 50,000 pieces of interest. I was chatting to one of the guides who said that nothing was ever thrown away meaning that this unique property and it’s contents have been preserved in their entirety. It certainly feels as if you are stepping into a bygone age at Tyntesfield and it an absolute joy!
As you walk towards the house, you can take the route through the Rose Garden. I was really interested to see this as we want to try to create something similar in the old house garden. It was stunning, built on a slight hill with lovely views.
We arrived quite early so missed the crowds but there were many people enjoying the classic car collection for Fathers Day.
We were lucky to get to see the house. They restrict the number of visitors so you do need to get here early. The house opened at 11am and we went in before the crowds!
Inside is truly a masterpiece of Gothic craftsmanship. The interiors are not to my taste but you can not fail to be impressed by all the detail. The ceilings are ornately carved and the fire places are large stone affairs. From the Billiard room, a masculine space designed for leisurely pursuits to the grand dining room with it’s table laid for dinner, it’s a beautiful place to wander.
The family also added a grand and frankly, enormous Chapel. It was completed in the 1870’s just after William Gibbs died. It is larger than most village churches and has all the original chairs and altar furniture.
We then wandered to the Kitchen garden which was huge! The garden produced enough for the entire estate and the family even had produce brought to them weekly when they were at their London residence.
By this time we were boiling hot and had to get back to collect our son. We stayed about 3 hours but this is definitely a place that you could stay all day. I feel I need to go back to see it all again as I expect we missed quite a lot! Being National Trust members means we can easily go back whenever we wish.
Tyntesfield has got to be the most impressive house I have visited recently. It deserves more attention and I’m so glad the National Trust have done such a great job in preserving it.
I will leave you with some more beautiful photographs of a fabulous few hours!
I love taking close-up photographs of all the flowers that are growing in the old house garden. Here are some of the best shots. You can click on the photo to see what’s the flower is called. There is one that I’m unsure of!
Clematis Vyvyan Pennell
Astrantia Major Roma
Blue Poppy (fading)
Astrantia Major Ruby Wedding
OH THE JOYS OF LIVING IN THE OLD HOUSE IN THE SHIRES
The pets have been enjoying the garden this week. The weather has been varied but in no way as wet as last week!
Tiger has discovered the Nepeta (Cat Nip) and loves it almost as much as the bees. Dottie is just bonkers as ever!
Dottie loves to play with her towel that I lay on the patio for her to sunbathe on!
The garden has really grown after all the rain but of course with rain comes slugs and snails. I have tried beer traps, picking them off at dusk and putting down egg shells but they have still got to some of my vegetables which is frustrating! I wrote a post about dealing with slugs and snails organically here but fear I am failing somewhat!
Here are the vegetables.
With all the rain and wind of last week, my Lupins are looking a little flopsy but are still stunning in the cottage border.
At the weekend we added some annuals such as Cosmos in this border to fill in any gaps. I think I would like to add some more as I love their pop of colour in here.
At the weekend we were able to take a visit to Middlewick House in Corsham, Wiltshire. This beautiful house is owned by Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason and his family. It was once owned by Camilla, Duchess of Cambridge.
Nick opens his house for charity for a weekend in June and as we have never been, we thought we go and take a look! Hubbie came too but we left the children and Dottie at home this time.
As we arrived, we could not believe that there were so many people! We just couldn’t work it out until we walked up the drive to see this…
Nick had also decided to let the public see his car collection! What a very clever man! Beautiful gardens, a classic car collection, plants to buy, a BBQ and drinks. There were people with picnics, dogs and young children were running around and of course, everyone were very interested in the cars!
And now for the gardens….
Apart from the kitchen garden you could also roam around the rest of the garden.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon raising money for The Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
Lacock Abbey is a National Trust property that started life as a nunnery and was last lived in by the Talbot family. It is also the birthplace of photography. Many films have been filmed here including Harry Potter, The other Boleyn girl and Wolf Hall. We have visited the Abbey many times but haven’t really wandered around the gardens so that’s what we did on this visit. We did wander into the Cloisters as they are particularly beautiful and interesting.
The outside is absolutely stunning and you can see the history of the building in the different windows and architecture. As this is the place where William Henry Fox Talbot took the first ever photographic negative, there are lots of frames around the grounds for you to take photographs of you own. A fun idea for children I thought.
The gardens are laid out as parkland with rolling hills and fields. The house itself is surrounded by a Ha-Ha wall. We wandered into the Botanical Gardens and took some lovely photos here.
We walked through the orchard and sat for a while before visiting the new rose garden.
Lacock Abbey can be combined to a visit to the village of Lacock. The whole estate, including the village, were gifted to The National Trust in 1944. It is a ridiculously pretty and unspoilt village with no overhead power lines giving it a timeless quality. There are a couple of great pubs and places to buy ice-creams. It also has a delightful “Stall on the wall”, a place to buy home-made cakes, meringues and jams all made by a local resident.
OH THE JOYS OF LIVING IN THE OLD HOUSE IN THE SHIRES.