Ten day traveling up the River Mekong

the-laos-mekongThis was part of a holiday we had recently in Laos. The first ten days were travelling up the Mekong River from Vientiane, the capital of Laos to Chian Saen and the “Golden Triangle” where Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos come together.17_12_04_7537We were travelling on the RV Laos Pandaw one of specially-designed luxury small ships for exploring remote and often hard-to-navigate rivers. Each ship, hand-crafted in brass and teak, is an object of beauty in itself. The ships are small scale, and the atmosphere is informal, and very friendly. On our trip there were a total of 15 guests although there could have been up to 20. See here for more information on Pandaw.

Vientiane, Laos’ national capital, mixes French-colonial architecture with Buddhist temples such as the golden, 16th-century Pha That Luang, which is a national symbol. Along broad boulevards and tree-lined streets are many notable shrines including Wat Si Saket, which features thousands of Buddha images, and Wat Si Muang, built atop a Hindu shrine.

The distance we traveled up the river was 900 kilometers. For much of the journey there is a panorama of mountains with the jungle coming down to the river.

Parts of the river  is wide and relatively slow whereas other parts have

rapids which need to be negotiated with some care.

The boat stops a couple of times each day for us to go ashore. 17_12_04_7532Typically this would be to a small Laotian village or to an ethnic village. There are 49 officially recognized ethnic minorities in Laos representing four
ethno-linguistic families: Tai-Kadai, Mon-Khmer, Hmong-Mien and TibetoBurman.
These in turn all have many branches and sub-groups. Many of these ethnic groups are very poor living barely at a subsistence level.

The Laotian village called Ban Muangnuea

were each house has an area growing greens etc. This village was the most prosperous one we visited.

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The next stop Ban Pak Lo a  Khamo tribal village

17_12_05_7597The children always come out to meet the boat whenever it stopped.

A very poor village. Their electricity is provided by the dynamo hung into the waterfall. Enough for a small light and to recharge a mobile phone.17_12_05_7598

The Mekong River is changing rapidly with Chinese  and Thai investments happening every where.

We passed through the Xayabori Hydroelectric Dam which is being constructed by the Thai government with 95% of the electricity going to Thailand.17_12_06_7642Ashore again to visit  the Khaung Si waterfalls and a butterfly garden.

We then arrived at Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos, lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Inhabited for thousands of years, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism. This is a beautiful town which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and the centre of the town is endowed with a legacy old ancient red-roofed temples and french-Indochinese architecture.

Each morning at dawn there is a alms giving ceremony called Tak Bat when processions of saffron robed monks carry baskets into which locals (and some tourists) place sticky rice. There are strict guidelines on how to behave if you join this ceremony and the Pandaw team ensured we did it correctly.

The night market was disappointing as most of the stuff on sale had clearly been mass produced, probably in China. However, as often is the case in south east asia the food market was great.

Baci Ceremony is specific ceremony in Laos which has been practiced for hundreds of years. The purpose of this Laotian ceremony is to to call escaped spirits back to the body, an animist tradition that is very important for Lao people before major events such as weddings, births, travel or when welcoming friends, to bring good luck. The ceremony involves the tying of white cotton strings around person’s wrists and the prayer saying or well wishing for the person that the ceremony is intended for. This ceremony was followed by Lao traditional dance.

The facilities on the RV Laos Pandaw are first class. From morning coffee to the cocktail hour and dinner the service was impossible to fault.

Local people collecting sand from the river for construction.

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The Pak Ou Caves, a Buddhist sanctuary and an elephant camp

Many of the villages we visited are very poor and we wanted to do our bit to help. Our excellent guide, called Bee, suggested that in a particular village they needed shoes for the children and blankets to keep warm at night. We made a collection and Bee and the Pandaw team sourced the shoes and blankets. The village was called Ban Pak Sith

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The next stop was in Pak Beng, one of those places that only exists because it is half way between the Golden Triangle and Luang Prabang. As such when we where there in the middle of the day it was more or less deserted. The village is full of hostels etc for boats to overnight when the place gets full of people. We needed to stop in order to do some formalities for our boat. However, the most interesting thing were the vegetable gardens (see photographs below) which provided produce for the many hostels and restaurants.

Another stop, this time a Lao Lum village.

Finally we arrived at Huay Xai and the “Golden Triangle”

17_12_11_7999And said our good byes to the crew of the boat with many great memories of the Mekong River.17_12_09_7862

Two Suffolk gardens

Recently we had a short holiday in Suffolk which enabled us to visit two gardens that we had not visited before. In some ways September is not an ideal time for visiting gardens as the summer season is largely over and winter gardens are not yet in their element. However the good news is that it does mean the gardens are not so crowded.

Anglesey Abbey Gardens

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Anglesey Abbey is a  Jacobean-style house with gardens and a working watermill. The original priory was build around 1100 by a community of Augustinian canons. The canons were expelled in 1535 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and in 1600 the priory was converted to a private house.  In 1926, Anglesey Abbey was bought by an American, Huttleston Broughton, later Lord Fairhaven, and his brother Henry. The 1st Lord Fairhaven fully restored the house which had fallen into disrepair and began to collect beautiful furniture, artworks and statuary.map

One of the great achievements of the 1st Lord Fairhaven was the establishment of the garden at the house. Wanting to inspire and surprise visitors, he created a spectacular garden (114 acres) with planting for all seasons and a cosy house in which to entertain. Life revolved around horse racing and shooting, and guests enjoyed 1930s luxury.

In 1964 Lanning Roper wrote a book entitled “The Gardens of Anglesey Abbey”, in which he described the careful planning of this remarkable garden with its many vistas, avenues, rare and common trees, pools, statues and river temples. 17_09_10_7045He describes the way in which huge areas of sky and mown grass were used to balance symmetrical planting and how Lord Fairhaven used the trees and shrubs to make groups of contrasting colour and foliage. Much of the original planting exists today.

In many ways the designs in the garden relate to the 18th century landscapes of avenues and rides dividing the landscape and these can be seen in the above schematic map.

17_09_10_7015One of the most popular features of the garden is the “winter garden” with textures and colours that are striking in the winter.17_09_10_701617_09_10_701917_09_10_701417_09_10_7018The “winter garden” lies along the serpentine path to the right of the map.17_09_10_7022We were lucky to get the cyclamens at their best, extensively planted under the trees.

The dahlia garden is an area devoted to dahlias. Regrettably there was only limited labeling of the plants. 17_09_10_7026The main herbaceous border consists of a  large semi circular lawn surrounded by borders. Not looking too bad this late in the season.17_09_10_7024A nice solution to naming with planting plans and names for each part of the border.17_09_10_7040A part of a large rose garden with many plants still flowering well.17_09_10_7042The avenues of trees were spectacular with suitable sculptures at key points.

In the inter war years many of England’s great country houses were in dire economic state, and were forced to sell some or all of their collections including sculpture. In Lord Fairhaven they found a rich and eager buyer and he amassed a large collection of garden sculpture.17_09_10_704317_09_10_7044The house and gardens are now maintained by the National Trust and more information and visiting times can be found here.

Helmingham Hall Gardens

HelminghamAt first glance Helmingham Hall looks like something out of a Disney movie. One of the most beautiful country estates in England, Helmingham Hall is the much-loved home of the Tollemache family for the past 800 years. 17_09_13_7073The moated hall can trace its origin back to 1480.
17_09_13_7074The 400 acres of parkland is home to venerable oak trees and herds of both Red and Fallow deer.map (1)One of the obvious interesting features is that there is a moat around the walled garden as well as the house. It is thought that the gardens are of Saxon origin designed to protect stock from marauders but over the centuries has developed into one of the finest gardens in England and is Grade 1 Listed.17_09_13_7092The classic parterre flanked by hybrid musk roses lies between the house and the kitchen garden. 17_09_13_7093

The kitchen garden now include many herbaceous borders with two significant borders that divide the kitchen garden into quadrants.

In addition there are other paths which cut across the kitchen gardens. Here they have used sunflowers, runner beans and gourds to line these paths.. 17_09_13_7087Adjacent to the walls within the kitchen garden are a number of trial beds with boards giving plant details. Also some fantastic yew buttresses between these beds.17_09_13_7079As well as the planting within the kitchen garden the wall is planted on the outside with flower borders and fruit trees.17_09_13_7090And inside some step over apples with far too many apples!17_09_13_7096The kitchen garden across the moat which surrounds it.17_09_13_7094A classic view across open parkland with trees that have been “pruned” by animals eating the lower branches to a common height.17_09_13_7099On the other side of the house is a knot garden.17_09_13_7102Looking back to the house from the knot garden. More information on Helmingham Hall Gardens

Glebe House Garden

A combination of holidays, weddings, producing a charity event and rain have resulted in little activity in the garden. There is much to do so I hope the rest of September developed into an Indian Summer. I cannot believe that the end of this week is time for another EoMV.

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning September 16th Total 2017 to-date Average per week
4 777 20

 

Spetchley Park Gardens

When you have had an interest in gardens all your life it comes as a surprise when you discover a little gem of a garden that you did not know. This happened on a trip arranged by the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust to Spetchley Park Gardens near Worcester.

Spetchley is a beautiful historic garden, surrounded by ancient parkland, deer park and lakes and is set in the wonderful Worcestershire countryside with far reaching views to the Malvern Hills.17_07_13_6716

A short history taken from displays in the information centre.

The Spetchley Estate was purchased in1606 by Rowland Berkeley, a wealthy wool merchant and banker, and has been in the family ever since.

In 1625 his son, Robert Berkeley, was granted a licence to impark (to enclose) by Charles I creating the Deer Park that we see today and carrying out an extensive campaign of planting and enclosure. Robert was a chief justice and was knighted by the King. By a sad accident his house was burnt down in 1651 by Scottish Covenanters staying there who also supported the King. Sir Robert lost a great deal of money through supporting the Monarchy and rather than rebuilding the house, converted the outbuildings which became the family home for the next 170 years.

However with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Robert (grandson of Sir Robert to whom he left the estate) may have received compensation, and from 1673 when he became of age he embarked on a new campaign of tree planting advised by his friend the famous diarist and silviculturist John Evelyn

When another Robert Berkeley (1764-1845) inherited the estate in 1804 he embarked on the next major phase of alterations at Spetchley. 17_07_13_6717The new house, designed by John Tasker, was begun in 1811 with gardens and parks in the ‘romantic’ style of the time creating long vistas over the lake and sweeping lawns grazed by deer.17_07_13_6718

J. P. Neale 1822, in his book Views of Seats of noblemen and gentlemen, in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, wrote “The extensive grounds of this ancient place were crowded with timber, walls, and fences; judgement, skill, and taste, were absolutely necessary to give the whole a new appearance; and in this the present owner has succeeded with admirable effect… the eye now glides over the undulating green…”

17_07_13_6729The grounds were enlarged and improved for a third time from about 1897 by the celebrated gardener Ellen Willmott and her sister Rose. Robert Valentine Berkeley married Rose in 1891 and, together with her sister, she transformed the planting in the gardens with long borders densely packed with plants.

In 1925 Spetchley became one of the first gardens in the country to open its gates to visitors under the National Garden Scheme.

The garden

The gardens are having another improvement with the Spetchley Revival Project, a long term project designed to invest in securing the gardens for future generations to enjoy. Much of this has already happened.

Of particular interest is the complete dredging of the lake (garden pool on the map) which resulted in huge quantities of silt being removed, the banks reinforced and the puddling maintained. The lake is centre stage for many of the views from the grounds.17_07_13_6741

We had a guided tour around the garden with the head gardener. I think to get the most from this garden such a tour is essential as much of the interest is in the history. There are many trees of interest in the gardens that were planted by the family over the last 350 years with new specimen trees still being planted.17_07_13_6724This is a cork oak, Quercus suber, the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers and other uses, such as cork flooring and as the cores of cricket balls and an unusual tree in England.

Spetchley was earmarked as the headquarters for Churchill and his war cabinet during WWII however he decided to stay in London and so it became a recuperation home for the 9th USAAF.  On Churchill’s death 12 acorns that he had collected from his favourite oak at Blenheim were distributed to places that had a connection with Churchill. One came to Spetchley and the oak is growing on the Long Walk opposite the Cedar.

17_07_13_6722The bridge over the canal from the garden pool with the new rose garden in the background.

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The rose garden

Ellen Willmott, the renowned horticulturalist and plants woman, was instrumental in helping her sister, Rose Berkeley, design and plant the garden and so, heavily influencing the existing planting structures. She was the first lady recipient of the RHS’s Victorian Medal of Honour. This is the Miss Willmot of Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s ghost’

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‘Miss Willmott’sghost’ in Glebe House Garden

It is said she would always have some seed in her pocket so that when she visited other gardens she could scatter some in their borders , hence Miss Willmott’s ghost!

Ellen Willmott was also instrumental in the creation of the large herbaceous borders.17_07_13_672817_07_13_6708

Every garden needs at least one,17_07_13_6712and at Spetchley there is a very fine example, with room for two, located in a old brick built building in the garden.

Sculpture has been introduced into the garden creating many interesting focal points.

17_07_13_6732A corner of the walled garden now devoted to flowers.

Old melon and grape houses.

17_07_13_6737Some exotic planting in the melon yard.

Edward Elgar was a friend of the family, often staying and enjoying some fishing in the garden lake. He was so inspired by the garden that he penned part of his masterpiece, the Dream of Gerontius, whilst staying here.

17_07_13_6743No important house in England would be without a chapel and Spetchley is no exception with some very fine memorials to the Berkeley family in the nave.

Some areas have been redesigned in recent years. Of particular interest here is the creation of a covered walk way using Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’. This is probably unique and according to the head gardener is quite a challenge to keep looking good.

When to visit

The displays of spring bulbs in April and May, including drifts of Narcissi ‘Spetchley’, are some of the best in England and are complemented by a springtime shrub garden containing rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias and azaleas and include one of the largest private collections of peonies in the Country. I shall certainly revisit the gardens at this time.

In June there is a large selection of roses, whilst July, August and September reveal the great herbaceous borders in all their glory.

Do not expect manicured borders but do expect much variety in the planting.

Glebe House Garden

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 29th Total 2017 to-date Average per week
27 636 21

Tresco Island a paradise of Wild Flowers, Beaches and walks.

28_06_16_2806So many of you were interested in Tresco Abbey garden I have decided to show a bit more of the island.

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Borough Beach

Tresco is unique  in that its habitat ranges from a windswept northern plateau with waved heath to sheltered bulb fields, wetland and lakes, to beautiful beaches backed by a sand dune system on the south coast.

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Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly

There are three Sites of Special Scientific Interest. They are the Castle Down , Great Pool  and Pentle Bay. Castle Down is a SSSI for its waved maritime heath, its lichen flora, a breeding colony of Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) and for its geology. Great Pool is a SSSI because it is the largest area of fresh water in the islands and important for its breeding birds, and as a sheltering and feeding area for migrants.

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Pentle Bay

Pentle Bay is designated for the transition from a flora–rich sand dune system to lichen–rich heath.wild flowersThe varied landscape means that there is a huge range of wild flowers everywhere on the island.wild flowers (5)It is more or less possible to walk all over the island and the wild flowers are one of the attractions of these walks.wild flowerIn places bracken has grown but this is often cut back to enable the wild flowers and wildlife to flourish.

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Pentle Bay

Many of the paths are either sand or grass which further gives opportunities for wild flowers.agapanthus 9In many paces Agapanthus and Yarrow have colonised the sand dunes creating natural prairie like planting.

2017 wild flower tally

This year I decided to take photographs of the wild flowers as we identified them. Some of them you will recognise as garden flowers. These will be garden escapes but as they then go on to grow naturally they all add to the flower paradise.

Hover over the picture for the identification of the flowers or click on any one to display a full size image on a carousel.

And there were lots more that I could not identify!

Thanks also to Fiona and Chris Smith who helped me identify some of the flowers.

Cottage gardens

17_07_03_6499As well as the wild flowers many of the cottages have fantastic gardens.IMG_1554Some impressive flowers for any front garden.IMG_1533What a garden wall should look like!

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Cromwell’s castle

There are many archaeological remains on the island which include neolithic burial mounds as well as recent history.

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Block House Beach

But the beaches are a main attraction even though I would consider the beach to be crowded with more than two people on it!

Glebe House Garden

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning May 27th Total 2017 to-date Average per week
16 587 20

Tresco Abbey Garden

For the last two weeks we have been away a staying on Tresco, one of the islands that make up the Isles of Scilly.

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Tresco Island, Isles of Scilly

The above photograph shows what a beautiful island Tresco is. The garden this blog describes is located just between the first pool and the left hand side of the island. The Isles of Scilly are 28 miles south west of the British mainland

and benefits  from a temperate climate which enables many subtropical plants to survive there.

A brief history of Tresco Abbey Garden

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Augustus Smith (1804 – 1872)

In 1834 Augustus Smith leased all the Isles of Scilly. He set himself four goals: good education for children, to stamp out smuggling, to stop the practice of dividing family holdings and to ensure improvement of the land and buildings stock by islanders themselves.

He also started the Tresco Abbey Garden which were based around the ruined St Nicholas Abbey. He built walls and planted shelter belts, established a close connection with Kew and, because of the location of Tresco, many Scillonian mariners returned with seeds, plants and cutting from around the world.

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Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith(1846 – 1918)

In 1872 Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith, nephew of Augustus inherited the lease. He continued to support the economy of the islands and started the daffodil flower industry. Tresco Abbey Gardens went from strength to strength. The plants Augustus planted were reaching maturity and were flowering. Thomas identified the Monterey pine and Monterey cypress as successful in shelter belts and went on to plant thousands of trees. With links to the Truro Flower Show he effectively introduced many tender species to Cornish gardens.

“He devoted his life unselfishly to these islands and added greatly to their prosperity and beauty”

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Major Arthur Dorrien-Smith(1876 – 1955)

In 1918 Major Arthur Dorrien-Smith inherited the lease from his father. He was already a gardener and horticulturist and in 1903 set up the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. He went on many plant hunting expeditions in New Zealand and on one expedition brought back 2000 plants to be divided between Kew, Edinburgh and Tresco. In 1922 financial constraints forced him to hand back control of the other Scilly islands to the Duchy of Cornwall

However, he continued to develop Tresco abbey gardens. In 1935 there were 3500 cultivated plants on Tresco and he continued to order new varieties from around the world. In 1950 the gardens were opened to the paying public. He was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the RHS

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Lieutenant Commander Thomas Mervyn Dorrien-Smith

In 1955 Lieutenant Commander Thomas Mervyn Dorrien-Smith inherited the lease from his father. He was not a plants-man but soon established a management role. He made the transition from a purely agricultural community to one that also embraced tourism. He converted some of the island cottages for holiday lets and built the Island Hotel (now closed). He continued to introduce new varieties of plants to Tresco and in 1960 exhibited the full range of Tresco’s treasures at Chelsea Flower Show.

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Prince Charles and Robert Dorrien-Smith(1951 -)

In 1973 Robert Dorrien-Smith inherited the lease  from his father and in 1983 introduced a heliport on Tresco.

The garden was then hit by natural disasters:
In 1987 a very rare snow storm caused extensive damage to many of the plants and in 1990 a hurricane brought down many of the trees including ones in the shelter belts. Robert has since replanted 60,000 trees and restored plantings in the garden. He also introduced  various sculptures to the garden and created the “Mediterranean Garden”

Tresco Abbey Garden today

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St Nicholas Priory, the ruins of 12th century Benedictine abbey

St Nicholas Priory was founded in the early 12th century by Benedictine monks and it was where the first plants of the Abbey Garden were planted in the mid-nineteenth century.17_07_05_6595The garden is terraced against a sheltered south facing slope. This is the middle terrace. Each terrace effectively has its own micro climate getting drier as you go up enabling different ranges of plants at each level.IMG_1623Do not expect formal planting schemes or manicured borders. The garden is really about the plants.

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South African Watsonias

Watsonias flower in drifts through the gardens in the summer.

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King Protea

The King Protea is the national flower of South Africa and one of the most striking blooms on Tresco! No other garden in Britain can boast such a variety of beautiful South African Proteas on display.IMG_1588In the lower parts of the gardens tree ferns from New Zealand and Australia flourish.

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Norfolk Island Pine

This is one of the most iconic trees in the garden with its regular foliage. I often think it was planted upside down as the branches seem to hang upwards!Picture25‘Gia’ by sculptor David Wynne and made from a block of multi-coloured South African marble.

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Canary Island palms

The Canary Island palms on the Middle Terrace are the tallest in the British Isles. These steps are called Neptune Steps and they dissect the garden from top to bottom.Picture22Higher up the Neptune Steps.Tresco_20080703_2317The “Mediterranean Garden” with a water feature, based on an Agave, which was created by Cornish artist Tom Leaper in 1996. This is probably the most ‘designed’ part of the garden.

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The pincusion plant from South Africa, Leucospermum cordifolium

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A native of the Andes, Puya chiensis

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Furcraea longeava in flower

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Aloe arborescens

Each New Year on Tresco the gardeners have count the number of plants in flower. This year saw more species of plants than ever before in bloom – an astounding 289.

I have only touched he surface of this unique garden. The only way to really understand the garden is to spend a few days on the island. There are many places to stay owned by the Tresco Estate. 17_07_05_6593

Source of history:
‘Tresco Abbey Garden A Personal and Pictorial History’ by Mike Nelhams

Glebe House Garden

2017 Gardening Hours
Week beginning July 1st Total 2017 to-date Average per week
0 558 21

‘Digital Detox’ on The Isle of Carna Scotland.

For the last week I have been away from the garden having a ‘Digital Detox’ on The Isle of Carna with Diane and four other friends. carna-wholeCarna is a small island lying in Loch Sunart, nestled between the Ardnamurchan and Morvern peninsulas on the West Coast of Scotland. Although now a place known for its peace and seclusion the island is packed with history stretching back to being formed up to a billion years ago! The island is a 600 acre mosaic of wildlife rich habitats including traditional wildflower meadows, Birchwood, Pinewood and internationally important Atlantic Oakwoods, heather moorland, peatland, hill grazing, many burns and some bogs. All of which is open to explore.

Here is a map of Carna and here is a link to the Isle of Carna website.

17_05_05_5629There are only three houses on the island, two of which are available to rent, located on the gentle and sheltered eastern side. The above cottage is the one we stayed in and with no electricity, no land lines and no mobile signals you are totally disconnected from the rest of the world; a complete digital detox! 17_05_01_5411The cottage does have bottled gas providing lights downstairs and cooking, open fires for heating and candles in the bedrooms.17_05_05_5599 With no roads on Carna and just an old tractor to help move luggage and supplies, there are no traffic worries, and the sounds of the shore, the sea breeze and the abundant wildlife is all that we had to contend with.17_05_03_5492 The view from the cottage across Loch Sunart to part of the Scottish mainland that has no roads and is virtually empty of human inhabitants.17_05_05_5597Everywhere we looked the colours are stunning.17_05_02_5641The loch is tidal enabling many walks along the shoreline and an ever changing landscape as the water rises and falls.17_05_01_5426At low tides the seaweed provides an extra colour dimension to the scene.

We scaled the 170m (550ft) summit of Cruachan Chàrna, the hill behind our cottage, for stunning views over the loch and open Atlantic Ocean.17_05_03_5488The cottage as seen on the walk down Cruachan Chàrna.17_04_30_5397There are many different habitats on the island that can be explores via a network of tracks and trails most of which are rarely visited by human footsteps.

Bird list

We kept a list of all the birds we saw and identified. It was great seeing the Golden Eagles in their natural habitat and the sound of the Cuckoo, no longer heard in Leicestershire, could be heard all day.

Rock Pipet Wheatear Dunnock
Sea Eagle House Martin Sparrowhawk
Herring Gull Thrush Siskin
Common Gull Robin Great Tit
Meadow Pipet Shag Chaffinch
Cuckoo Canada Goose Twite
Greylag Goose Merganser Greenshank
Raven Common Sandpiper Wren
Heron Golden Eagle Swallow
Oystercatcher Stonechat Buzzard
Willow Warbler Reed Bunting
Pied Wagtail Great Black-backed Gull

Wild flowers

The start of May is probably a little early for the majority of wild flowers. The following photos are some of the more interesting we identified.

Otters and seals

Provided with the cottage is a boat with an outboard motor which can be used to explore the island and surrounding lochs.

Common Seals rested on many of the rocks around Carna. Otters are much harder to see as they tend to be much shyer. Using binoculars it was often possible to see them feeding and playing across the water from the cottage. To photograph them well required either luck or a very long telephoto lenses neither of which we had. However, the following photographs  capture the otters although the quality is poor.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at The Isle of Carna.17_05_02_5643

In a vase on Monday – Mumbai II

 

dsc01592Just returned from India and stayed a couple of nights at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. As is typical of hotels in Asia the floral displays in their reception are outstanding and this was no exception.dsc01593Actually it should be vases on Monday!dsc01591

With my thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme.  Do visit her to see masses of other vases to fill you with joy on Monday.dsc01590

In a vase on Monday – Mumbai

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Just returned form India and stayed a couple of nights at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. As is typical of hotels in Asia the floral displays in their reception are outstanding and this was no exception.

With my thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme.  Do visit her to see masses of other vases to fill you with joy on Monday.

Neeleshwar Hermitage Garden

17_02_07_4838For the last three weeks we have been away from Glebe House staying in the Neeleshwar Hermitage Hotel in Kerala, South India. Neeleshwar Hermitage is hybrid of a boutique hotel and an Ayurvedic wellness centre. Its 18 palm roofed villas are scattered across the garden, their porches cooled by spinning ceiling fans, and at the rear of each is a large outdoor bathroom with a tub set in a small walled garden. At the seafood restaurant, tables spill out into the beach.17_02_06_4823 I often think that a the percentage of guests who have stayed before is a good measure of how good a hotel is. This was our third visit and I would estimate that 50%of the guests had been before. This is despite the fact that it is not an easy hotel to get to. We flow from London Heathrow to Mumbai, then from Mumbai to Mangaluru and finally a two and a half hour car ride!17_02_10_4901We first stayed about six years ago when the Hermitage was relatively new. Since then the gardens surrounding the villas has grown significantly and are still being developed.17_02_10_4886Being next to the beach the soil is very sandy and unless watered plants soon dry out. At this time of year the temperature is typically 33c with no rainfall.17_02_10_4904The gardener explained that they plan to clear this area of dried up plants and plant the area with pineapple plants which would then provide fruit for the restaurant. Needless to say in this temperature I did not volunteer to help him.17_02_09_4870The garden is kept alive watering and the cattle egrets love it as the water brings the insects out.17_02_10_4903Around the garden  there are a number of small pools which as well as providing attractive features bring more wildlife to the garden.17_02_07_484117_02_10_488917_02_12_4921This part of the Kerala coast is very underdeveloped and the wildlife is stunning.17_02_12_491717_02_09_4859

The garden is by its location a tropical garden and the following is a selection of plants flowering when we were there.

The other feature worth mentioning is the swimming pool.17_02_15_4952The pool has become part of the garden as well as providing a fantastic amenity for guests.17_02_15_4954At 7 o’clock in the morning the air temperature was around 26c and the water was perfect for a swim looking out over the infinity edge to the beach.

We have now had 13 holidays in India and have traveled over much of the sub-continent. This trip was purly for winter sun and relaxation and the Neeleshwar Hermitage delivered 100%.

Glebe House Garden

No work on the garden for the last few weeks. We arrived home late last night. However, I was very pleased to see a bed full of snowdrops this morning.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
0 550 16

A trip up the River Chindwin, Myanmar

the-chindwin-7-nightsAt the end of last year we had a long holiday travelling in Myanmar and Thailand. Part of this trip involved travelling by boat up the Chindwin River from Monywa to Homalin which is very close to the Indian border. In order to get as far as Homalin you need to travel during or just after the rainy season. We went in November and by December the water level would have dropped too far for the boat to get up the river. The boat takes you to places that are very remote and away from the normal tourist trail.

With little change in Glebe House Garden this week I thought I would share with you some images from the trip.

Buddha images are everywhere in Myanmar. These ones are in the Moe Hnyin Than Boaddhai Temple which has over five thousand Buddha statues. In fact the walls are lined with little images.

Nearby are the longest (over 100m) reclining and the tallest (125m) standing Buddha in Myanmar.16_11_20_3732The Chindwin River and the boats we traveled on. On this particular trip there were two boats, the nearer one with 8 guests and the further one with 16 guests. The river floods every rainy season (April to October) but even in November the water level had dropped significantly as you can see along the banks.

We were travelling in very rural areas of Myanmar and almost all the women used Thanaka cream. The cream is made from the bark of Thanaka trees which are often being sold in the markets. The bark is then ground into a paste and applied. It has a fragrant scent somewhat similar to sandalwood. The creamy paste is applied to the face in attractive designs, the most common form being a circular patch on each cheek, nose, sometimes made stripey with the fingers known as thanaka bè gya, or patterned in the shape of a leaf, often also highlighting the bridge of the nose with it at the same time. Apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also gives a cooling sensation and provides protection from sunburn. It is believed to help remove acne and promote smooth skin.

Many of the villages we visited had their own markets. For me the markets always provide a huge interest as you can see the range and quality of the vegetables and fruit that is being sold. Visiting at the end of that rainy season the range of produce was very different from when we were last here during February.

The river is very important to the local people and provides the main transport for moving produce and people and for everyday living.

The rainy season flood provides new river banks each year that are immediately planted up with crops by the farmers. The crop is often Pigeon peas, both a food crop (dried peas, flour, or green vegetable peas) and a forage/cover crop. In combination with cereals, Pigeon peas make a well-balanced human food. 16_11_25_3981Each village has its own school which we would visit. The schools are often basic but it appears that all the children attend school and many have extra tuition after school hours.16_11_22_3866As tourists were not often visiting we quickly became the centre of attraction whenever we went ashore. 16_11_23_3889Travelling along the river you could never forget you were in Myanmar with temples and stupas along the banks and on the hills.  16_11_26_402416_11_26_4022The markets sold everything for living. Many of the tools were clearly locally made and who would not want a watering can like these!16_11_24_3921I would recommend this trip to anyone who wants to see a bit more of Myanmar than the classic tourist route. The company who run the boats are Pandaw.

Glebe House Garden

The weather this week has not been good for gardening. There is still plenty of tiding to do ready for spring which hopefully will start appearing soon.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
8 530 17