Tuesday, 9 November 2010

An autumn trip to Scampston

It's a three hour journey from Northumberland but recently I went down to see the walled garden at Scampston in Yorkshire - for the first time. Up til now I have been too busy working to be able to go but when my friend Jill suggested a trip, I jumped at the chance. Reminded how lovely it is at this time of the year by an article in Country Living, we set off, knowing that when we arrived we would also get a good cup of coffee - the restaurent has a reputation for its food. It didn't disappoint and there were files of press cuttings so we could read about the garden at the same time.

The recommended path around the garden takes you on a journey inside the walls but separated from the various compartments that it is divided into by a line of pleached trees. So we emerged at the far end to look into a garden of curving grasses. Having seen so many photographs of this, I had expected them to be taller and have more impact. We enjoyed the contrast though with the silent garden in the next enclosure, a large, sky-reflecting and serene pool, its surface glassy because it was a still day. The gardeners must have been in the middle of clipping the yew cylinders that are regularly planted in this green space because there were strange wooden structures that provided a template for the shapes. Hinged and made of curving wood they reminded me of whalebone corsets! Perhaps the gardeners were having a break, but the downed tools amplified the silence.

There is much to see at Scampston wihtin the high walls of the garden - cutting garden, vegetable garden, a delighful greenhouse that we could tantalisingly only look into from outside as it needs repair, long strips of perennial plantings backed by yew hedges, shrubby areas, undulating yew hedges and a viewing mound to see the patterns of it all. But the most anticipated was the Perennial Meadow and it was very lovely. From every angle there were different combinations of seedheads, grasses and exciting forms, and we ended up spending a long time just wandering around it taking in the planting details.

At one end of this stands a Katsura grove, a shimmering of autumn leaf colours from multi-stemmed Cercidophyllum trees and as the leaves die they give off a heady and evocative scent of burnt sugar. Its sensuality was enhanced by a great circle of grasses, the tall variety 'Transparent' waving over our heads. Lunch was simply delicious; I had a tremendous Ceasar salad, one of the best ever, beautifully put together and balanced. The long drive back over moor and dale was lit by evening sun so we didn't mind the travelling quite so much and it had been a good day.

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