One of my readers recently asked me who I write my blog for. They went on to observe that I don’t have a particular writing style, with some posts being quite whimsical and florid whilst others are straightforward and more simplistic (maybe that’s polite speak for boring). Could that be, they suggested, because I don’t have a specific audience in mind when I put fingers to keys? I would say all of that is fair comment.
My style of expression will vary depending on the subject of each post and probably my mood at the time of writing. Inspired or moved by a beautiful landscape or naturistic tableau, I may wax lyrical or I may write very little, letting images speak for themselves. Reflecting nostalgically on then and now, aided and abetted by a glass or two of red wine, I may gush excessively or lament.
A summary review of a recently visited place of interest, offering information, suggestions and my opinion to other would-be visitors, will be in a format and style which is different again.
So, who do I write for? In one sense, for myself. I write something that I would enjoy reading or would find useful. And I write for whoever else wants to read. I may never know those readers or what they think. Only other WordPress members can ‘like’ and comment (without having to submit their email address). Most of my followers, and readers generally, seem not to be WordPressers. If one person reads my blog and enjoys it, that is who I have written it for. They are my target audience.
Because I write here primarily for my own pleasure, I don’t tend to check stats very often. It’s a tiny blog and I’m not interested in tailoring my content to attract legions of followers, ha ha. Of course, I value and appreciate everybody who takes the time to read my humble scribblings, but I’m not doing this for fame or fortune. The chance would be a fine thing! When I do look at the stats, I am quietly delighted to see that a stranger, having looked at one of my posts, has enjoyed it enough to read on.
I write for that person and for anybody and everybody who is interested in reading my words, regularly or just the once. Everybody is very welcome and I’m thankful that each has taken the time.
One thing I haven’t done, up to now, is write for the sake of it, hence my reduced presence over the last couple of years when I have been out-and-about less and haven’t had as much to share.
I suppose this post could be said to be an exception of sorts, arising from one reader’s thought-provoking comments.
Our reasons for writing are as varied as we are as writers. If having read this you feel inclined to share your own story, I will be sure to read it.
Earlier in the summer I made a long overdue visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s most recently established garden site at Worsley, Greater Manchester. RHS Bridgewater opened in July 2021, delayed by the pandemic. Admission has from the start been through online booking only and, unsurprisingly, the weeks and months after the grand opening were very busy. With the colder months not being the best time to see the gardens at their finest, I decided to wait until this summer.
Bridgewater is the fifth of the RHS’ ‘gardens. It was developed on the site of Worsley New Hall, a Victorian manor house built in the 1840s for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere and demolished only a hundred years later. The magnificent formal gardens were landscaped over a 50-year period by William Andrews Nesfield, one of the most sought-after landscape designers of the period. The154 acre site included gravel pathways, formal gardens, fountains, croquet lawn and tennis court, formal gardens, an impressive 11-acres of walled kitchen gardens and a woodland; all of these elements have been included within the new project, some restored as faithfully as possible and others reimagined for the modern era.
Worsley New Hall became a British Red Cross hospital during the First World War, after which time both the hall and the gardens fell into decline. In the Second World War parts of the hall were requisitioned for military use, the gardens used as training grounds by the Lancashire Fusiliers.
During the early 20th century the hall fell further into disrepair until in 1943, this once-grand building was finally demolished by a scrap merchant, who had bought it for just £2,500. In subsequent years parts of the grounds were used as a garden centre amongst other things. It seems incredible that a property costing over £6,000,000 to build in today’s money should endure for such a very short time.
Admission is through the welcome centre, a spacious, elegant but simple ‘Scandi’-style building, including a shop, cafe and small garden centre which offers some of the more prolific plants in use in the gardens; helpful signage reminds customers of where they will have seen each plant, useful for anybody who might wish to recreate a similar garden at home.
The day of our visit was dull and started with light rain which, thankfully, cleared up by midday. It being August, some of the spring and early summer flowers had already ‘gone over’ and a few areas looked a little bare. We were surprised that some plants which will flower into autumn if regularly ‘dead-headed’ seemed to have been left to go to seed. On a site of such proportions, attention to detail will obviously be very time-consuming, yet it seemed a shame that a potentially longer flowering season might be lost.
Designed by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith, the Worlsey Welcome Garden includes some interesting structural elements, both flowering and edible, including apple trees and artichokes. Apparently, this garden ‘resembles an abstract mosaic and gives the impression of a giraffe’s markings or mathematical Voronoi diagram when viewed from above’, though I’m not sure who would be viewing from that angle except possibly via Google-Earth or a hot air balloon. I enjoyed this area, cleverly structured and informally unruly at the same time. I think it would have looked even better earlier in the summer.
We stopped off for cake and a cup of tea at the cafe/restaurant converted from the former stables. Service and food were excellent and the courtyard cafe a relaxing spot to peruse the site map and plan our next destination.
Even under a cloudy grey sky, the paradise garden looked beautiful. Also designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, the Bridgewater version differs from the classic Islamic paradise garden design in that the water feature – in this case, the lily pool – is surrounded by three distinct planting zones, not the traditional four. Planting within the three zones is from different parts of the globe – another variation on the classic style- to achieve a more multi-cultural feel. This was our favourite spot and we spent a couple of hours in total, just relaxing. Taking photos was a challenge, hence the limited selection here; the place was very busy, especially later ion the day.
RHS Bridgewater is a centre for horticultural learning and is undertaking trials involving various species of hydrangeas planted out in the old frame yard area.
Winding paths lead to one of the most beautiful areas of the site, the Chinese streamside garden which is on several levels though fully accessible (as is the entire site). The weather had become close by this time and the water fall and pool looked deliciously inviting.
The site includes acres of woodland and paths for further exploration and I was pleasantly surprised to find that far from this just being a show garden, it was a place where one could easily spend the whole day. For the first year of opening, locals were allowed free admission on Tuesdays, by way of a thank you for the disruption created during the site development. Lucky them!
Ellesmere lake is at the furthest end of the gardens developed to date and borders on the wooded areas where a lot of trekkers were headed. As we were there for a chill out rather than a work out, we retreated to follow another pathway through the wildest part of the site, the meadowlands.
For non RHS members, admission is £12, no doubt to encourage membership of this charitable organisation, thereby supporting its work. It’s not cheap but well worth an occasional visit to see the site at different times of the year. There is much more to see than is included in this short blog and hopefully there will be more to come as further development is planned. I’m looking forward to going back in spring, hopefully to enjoy an entirely new scenery.
The castle overlooking the Dee estuary at Flint was one of the first to be built by the English in Wales. Building started in 1277, during the campaign of English King Edward I against Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last of the great Welsh leaders. Work was completed in 1284. Flint was one of the north Wales ‘iron ring’ of fortresses built by the English to conquer the Welsh. The castle included an unusual design feature, a solitary round ‘Donjon’ tower which stood apart from the rest of the inner ward but still within the outer wall, which is exceptionally thick.
Though only ruins remain, it is possible to get a sense of how substantial and dominating the structure would have appeared as it rose above the Dee estuary, pronouncing the might and supremacy of the English king.
Following directions from the little town of Holywell we pulled up on a very nondescript street with the castle ruins on one side and two council tower blocks and a few houses on the other. A little further ahead was an industrial estate; an interesting juxtaposition. I wondered what the King would have made of it all and hoped that the residents enjoyed and made the most of living in such a scenic beach location that only the very wealthy would be able to afford in many other parts of the UK.
Walking across what was obviously formerly the moat and then up the mound, we encountered another royal personage and a seriously big dog; just as well they were made of metal and both perfectly harmless. I rather liked this art work, depicting King Richard II, Edward I’s great, great grandson, and Mathe, his traitorous hound.
In 1399, Flint Castle was the site of the showdown between the King and Henry Bolinbroke, a contender for the throne, who went on to become King Henry IV. It is reported that the dog, Mathe, abandoned Richard and allied himself with Bolinbroke. Richard interpreted this apparent act of canine treachery as a sign that his reign was at an end, the dog choosing loyalty to crown, not master. Richard conceded defeat and was captured.
Shakespeare immortalised the scene in his play, Richard II:
‘What you will have, I’ll give, and willing too; For do we must what force will have us do
The greyhound maketh you cheer this day as king of England, as ye shall be; and I shall be deposed. The greyhound possesses this knowledge naturally’
There were a few other visitors like us, milling about with cameras and discussing the brick work and the scenery. A couple of benches had been positioned to provide a view over the beach and the estuary. A group of young people climbed the spiral metal staircase within what I assume to be the ‘Donjon’ tower, seeking to be kings of the castle for a few moments. I would have liked the view but not the climb. Several other groups – mainly families with children, picnics, balls and frisbees – cut through the structure to access the freedom of the beach.
Standing the test of time
Who would have thought that a wall could be so beautiful? Diverse in size and shape, colour and texture, some smooth and others eroded to honeycomb, the ancient stones appear as if placed haphazardly in the dense mortar bed. But this was a fortress, built to last, and not in the least haphazard in its design. I wonder if those tower blocks across the road will be there in 800 years’ time.