Too often Surrey is associated with boring commuter towns, traffic and suburban sprawl. But there are other parts of the county which are beautiful. Some of the lanes through the North Downs are more like Devon roads with their overhanging branches and deep cuttings. One long and winding lane led onto the road to Ockley where we found the Inn on the Green and a nice lunch – together with views over the green to some interesting cottages. Most properties in the Hills would probably need a banker’s or a footballer’s income but there’s no charge for visitors – yet.
One of the many delights of the Bowes Museum is its collection of art. I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember the artist who painted this but it’s just one of a really wide-ranging collection. (See also the detail from one of the Canalettos, below.) Well worth the trip to Barnard Castle along some (alternately) sun and rain drenched back roads. We were just too late to see the mechanical Swan in action but never mind – there’s plenty of interest here, not least the story of the amazing couple who built and filled this French style chateau in Yorkshire.
John Harrison makes the big time! A cleverly curated exhibition at the National Maritime Museum has Harrison and his clocks centre stage – where they should be. Once again, the coming together of science and aesthetics takes your breath away when you see them, especially H1, his first, which made its watery debut on the River Humber just down the lane from here. The rest of the exhibition is good too: well thought out and innovative where it needs to be, as some of the concepts and the arguments need resenting carefully if they are to be conveyed meaningfully. Next day, off to Kew Gardens!
Difficult to choose pictures which represent such a varied trip. The west coast of Ireland is full of stunning scenery and this area, Dog’s Bay, is just one example. We were staying nearby, north of Clifden at a beach campsite in Renvyle. Not far from there is the tourist attraction (we counted 22 coaches as we left) of Kylemore Abbey. The building is striking but the main attraction for us was the garden. If you’re going to have a formal walled garden, this is how to do it!
Further north we stayed on Achill Island and called at the Stone Age site Ceildhe Fields: not so much of a tourist hub but well worth a visit. Then inland for a while, to Boyle and Carrick-on-Shannon (memorable alone for Lena’s café) before heading back up to Donegal and one of my favourite views of all. Portnoo. You can just see our friends’ house if you look carefully…
The view from the front steps as you take your morning sup of tea outside… And below, one of the most charming gardens we’ve seen. It’s called the Herbarium and it is in the old part of the town of St Valery sur Somme. It’s approached along old stone walled lanes which have flowers growing between the walls and the roadway: rightly called les Rues Fleuries. The walled garden was once managed by the nuns from the local convent and has been beautifully restored.
This is the entrance to Lea Gardens, near Matlock in Derbyshire. But first you have to get past the café and its display of cakes, which must be one of the best for miles. This gem of a garden was created out of a quarry by the local mill owner many years ago and was inspired by Bodnant in North Wales. This was the right time of year to be there as the azaleas and rhododendrons were in full spate. The winding paths lead you in unexpected directions but there are beautiful views whichever way you go. This was on the way home from Carsington Water, another lovely spot for a relaxing weekend.