If there’s anything in life that gives me a kick, it’s a rhododendron! Find me a quarry full of rhododendrons and perhaps you can imagine the effect. So I was very happy to make a return visit to Belsay Hall in Northumberland, a week or two ago.
Managed by English Heritage, the Belsay estate dates back to 1270, when it was first bought by the Middleton family. Heritage on the grand scale, it comprises a medieval castle and a Greek Revival mansion from the 19th century, linked by some truly wonderful gardens.
As you can see, it’s not only rhododendrons vying for first place in this beauty contest. Bypassing the more than stately hall, I cannot wait to feast my eyes. Frilled tulips and those with plainer frocks, delicate iris, and a shy magnolia are just some of the blooms that greet me. The grounds are the very essence of grandeur. There’s even a croquet lawn, for that most refined of pastimes.
Tree heather lures me on and I find myself shoulder to shoulder with these beauties. Don’t they just sing with colour?
Even looking at them in photographs, I am mesmerised. But this is only a beginning. Next, the quarry, with its magical patterns of light and shade.
The colours are rich and mellow, and the quarry towers above you. It’s like a fairy glen, scaled up for a friendly giant.
Are you speechless yet? I don’t know where I’ve ever seen a better display. The castle is close by, approached through a bluebell wood.
In this serene and pastoral setting it’s hard to credit that a family would need a castle for protection. When it was constructed, in the 14th century, conflict and border disputes were commonplace between England and Scotland. The castle has one of the best preserved examples of a pele tower- built by rich families in this area in the Middle Ages for self defence.
From past experience, castles make a good subject for Paulas’s After and Before in Black and White Sunday. What do you think?
The Middleton family lived in the castle, with modifications, until the completion of their mansion, at Christmas, 1817. Inspired by a honeymoon in Greece, Belsay Hall was built with rock carved from their own quarry. Let’s stroll back round there now, past the lake and the grazing sheep. I try to get a close up of a cluster of cygnets, but they’re too far away to be more than a splash.
There was an exhibition of quilts taking place inside the hall, but I’ll save that for another day. Let’s adjourn to the tea rooms.
Directions on getting to Belsay are on their website. I hope you enjoyed our visit. Many thanks for your support and the wonderful contributions I have received again this week. Details of how to join in are always on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Let’s settle in for a good read:
Almost missed Eunice last week, so she’s starting us off today :
Can there be anywhere lovelier for a dawdle? Thanks, Drake!
Budapest has a lot to recommend it too, as Anabel can show you :
Jackie gets up to some strange things, doesn’t she?
Geoff, Dog and a lighthouse- I’m happy!
Ann Christine takes us back to terrible times in Irish history, but with a happy ending :
A whole heap of lovely photos from Lady Lee :
If ever you’re needing a beautiful view, or three, tap Debbie on the shoulder. She’ll have them :
Becky uses that eagle eye of hers to good effect in the Algarve :
That lass Jude knows how to make me smile. A splash or two of azalea in a National Trust garden:
SO excited to be sharing this from Madhu! A small part of her beautiful Indian heritage :
How would I describe Gabe? Warm and whimsical, I suppose. Go and see for yourself :
So lucky and privileged this week! Another wonderful share from Paula. Don’t forget to listen too!
What do you know of Peru? Not much? An interesting read here from Jill :
And, much closer to home, Carol finds me some stone circles :
That’s it for another week. All gems! Hope you enjoy your long weekend (if you’re having one). Take good care!