Newstead Abbey

Jo’s Monday walk : Newstead Abbey

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Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire is the perfect setting for a Victorian period drama.  Yet I was unprepared for the small characters chattering excitedly in the grounds.  The Abbey itself, formerly the home of poet Lord Byron, was closed to visitors, but I had come seeking fresh air and a stroll in the lovely grounds. I had company, and naturally my daughter was fittingly dressed for the occasion. To the manor born, without a doubt.

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A long drive sweeps up to the house, thick with rhododendrons and camelia.  There are over 300 acres of parkland and gardens, and cars can park quite near to the house.  Let’s save a little energy and sashay straight into the gardens.  A former monastic residence, the priory dates back to 1274.  I showcased the house and the Byron connection on a previous visit (and got to meet Santa!) if you’d like to know more.

The Garden Lake swells out in front of the house, and you can walk all around it.  The lakes, ponds and cascades that ornament these gardens are fed by the River Leen.  Pass by the unappetisingly named Monk’s Stew Pond (probably once a fishpond for the monks) to delve into the Fernery.

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The grotto has an interior made from Derbyshire tufa, whilst some of the old carved stones used in the Fernery probably came from the ruins of the priory church.  Built into the wall with the alcove were terracotta stands, for the display of potted ferns.

Bright berries gleam from the foliage and a drift of lemon whispers its presence in among the shrubs.  For all that this is a garden in winter, there is no lack of interest.  The rolling hedges are clipped pleasingly to the eye.  It’s so easy to meander among them, beguiled by shapes and shadows.

The formal shapes of the Rose Garden and Small Walled Garden invite closer inspection.  Both were once part of a two and a half acre kitchen garden.  In heated glasshouses, now demolished, grapes, melons, peaches and winter cucumbers were grown.  Even in a mild December, roses were few, but I liked the quirky mesh gardeners who kept us company.

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A willow sculpture catches my eye, complete with bench.  Too late for THAT challenge, I’m afraid!

Behind the house, the Great Garden is a formal garden of terraced walks descending to a large rectangular pond.  Two swans splashed each other playfully, just out of range of my camera.  The adjacent French and Spanish gardens are among my favourites.  Every Spring in the 1830s and 40s the gardener laid fresh red and white sand, in intricate patterns, directly onto the soil in the French Garden.  It was affectionately known as the ’embroidery garden’.

The Boatswain’s Monument sits mournfully at the centre of the lawn, Byron’s tribute to his beloved Newfoundland dog.  The inscription speaks of ‘Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man without his vices’.

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Are you beginning to flag yet?  I believe the tearooms are open.  Muffins and gingerbread latte, before or after we tackle the lake?

The shadows are lengthening and there’s a hint of chill in the air.  Ominous clouds dot the sky so we won’t linger much longer.  It’s not the time of year to view the yellow water lily, wild angelica, water forget-me-not, corn mint and the many species that surround the Garden Lake, but it is still undeniably beautiful, don’t you think?

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The Japanese garden with its lovely cascades is looking a little bedraggled, but we can still cross the stepping stones to admire the lanterns.  There’s one more feature I’ve left deliberately till the end, and someone’s waiting there to say goodbye.  Accompany me to the waterfall?

The gift shop, with its pretty things, was calling to my daughter.  We lingered just a shade too long, and came out into a deluge of a different kind! Brollies aloft, we scurried to the car.  The day ended with a magical double rainbow and I felt truly blessed.  I hope you have enjoyed our company today. (and that of the children from Woodthorpe school)

The Newstead Abbey website includes a detailed garden tour, which you might like to follow, plus details of how to get there.

You may already know that Jude has chosen to abandon her benches.  Sigh!  The challenge has run for a highly successful year, but it’s time to move on.  My Winter garden, though not quite what she was hoping for, is my first contribution to the new challenge.  I’ll definitely have to be honing my skills (or trying!)  Her first post is a stunner, but I won’t spoil it for you.  Go and look!

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Meanwhile, it’s time to get the kettle on and share a few more walks.  I hope that all of you, walkers or not, have enjoyed their Christmas break. Many thanks for all your contributions but, more importantly, your friendship.  Join me whenever you like.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page, or the logo above.

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First, come beach combing with Drake on the lovely little Danish island, Samsø :

Stone-washed path

There’s a certain fascination about a lighthouse, isn’t there?

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Jackie was still ‘down Mexico way’, hopefully enjoying the sunshine :

El Quelite, Mazatlan

Let me introduce you to a Slovenian Girl abroad, in Switzerland.  Such pretty photos!

Zurich in December

And a lovely lady in another good-looking place.  Please welcome Mitza to my walks :

A walk through Hamburg in Winter

Debbie has found a nice little beach, somewhere you might not expect :

A Seaside Walk in Edinburgh

While Jaspa would have me galloping this week!

Best. Crossing. Ever!- Santiago, Chile

This next isn’t a walk, and might be better suited to Jude’s Garden challenge, but I want to share it with you, courtesy of Debra :

Huntington Botanical Gardens and El Nino Watch 2016 

Some people can just always be relied on!  Walk with Gilly.  She’s a sweetheart!

Another Quay Perspective 

Brisbane and the rainforest is my final destination.  Thanks Lee Ann!

Moran Falls – Sculpture by Nature

That’s it for now!  Breathes big sigh!  If I’m slow responding this week it’s because I have Polish family visiting for a few days (including a very special uncle) but normality (ha!) will be restored on Thursday.  Take care till then!

P.S  Those lovely ladies at Monday Escapes are back if you have 5 minutes to wish them Happy New Year.

 

Cee’s fun foto challenge : wood

When it comes to the elements, I’m definitely drawn to water the most, but I’m also quite a tactile person.  I can never resist stroking a gleaming wood carving, in a park, or museum.  Tree bark often attracts my finger tips, especially the coppery hue of the Tibetan cherry. Cee’s fun foto challenge this week has me looking at photos related to Wood.  It surprised me to see just how many uses we have for it.

Click on any of the photos to start the gallery rolling, then head over to Cee’s page to see the many different interpretations of the challenge.

Byron’s Newstead Abbey

This weekend was epic for me.  I always love my pre-Christmas visit to my daughter in Nottingham, but this year we did something very special.  We visited Byron’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, decked out in all its Christmas finery.

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The gates thrown wide in welcome

The presence of the poet, scholar and freedom fighter, not to mention lover, looms large in this beautiful historic house.  Certainly he was “a bit of a character” and the library is full of texts and tributes to his many escapades.  He lived at Newstead Abbey between 1808 and 1814, but debt finally forced him to sell.  Since then it has been variously renovated and restored by its owners.

The gatehouse

The gatehouse

The pretty pink Pronto bus, en route from Nottingham’s Victoria Centre Bus Station to Mansfield, deposits you right by the entrance.  The charming gatekeepers lodge is just a foretaste of what is to come, as the cheery attendant in the ticket booth is quick to point out.  First though, quite a long walk through the thickly forested grounds.  You can turn off the main drive to follow a winding woodland walk through the trees.  Children would delight in the hide and seek potential of this, though I was concentrating on not upending on the leaves.  In Spring the rhododendrons and camellias must sing with colour.

Approaching the lake

Approaching the lake

Lakeside

Just as you begin to tire you see ahead the drive’s ending, and soon an enormous lake.  Ducks and geese squabble about, while a disdainful peacock awaits your admiration.  On your left, proudly erect, the magnificent Abbey.

West Front

West Front of the Abbey

The West Front dates back to 1274, and is the original façade of the old priory church.  Also intact are the lovely medieval cloisters.  A more romantic setting would be hard to find.  No wonder it inspired Byron’s poetry.

The stairwell’s beautiful floral display

Step through the heavy door and your eyes are drawn to a grand flight of stairs.  Heraldic painting enlivens the ceiling.  If, like me, you’ve arrived on a Christmas opening day, you’ll be lured upwards by the sound of fine voices.  A costumed young lady and gent perform everything from carols to swing, their obvious enjoyment  bringing a smile to my face.  The wood-panelled Great Hall is very grand indeed.

The singers

Our entertainment in the Great Hall

Reluctantly I move on, the voices following.  A dazzling sequence of rooms present themselves.  The handiwork of the college students who have festooned the Abbey with gilded flora and foliage is a beautiful addition to this festive season.  Opulent and exquisite furnishings, Byron’s very own bed, each treasure follows the next.  My favourite, the Japanese room, has stunning cranes gliding across the walls.

Grand Salon

Grand Salon with gilded hydrangea heads in a stunning arrangement

Fabulous table top

Fabulous table top

Grand Salon, grand furnishings

Grand Salon, grand furnishings!

Salon, table and tree

A little genteel reading and writing?

Rocking horse

The rocking horse

Japanese room

My favourite, the Japanese Room

Cranes

Cranes adorning the wood-panelled walls

In the Gothic Revival Library a poet and storyteller invites you to linger.  The cabinets are filled to the brim with Byron’s astounding past.

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Gothic Revival Library and the dazzling chandelier

Library book?

Craft in the Library

Finally there waits the most romantic of cloisters, and a peak into the chapel.  Between duties, Santa is more than happy to chat, adding his own snippets of information to your knowledge.  A quick turn in the bracing air of the cloisters garden and your visit is almost complete.

Lisa meets Santa- just a little blurred. Must be the sherry?

The chapel’s stained glass windows

Inside the chapel

Cloister gardens

Cloister gardens

Naturally there is a shop full of temptation- chutneys, sweets, toys and all things Byron.  Better still, around the corner the café waits.  I was ready for my smoked bacon and brie Panini.  My daughter chose the soup, mightily packed with mushrooms and chives, before indulging her sweet tooth with organic carrot cake.  I resisted the tiny mince pies and a glass of sherry as we still had far to go.  Bookings were being taken for Christmas Afternoon Tea, which sounded superb for £15, but any day of the week Traditional Afternoon Tea can be had for just £10.

The shop

Toys in the shop

One last floral display

One last floral display

300 acres of park and gardens are available for exploration, but the sun was low in the sky and I settled for a quick look through the waterfall.  The grounds are open year round, 9am till dusk, and on Sundays, house tours are available April to September.  For further details and special events www.mynottingham.gov.uk/newsteadabbey Two highly detailed videos will show you round the house if you can’t get there in person.

Lisa and the Abbey

Lisa- not blurred!

Through the waterfall

Through the waterfall

The waterfall

“Mad, bad and dangerous to know” he may well have been, but I truly enjoyed my visit to Byron’s former home.