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.
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.
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.
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’.
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?
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!
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.
First, come beach combing with Drake on the lovely little Danish island, Samsø :
There’s a certain fascination about a lighthouse, isn’t there?
Jackie was still ‘down Mexico way’, hopefully enjoying the sunshine :
Let me introduce you to a Slovenian Girl abroad, in Switzerland. Such pretty photos!
And a lovely lady in another good-looking place. Please welcome Mitza to my walks :
Debbie has found a nice little beach, somewhere you might not expect :
While Jaspa would have me galloping this week!
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 :
Some people can just always be relied on! Walk with Gilly. She’s a sweetheart!
Brisbane and the rainforest is my final destination. Thanks Lee Ann!
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.