Having described the house at Filoli in a previous post, this time it is the turn of the gardens. I mentioned before that they were not aligned with the house so were not easy to see from there. However, putting that aside, they are certainly very nice. They are divided up into a number of areas. Some are very formal while others are left in a more natural state. The grounds around the pool are very structured. There are orchards that are laid out in lines but then there are gardens that look as if they had never been touched. Plenty of beds with plants of similar types and then some meadow areas. All in all, it is a pretty eclectic mix that works well. Put aside that it seems detached from the house, it is a lovely place to check out. It spreads up the hill until at the top you find a temple like semi circle. This is nice and quiet since I guess a lot of people can’t be bothered to walk that far. Good for us!
The Chicago Botanic Gardens open at 7am. This is something I was totally unaware of when we lived in Chicago. During our recent visit, we were staying a short distance away and had some free time in the morning. We decided to go early, have a wander around, get some breakfast there and then go back to the hotel to be ready for the day. We might not have been there spot on 7am but we weren’t much later.
Early morning is a great time to look around. It was a hot weekend that weekend so we were able to enjoy the gardens before they got too hot. We were also able to enjoy them pretty much alone for a lot of the time. The crowds have not shown up yet and the place is occupied by the regulars. In some of the more central parts of the gardens, the groundskeepers are still busy at work sorting things out before the majority of visitors appear.
We wandered around a good portion of the grounds. Heading towards midsummer, even that early in the day is long after the sun comes up so it isn’t the perfect light. It is a lot better than later in the day though so worth taking the camera. With so few people, the chance to get unobstructed shots is worth it in itself. Having not been for a while, the chance to walk the grounds again was a treat as well.
Plenty of people have rock gardens. When you have a country estate, the scale of your thinking can change. A rock garden now turns in to something that is a little more grand than average with rocks that should really be classified as boulders. We were actually beginning to wrap up our visit to the gardens at Chatsworth when we came through the rock garden. This place would be phenomenal if you are a kid. So many places to climb on and jump across. The opportunities for bumps and bruises would be many but it would be so worth it.
Exploring the grounds of Chatsworth House took us to places we had not seen on previous visits. Even if you exclude the majority of the estate and just focus on the organized garden areas, there are so many parts to see that it is easy to overlook them. This is why, despite having been to Chatsworth on a number of occasions, this time I saw areas that I had not seen before. One of these was the Grotto Pond.
Because this area is one of the furthest away from the main house, the number of people making their way that far out is pretty small. It is not deserted by any means but it is pretty quiet. This is ideal given how tranquil the setting is. It was very easy to just stand and look. Given how far out in the country you are, there isn’t much background noise so you can let your mind wander…
If you have a big country house, you will be housing a lot of people. No doubt, there will also be times when you will host a large gathering. You need to be able to feed everyone. The estate produces a lot so it will cover many needs but the kitchen also has to have its own garden. Located a short distance from the main house and slightly up the hill, Chatsworth’s kitchen garden is very extensive. It has a lot of space and many different types of food in production.
As with everything else about a place like Chatsworth, function does not override form. The gardens are laid out beautifully and with structure. They are functioning still yet they are a place worthy of visit just for the appearance. Some areas are restricted to keep the visitors from inconveniencing everything too much but much of the space is fully open to wander through. The staff is busy but were willing to talk if you had questions.
One thing that there is no shortage of in the UK is impressive country houses. As a result of the financial circumstances of many of the old families that owned these places, a lot have ended up in the hands of the National Trust. One of the most attractive estates is Stourhead in Wiltshire. This was not originally on our schedule during our UK trip but we had a change of heart regarding our original plan for the day and decided to head to Stourhead instead. We are still members of the National Trust so this was a freebie for us (if you excluded the amount spent over the years on membership!).
When we visit these estates, our focus is usually on the grounds rather than the houses themselves. While I am interested in the external views of the house, the interiors are often a bit repetitive and something I will only bother with if I have plenty of time and there is something special about the insides. Normally, I am far happier walking around the grounds. In Stourhead’s case, the grounds are quite stunning. There are many buildings scattered around the estate, there are lakes, bridges, temples and a village within the estate including estate cottages and a pub. I imagine you could avoid ever having the leave if you were so inclined!
Visiting these places in September is a good idea. The weather is still pretty nice but the holidays are over and so the number of people attending has significantly dropped. I think it is fair to say we were amongst the youngest people there! If we lived closer, I would certainly enjoy visiting Stourhead at various different times of year. I imagine the fall colors will be impressive and winter would be very nice to see.
The reason for being in Asakusa is that there are some famous shrines there. This is a very popular tourist area and there is a market on the grounds of the shrine which is designed to suck up the cash of the passing tourists. While there are some awfully tacky things for sale, there are also some very classy artisans at work too. Quite a contrast. I am not a souvenir person so, while I paid some attention to these stalls, I was more interested in the shrines themselves.
They are impressive structures and hugely popular. There are some massive paper lanterns at the entrance which apparently are very famous (shows what I know). They do look great. What was strange to me was that, while the main shrine was very impressive and very busy, there were a number of other buildings, sculptures and gardens in the area that were also very cool but far less busy. Everyone appears to go to the main shrine and then leave. They certainly missed out in my opinion.
One of our transit days in the UK had us moving from the Cotswolds back to Surrey for my Dad’s birthday party. En route, we decided to take a detour to an old favorite location of ours. When we lived in Sussex, we were not too far from Sheffield Park. This is an estate that has been divided up with the National Trust owning the gardens and parkland and the house being privately owned. The gardens are a delight to visit.
Over many years, a collection of different botanical species have been cultivated at the gardens so they have a great diversity of plants and trees including some sequoias. The gardens are built around a series of lakes that make the whole place look just gorgeous. Some of the older trees are really solid and gnarly looking. Nancy thought it looked like something from the Wizard of Oz. One of the National Trust guys told us to look for a spot that had a great view back up the lakes to the house. It took a bit of searching since the tree cover is quite dense but we found it. It was certainly a nice view.
Great to get back to this place after being away for so long and to see it on a lovely day was even better. If you are ever thinking of visiting, they apparently have a nice day trip from London to get there. You can take the normal train to East Grinstead and from there the Bluebell Railway runs a steam service to Sheffield Park. A shuttle from the station operates on busy day but it is not a long walk if not. Not done this myself but it sounds like a nice way to make a day trip of the whole thing.
As I have mentioned before, visitors provide a good reason to do things that I might otherwise put off. My sister being in town was a good source of reasons to do stuff! That included a trip to the Botanic Gardens. In a quirk of the weather we have had this spring in Chicago, this turned out to be a sunny day but a cool one with the temperature hanging around in the high 50s. We got into the 80s a couple of days later and then the 40s two days after that. Crazy stuff this year!
The Botanic Gardens are bursting into life in the spring so are a great sight. As with other tourist type trips, a visit in the middle of the day is not ideal photographically since the light is very harsh. However, that wasn’t the point. Enjoying the day was what it was all about and that we certainly did. Plenty of flowers were out in bloom. The trees have suddenly discovered leaves after being bare branched for what seems like forever.
Of course, we weren’t the only genii to have thought this was a good idea. The place was packed. I can’t blame everyone for wanting to be there but they do ruin some of my pictures! What are they thinking? In common with several places we go to, a trip a bit further from the visitor center does thin out the herd a bit. Walking too far is not what some people want to do. Good for me! I am not much of a flower photographer and shooting in the bare sun does not make for great flower shots but I gave a few a go anyway. Most of those will never see the light of day again, though…