Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Dyrham Park: Garden Visit


On Saturday I went to Dyrham Park, one of the closest National Trust owned places to where I live. The property was originally bought by the government [along with Cotehele] just after WWII as a memorial to land workers who'd been lost during the war and was then given to the Trust to manage during the 1950s. It has many long avenues of trees, just like this one which takes you from the car park at the top entrance towards the house. For ages it feels like you're heading towards the hills of south Wales, until...


... the massive hollow in which the grand house resides is revealed. The lower building to the left of the picture is where I met my guide for the afternoon as I was there for the tour of the perry pear orchards. Even further left is a narrow flight of steps which took us through the courtyard, past the stables and then out into a narrow lane where there's...

... a secret doorway into a world not usually seen by the public...


This is the old orchard, where the kitchen garden was until the Victorian fashion for walled kitchen gardens caught on and it was moved to elsewhere [sadly not part of the property today] and a woodland was planted. Unbelievably this rather unkempt area was once the scene of grand terraces, fountains, potagers and walkways for promenading.

Unfortunately, this also coincided with the start of the property's demise, so the woodland wasn't managed properly. This meant the protecting conifers weren't taken out when the beech trees had established and both sets of trees are now crowding out the ancient perry pear trees. There's several trees still left, but they're in a sorry state. Black Worcester (a variety dating back to the 14th century) and Cadillac are the two varieties that are found in this orchard.


We were then taken to the new orchard past the newly restored fernery [another Victorian fashion and Dyrham's example complete with weirdly shaped water eroded limestone is a recent re-discovery] and then this rather nice view...

... and past the cascade in front of the stables...

... to Nichol's orchard. These are some of the older perry pear trees. It takes 40 years before a tree reaches its full production potential. This year's harvest hasn't been a good one compared to last year, when 108 sacks of pears were harvested to make 3,000 bottles of perry.

The white blob in the photo is a beehive which is being used to tempt some wild bees into the orchard to help with pollination. A pheromone will be used to attract them.


The pear varieties here are Blakeney Red, Butt and another one: all are local varieties. Dyrham Park is in Gloucestershire, one of the three main counties [with Herefordshire and Worcestershire] where perry pears are grown and the many ancient varieties originated. I'd thought that Blakeney referred to Norfolk, but was quickly corrected by another visitor who proudly told me it comes not far from where he lives in The Forest of Dean.

There are also younger 10 year-old trees planted here which are grafts taken from the ancient trees in the old orchard :)


Finally our walk took us past mass plantings of Salvias with marvellously shaggy weeping pear trees at the foot of the slope...


... to the courtyard to taste some still and sparkling perry [6% alcohol] and to admire the new pear trees which have just been planted for training against the stable block wall. Sadly I missed My Tiny Plot, who was also there on the day and will tell you all about perry pears...

8 comments:

  1. Imagine living there!

    . . . My family nearly moved to Blakeney by the Forest of Dean when I was about fourteen.

    Don't think I've ever tasted Perry - just Perrier. (Which is different.)

    Esther

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  2. Wow, that's exactly what I picture in my head when I think of an English estate garden. Very pretty.

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  3. for a second, i had visions of 'the secret garden' behind the door (lovely stone wall). a pity it isn't kept up. a lovely place, nonetheless.

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  4. Dyrham looks lovely - I'll add it to my ever increasing list of places to go and see (but am rubbish at getting round to!)

    That door in the wall is gorgeous - I've been trying to persuade Himself that we need a bit of stone wall with a door in it somewhere in the garden ever since I saw one in france the other year! It wouldn't quite have the forest behind it though!

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  5. I was going to a garden tour at the local NT place the other weekend but it poured down!! Sounds like a good day out

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  6. Esther - your Perrier comment has made me giggle. I used to drink Peardrax as a child in the pool cafe after swimming. A non alcoholic version of perry which I loved

    Susan - you've been watching our TV costume dramas haven't you ;)

    Petoskystone - I can't decide whether it's a Secret Garden, Narnia or The Hobbit kind of door.

    NG - the door in the wall was my highlight of the tour!

    PG - a very good day out :)

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  7. I like Dyrham very much. Did you know it was used for the set of the acclaimed film The Remains of The Day?

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  8. Mark - I didn't know that. Corsham Court was a location too.

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