Snapshots of a country part two

Hello and welcome to the latest blog from The Olivia Rose Diaries on October 21st 2022.

As promised this is the second part of our snapshot tour of Britain, and this time we are in England, visiting some quite unique gardens and galleries.

We spent a day recently visiting The Newt in Somerset, situated between Bruton and Castle Cary. I struggle to find quite the right words to do justice to this estate, or even to put it into a category that encompasses all that it offers. The visitor has thirty acres of garden to explore, set within hundreds of acres of woodland and farmland. It is the brainchild of a South African hotelier named Karen Roos and her telecom billionaire husband Koos Bekker and they have created a haven for wildlife and plants with extraordinary style and an equally mind-blowing budget.

It is much more than just a garden: we visited ‘The Beezantium’, watched a hive at work and learnt so much about bees, followed by ‘The Story of Gardening’ with its wonderful wall of old gardening tools and an interactive history of garden design.

All the above are just a small selection of the collections of old tools.

There is a Japanese garden, cottage garden, winter garden, fragrance garden and colour garden.

A theme this year was ornamental grasses.

There is also a huge kitchen garden and I always enjoy wandering around these just as much as the flower borders. There is something so wholesome about seeing vegetables in the soil, rich and abundant and where they should be instead of wrapped in plastic on a supermarket shelf. We often tend to associate garden design with herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees but when the same principles and care are applied to vegetables the results are just as pleasing, sometimes even more so.

One of the most impressive design features at The Newt is the archway that leads to the kitchen garden. A striking selection of gourds and squashes scramble over the trellis, rampant and exotic and making my mouth water at all the wonderful meals they could produce: either stuffed, roasted, or turned into soups and curries.

This is the walkway. Apparently most of the gourds have been harvested already – what a sight it would have been at its peak .
A medley of gourds.

There are numerous places to eat, a farm shop, a gift shop, courses and events that run throughout the year, and even a re-imagined Roman Villa, built on remains that were unearthed on the estate. It’s not possible to see it all in one day.

The entry fee is not cheap so if anybody is thinking of visiting please do check on the website before you jump in the car – unless you are, like us, lucky enough to have a family member who works there. It might help you to think of it as an annual fee rather than a daily one, for it allows you constant access through the year, as well as to other member gardens around the country. On that basis, it is excellent value.

I realise I am waxing lyrical about this place, but it is quite unique and, before anybody asks, no, I am not being paid to write this!!

Our other visit of note was to the Messums Art Gallery at Tisbury, near Salisbury in Wilstshire. They had an exhibition of bronze sculptures by Lawrence Edwards. I have to confess I had never heard of this artist and it was pure luck that our visit timed with his exhibition, but as you can see from the pictures below we were privileged to see something very special indeed. Even more amazing is that there is no charge to visit this gallery and that they will have a selection of different artists throughout the year. They also have a restaurant and make the best soup I have ever tasted.

These ‘Walking Men’ are larger than life – you can see Michael and his mother standing at the back which gives you a sense of scale.
Close up they are even more dramatic.
This put me in mind of a man deconstructed and put together again.
Here’s another on the same theme – a strong wind could blow him apart, bits of his body spiralling in the air like leaves from a tree.
Another life-size sculpture – a mere £58,000 if memory serves me correctly.

Our cultural binging didn’t stop there as I also had the chance to drop in to The Mere Literary Festival and listened to a talk about cows and what wonderful creatures they are.

A good read if anyone is interested in the subject.

Finally, that brings us to the end of our time in the UK. We are slowly making our way back to Olivia Rose in France, but will be breaking the journey with a minor detour into Belgium to spend a week looking after someone else’s boat. A new country, a new boat and a dog called TinTin – something different to look forward to next week.


16 thoughts on “Snapshots of a country part two

  1. As always a beautifully written piece. I haven’t visited Messum’s before and it’s so close! the exhibition looks simply fabulous


  2. Great share, MJ. The Newt looks like my kind of garden, when money helps. 😉
    Very interesting sculptures, they speak to our impermanence, a good thing to keep in mind… we tend to think we will live forever, don’t we?
    Enjoy Belgium!


  3. As usual, a bunch of beautifully taken pictures accompanying your interesting travel reports ! Thank you for that !


  4. A great insight to the Newt, but as you say, it would take a number of visits to absorb it all, by which time the seasons would have changed producing an ever changing spectacle.


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