Archive for the Gardens Category

The Spink, Charleston Farmhouse

Posted in Art, Gardens, History, House, Sussex with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Following my climb up Windover Hill, I made the short journey west to Charleston Farmhouse. This beautiful place was once home to artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and played host to their circle of bohemian friends, now better known as the Bloomsbury Group.

The interior of the house, with its murals, painted furniture and fascinating collection of art and objects, is definitely magical. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside, so I wasn’t able to capture that magic for this blog.

The house and garden at Charleston Farm

The house and garden at Charleston Farm

However, the perfect English cottage gardens more than made up for that loss. A riot of colourful and perfume, the gardens of Charleston Farmhouse are an oasis of peace and quiet. It was while wandering through those gardens that I came across a small orchard. Hiding in the shadows of the surrounding trees, I found a strange, rather magical sculpture.

The Spink in the garden of Charleston Farmhouse

The Spink in the garden of Charleston Farmhouse

Further research has revealed that this sphinx-like beast, which is carved out of a large stack of bricks, was created by Vanessa’s son Clive Bell in 1931 and is known as the Spink. Just like the mythical beast that it is named after, the Charleson spink is a bit of an enigma, loitering silently in a quiet corner of the garden.

What is it thinking? Your guess is as good as mine…

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The Lost Gardens of Penicuik

Posted in Caves, Edinburgh, Gardens, History, House, Landscape, Ruins with tags , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Nestled at the feet of the Pentland Hills not far from Edinburgh, Penicuik is a fairly quiet, unexceptional town, not the kind of place you would expect to find magic. But on its outskirts lies the estate of Penicuik House, a grand mansion which is now a stately ruin. The huge gardens which surround it were once some of the most impressive in Scotland, but since the house was gutted by fire in 1899 they have been slowly returning to nature. The result is a wonderfully wild and picturesque landscape now known as the “Lost Gardens of Penicuik”.

The stately ruins of Penicuik House

The stately ruins of Penicuik House

Penicuik House has long been the home of the Clerk family, and indeed they still live in the imposing stable block near the ruins of the late 18th Century house. Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, the famous antiquarian and politician who lived here until 1755, was responsible for much of what we see in the gardens today. A huge fan of ancient Rome, he littered the grounds with picturesque neoclassical fountains, and even built a dramatic cave leading to a lake based on the famous grotto at Pausillipo near Naples.

The view from Penicuik House towards the Low Pond

The view from Penicuik House towards the Low Pond

In the 18th Century the gardens at Penicuik were compared to the romantic landscape of Tivoli near Rome, famous for its huge waterfalls and rugged cliffs. Nowadays the place is rather overgrown, and on the day I visited the Pentlands were cloaked in heavy grey clouds, but this sense of brooding neglect only added to the magical atmosphere.

A picturesque gorge in the grounds of Penicuik House

A picturesque gorge in the grounds of Penicuik House

Some areas of the garden, including that ‘Roman’ cave, are still off limits to visitors, and in need of restoration. The opulent terraces are hidden in the overgrowth, the once proud gates are rusted and its crumbling walls covered in moss. The impressive ruins of Penicuik House itself are currently being consolidated, and a new project has also recently been launched to revive the large walled gardens which sit close by. It’s good to see the gardens of Penicuik being brought back to life, but I hope they still retain their wild, overgrown magic.

A neoclassical fountain with Latin inscription in the gardens of Penicuik House

A neoclassical fountain with Latin inscription in the gardens of Penicuik House

The inclement weather on the day of my visit prevented me from fully exploring the “Lost Gardens of Penicuik”, but you can be sure that I will be back there soon to soak up its unique, enchanting atmosphere of elegant, magical decay.

A lichen-covered gate in the grounds of Penicuik House

A lichen-covered gate in the grounds of Penicuik House