The Garden House, 15.08.12.

The garden house sits on the edge of Dartmoor where the granite starts to fold downwards in deep valleys. As a consequence there is a lot of seepage water as the rain on Dartmoor drains below the ground surface, and the garden sits just above a small river.
The Garden House describes its location as Yelverton, but it actually sits at the edge of the small village of Crapstone. Can't imagine why they shy from that!
I don't get many chances to visit in the summer so I was pleased to get an opportunity to see some of the recent developments.

The most recent addition has been this lake. It was built during the last winter when a number of old buildings and greenhouses were cleared from the site. The ground has been shaped to create a new lake and a sinuous path winds across the hillside above, through the new Jubilee Arboretum. The development has been made to a larger scale than other parts of the garden. Visitors have much easier access and already the area has a very satisfactory ambience.

The first phase of planting has been completed, with a second phase planned for this winter. I am a little worried that it might be planted too densely when the process is complete. There are a lot of potentially large trees already in place, but the land shaping has been carried out with a deft touch and I imagine the planting will be equally masterful.

One of the greatest pleasures was to see the way the space connected the garden to the wider landscape. The older parts of the garden can be very inward looking in places. It is part of the charm of the garden but it also creates an undeserved impression of timidity.
This picture shows a row of scrubby hazels along the river edge that in my opinion should be removed entirely to un-clutter the vista into the fields beyond and enhance the bold expansiveness of the new space.

The bottom terrace has also been developed significantly in the last few years. The original site slopes from front to back, and also from left to right so it always looked rather strange. A few small changes have been made to the ground levels but the masterstroke here has been the emphasis on the central walkway. It has been made narrow enough to reduce the impact of the sideways slope and planted boldly on each side to conceal the tilt. I was very impressed with the way the terrace was performing in the summer. In previous years it has felt like the weakest part of a strong garden.

The original vista looked along the main path and through the archway at the top but recently a large section of the wall collapsed in the night. An area of the garden was crushed and will be closed for some time while the wall is dealt with. I found its absence quite interesting. There was a danger that the Jubilee Arboretum might look like a UPVC conservatory tacked onto the side of a classical house. A new addition that bears little connection to the original. The missing wall opens the view and joins the new arboretum to the original garden. Naturally, some repair and rebuilding will have to be done. The archway can't be left hanging half in and half out of the wall, but perhaps there is an opportunity to retain the view and the connection as well (and given the sudden and catastrophic nature of the collapse, it would be a courageous person that rebuilt the wall to its full original height).

This shows the way the wall bowed at the base and then fell over. I first visited this garden in 1984, and the walls at this end worried me even then. It is very narrow and very tall without supporting buttresses. It curves shoothly around the contours of the site without the support that right-angled bends would have provided. It is a pity to see an old wall go, but there was (fortunately) nobody underneath it at the time and it opens a timely window of opportunity.

It is good to see the Garden House developing. "Heritage" properties can sometimes get stuck in the suffocating treacle of history and die of sweetness. Forward movement is always a good thing, and recent developments felt like a great joy and relief.
I have some opinions about siezing the change and moving forward. The Garden House will be repaired, the status quo will be restored and next time I visit I will marvel at the quality of the workmanship in the newly rebuilt wall. I'm not always sure what historical gardens are holding on to, but one can only admire their grip!

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