Up at 6 and hit the road by 7. This morning I decided to climb up to the Whitstone Post. Heading out along the toll road I turned up into the woods as soon as a path appeared. It was a long, long slog straight up! Fortunately it was quite windy so I didn’t get over heated.
I didn’t see another human all the way up. A few sheep scattered and bleated at me but otherwise it was me, the hill and the wind. When I reached the gorse of the heathland, I was in the clouds, the mist wetting my glasses. It was pretty wild and I watched the clouds approach, thinking they would chuck rain down on me at any time. They didn’t.
I crossed the road and began the slow and steady descent via Homebush Wood, into Porlock. It was along this stretch that I saw my one and only human – a lady with her dog. It was 9am – that’s two hours of solitude! Who says this island is too crowded.
I arrived back at Little Hanger at about 10 and fell into a much needed though sadly inadequate shower.
At about 1 we set off for Hestercombe Gardens. This is a quite amazing place with lots of different English garden styles present in its 35 acres. The best thing about Hestercombe Gardens is the jolly staff. No matter who I had to deal with (café girls, ticket girl, shop girl) they were all pleasant and smiling and glad to be of service. Oh, if only everywhere was like that! Actually, I’m being unfair, Arlington Court was like that as well.
Anyway, back to Hestercombe. It sits on the southern slopes of the Quantock Hills and overlooks Taunton. The estate is named as early as 854 in the Anglo Saxon Charter. It belonged to the Warre family from 1391 until 1872.
In 1750 the estate was inherited by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde (which has rapidly become one of my favourite names) and, happily, he was a gardener and managed to design an amazing landscape including waterfall, stream, lake and many interesting sheltered spots. It looks amazing now but it would have been brilliant when he finished. He’s almost up there with old Capability Brown, I reckon.
In 1904 the Portman’s, who now owned Hestercombe, hired Edward Lutyens to do a bit of gardening for them. Edward, naturally, called Gertrude Jekyll and together they created a wonderful formal garden. And, seeing as Gertie is a particular favourite subject of Mirinda’s, it was only natural we should go there!
Regardless of whether you know anything about them, the gardens are a delight to just walk around and admire. With 35 acres, there is always a surprise around each corner and always something to admire. Mirinda gave me a potted history of the English garden as we walked around.
Of course, before we left we just HAD to buy something from the garden shop attached to the estate. Fortunately it wasn’t another couple of acers but a cute little ‘plant tower’. At least it won’t die on us.
For some reason, on our return trip, we managed to get all the tractors and trucks whenever we drove on a single lane road. Must have been because it was Maundy Thursday.
We followed a big flat truck to Porlock via Weedon Cross and up to Whitstone Post. The top of the moors was very, very misty. The truck left us at the ice cream carpark and we skidded down Porlock Hill.
At about 8 I walked down to Porlock to buy fish and chips. Naturally I went via the Royal Oak in order to sample another 6X – and I can report it was still very good. The chippie is attached to the Countryman restaurant and I was served by the same track-suited woman who caused Mirinda so much dismay. While I waited a couple came in to order and the woman was how Karen will look when she’s about 70 unless she starts wearing some colour! The guy had a big beer bulbous nose and was a tad confused so I guess that could be me…next year. The nose, the gout, it all has to happen.
We ate our cod and chips and watched the final episode of Planet Earth – BRILLIANT TV – then went to bed.