The Garden House

Woke up to another beautiful day. Had a great sleep as the bed is very comfortable. Made bacon sarnies for breaky and sat writing my journal. Eventually I went down to the ‘big house’ to pay our rent and buy some fresh lamb chops – with all the bleating going on this morning, I assume they’re very fresh.

We then left for Calstock to see if we could catch the boat to Plymouth. Alas! Not until Friday and only as far as Cotehele. Anyway, Calstock is a lovely little riverside town with a particularly photogenic viaduct stretching across the valley.

A street in Calstock

The name means ‘Cal’-settlement. No-one knows who or what Cal was but the ‘stock’ bit is Old English. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when the population was cited as being around 60. A lovely Normandy connection – Calstock was one of 228 manors that William the Conqueror gave to his brother the Earl of Mortain.

The village itself is rather curious as it contains mainly 3 or 4 storey houses built on narrow terraces against the cliffs. The road is very steep and poor Neville would NEVER have made it back up – Sidney had no problem.

There are few detached houses in Calstock and all homes are restricted to the cliffs as all the surrounding land was very fertile. The reason for this is because when the Marquis of Northants sold the Ashburton estates, which included Calstock, he made sure that the houses took up as little land as possible and went up, instead of out. Apparently when shop owners died they would leave separate storeys to their children – what a mess THAT caused!

Like most places in the Tamar Valley, Calstock mainly prospered from the mining industry from way back in mediaeval times. Lots of different minerals were taken out of the area including arsenic which, between 1880 and 1902, provided half the worlds supply! From Calstock loads would be shipped by barge along the Tamar to Plymouth. When the railway came, the trains would take it out instead.

During the Victorian era, pleasure boats would crowd the Tamar all the way to Calstock, bringing a boom of tourism to the area. Queen Vic and Bertie visited in 1846 – they stayed at Cotehele.

The viaduct was built around the early 1900s when the railway first came to Cornwall. It more or less put paid to barges and the ferry service as trains were obviously quicker then…now it’s better to get the ferry. Anyway, we walked round to one of the 2 pubs and Mirinda had a tea while, oddly, I had a pint of the local bitter – Tribute. Nice. We strolled up to Maddie’s Attic – junk shop and tearoom – then back to the car. We decided to return on Friday to go on the ferry.

It was then off to Crapstone to visit the Garden House. Actually it’s in Buckland Monachorum but I like saying Crapstone better.

Mirinda with a lovely acer at the Garden House

The garden’s fantastic. Originally it was a 19th century vicarage when bought by an Etonian teacher, Lionel Fortescue and his wife, in 1945. It was just a walled garden and very run down. Since then the garden has grown and grown until now it encompasses around 8 acres with over 6,000 different varieties of plants. The original walled garden, with its cascading clematis and roses, is now merely a part of the magnificent horticultural whole.

In 1961 Lionel Fortescue set the garden up into a charitable trust (Fortescue Garden Trust) in order to secure its future. It was Lionel’s intention to make the best garden in England and I reckon he came close to succeeding (though I personally prefer Gertrude Jeckyl’s Munstead). A truly beautiful and peaceful place.

Lots of flowers in bloom and a wonderful tribute to, not just the Fortescue’s, but also the Wiley’s, who came after. The garden has received international acclaim for its naturalistic style and our old friend Alan calls it ‘a treasure’.

After a cup of tea and piece of cake in the reworked vicarage, we strolled round the garden. Mirinda ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the wonderful layout and even posed oddly beneath a massive wisteria. We then headed back to the cottage to laze around in the afternoon sun.

I cooked rabbit with new potatoes and corn which was pronounced ‘yumbo’ then we watched an Inspector Lynley mystery which we didn’t guess, and then, to bed.

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