Foliage for cutting and for the garden
So, it's January already

Abandoned in 1605...

Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire, Image made available by Edbrambley at en.wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license
A transatlantic visit to Northamptonshire’s Lyveden New Bield, in the heart of England, the other day. This is an unfinished “summer house” abandoned in 1605, before its completion, when its creator Sir Thomas Tresham died and his son featured in the infamous Gunpowder Plot (for North American readers: The Gunpowder Plot was a treasonous plan to blow up the British king by igniting barrels of gunpowder in the cellars under the House of Lords where he was opening parliament).

What remains at Lyveden is a roofless and floorless house through which we wandered, inspecting the graffiti from 1799, plus a recently planted replica of the original orchard featuring many fruit varieties from the early seventeenth century. There are also spiral “snail” mounts, moats, raised terrace walks, a huge grass labyrinth, and red kites soaring overhead.

The transatlantic team was made up of one Brit, me, plus my American wife judywhite, plus the splendid American garden writer and editor, and distiller(!), Fiona Gilsenan, plus Fiona’s ten year old son Julian (To his mum: “You're so lovable and warm. Like bacon, but not crispy.") And thanks, Fiona, for the sample of gin from your boutique distillery Victoria Spirits.

The orchard at Lyveden is going to be fascinating. Grown hard, it’s slow to become established but with its wealth of old varieties I look forward to the day when the fruit is available to sample or even to buy.

And after a visit, there’s a walk through the woods to The Kings Arms at Wadenhoe on the banks of the River Nene for lunch. But we drove the few miles over to The Chequered Skipper at Ashton, named for a rare British butterfly, on the estate of the late Miriam Rothschild. An authority on the sex life of fleas, she also pioneered the use of native wild flowers on roadsides. “I must say, I find everything interesting,” she once said.


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I wrote a news story around this time last year about how they discovered the outlines of the original labyrinth. It's here, if you're interested:


So that's where Fiona was off to! Having missed her by a few miles when we visited Vancouver Island in the summer, I was amazed to find her tweeting about the roundabouts of Chippenham when she visited England recently. She was just yards from where I live. I'm hoping we make it 3rd time lucky next time.


PS your Miriam Rothschild quote summarises how I feel about my blog :)

Fiona Gilsenan

It was a lovely day, a completely and totally lovely visit. Julian says, "I didn't know he had a blog!" Oh yes, says mummy, he's a Famous Writer!

Graham Rice

Yes, Victoria, Lyveden is full of interesting features... The labyrinth is now cut into a grass meadow so you can walk it.

And the "Famous Writer" is going to become infamous if he doesn't send his next book off on Monday. That's why things have been a little quiet here recently.


Thanks for the Miriam Rothschild quote - I've used it for my December Muse Day as it fits me and my blog so perfectly :)


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