Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Alpaca Barn

Long slow drive home tonight in the rain and fog, so this is going to be quick and simple.  The barn that's home to the Alpacas is a few concessions down the road, and it's one of my favourites.  It sits beside an unused old concession road, which I walked down on snowshoes 2 or 3 weeks ago.

I was able to get shots from different angles as I walked back out the old road, shooting between the trees and across the old stone fencerow.

They've planted some spruce and pine, which seems like yesterday, but obviously it was several years ago.

The Alpacas are kept in the barn over the winter, and kept in triangular paddocks outside here.  One point of each triangle meets close to the barn.  But I have no idea what that tiny square opening in the middle of the barn wall is for!

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The Barn Collective


The gardens I've shared so far were all built at a particular time, and in a particular style, and they have been maintained more or less as they were created.  But Chatsworth is an example of a garden that has been around for over 400 years, and been constantly changed and added to, so you have quite a collection of garden features.

Chatsworth House is the epitome of the large English rural estate, and both the house and the garden are one of the most popular places to visit in England.  Built originally in the 1500's, it's been in the Cavendish family ever since, a family known as the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire - now the 12th generation.

At a very erly stage it had the same sort of formal gardens that Versailles and many other Renaissance gardens did.  This old drawing is about the only evidence of those gardens left.

Along came Capability Brown and the new ideal of the English Landscape Garden, and wiped out all those formal gardens, and all the flowers, and replaced it with acres of green lawns - though most of the statues seem to have been kept.

Chatsworth is known for its water features, and this is the most interesting of them - the Great Cascade, actually built in the 1690's, and restored recently.  It's said to be the top water feature in any English garden.

Water supply is a critical issue, and remarkably the water features here are all fed by gravity.  They just turn on the cascade at certain hours and as you can see, everyone gathers around to see it cascade down over the steps.  We continue to be amazed at the number of families with young children you see visiting British gardens.

The Emperor Fountain is the other big feature, the highest gravity-fed fountain in the world when it was built.  And here the water actually generates hydro while it's running down the hill!

There are lots of other interesting little fountains, like this copper tree spouting water from the branches, and surprising you if you're not expecting it!

There's a huge rock garden, with enormous boulders.  How they built it I don't know!  And lots of huge trees, usually imported from the Americas in the early 1700's, during the heyday of plant collectors roaming the world to find new species.

But there are also modern features too, the 11th Duk and Duchess having been very active in managing the property, opening it to the public, and making it a profitable business, thereby keeping it in family hands.  The 11th Duchess Deborah, who was the leading spirit of this, just died in 2014; she was the last of the six notorious Mitford sisters - look it up if you're interested.

I particularly like this serpentine hedge that they planted in the 1950's.

The Duchess also introduced a large new veggie garden, a farm shop, and a farm brand.  After facing an enormous tax bill in 1950 when the 10th Duke died (he was married to one of the Kennedy sisters), they have revolutionized how this big family estate works, and set an example that is widely emulated for sharing your home with the public.  A very popular place to visit.

As you can see, my computer connected fine this morning - don't ask!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

No Post Tonight

The computer I write the blog on, and store the photos on, won't connect.  I'll try again tomorrow.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The English Landscape Garden

This weekend, we're going to take a look at the English Landscape Garden, a revolutionary change in style for gardens on large estates that happened during the 18th century, starting about 1730.  It was a direct reaction against the formality and control of the landscape that was evident in the French Renaissance Gardens like Versailles, and created a uniquely English style of gardening.

Let me give you the example of Stourhead, created by Henry Hoare, a banker, in the mid-18th century.  He built a unique self-contained landscape garden in a small valley beside his mansion.  This is the gate into the garden.

A short distance down the path, which circles this lake, you come upon this view over a totally unnecessary, but very picturesque bridge.  The lake itself was created by damming a tiny little stream through the valley.

And around the valley, Hoare built a series of temples, all modelled after ancient Rome.  The rediscovery of ancient Roman writers like Virgil, and the image of the Roman countryside, directly motivated this style of gardening.  This is the Temple of Apollo.

Not only did he decorate the valley with temples, but they were very strategically sited, to provide not only close-up views, but distant views from across the valley.  Notice both the Temple of Apollo and a corner of that bridge in this view.

Further around the lake you get a view of the Pantheon, directly modelled after the original Pantheon in Rome.  It was under renovation when we were there.  The entire property is now managed by the British National Trust.

Without going into too much detail, here are a few features of other English landscape gardens.  This reflecting pool, obelisk and temple are at Chiswick House, right in London, built by the 3rd Earl of Burlington in the early 1700's.

And this, said to be one of the most beautiful views in rural England, is the lake and bridge created at Blenheim Palace for the Duke of Marlborough by 'Capability' Brown.  The lake was created by damming a small stream, and the bridge, which was already there over the small stream, was partly flooded (and is much bigger than necessary)!

One of the most unique monuments in English landscape gardens is the Temple of British Worthies, at Stowe.  It contains busts of 16 great British figures (there is one on each end) to about 1700, including one woman, Queen Elizabeth I.  But there is hidden politics behind this one, because the 'worthies' were mostly selected by Richard Cobham, the landowner, for their Whig (Liberal) political positions.  An interesting article in the Guardian, entitled 'Temple of Unworthies', discusses this hidden politics!

One of the most intriguing landscape features in a garden is this old castle, the 'Old Scotney Castle'.  When the family built a new castle up the hill, they stabilized and retained this one as an actual ruin in their garden.  The pond is part of the ancient moat.  (In other places, ruins or 'follies' were created from scratch).

And one of the most off-the-wall garden buildings, the Witch's House at Hestercombe.  As you can see, the English Landscape Gardens are not at all about flowers!  In fact, any gardens with flowers were wiped out and destroyed in order to build these types of gardens.  Later, of course, there was a reaction against this style, and flowers started creeping back into English gardens in the early 19th century.  But that's another story for later.


An awesome xc ski today at the Sauble Falls trails, on a sunny day with fresh snow over all the trees.  I'll share some pictures next week.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Valley Views

A few views of the valley taken recently, which I don't think I've shared yet.  One of those two beautiful sunny sky days we've had in the past 3 weeks.

 One of my favourite little barns.

View across the valley from the top of Talisman hills. 

View north toward Georgian Bay. 

A closer look at the Old Baldy cliffs and the very steep talus slope below. 

Just a favourite view of the countryside. 

And a weak sun pillar at sunset a few days ago. 

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Just a few fences today, that I've snapped in passing - or else they got in the way of a picture of a barn, some trees, or a view!  I remain fascinated by all the roadside fences that have fenceposts so close together, and I especially like the view in the distance when they all seem to compress right together.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Perfect Winter's Day

Last Thursday was the snowiest winter day so far, reflected in my pictures of yesterday, but Saturday was the perfect winter's day.  It was about -10°C, with bright sun and blue skies, and the snow conditions were excellent for skiing - crisp and fast.

I headed over to the Glenelg trails, which are the best groomed and trackset trails around here, all managed by volunteers.  I join there every year, and try to get out several times.

I passed the little shed in the woods that seems to be a sugar shack for these landowners, and checked out the map (these trails post excellent maps).  I've skiid here in past years so I know these trails well.  The lantern was for a moonlit ski later that evening.  Perfect conditions, but I don't know if they got the full moon.

These trails are relatively flat, mostly through the woods, and they're among my favourite.  The afternoon sun was casting shadows across the trail in the woods.  I skiid alone again, so I could take my camera and stop as often as I wanted to take pictures.  I did run into other people on the trails though.

I like this point where the trails come out to the edge of a large farm field, and there's a row of big old maples along the fenceline.  Today they were casting strong shadows.

Twice I crossed a main snowmobile trail run by the Klondyke Trail Groomers.  Snowmobiles come very fast after you first here them though, so it's really up to the skier to watch out for the snowmobiler.  Both are popular winter activities around here.

Sure enough, these riders flashed past me, but I had heard them and was standing waiting.  I doubt if they even saw me.  But the snowmobile and xc ski groups get along well and I'm not aware of any conflicts.  I figure any activity which gets people outdoors in January is good!

This is the actual snowmobile trail, a groomed trail about 10' wide.  You need to be a member to ride these trails.  The club has negotiated miles and miles of trails in this area, many of which cross private land, with handshake agreements.

After they passed I made my way to the start of the 'Long Piney Woods Trail'.  It's a straight run through a pine plantation that ends up going gently downhill.

 You can look a long way ahead, and I love the long run downhill.  (It's climbing up hills on the trails that gets me!)

 And you can look a long way back to see where you've come from.  After not being allowed to ski much last year after my heart surgery, I was really glad to get out on the trails again this year!  That's four times so far.

There's also a Short Piney Woods Trail, just in case you're interested.

I skiid around a couple of these loops twice, and after a  beautiful hour and a half headed out, past the beehives closed for the winter, and home.  I said to my wife that this might have been the best day of the whole winter - I hope not, but it certainly can't get better than this day was!

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