Thursday, 20 December 2018

Botanical Gardens - Birmingham

The Botanical Gardens are one of those places that you can visit any number of times and always find something different. Designed by J C Loudon in 1829 it took just three years to establish and open to the public. It was intended to serve as an attraction for local people and an education centre for the universities and schools.

The gardens cover 15 acres close to the centre of Birmingham. A range of exotic plants are featured in the four main glasshouses: Tropical, Sub-tropical, Mediterranean and Arid. In all, there are more than 7000 different plants in the glasshouses and across the flower borders in general.

There is also a large lawned aviary that houses many exotic birds, but some are also allowed free range of the gardens, and tend to stay there.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

B15 3TR

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Aston Hall - Birmingham

Sir Thomas Holme commissioned the building of the impressive Aston Hall in 1618. John Thorpe was the chosen architect and it took 17 years for the house and grounds to be completed, though Holme moved in in 1631.

There were moments to regret, especially when the Parliamentary Troops attacked in 1643. Some of the damage caused by cannon balls is still evident today.

In 1817 the Holme family sold the hall and parkland to James Watt Jr, son of the famous James Watt. In 1858 he could no longer manage to hold on and the hall was sold to a private company in 1858. They also struggled and in 1864 it was bought by the Birmingham Corporation.

Part of the parkland was hived off and is now the site for Aston Villa Football Club. Later a lower stretch of the parkland was taken to allow the construction of the A38 link road between the M6 motorway and the Birmingham City centre.

The hall in now a museum. For a while it housed most of the exhibits now in the new Birmingham Museum but now there are different themes on view. The hall is open to the public during the summer months. The gardens are ornate and well maintained.

Aston Hall

Aston Hall Gardens

B6 6JD

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Dinton Pastures Pleasure Park - Berkshire

Some parks go a step or two beyond the norm. That is what you will find at Dinton Pastures.

Apart from the boating lakes and wildlife trails, plus the extensive play areas, there are also activities designed to suit all ages, from toddlers, through teens to adults, mature or otherwise. There is organised swimming and boating, playgroups and well structured courses on a wide range of rural subjects and pastimes.

Worth a visit if you have an hour or two to spare.

Dinton Pastures Pleasure Park

RG10 0TH

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Chaddleworth - Berkshire

A few short miles from Brightwalton is the village of Chaddleworth, boasting a population of 500.

There is little doubt that the village has Saxon origins. Claims that it might be even older have not be proved emphatically. The main focus in the village for hundreds of years was the Priory that stood where Chaddleworth House stands today. Like many other such establishments, it fell foul of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and became the property of the Nelson Family.

The Nelson's were happy enough for around 250 years, but in 1809 they replaced the priory with the current Chaddleworth House.

Chaddleworth House

St Andrews - RG20 7DT

Brightwalton - Berkshire

Brightwalton does not warrant a day trip, but for anyone in the area it is worth a detour.

The village is in two halves. The more modern half could not claim to be attractive, but the other end features a cluster of thatched cottages and an interesting church.

The village existed pre-Norman Conquest days and the Domesday Book records, in 1086, the church of All Saints already built and serving the local populace. This church lasted until 1863, but then it was demolished and replaced by a Gothic Revival-styled church which has now been around long enough to be pretty at given times of the year.

RG20 7BN

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Hazelby House - Berkshire

Hazelby House is near the village of East Woodhay. It is in Berkshire but is very close to the boundary with Hampshire.

The house was built between 1900 and 1910 from a design by Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield for Captain Sandbach. Some 40 years ago the house was bought by Martin and Prue Lane-Fox and they spent the next 20 years creating the 10 acre garden that is the highlight of the 350 acre estate.

The garden is divided into sections, featuring ornamental ponds, terraces, a lily pond and other areas that are themed. The house and grounds are not normally open to the public, but events are staged there from time to time in cooperation with the Hampshire Garden Trust.

Hazelby House

RG20 0AZ

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Caversham Court Gardens - Berkshire

Caversham Court is another of those places that fell foul of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

St Peter's Church was built during the 12th Century. A rectory was built alongside it, and following King Henry VIII's intervention it was gifted to Christ Church, Oxford. The rectory housed many influential local families over the next 400 years, and eventually became known at Cavendish Court.

The building had a chequered life. It came under attack during the Civil War. Later it was rebuilt in the Tudor style. Parts of the staircase and ceiling that sported bullet holes from the attack are preserved and can be viewed at the Museum of Reading.

The gardens were originally created over a 20 year period, commencing in 1660. In 1993, ownership of the house and gardens passed to Reading Corporation. The house was demolished but the gardens and other important buildings were opened to the public in 1934. When Reading Borough Council took over, they closed everything to visitors until the garden was reopened in 2009.

Caversham Court Gardens