On a whim a couple of weeks ago I went ‘nursery trawling’ in the south west-ish of England. I collect Iris, specifically Miniature Tall Bearded iris but of late I have been expanding into Tall Bearded and Standard Dwarf Bearded. The best place to find them is at a specialist, not because they have better plants but because they have a wider variety.

The nursery trawl was slightly disappointing though I did manage to obtain one MTB the nursery stocks of most iris were a bit on the bland side – the breeder of Jane Phillips has a LOT to answer for! I shouldn’t complain I ended up with 7 new iris varieties.

Finding myself in deepest Somerset facing a 3.5 hours drive home I decided to impose on friends and stay over. Full of interesting local info they insisted I visit Barrington Court a local National Trust Property with interesting gardens and an exhibition of Anthony Gormely’s work.

BARRINGTON COURT - WALLED GARDEN

Walled Kitchen Gardens

The layout is something resembling a small village, or how I imagine it might have been in the middle ages, a long wide path type road with broad grassy verges leading towards a large house, one side of the verge lies the large walled garden and several large brick built buildings, 2/3rd of the way up the path to the right Barrington Court appears, far more imposing than the original house. Moated and formal gardens to it’s boundaries.

Barrington Court Moat

The elegant Court Moat

A now empty Tudor manor house it was restored in the 1920’s by the Lyle family (Arthur Lyle being the grandson of Abram Lyle of Golden Syrup fame!). Sumptuous Oak panelling installed throughout the house from Lyle’s historic collection gives a rich light to the house. Winding stairs bring you upon unexpected views of crazy chimney pots, round another corner a wide expanse of landscape, then a window onto gardens and courtyards.

The arrival at the top into a long gallery flooded with soft light and oak panelled walls is like stepping into the Narnia movies, and sets the nostalgic thoughts a whirring.

Chimney pots from the inner staircase

Chimney pots from the inner staircase

That said my favorite part of the house, for I am not normally an historic house go-er, was the Anthony Gormley exhibition, Fields for the British Isles,  in the basements. Of 40,000 little clay ‘people’ about 30,000 have been squidged into 3 rooms, every inch of floor is covered and they gaze up at you from your own feet, with an almost mournful enquiry ‘ can I come with you?’

Anthony Gormley 'Fields' at Barrington Court 2012

Anthony Gormley ‘Fields’ at Barrington Court 2012

Gormley, in an exhibition video, describes them as ‘haunted souls awaiting their turn in a body’ – slightly disturbing! – but it’s a reminder of the Myth of Er from Plato‘s The Republic. Whether one believes in an afterlife or not they are disconcerting little statues crammed in together. GREAT, GREAT, GREAT. Go and see it!

Once outside it’s easy to see the Gertude Jeykll influence on the gardens. Loose planting, opulent and slightly chaotic,  giving a quintessentially English feel to the gardens.

Manor House and gardens

Its layout is a touch stiff for my liking and some of the ‘garden rooms’ tried a tad too hard but over all, the lush planting, great blocks of herbaceous perennials in full glory, shady pergolas heavily foliaged  and wide garden seats amidst extravagant planting, well, what is not to like on a hot summer day!

More photos here

  • What an interesting and beautiful place! Those ‘souls’ are a bit scary, but, in a way, cute. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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