Valley Gardens, Harrogate, Yorkshire

In 2015, we had the chance to visit the Spa Town of Harrogate a couple of times, on one occasion, along with Eddie, my smallest dog, I spent an hour exploring ‘Valley Gardens’  We did’nt get to see the whole of the gardens, as Eddie has little tiny legs and has to walk really fast, so we just pottered along the walkways.  I could have carried him, but trying to take photos while carrying a little dog, is a complete no no, so we just ambled along while I took photos one handed.  I remembered visiting many years ago as a child, and was so glad the pavilion looked the same.

A little history…….The Valley Gardens Harrogate are English Heritage Grade II Listed gardens situated in regal Low Harrogate, which along with woodland, are known as The Pinewoods covers 17 acres.

The Valley Gardens Harrogate contain a greater number of mineral springs than any other known place – visit the area known as Bogs Field where 36 different mineral wells were discovered.

Valley Gardens was developed as an attractive walk for visitors to the Spa town, part of their health regime between taking the waters, and as a means of access to the mineral springs of Bogs Field. The waterside walk with flowers and trees became a place for promenading, socialising and taking exercise. Photographs of the gardens in the early 20th century testify to their enormous popularity with crowds around the tea room, boating lake and bandstand. The Sun Pavilion and Colonnades were built as an added attraction and facility for the spa, intended as the first phase of a covered way linking the Pump Room and Royal Bath Hospital. Visitors to the mineral springs declined but the horticultural reputation of the Gardens grew with the staging of the Northern Horticultural Society’s Spring Flower Show in the Gardens and the addition of special garden areas.

The Cherub Fountain
In 1972 a leading Harrogate Councillor was visiting the Chelsea Flower show, where he saw a sculpture created by a young Australian called John Robinson, the Councillor took it upon himself to order the piece, which was presented to the then Director of Parks, Mr Alan Ravenscroft, on the 23 May 1972, where it was installed upon a circular stone surround in the centre of the Valley Gardens.


Sculthorpe Mill, Sculthorpe, Norfolk


I bought a lovely old book recently about the River Nene.  I was amazed at the detail and wonderful black and white photos between the covers.  This post is not about the river, but what was beside the river…..watermills.  There were so many mills that have now disappear, and maybe with luck there might be an early photo of what, was once a thriving mill.  I really didn’t realise how many there were, even along the River Nene which flows from before Peterborough, through Wisbech and into the Wash.  I thought in the Summer we would trace some of the villages along the route and see if anything is left.

For now though, I thought I would post about this lovely mill, that has been converted in to bed and breakfast accommodation, a pub, and a restaurant.  I took these photos of the mill in May 2013, and the cherry blossom was amazing.  On a couple of occasions we have stopped for a meal at ‘The Sculthorpe Mill’ which is a charming 18th century mill set in beautiful Norfolk countryside, with the River Wensum flowing through the large garden and then under the mill.


The mill in 1925

There were three watermills along the river in 1225, and a new watermill was built in 1757.

Having ground corn for many years, the mill probably ceased working c.1947 and was becoming derelict by the 1950s.  It was turned into a country club in 1980’s, but was nearly destroyed by a fire in 2002.  It was reopened in 2003, after a refit and is, as you see it now.

By the way, they do very good food, and also there is a lovely garden to sit in during the summer, if you just want a drink  🙂



The Sad End of Willowpool



I have just learnt that my all time favourite garden centre closed in 2015 and is most probably a housing estate by now.  Willowpool Garden Centre, Lymm in Cheshire, was an experience like no other, it was like Alice in Wonderland gone mad, in a lovely English eccentric kind of way.  It was a labyrinth of a place where crazy old antiques sat side by side with modern tacky reproductions. It had gorgeous old garden ornaments, that if we could have carried them home, would be in our garden now.  There were many different and really unusual plants, in lovely curious containers.  Buildings full of crafts to buy, wonderful little huts to have a bite to eat in, but that was back in 2012.  I am just so glad I made a record, it was winter, but the photos hopefully capture the wonderful weirdness of the place.  I hope you enjoy this visit as much as I did, and I will miss not being able to visit wonderland anymore.







The Elms Mansion, Newport, Rhode Island, USA


The Elms was the third Newport Mansion that we visited on our second day in Newport, Rhode Island, 2015.  By this time we were both feeling just a little bit tried, what with the heat and all the walking…..these Mansions are huge.  Again no photos allowed inside, so I have copied one from a book, just so you have an idea, of how opulent they are.



This stunning Newport mansion was the summer home of coal magnate Edward Julius Berwind.  Mr Berwind and his wife Sarah commissioned Horace Trumbauer to build them a home modeled after the French Château d’Asnières in 1898.


The house was completed in 1901, and remained in the family until the early 1960’s. It was purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County in 1962, within weeks of being demolished (yes, they were really going to demolish it!). It became a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

The estate was constructed from 1899 to 1901 and cost approximately 1.5 million dollars to build. Like most Newport estates of the Gilded Age, The Elms is constructed with a steel frame with brick partitions and a limestone facade.




In keeping with the French architecture of the house, the grounds of The Elms, were designed in French eighteenth-century taste and include a sunken garden.  We didn’t get as far as the sunken garden, due to my other half, who had sat down and totally refuse to move another inch in the heat.  I did venture a little, but I was suffering slightly, well more than that, so we decided to call it a day and head off to our hotel for a rest before dinner.  We still had two to explore before we left Newport the following day.

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island, USA

There are several beautiful mansions on Rhode Island, they are situated in Newport, which was quite convenient for us…….because that was where we were staying.  The sad thing about visiting them, you were not allowed to take photos of the interiors, and they made quite sure that there were no sneaky photos taken, two people in each room keeping a watchful eye on you.  ‘The Breakers’ is the jewel in the crown and you should really start your tour with this building, the interior is splendid and I am sure you can google it, if you want to have a peak, but I quite liked the exterior and gardens with their magnificent view of the ocean.  It was one of those really hot days when we were there in June 2105 and it was just a pleasure to roam around the grounds.

A little history for you – ‘The Breakers’ is a Vanderbilt mansion located on Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, United States on the Atlantic Ocean.  The reason the mansion is named ‘The Breakers’, not too difficult, named after the waves that continually crash into the cliffs below.  Cornelius Vanderbilt II bought a wooden villa called ‘The Breakers’ in Newport in 1885, which burnt down and in 1889 he had this amazing Mansion replace it.  I have added a small photo of the dinning room, which I have copied from a book, so you can have an idea of the gilt dripping interior.


The rich and famous built these wonderful buildings as, for want of a better word ‘seaside cottages’, nothing was too grand for them.  Unfortunately several of these amazing building were lost, demolished, as they became white elephants to their owners, far too expensive to run in modern times.  We have the The Preservation Society of Newport County to thank for saving the rest, as they preserve and protect the best of Newport County’s architectural heritage, its 11 historic properties and landscapes – seven of which are National Historic Landmarks.

So thats the first mansion visited and the next one, well I have to think about that one 🙂

Rack Island, Bibury, The Cotswolds


It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful the UK is……. four beautiful countries to explore, all so different from each other.  We were in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire and stopped at Bibury to have a look at a garden centre that I noticed.  Once parked, I realised how beautiful the river was and then I saw the wonderful row of cottages.  We did visit the garden centre and there are a couple of photos of a garden, which I think belonged to a nearby hotel.  We did not however…… visit the cottages, as the number of tourists were over whelming, but we will revisit, although we will arrive early morning and explore at our leisure…. one day.

A little history….. Rack Isle is an ancient water meadow, an important wildlife refuge and one of the most picturesque spots in the Cotswolds. Set beside the old weavers’ cottages of Arlington Row, it takes its name from the wooden racks on which finished cloth was dried. Old Tythe maps show that the meadow was also used for grazing. The Isle was given to the National Trust in 1956, and is now a rare habitat for water voles and a protected wildfowl breeding ground.