Tyntesfield is a National Trust site and therefore well kept and picturesque. It is also very expensive to enter. It also airbrushes out the lives of real people. For example, this particular site has within living memory been handed over to the NT, and the subjection of a rural working class by its landed masters is still remembered. However judging by the huge illustrated displays you would have thought everything was like a particularly pleasant episode of upstairs downstairs. No I tell a lie, there was one panel that explained why animal bones were found under the floorboards in the toilets – the servants were stealing away with the scraps from the masters table and hiding the evidence. Can you imagine being that hungry?
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[/dropshadowbox][mappress mapid=”5″]Needless to say, I can spend much of my time wandering around NT sites fuming. The elegance and lavishness we see was built on the sweat of the people. Then after a bit of class indignation I wander into the Victorian Kitchen Garden to find the place covered in weeds! Naturally I offer my services to a man in uniform who is standing around. He explains to me that there is a waiting list and everyone wants to volunteer in the walled garden. I explain to him that if everyone is so keen why is the place so covered in weeds. He glowers at me and I move on.
That was the first time I went. The next time I visit (one year later) I find I have to insist on the standard entry fee, the clerks seem unable to read the tariff and want me to pay more. I wander down to the walled garden, it is after all the apogee of vegetable growing. There is a great improvement (see pics).
The place bears comparison with the other walled garden in the Bristol area, Barley Wood. Both are built on the crossed square format with trained fruit trees against each wall. I like the planting in Barley Wood much more for its intimacy, but I love the glasshouses at Tyntesfield, even though they are a commodity I could never afford (or even have the space for). They are serious class, though.
As you would expect, the plants are laid out in highly regimented rows that accentuate a feeling of maximum yield but also have a gentle decorative feel. Note the lavender bordering the edibles which is very impressive. I like the espaliered fruit trees which are both elegant and high yielding. They are trained against the walls to receive both protection from the wind and reflected heat from the walls.
I haven’t totally abandoned rows in my own gardening – I have rows of onions underplanted by clover – but my gardening aesthetic leans towards polycultures and drifts. I like a mixed border that flops out in all directions even if it is held rigidly in by box hedges. Patterned planting feels old fashioned and I know the National Trust are trying to preserve a century old ideal but I like my gardens to live now and in the present. I’d like to see the garden break out of its Victorian constraints, a vision of a “forest” garden in a walled space is enchanting even if I know it will never happen. But how about an interplanted orchard with alleys of sun loving veg and fruit climbers like grapes and kiwis scrambling amongst the fruit trees and all bounded by those giant brick walls. How cool would that be?
So if that’s what I would have liked to see does that mean I didn’t enjoy my visits?. Well, I keep coming back, don’t I?. But I do want more. I want the place to be packed with dazzling edibles and I want the gardeners to give/sell me plug plants like they do at Barley Wood.
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