Tag Archives: UK

Discovering Dartmoor, UK

21 Jan

During our recent trip to the UK, we were eager to see the English moors, the setting of many a fine novel, including Wuthering Heights and The Secret Garden in the Yorkshire moors, Lorna Doone in Exmoor, Jamaica Inn in Bodmin Moor, and The Hound of the Baskervilles in Dartmoor. On our way south to Cornwall, we drove through Bodmin Moor at night and passed by Jamaica Inn, which actually exists. But there wasn’t much to see in the thick, dark, fog. Not much to see, but a lot to think about–namely, that the moors are not a place one wants to be wandering about in at night (driving through them in the dark being only marginally better). Had Daphne du Maurier’s heroine Mary Yellan been real, I would have shuddered in empathy as we passed the Inn.

On our way north from Cornwall a few days later, we drove through Dartmoor National Park–during the day. Dartmoor rose up before us, a vast, damp, hilly area of spongy, sodden ground, complete with bogs, streams, rocks, holes, exposed granite hilltops (crossword puzzle lovers will know these craggy formations as tors), and the shaggy but ever-persevering Dartmoor ponies. We stopped here and there to soak in the atmosphere (soak being a good adjective in this particular case, as a light rain was falling, gently lashing us in the face).

It was other worldly: overcast grey skies against a striking green, reddish-brown, rocky landscape–and total solitude and total silence, except for the sound of the rain and of the water in the streams gurgling its way downward. It was also breathtakingly beautiful.



Eden Project, Cornwall, UK

16 Jan

For a gardener, England is a magical place, full of lovingly designed and tended gardens–from the formal and majestic to the whimsical and intimate.  Alas, December isn’t the best time to visit gardens in England, but for hardier aficionados, there are many things to see even in winter. And then, for the rest of us, there are indoor gems like the Eden Project in Cornwall, which features huge covered biomes built on the site of an old china clay pit:

It was my one request on our recent trip to the British Isles: a few days in Cornwall to see the Eden Project and explore some of the natural beauty of the area. I was tempted to stop in at the Lost Gardens of Heligan (having read Tim Smit’s fascinating book on the restoration of the famous gardens there), but wanted to save that experience for a future summer, should I ever have the opportunity.

The Eden Project was a novelty, mostly because it is such an unusual space. Taking advantage of a fine morning, we walked through the outdoor gardens first, then made our way inside –to the Rainforest and Mediterranean biomes.

Here are just a few of the sights that were a pleasure to behold in December: Golden Chalice Vine, Parakeet Heliconia, a striking plant with red stems and lobed green fruits that I have not been able to identify (so if anyone happens to know what it is, enlightenment would be much appreciated!*), the unfurling leaf of a banana tree  (I never quite thought about how that happened before–it was a revelation), and finally, a lizard that almost completely blended into the background until one of our sharp-eyed friends spotted it.

*Update Feb 2014: I now know what the previously  unidentified plant is — it is a Glory Bower (Clerodendrum speciosissimum);  the third photo below shows the fruits of the plant.