Posted: Saturday 20 August 2011
North East Associates
Levens Hall & Gardens Visit
- Thursday 18th August -
Last year's future event programme work in weather forecasting resulted in an excellent day for our excursion to Levens Hall in south - very south - Lakeland.
||Two full coaches of
North East Associates
left "The Toon", leaving
St. Mary's Cathedral behind,
and headed many miles south
before turning west to climb
up to Bowes Moor
to go across the Pennines.
What goes up must come down
- and the western descent into the
Vale of Lune
is a pleasure to the eye.
Leading the convoy was "The Bee" - aptly nicknamed
A different approach to eating was tried - for us that is - due to our venue having only limited catering facilities. Close to our destination we stopped in Crooklands, at the Crooklands Hotel with whom the meal order had been placed as we started our journey - but we'd never heard of either before!
Arriving early there was time to grab a drink and then they were ready for us, serving up one hundred lunches without a hitch, very good food to.
This practice was hailed as a success and may be repeated as it allows us to widen the range of venues.
Leaving Crooklands on time, within fifteen minutes drive we were at Levens Hall.
The property is the largest Elizabethan house in Cumbria, but probably of greater interest to most visitors is the garden with its fine topiary display.
Beech hedges up to 20ft high separate sections of the garden, with plenty of border and bedding planting too.
House first! The building was erected in four distinct periods:-
The first was when the de Redman family built the pele tower and hall between 1250 and 1300.
Pele towers are small fortified keeps or tower houses, built along the English and Scottish borders, intended as watch towers where signal fires could be lit to warn of approaching danger. By an Act of Parliament each of these towers had to have an iron basket on its summit and a smoke or fire signal, for day or night use, ready at hand.
The second came around 1580 when the Bellingham family, cousins of the de Redmans, made the grim medieval shell into a gentleman's residence.
Thirdly, c. 1700, a Colonel James Grahme furnished the house, and added the south wing and kitchens.
Grahme apparently won the house in a game of cards in 1688.
Work was finished in 1820 when the Howard Tower was added by Henry Howard.
The present owners and occupiers, the Bagot family, can trace their line back to Colonel Grahme - that's from 323 years ago.
Associate curiosity found an electric blanket on an 18th century bed, and JL towels in various rooms! All mod-cons for the family ghosts?
In one corner of the garden is a "Smoke House" with the note
"This small building, triangular in shape, is as far away from the House as possible. Facing north-west it is not a summer house as may be imagined, but a place to which those members of the family and guests who had fallen prey to the smoking habit, introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh, were banished!"
A creature or a piece of military equipment? You decide!
The interior of the house contains a wealth of most interesting features including fine panelling and plasterwork dating from the latter part of the 16th century.
No photography allowed!
The garden was begun in 1694 and we're told that some of the topiary dates back to just after this time. The many interesting garden features were an attraction for all, as were the many places to rest awhile. We were allowed to walk on the grass, too.
|A "Ha-Ha" features
from earliest days,
but the view over it
is not visible friom the house,
in fact it is a long walk from there.
From the picture
the reality of the protection
isn't obvious, but over the curve
is a sheer 8ft drop!
Some aged and interesting bits of hardware also - a lead water tank with the date 1704 and the estate's Ferguson tractor from 1952 which is still in daily use.
On show, but today sadly lifeless and behind glass, is Bertha, a splendid 1920 Fowler Showman's Engine - normally brought to life and steamed at weekends and on summer bank holidays.
Approaching time to leave there's a chance to see more of the gardens and walk on the lush lawns before having 'one for the road' - a cuppa that is!
In the last area seen vegetables were being grown in the formal beds. We spotted beetroot, red onions and courgettes!
On the road again we headed north up the M6 towards Carlisle, enjoying the views of the lakeland fells, then turning east towards Newcastle. This most northerly English cross-country route is a slow follow-the-leader road for over 30 of its 50 miles, but nevertheless we arrived back early, this being in time for many to catch their train connections and avoid a long wait.
So, this has been a very enjoyable round trip - "square" if you look at a map - with good weather and excellent arrangements. Lakeland - we'll be back in September!
pictures: jec, ph, r-mh
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