Monday, April 18, 2016

Northumberland Day 3 - Howick Hall Gardens

Snowdrops at Howick Hall by Martyn Ferry Photography

Woke up for sunrise, but it was obvious there wasn't going to be one, just a uniform grey, slowly lightening, which with even the best will in the world, wasn't worth getting out of bed for.

I got up again a bit later and pottered about, I was going to Howick Park, which didn't open until 10.30 so I had plenty of time. I arrived and had a wander into the gardens, which were full of snowdrops. Not many daffodils though which was a shame, as there were thousands planted, but they still had at least a couple of weeks to go. 

Howick Hall, a Grade II* listed building and the ancestral seat of the Earls Grey. It was the home of the Prime Minister Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, after whom the famous tea is named. The original Earl Grey tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin to suit the water at Howick, and was later marketed by Twinings.

Image of a graceful swan in black and white by Martyn Ferry Photography
The first thing I came across was a pair of swans, who were obviously used to getting fed, as they hastily
glided towards me when I appeared on the river bank. This was useful, as it meant I could get a few shots
while they waited in vain for a free meal.

Red tree with peeling bark at Howick Hall by Martyn Ferry Photography
These red, peeling trees caught my eye, no idea what they were mind you.

Woodland path through pine forest by Martyn Ferry Photography
It's obvious that weather was pretty drab to say the least.

Snowdrops and winding stream at Howick Hall in Northumberland by Martyn Ferry Photography
A collection of snowdrops perched on the bend of a small stream
that runs through the arboretum section of the gardens.

Woodland bridge and snowdrops at Howick Hall in Northumberland by Martyn Ferry Photography
This part of the gardens was criss crossed with little tributaries, gurgling past a patchwork of snowdrops, it
was quite charming, especially as I had the place to myself.

Howick Hall is not open to the public at the moment, but there are long term plans to restore the ground floor and to open it with an exhibition on the family, the Great Reform Bill of 1832, the garden and arboretum, and local natural history. 

The Hall was built in 1782 by a Newcastle architect, William Newton. A big fire destroyed the whole of the interior of the main house in 1926, with all the contents of the top two floors; it was rebuilt in 1928 to quite different designs by Sir Herbert Baker. 

Howick Hall in Northumberland by Martyn Ferry Photography
A view of the back of the house, later in the year the borders will be teeming with flowers but it was too
early for that.

As previously mentioned, Howick is the home of Earl Grey tea. The tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, to suit the water from the well at Howick, using bergamot in particular to offset the taste of the lime in it. Lady Grey used it in London when entertaining as a political hostess, and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came to market it and it is now sold worldwide. Unfortunately the Greys, being unbusinesslike, failed to register the trade mark and as a result they have never received a penny in royalties.

To the right of the house is the tea room, where you can get a cup
of that famous tea.

As leader of the Whig party he was Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, during which time the Great Reform Bill of 1832 was passed in the teeth of opposition from the Duke of Wellington; this started the process of parliamentary reform which eventually led to our modern democracy.  He married Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby in 1794; the marriage was happy and fruitful, the couple had 15 children!

Howick Hall in Northumberland reflection by Martyn Ferry Photography
The front of this grand house reflected in the large pond that sits in the courtyard.

Woodland snowdrops at Howick Hall in Northumberland by Martyn Ferry Photography
Unfortunately there wasn't much colour out when I was there, just the odd plant or two. In a few weeks it
would be a proverbial riot.

Spent the day in the park, until it was closing time, and with all the walking my feet were killing me, so I was glad to get back to the car for a bit of a sit down. I then drove to Dunstanburgh Castle in the hope that something might occur for sunset...

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