Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hartland Abbey Highlights. Wild Flowers and Woodland Walks

While winter winds bite and the first snow flurries settle on the frozen ground I thought it would be a good time to look back on some of the highlights of 2011. The sun definitely shone on Hartland Abbey in July when it was visited by the BBC Antiques Roadshow. The programme was aired on the 8th of January and attracted over 6 million viewers. There are a host of other events at Hartland Abbey including the annual Spring Wildflower Walks. I went to my first Snowdrop Sunday in February 2008 now Snowdrop Sundays, Daffodil and Bluebell Days are firmly fixed on the North Devon Coast and Country Calendar. Hartland Abbey, the ancestral home of the Stucley Family, is located in a sheltered steep-sided valley flanked by a fast running stream and ancient woodland. From the majestic house a long meadow sweeps down to Blackpool Mill Cove and the sea. On Open Days the public are allowed to use the private footpath which meanders down to the beach between this tranquil meadow and the woods. This is a great walk for four-legged friends and all generations of the family. The not so nimble can stick to the footpath while the more agile can venture up through the woods via designated paths to explore the Summer House and the Gazebo beyond. The Gazebo is perched on the hillside high above the South West Coast Path and Blackpool Mill Cottage, location for BBC1's film adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility". Blackpool Mill Cottage, became Barton Cottage and was, for a while, home to the Dashwoods. On Daffodil Sunday, a cold day in March we checked out the newly restored Summer House, and were delighted to find a log fire burning in this now inviting cosy hideaway. Although the big draw is the historic daffodils at this time of year there are also plenty of narcissus, primrose, dog violet and great swathes of pretty wood anemone. The ornamental cherry was flowering and huge buds were emerging on the old Rhododendron and Magnolia. On the way out we stopped to take shots of vibrant Spring Squill. April 25 and we are back for the Bluebell Walk. Spotted a Buzzard aloft, a little red Robin, small white, orange tip and speckled wood butterflies and heard a Peacock. Three donkeys loped down to see us off at the gate, black sheep were bleating on the upland while white sheep and lazy cattle snoozed on the meadow beside the Abbey River. The Summer House, now bathed in dappled light, is surrounded by fresh green woodland ferns and bluebells. The legendary bluebells, which stretch from the Walled Gardens to the sea, were magnificent carpeting the banks either side of the path, the blue haze continuing upwards through the woods. The Bluebells were accompanied by Red Campion, Ransom (Wild Garlic), Lesser Stitchwort, Speedwell and Dog Violet. Down at the beach a loud rolling surf was crashing on the rocks. Amazingly wild flowers thrive on this windswept coast. Thrift Sea Pinks and Kidney Vetch poke out from the crags and the cliff meadow is dotted with Sea Campion, Devils-bit Scabious, Daisies and Lesser Celandine. Blackpool Mill Cove sits between Hartland Quay and Hartland Point on the South West Coast Path and the coastal hills are covered in golden Gorse at this time of year. After the bracing walk back up the meadow, beside the Abbey River, it was time for a well-earned cup of tea. There was a selection of homemade cakes, cream teas and our pasties arrived piping hot from the Abbey Kitchen Aga. Happy Days!

Don’t miss the next episode of BBC Antiques Roadshow from Hartland Abbey on 26th February

Hartland Abbey Wild Flower Walks 2012
11th and 12th February 2012 from 11 am-4 pm Snowdrop Weekend
Saturday 17th and Sunday, 18 March 2012, from 11am-4pm Daffodil Days and Mothering Sunday
Sunday 22 to Sunday 29 April 2012 from 11am to 5pm Bluebell Week
*All cream teas and home-made cakes served in the old Abbey kitchens in aid of St. Nectan's Church
Visit Hartland Abbey website for all special event information, House and Garden Opening times.
Article by Pat Adams North Devon Focus
Explore the Hartland Heritage Coast with the North Devon Focus Picture Tour

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