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Dartington Hall Gardens

Today we decided to leave the work, the dusting, the tidying, the vacuuming, the painting (by husband) of a 2nd hand old-but-beautiful wrought iron gate (one our younger son had bought for just £10 and which would cost hundreds if he had commissioned it to be specially produced) and all the other work that running a home and garden involves.  Today we decided to get away from it all.  Well, not a whole day, because we oldies can’t wander around for a whole day, but at least a walk morning coffee out and then perhaps lunch a little later on.

So off we went and arrived in the car park of Dartington’s Cider Press Centre (an excellent place, where retail outlets are spread throughout a variety of old and new buildings.  This isn’t an out-of-town shopping mall – perish the thought – or a shopping village. No, it’s quite different from anything like those; hard to describe, really, but just a lovely place to browse and perhaps buy some rather nice clothes, or cookware or special food and wine products.

But we didn’t go into the Cider Press Centre straight away; we were saving that until later on. Instead we ambled up the road to Dartington Hall Gardens …

This is the view as I turned, having walked up this hill, and as you can see, autumn is here regardless of the heatwave of the Bank Holiday weekend.   Leaves are falling, the wild flowers have died, and there is a distinct change of season.  The air smells differently from a few weeks ago.  And looking to the left (over the hedge) our view over fields shows us rows of plants …

Now, where’re not viticulturists but, and admittedly from a distance, these looked suspiciously like newly-planted views to me, and on a south sloping field.  Maybe in a few years time we will have Dartington English wine, who knows?  And believe me, the grass really was bright green.

Later:  I’ve now seen from the Dartington Newsletter that this is most definitely not a field of vines. It is Dartington’s foray into Agroforestsry (www.dartington.org.uk)

Regardless of the weather, for today was overcast but not cold, the gardens of Dartington Hall are glorious.

Notice board at entrance to the gardens

It was so peaceful, so tranquil, birds singing, and just the gentle rustle of leaves.  We walked through an acer glade and past the swans’ fountain and small pool …

Looking up we saw that the beech trees appeared to have an abundance of nuts or rather nuts when they fall from their hairy cupules (I looked up this term, I had no idea what it was called.)

We made our way to Henry Moore’s sculpture of a reclining woman, otherwise known as The Fat Lady …

She is on a plinth overlooking what is known as the Tiltyard, with Dartington Hall in the background.  This is what it says in my booklet about the gardens:

“The wide flat lawn is reputed to have been the site of an ancient tiltyard created in the 14th century by John Holand, Duke of Exeter.  Knightly contests were very likely held here, spectators assembling on the surrounding grass terraces.  In restoring it to something like its original shape in the late 1920s, Dorothy Elmhirst [she was an American heiress of substantial wealth] had it in mind that it should be used as an open-air theatre – seldom to prove possible because of Devon’s climate.  Encountered nowadays as vulnerable empty space, the atmosphere of the modern tiltyard is no less dramatic.”

We then made our way along the Long Border, which is in the process of ‘going over’, the flowers fading, but there is still beauty in seed heads and skeletal plants before they disappear underground for the winter, for this is a mainly herbaceous border, in shades of yellow and blue …

Along this border are placed, at convenient points, Lutyen’s style benches …

The Lutyens bench was a creation of Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, the British architect who was, and still is, known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his particular era. The Lutyens bench is also known as a Sissinghurst bench or Marlborough bench, all names for this style of bench.   And husband snapped me in my usual uniform of navy and white …

We now made our way past Dartington Hall, a wonderful building that the Elmhirsts restored in the early part of the 20th century …


And we made our way to the café close by, by now in need of a cup of coffee.  We sat outside, perhaps a mistake as we were caught in a shower, but we each had a small chubby umbrella, and the shower only lasted a few minutes …

We then retraced our steps, past the Tiltyard, past the swans’ fountain, and back down the road to the Cider Press Centre, where we had lunch.   Bayards Kitchen (as it is now styled) used to be Cranks Restaurant, and we always enjoyed our meals there, but although under new ownership the food is similar, lots of wholefoods – lentils, brie and cranberry quiches, that sort of thing, but with the addition of some non-vegetarian foods, such as meat pies.  We chose to share a homity pie because we know our appetites aren’t what they once were, and a portion of salad each.  It was all quite delicious …

This is half a portion of homity pie and it was quite sufficient for us 

For those not familiar with homity pie, it is a pastry case in which is piled cooked potato, grated cheese, cooked onion, garlic, chopped parsley, all bound together with a little milk, and then baked. Well, that is roughly the version from my Cranks recipe book. The salad had more ingredients than you could shake a garden hoe at. Below is my own version of individual homity pies …

Homity pies

This is a very pleasant café …

After our tasty meal (no dessert, we had quite sufficient with the homity pie and salad) we made our way through the various departments, some selling lovely clothes, leather bags, perfume, shoes, scarves, jewellery, etc, and then into the kitchen department to look at crockery and cookware, aprons, tea towels, gadgets, etc., before making our way back to our car and our journey home.

While I was looking at the perfumes, I sprayed on myself a sample of a fragrance by Arran, a Scottish perfumery.  I liked it, but I like to leave a new fragrance to ‘mature’ a while before deciding whether to buy or not; and so I didn’t buy it. But by the time I was home I decided I did like it, and have been online to the company and have ordered a bottle of a fragrance called After the Rain. For wasn’t our garden visit before, during and after the rain?

Indeed, we had a lovely time and came home tired but, in a very pleasant way, and very much refreshed.

Until next time.




About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    What a blissful day, tranquility, birds singing, beautiful trees, plenty of greenery, my perfect day. You do have some really lovely days out, I don’t think I have ever had a homity pie.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I think I need to post a recipe for Homity Pie, it’s lovely and it’s relatively inexpensive (cheese, potatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, things most cooks have in their larder/fridge). Yes, it was a lovely day in spite of the showers! Absolutely loved it and now I have the Arran fragrance, After the Rain, to look forward to.

  2. That sounds like a really pleasant day out! I have not been to Darlington Hall Gardens, definitely need go sometime soon! X

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      If you live close enough to Dartington Hall Gardens, it is a lovely place for a walk and relaxation, Dot. And the food in most of the places in and around Dartington are nice for food, including the White Hart bar next to Dartington Hall.

  3. I agree, Margaret, a recipe for Homity Pie would be nice. What an interesting excursion. If I want to do a trip like this in Auckland, I think out Museum grounds would be closest. I loved your outfit, chic-elegant with a touch of casual-modern.

    • Margaret Powling

      Right then, Ratnamurti, I will make a note to give a homity pie receipe shortly. It’s a very nice ‘pie’ although it is more quiche/flan than a pie which I always considered to have pastry top and bottom. I also think it’s time husband and I went to our county capital, Exeter, and I posted about that, for not only is there a lovely Decorated Gothic Cathedral, but also an excellent Museum (but with little garden, although close by are the lovely Rougemont Gardens.) Thank you for the kind words re my navy and white (my uniform!) I was looking through some old photos the other day and I was wearing that shirt, a very light cotton one, and the date of the photo was 1992 and the shirt wasn’t even new then!

  4. It looks a really lovely place for a day out, maybe I’ll get there one day.

    Reading about your blouse, my daughter has taken over a cardigan from me which is at least 40 years old and still going strong. We joke that it’s woven from kryptonite.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, some things seem to go on forever, don’t they? I have some ankle boots that my sister in law gave me years ago. They were by Bally of Switzerland. She had bought them in a Sale and they were just a little too small for her, so she passed them to me, and they were brand new. I used to wear them to the office in the days when I worked, but I gave up the day job in 1992 and they were old by then and I still have them (OK, they’re not pristine now, but they are useable!)

  5. Thank you for a walk round Darlington gardens, will add that to my ever growing list of places to visit when we finally come down to Devon, another vote here for the Homity pie recipe please.
    After an extremely foggy start to the day the sun has now come out here in East Anglia and it’s pleasurably warm, I love the sunlight this time of year, more golden and mellow than at the height of summer. We still have tomatoes to ripen so hopefully it lasts a little longer otherwise it’s chutney making time!

    • Margaret Powling

      Dartington is lovely regardless of the season, Elaine, but I think it’s really a spring garden, with magnolias, crocus, and daffodils. But such a lovely place for a stroll. What we do like to do, and as the weather looked like we might have a downpour any moment so we didn’t do it, is park in Totnes and then take the riverside walk (by the River Dart) to Dartington, which is a much longer, proper country walk and really lovely (and not hilly as it’s by the river.)
      Right, Homity pie recipe coming up soon. I have also made a note that I will do a piece on Follies, too.
      It has been lovely here in Torbay, too, this morning, but more of that in a future post.

  6. What beautiful gardens. It all looks so lush and green.
    The perfume is indeed a lovely fragrance. We visited the perfumery itself when we were on Arran in July.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, how lovely to have visited the perfumery on Arran. I’ve only read about it on their website. I have visited the Cotswold Perfumery, though, and they have some lovely fragrances, too. I was surprised that the Arran eau de toilettes aren’t all that expensive, either, unlike some English perfume houses’ fragrances.
      Yes, it’s all still rather lush and green here in Devon although, this morning, driving back from Torquay through an area where there are several large trees by the main road, we noticed their leaves were turning from green to brown … autumn is arriving if not yet fully arrived.

  7. Oh how I wish I could have been there! Those gardens are just lovely. You look very smart on that beautiful bench! I can just imagine how refreshed you felt after such a day (and tired, too). Thanks for sharing your excursions with your readers.

    • Margaret Powling

      We had a lovely time, Jeannine, even though we were caught in a shower of rain. I have two chubby umbrellas and husband had one in his bag and I had one in mine (we both had small canvas bags, you can see mine in the photograph, the other one is green with brown leather, mine is navy with brown leather) so we didn’t get wet. I love those Lutyens’ benches, I think one might look a bit OTT in our small garden, though I am tempted! Our garden bench is very plain compared with a Lutyens’ bench!

  8. Another lovely tour. Thank you, Margaret. I agree with many of the above comments – the gardens and scenery is so pretty; your outfit is lovely; your cheeky smile showed through very well in that photo; and pls post a recipe for homily pie.

    We seem to be going through a dry spell in our area and so lawns and fields are looking very dull. I’m sure that everything will spring back to life, all lush and green, once the rains return. Mind you, I’m still carrying a small umbrella in my handbag everyday as I know the one day I don’t have it will be the one day I’m caught out.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I promise that Homity Pie will be the next post, Lara!
      Thank you, also, for your kind comments re the gardens at Dartington Hall, and for the compliments re my navy outfit (and cheeky smile!)
      We have rain here today, wall to wall rain, it’s not stopped since the early hours of the morning. Indeed, it feels chilly and we’ve put the central heating on. I fear that autumn is here. I’m very much a spring person, I love the fresh, bright greens and spring flowers. Autumn is beautiful but I think of it as the dying of the year, then the dormant dark winter months before everything springs to life again. I think I’m alone as on many a blog I read, the writers are loving the onset of autumn whereas I mourn the loss of the light mornings, light evenings, and the colour of spring and summer.

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