A Trip To Pitmedden Gardens (Part 1)

Last week we had another trip out to enjoy the beautiful weather before summer finally disappears. 
We travelled just 14 miles North of Aberdeen to the stunning Pitmedden Gardens. 
The magnificent walled garden was originally laid out in 1675 by Sir Alexander Seton.
(I really am falling in love with walled gardens).
The granite wall has sheltered the garden for more than 300 years... imagine that!
Little is known about the early history of the garden, but from at least the 1840's it was a productive kitchen garden, famed for it's apples and pears.
The wall has provided the garden protection from the worst of the weather, wind and predators over the years.
The property was gifted to the National Trust in 1952. 
The Trust set about re-creating the gardens following designs dating from the 17 century.
Today, Pitmedden features over 5 miles of box hedging arranged in intricate patters to form six parterres. 
(A parterre is a formal garden constructed on a level surface, consisting of planting beds, typically in symmetrical patterns, separated and connected by gravel pathways)
The gardener was busy with the hedge cutters, whist we wondered around the grounds.
I can imagine that it's a never ending job.
These parterres are filled with 40,000 plants bursting with colour, which makes quite a spectacle.
Unfortunately, some of the box hedging is suffering from the dreaded box blight that is plaguing the
UK at the moment, but it is currently being treated, so hopefully it will recover.
This is the centre of the walled garden looking out to the rear.
I've put in a request for my lawn to look like this next year. 
(A wall garden and a pristine lawn... not much to ask for really
This is the reverse of the photo above, looking back at the house.
A good part of being able to visit during the week is that there are very few visitors, so I am able to capture the images without people wandering into the shot.

The wall is hard to see on this photo below because it is covered it is fully laden with apples and pears. If you look closely you might be able to see the step ladders of one of the gardeners.
They were busy pruning the fruit.
The gardener was telling us about the September festival here at Pitmedden Gardens, when all the apples and pears are sold off.
Apple Sunday 'Applea and Cornkisters' will be held on Sunday 25th September.
The garden was positively buzzing with the sound of busy bees.
There is plenty more to show you but I'm aware of that I've probably taken up too much of your time, so I'll carry on with Part 2 another day. 
As well as the beautiful garden there's an orchard, small gallery, a museum of farming life with a fantastic collection of machinery and photographs of time gone by, plus a woodland walks.
Phew... I think it's time we should head to the cafe for afternoon tea. 
It's hard to imagine that today a garden would be planted on such an extravagant scale.
I hope you'll join me next time to carry on with our visit in Part 2.

I am linking today to
Wordless Wednesday... create with joy
Our World Tuesday
Wordless (on Tuesday at image-in-ing)
Although I'm hardly wordless, so I hope I'll be forgiven.

Wildlife Photography Workshop at Haddo House

I've been browsing through my many folders of photographs when I realised that I never got to share with you my participating in a wildlife photography workshop at a Scottish National Trust property.
I remember visiting Haddo House many years ago, but unfortunately I was on a mission this time, so didn't get to revisit inside the house. 
That will have to be for another day. 
Pretty spectacular isn't it?
(The above and below photographs are courtesy of the Haddo House website. I stayed in the grounds of the property so didn't really get to see the house or get a chance to take my own photos of it. If you'd like to visit Haddo House to check out all what's happening and there's always something going on, it really is worth visiting or if you're interested in it's history then click here.
The house was originally designed in 1732 so there's a lot of history!
Anyway more about the house perhaps on another day...we're off to join the intrepid trackers for a photo shoot of wildlife and to explore the extensive gardens and country park. Did I mention that there's also a tearoom in the old stable block too? 
That was where the group of enthusiasts met one Sunday morning back in May. 
Our professional wildlife photographer and cameraman was the delightful Cain Scrimgeour, who has filmed wildlife around the world - from Botswana to Peru. 
(He's produced films for the RSPB, Northumberland National Park, English Heritage, The Natural History Society of Northumbria. He's also worked as a specialist camera operator for ITV’s Tales of Northumberland with Robson Green so he's got quite a pedigree) 

After an initial introduction over a cuppa aided by some of Cain's fantastic photography we stepped outside. 
Here's Cain sharing some of his story's and showing different hides for experiencing nature up close and personal. 
As you can see it was not only informative but also a relaxed enjoyable workshop.
The thumb belongs to one of the group who very enthusiastically volunteered to demonstrate one of the hides. 
I hasten to add that I was not in fatigues or camouflager gear but did pass the initial talk about what was appropriate clothing to wear to get the best out of the landscape and not frightening everything within a 10 mile radius of my camera. 
So let's begin...
Bluebells... ahhh
I got slightly carried away here (click, click, click) then realised that although I'd thought to buy a complete new memory card for my camera, which would have allowed me to take gazillion's of pictures, unfortunately I hadn't thought to buy an additional battery. 
$%&#
Is that the cardinal sin for a photographer I wonder, because if it is I'm guilty but I did my penance by feeling extremely foolish and totally embarrassed. 
I can promise you it'll never happen again that's for sure. 
But in the meantime, it was only a red flashing warning light... I still had power and I wasn't afraid to use it! 


Surprisingly to me there are rules (which Cain kindly explained) to follow when trying to obtain that perfect shot and I was far from the mark, but when your model refuses to co-operate and time is of the essence, then click that'll have to do for now. 
I enjoyed what I did take and surprisingly was quite pleased with my results. 
I'd like to nip back early one morning because although it was quite quiet and the wildlife seems to be quite relaxed with everyone around, it would be better with less people. 
As in the bluebell wood, this wild garlic patch held us captive for quite some time. 
I have numerous photos with bee's and insects etc in various angles of activity, but none unfortunately that are in focus. I was playing with all the various switches and dials on my camera 
(I know I should know what the technical terms are for all these things, but that just highlights that I point and shoot without all the theory behind me and hope for the best) 
I really must go on another photography course to get to grips with all these delicate maneuvers and technical terms. 
All I know is that at this stage the red battery low light was flashing...argh! 
Which believe it or not is slightly distracting. 
I have a soft spot for pheasants and actually did meet one at the gatehouse on the way into Haddo House, so when I saw this building that in it's past was devoted purely to housing pheasants I couldn't resist to take a snap.

'NO BATTERY'
At this stage I wanted to crawl under a stone myself, but the very kind and generous Cain handed me his camera to use!
YES... HIS OWN CAMERA! 

Can you believe it. 
He's a fantastic guy and truly generous with not only passing on his knowledge, tips and ideas but his equipment too. 
Hero of the day.
I felt like I was being handed the crown jewels. I was so nervous to really put it through it's paces, although it was good to have a tinker of another make of camera. 
I was hoping like riding a well schooled horse in a riding stables that knows the ropes, the camera would just take the most amazing shots because that's what it knows best... not having some novice man-handling it as in my case. 
You could almost hear it tut! 

But thankfully the day wasn't spoilt... even with my stupid error of not having an extra battery tucked away about my person. 
It was fantastic and so enjoyable that I can really recommend getting out there with a group of like minded people 
(it's amazing what little snippets and tips you can pick up along the way) 

As usual I'm enjoying capturing anything that takes my eye, trying to remember all that Cain said and will continue to hopefully see some good results.
If you'd like to visit Cain's blog here's the link
I'm hoping to perhaps set up a gallery in my sidebar to show all of my favourite photos taken on my camera. 
That is if I can work out how to do it Emoji
In the meantime here's just a few for now
The fine looking bullfinch below was photographed in my sisters garden but I'm thrilled to say we now have our own pair of bullfinches visiting our garden too.
I hope you'll continue to visit... the kettle's never far from boiling and if you're lucky there might even be some home baked cakes on offer too. 
Until next time have a great day and enjoy your local wildlife.
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xoxo

Crathes Castle

Are you free to visit a castle today?
How about a magical turreted castle with stunning gardens, magnificent grounds and woodland, amid rolling hills and glorious countryside? 
We couldn't resist either, especially as we had been living in a cloud of fog/haar that had stayed around for far too long. 
It was time to head inland from the coast to hopefully find sight of a little blue sky and if possible some sunshine. And what do you know?... we were lucky... we found both. 
As we drove out of Aberdeen on the A93 to Crathes Castle, the mist began to clear and the sun broke through.
Crathes castle and grounds are presently owned and managed by the National Trust of Scotland and are open to the public.
Crathes has always been one of my favourite castles to visit in Aberdeenshire. 
It's within easy reach and there's lots to see and do in and around this magnificent 16th Century tower house, that you're sure to have a memorable experience if you get the opportunity to visit. 
The land was gifted to the Burnett family in 1323 by Robert the Bruce and you can still see their badge of office, the ivory Horn of Leys, hanging in the High Hall. You can also see the horn above the large window to the left of the tower in the above photo. 
The horn symbol was added to the family coat-of-arms and it can be seen throughout the castle. It's also carved onto the Laird's bed.
The coat of arms of the Burnetts of Leys contain a hunting horn and three thistles.
The actual Horn of Leys remains in the ownership of the Burnett family and is on display at the Castle. If you'd like to read more about the Burnett family then click here.

We chose to walk around the gardens whilst the sun shone before entering the castle. 
The famous gardens feature massive yew hedges that were planted as early as 1702. 
Every time I see these hedges I imagine them moving and dancing around like something in a Disney movie. Aren't they amazing?
The walled garden is really eight gardens ranging from the formal to the modern, so there's something for everyone to enjoy. 
It's a little early in the year to see the gardens at their best at the moment. Especially the colourful double herbaceous border in full bloom... which is quite exquisite. So I'll just have to nip back in June to capture them in all of their glory.
If you look into the photo to the left below, you will see two stick domes. These are supports for the plants. If I remember rightly they were made from willow and there are workshops to show you how to make them. I much prefer the natural look of the stakes than the plastic alternative. There are a few workshops throughout the year which some include the head gardener giving a tour of the gardens.
It looks like the weather is changing once again...
So let's take a look inside the castle shall we?
Watch your step when ascending the tower stairs because there's a 'trip' step...I'll not tell you which one as the helpful National Trust volunteer will do that when you visit. It was intended to disconcert attackers climbing the staircase. 
Amazingly, there are some rooms that retain the magnificent original painted ceilings. And if you feel a chill in the air in one particular room, then that could possibly be 'The Green Lady, Crathes' own ghost!
This view is from an upper window of the castle overlooking the crochet lawn, some of the formal gardens and greenhouses. As you can see unfortunately we've lost the sunshine. 
Further afield, the 240 hectare estate offers six separate trails to enjoy. 
If you click here you will be able to see the walk that my daughter and I enjoyed one frosty November morning. 
At the property there is a cafe, gift shop, adventure playground for the children, the North-East's only 'Go Ape' tree top adventure and the Arting Around studio.
So all the family can enjoy the outing. 

Just one point before I finish...
I'd like to state that I haven't received any remuneration for this post but when I did join the National Trust during the Easter break, my name was entered into a draw. I didn't pay much attention to the details at the time, but when the postie arrived at my door with a large parcel I was thrilled. My name had been drawn and I won a fabulous high spec pair of binoculars! 
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Have a great weekend everyone
xoxo