Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

"At the end of the nineteenth century its thousand acres were at their zenith, but only a few years later bramble and ivy were already drawing a green veil over this “Sleeping Beauty”. After decades of neglect, the devastating hurricane of 1990 should have consigned the Lost Gardens of Heligan to a footnote in history. Instead, events conspired to bring us here and the romance of their decay took a hold on our imaginations. Our discovery of a tiny room, buried under fallen masonry in the corner of one of the walled gardens, was to unlock the secret of their demise. A motto etched into the limestone walls in barely legible pencil still reads 'Don’t come here to sleep or slumber' with the names of those who worked there signed under the date – August 1914"

"We were fired by a magnificent obsession to bring these once glorious gardens back to life in every sense and to tell, for the first time, not tales of lords and ladies but of those “ordinary” people who had made these gardens great, before departing for the Great War. We have now established a large working team with its own vision for our third decade. The award-winning garden restoration is already internationally acclaimed; but our lease now extends into well over 300 acres of the Wider Estate, leaving the project far from complete. We intend Heligan to remain a living and working example of the best of past practice, offering public access into the heart of what we do" - "Our contemporary focus is to work with nature, accepting and respecting it and protecting and enhancing the variety of habitats with which our project is endowed"

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey in Cornwall, are one of the most popular botanical gardens in the UK. The style of the gardens is typical of the nineteenth century Gardenesque style, with areas of different character and in different design styles.

The gardens were created by members of the Cornish Tremayne family, over a period from the mid-18th century up to the beginning of the 20th century, and still form part of the family's Heligan estate. The gardens were neglected after the First World War, and only restored in the 1990s, a restoration that was the subject of several popular television programmes and books.

The gardens now boast a fabulous collection of aged and colossal rhododendrons and camellias, a series of lakes fed by a ram pump over a hundred years old, highly productive flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden, and a stunning wild area filled with primaeval-looking sub-tropical tree ferns called "The Jungle". The gardens also have Europe's only remaining pineapple pit, warmed by rotting manure, and two figures made from rocks and plants known as the Mud Maid and the Giant's Head.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan completely surround Heligan House and its private gardens. They lie some 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the north-east of, and about 250 feet (76 m) above, the fishing village of Mevagissey. The gardens are 6 miles (9.7 km) by road from the town and railway station of St Austell, and are principally in the civil parish of St Ewe, although elements of the eastern gardens are in Mevagissey parish.

The northern part of the gardens, which includes the main ornamental and vegetable gardens, are slightly higher than the house, and slope gently down to it. The areas of the gardens to the west, south and east of the house slope steeply down into a series of valleys that ultimately drain into the sea at Mevagissey. These areas are much wilder, and include The Jungle and The Lost Valley.

The Heligan estate was originally bought by the Tremaynes in the sixteenth century, and earlier members of the family were responsible for Heligan House and the (still private) gardens that immediately surround it. However the more extensive gardens that are now open to the public were largely the result of the efforts of four successive squires of Heligan. These were:

Rev. Henry Hawkins Tremayne.
John Hearle Tremayne, son of Henry Hawkins Tremayne.
John Tremayne, son of John Hearle Tremayne.
John Claude Lewis Tremayne, son of John Tremayne and better known as "Jack".

Two estate plans, dating from 1777 and sometime before 1810, show the changes wrought to the Heligan estate during Henry Hawkins' ownership. The first plan shows a predominantly parkland estate, with the site of today's Northern Gardens occupied by a field. The second plan shows the development of shelter belts of trees surrounding the gardens, and the main shape of the Northern Gardens, the Mellon Yard and the Flower Garden are all readily discernable.

Henry Hawkins' descendants each made significant contributions to the development of the gardens, including the ornamental plantings along the estate's Long Drive, the Jungle, the hybridizing of rhododendrons and their planting around Flora's Green, and the creation of the Italian Garden.

Birdsong, recorded in and around the gardens of Heligan:

The restoration, which was the subject of a six part Channel 4 television series in 1996, proved to be an outstanding success, not only revitalising the gardens but also the local economy around Heligan by providing employment. The gardens are now leased by a company owned by their restorers, who continue to cultivate them and operate them as a visitor attraction.

Further information here, here & here.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Granada Television's The Owl Service (21 December 1969 — 8 February 1970)

"I never thought The Owl Service was for children only. It felt as if it fit a larger audience. That's what made it special. Because it also belongs somewhere where the memory of one's own adolescence lies. It is super-real to the extent that it becomes unreal. Wagnerian. And too, like an old film it unreels itself repeatedly, then begins again. Any criticism that the series was unsuitably adult for children is untrue. Never underestimate the child; it is pure, it observes, makes up its own mind. But then is taught to see things otherwise" Gillian Hills

Teenager Alison finds a dusty dinner service in the loft of her Welsh holiday home. Seemingly possessed, she traces their flower pattern and from the tracings makes paper owls. This unleashes ancient forces feeding on the jealousy and attraction between Alison, her new stepbrother Roger and local boy Gwyn...

The Welsh legend of Blodeuwedd is a tale of betrayal retold in the 11th Century book of The Mabinogion. Blodeuedd, a woman made of flowers, was unfaithful to Lleu Llaw Gyffes with Gronw Bebyr. Gronw then killed Lleu with a spear so that Lleu became an eagle - Lleu's magician Gwydion turned the unfaithful woman into Blodeuwedd, the owl, as punishment.

Now three modern-day teenagers are revisited by Gwydion's curse. Upper-class Alison, her haughty public school stepbrother Roger and working-class Welsh boy Gwyn are similarly locked into a triangle of love and hate that threatens to destroy them. Gwyn later learns of the father he's never known and discovers that his mother was once possessed by the same old plates Alison uncovered in the attic.

Very much a product of the 1960s, the serial used a contemporary source novel (Garner's book was two years old when adapted for television) that dwelled upon class struggles and adolescent permissiveness, albeit within a supernatural fantasy framework. Then-fashionable jump cuts and psychedelic imagery were used for the all-film production. This was the first fully-scripted drama to be made entirely in colour by Granada Television, although it was shown in black and white on its original runs and not seen in colour until its 1978 repeat. This ruined the visual joke of Alison, Gwyn and Roger always wearing respectively red, black and green outfits - the colours of electrical wiring at the time - hinting at the power the three could unleash.

Alistair McGown.

"The Owl Service — Granada's first major all location, fully-scripted drama serial — was adapted in eight episodes by Cheshire author Alan Garner from his award-winning book. The story is based on a strange old Welsh legend which gradually unfolds while three teenagers — Alison, Roger and Gwyn — are on holiday in Wales" — Granada Television press release

Bridget Appleby (Graphic Artist) Jean Bell (Theme) Richard Branczik (Camera Assistant) Harry Brookes (Sound Recordist) Peter Caldwell (Designer) Jack Coggins (Generator Operator) Stewart Darby (Stills Photographer) Dorothy Edwards​ ​(Nancy​) Sue Fox (Press & Publicity) Alan Garner (Scriptwriter) Ray Goode (Cameraman) James Green (Chargehand Electrician) Frank Griffiths (Music Recordist) Gillian Hills​ (Alison Bradley​)​ Michael Holden​ (Gwyn​)​​​ Don Kelly (Film Editor) Alan Kennedy (Props Manager) Neil Kingsbury (Sound Assistant) ​Raymond Llewellyn​ (Huw​)​​ John Martin (Electrician) Ian McAnulty (Stage Hand) John Murphy (Casting Director) Marjorie Norrey (Wardrobe) John Oakins (Unit Manager) Peter Plummer (Producer & Director) Dick Pope (Camera Assistant) Michael Popley (Camera Assistant) Jon Prince (Asst. Film Editor) Harry Rabbie (Camera Assistant) Edwin Richfield​ ​(Clive Bradley)Elvira Riddell (Make-up) Phil Smith (Sound Recordist) Michael Thomson (Camera Assistant) Peter Walker (Dubbing Mixer) Francis Wallis​ ​(Roger Bradley) Alan Waterfall (Set Dresser) Louise Williams (Production Assistant) David Wood (Cameraman)

The Owl Service is available on Network DVD "The definitive adaptation of Alan Garner's award-winning novel, combining mystery, adventure, history and the legend surrounding a complex set of human relationships"