Friday, July 24, 2009

A little jetty and a rowboat for the lake...

Once the lake has been all planted up, we are going to install a small jetty for a little boat, so that we can go for a row on a summer's evening on the lake. We are looking for something small and old, probably varnished wood, not painted. I found a few photos of some little dingies, and a couple of jetties too.

The idea of getting a boat reminds me of going punting on the Cherwell in Oxford with our friend Hugh. Hugh, who has lived in Oxford for decades, is an expert punter, and he took us out last summer. I had a go at punting, and it was quite hard work. You soon learn not to hold on to a muddy pole for too long. I much prefered lying back in the punt, a la Sebastian...

Here are some photos, including one of a swan, of which I am very proud...

We won't be trying to recreate the French Swan-boats at Versailles (somethings are a little too much even for us!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Forest Murmurs...

Around the park and especially around the lake, where there will be a small wood of trees, we plan to sow as many bulbs as possible. Narcissi, Hyacinth, Cyclamen, Croci, Irises, to produce swathes of colour throughout the year. Lovely carpets of blooms: 'forest murmurs'.

Here are some examples. I took the last two pictures myself, the first at Castle Howard, and the second at Bolton Abbey.

Bluebells (Hyacinth)



Daffodils (Narcissi)

Back on the grid...

Dear friends, as you can see, after a month of being tied up I am finally back with the blog, and it is time to start publishing some of my many drafts and stockpiled photos.

It was great to see Millie's post at The Laurel Hedge about a small pavillion designed with a great classical sensitivity. You guys should check it out.

We recieved an email last week, from an architect Chris Macpherson, who had been referred to our blog and who has approached us about working on the design of the buildings at Willowbrook. I would describe my sense of architectural style as new classicism. He seemed to demonstrate a passion for this style of architecture, and he has agreed to come to meet on the site for further discussions about the prospect of working with us.

While we're on the subject of architecture... one of my favourite architects is Quinlan Terry.

I have a book by David Watkin called Radical Classicism, which is about Terry's architecture.

His son, Francis Terry is an extremely talented architectural drawer and draftsman:

And finally, for those of you who are not yet familiar with the blog Architect Design, you should definitely check it out.

The Stables

In keeping with our plan to create a traditional English Estate on the site, this iron barn and implement shed will eventually go to make way for a stable block created in the same style as the main house. It will not be a functioning stables, as there is no need for indoor cover for the horse/s in our climate, but it will function as an outbuilding for tractors and attachments, garden tools and a carpentry/maintenance shed. It will also have a semi-contained mezzanine flat for the gardener.

Although the drawing below is of a house, it captures the sort of style in which the stable block will be built.

Although some might think that it's a bit posh, it is indeed nothing compared with the stables of the great houses of Europe, such as Chatsworth. The example below is just the gatehouse to the stable block at Chatsworth.

Cupolas and Weather veins
I am captivated at the idea of having a cupola on top of the stables, with a weather vein on the top and a dial on the side, but instead of the dial being a clock (as there will already be a clock tower on the Chapel, the dial, through simple gearing, will reflect the direction of the wind. I saw such a dial in the great hall at Blenheim Palace, which is where I got the idea. There is a picture of the dial below, which being inside allowed one to tell the wind direction without having to even look out the window!

And finally, a bit of fun. Here is an excerpt from the movie "Bedrooms and Hallways". I don't think we will be needing a stable boy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All creatures great and small...

The month of August is going to be an incredibly busy time on the estate. Peter is going back to Old Blighty for a month, and during that time I will be putting in the orchard (1 acre) and the potager garden (1/2 acre), along with building the housing for all the new animals expected this spring. So that we don't fall behind, and so that we can make the most of the late winter and spring rains, we need to get the orchard and potager in as soon as possible. We are hoping to have enough produce in the first year, bolstered initailly by buying some organic produce in, to launch our own range of specialty comestibles such as preserves, chutneys and jams. We hope to launch this range along with a variety of free range eggs at the Christmas fetes this year. The idea is just to get the brand out there this year, then by next year we will be in a better position to meet increasing demand, and will probably start to meet with local gourmet food stores to have our goods stocked there for retail, as well as direct from the estate. Having lived in the area for the last 5 years, and having found it incredibly hard to find good quality gourmet produce, especially game, so we know that there is a niche market for Willowbrook Park.

I have found a great book in the local library that covers almost every sort of animal house that the park might require:

To start with, we will obviously need quite a few chickens. We have been offered some feather footed bantams by a friend who needs to get rid of some. On top of those, we will also look for some good laying hens.

They will be fed only on organic, locally produced grains and will be relatively free range (but will require large enclosures for their own protection).

I photographed this rather fine specimen on the Chatsworth estate. I have no idea what breed it is, but it was in good condition.

We will also have a number of other game birds including Guinea Fowl:

Pheasants (The first photo was taken at Blenheim Palace last year, the second at Cricket St. Thomas, the site of the 1980's series To The Manor Born.)

And Quail, which are not only perfectly roastable, but produce fine eggs of a delicate flavour which we will be able to market locally.

We did briefly consider getting some Peacocks, but were advised that they are incredible noisy, messy and destructive, with the potential to vandelise property. Still, they are pretty birds.

The website of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has some excellent information of various brids, including illustrations, sound clips of their calls and statistics on each breed in the UK.

Apart from the game, we will have some free-range pigs (sans-booties)
And some Suffolk Sheep, which are a good all-round breed for wool and meat. They will also help keep down the grass on the 10 acre

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Winter 'Swanlake' Dinner party.

For our Winter dinner party this year, slightly inspired by our slowly growing, and still to be planted lake, we chose the theme of Swan Lake.

Above: The lake after a week of rain
Below: A video of lake filling. Planting around the lake starts in August.

As you can see from the menu, all the courses or 'acts' have a swan or poultry theme, and the dining room was transformed into the set of the ballet for the evening, with the DVD of the Matthew Bourne version of Swanlake playing in the drawing room:

We tried to capture the theme with the invitations:

But the piece de resistance was the giant swan centrepiece, which our friend Gail made out of chicken wire, plaster of paris and lots and lots of feathers!

Below: The menu in the front foyer.

The Quail Eggs Amuse Bouche
The Pheasant and home made Fettucini soup

The individual portions of Pate with homemade bread balls
The main course, roasted Poussin with seasonal vegetables
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