It's meadow cutting time again, well a bit late actually. The artist group Reactor are bringing their Geodesic dome living utopians - the Geodesians - to develop a series of systems for the processing and use of bracken at all its stages of its development. Hopefully this will provide the thatch for the Lawson Park porch, we discovered that the farm buildings had been thatched with bracken back in the 18th century. Anyone feeling the urge to work hard there are lots of opportunities get in touch re accommodation and food - the Geodisians have a special diet but we will be providing a more standard and hearty fare.
In response to Letter from XXX of Kendal
The NGS in Cumbria has more recently included a number of unusual and atypical gardens, among them Sprint Mill, near Kendal, a beautiful and productive garden surrounding an old mill. Mrs XXX would find there a very much smaller vegetable garden and an even more informal layout and relaxed maintenance regime than that at Lawson Park. However, like Lawson Park, it widens the palette of the Scheme by introducing more varied approaches to gardening than present in the many ‘classic’ Lake District gardens we know so well. These approaches include diversity in planting, design and maintenance which will not be shared by all garden lovers.
It is to the NGS' credit that such different gardens can be included under their umbrella.
We welcomed well over 200 guests on the NGS day and have not received any other written, email, telephone or in person negative comments.
All parts of the LP garden – like any this season – were adversely affected by the extraordinarily high rainfall this summer. Previously stable areas became hazardous with wet, and we did our best to signpost these. It would have been a shame to have closed off entire areas of the garden (or worse, cancelled the day), given that able-bodied people could navigate most of the site with care, so we decided to go ahead with the routes as planned.
The entrance to the meadow was staffed and visitors were warned there verbally that areas were damp and slippy. However, the NGS listings did state that the garden was not wheelchair accessible. Next year’s listing includes a more explicit warning to the less able-bodied about the terrain to be expected.
Footpath / access
Grizedale Arts’ environmental policy, as well as limited parking on site, discouraged visitor car use on the NGS Day.
The footpath from the car park at Machell’s Coppice is maintained by the Forestry Commission, not GA. We have passed on comments regarding its condition and on inspection it transpired that it had been vandalised. The FC are now improving it. We have also revised the timing on the NGS entry as we realise that this is misleading. The alternative vehicle track offered much steadier walking terrain and perhaps we should have encouraged its use in preference.
The minibus was provided as a courtesy to visitors who needed it rather than as a provision for all. As it was impossible to anticipate visitor numbers, we estimated that one minibus would suffice, and there were periods in the day when it was indeed empty.
Artist’s residency base:
Building work has been severely delayed due to unforeseen structural problems, hence the extent of progress on the NGS day was difficult to anticipate at the time of going to press. However, the house was not advertised as open to the public. The Lawson Park website (address included in the publicity) contains clear information on the progress of the Lawson Park building. Many visitors were interested in the building work in progress and commented favourably on being able to visit at this time.
The garden is consciously designed to be naturalistic and so includes less familiar plants and many allowed to grow unchecked and to set seed. Borders are nontheless kept largely weedfree and in excellent health.
The main vegetable and fruit area is some 80m long by 20-30m wide which cannot honestly be described as “very small”, even for a rural area!
The ‘Paddy fields’ (several acres) were not opened to the public on NGS day due to the ground conditions (but were marked on the map) and included a range of crops – the potatoes on sale on the day were from there. The piggery is also there.
Keeping livestock on site had been suspended during building works.
The bees are regularly inspected and have suffered wet-weather starvation, which caused one hive of the four to gradually die out. It was finally checked and removed shortly after the NGS day, and there is no disease present anywhere in the apiary, hence the hive posed no risk.
The bees are maintained with assistance from Furness Beekeepers, a very reputable association.
Was not open to the public, marked ‘Private’, so was not part of the NGS Day.
Contains a trial of 3 tomato varieties (underplanted with herb seedlings) and 3 varieties of cucumber.
See general comments on weather above. The NGS date is late for meadow blossom, however, varieties in bloom on the NGS day included field scabious, sanguisorba, purple loosestrife, bramble, meadowsweet, angelica, vetch, speedwell and much knapweed alongside unusual and common grasses. More familiar meadow plants such as ox-eye daisies and cornflowers are generally not found in upland meadows in the area.
The meadow has recently been assessed and commended by a number of environmental agencies (including Cumbria Wildlife Trust) for its diversity and wildlife value, counting over 200 plant species. It is being looked at to use as a ‘seed bank’ meadow to sow others.
Grizedale Arts, Sept. 15th 08
Here's a letter from someone that didn't seem to like the garden at the NGS day. All the things we like and think are good they felt the exact opposite about. It seems like a very urban view of what gardens should be like - full of flowers and hard edged borders. Wild flower meadows that are 'features' rather than real meadows. Anyone that has visited the Lawson Park garden will know it is quite naturalistic and not very flowery or colourful, funny how even this sort of very mild subversion can elicit such fury. I guess it seemed threatening to these visitors, still its years since I got such an angry letter.
Nice to know we can still annoy.
Just tidying my desktop and came across this image of Brantwood, home of John Ruskin. Looking a bit dog eared but probably much as Ruskin left it, he may have been the voice of architecture but his own improvements to the building look a bit 'extensions and conservatories from B&Q'. He declared a total lack of interest in his own surroundings, a very sensible approach if you ask me, a house is just a place to live not life itself - with the ongoing housing crash this may become a more common position. I remember the last crash and the blessed relief from house price discussion it brought to the country.
We’ve been in a few discussions with the village about reshaping the Coniston Institute to bring it back into use, or at least increase its use and redefine its function. Ann Hall, the Conservative Councillor, brought us in after she came to an impasse with the conservatives (small c) in the village over the published plans to modernise the institute. Many want to retain the etched memories and faded grandeur, which you can see the appeal of, as it’s pretty much a fantasist’s version of 20’s rural function rooms: dusty library; voluminous, staged hall; English Rose kitchen and billiard room. The council want to improve the current library offer of opening half a day on Wednesday, by working with the village so that they will run it themselves and open it more often, on their terms. Which is all very interesting. Anyway the plan is to work with Guestroom to make it a sizeable project that links with the library and kitchen at Lawson Park – a new concept for what a library might be and all that. Ramping up the old and the new at the same time, I would think.
One thing’s certain though, no one wanted the otter in the library, so we came away with it. For now, at least, until they realise this is the original Ruskin Giant Otter of 1898 with a tattoo of Venice on the back of its left buttock.
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