Readers from Liverpool are likely to know about Speke Hall, a Tudor timber framed house on the banks of the Mersey set in extensive grounds. It’s quite a striking example of ‘old’ and is the sort of place that visitors from other countries are very impressed by. It’s also now owned by The National Trust, and for that reason alone I have rarely visited. Just can’t take to those dressed up volunteers, over-priced entry tickets and paying to park at some National Trust sites, and the ‘no photographs’ attitude. Anyhow… I did visit Speke Hall last year, in September, when my friend Mandy was visiting from Western Australia. I’d put together a list of attractions in Liverpool and the Wirral, which included the synagogue on Princess Avenue, Liverpool’s new library, and of course Plot 44 (that’s my allotment in Liverpool which is occasionally featured on Ronnie’s blog, home to Wollemi and magnolia but no monkey – yet. Last post was about the arrival of spring – here). Ronnie wrote about all of Mandy’s visit as ‘A stranger in Liverpool’ on his blog here – although of course Ronnie refused to come to Speke Hall on ‘dislike of the National Trust’ reasons. And because it was Heritage weekend, we were able to visit Speke Hall without paying.
So, this is the house, and as you can see it’s set in very manicured gardens, not really my sort of favourite garden. Of botanical interest to me is the very fine fritillaria meadow and I have visited one April to see that, and on this visit last September I discovered that there are two very fine Yew trees growing in the courtyard of the house, so only visible if you are visiting the house and not just the gardens.
And although I’m not overly fond of formal gardening, I particularly liked this avenue of Irish Yew (I am very fond of all yew trees), and took this photograph.
So, that’s all very nice you’re probably wondering what it’s got to do with monkey puzzle trees…. Well, the other week my regular correspondent from Hereford, Jeff Jones (who is originally from Liverpool) sent me a message – ‘Do you know about the Speke Hall monkeys?’ Monkeys. Plural.
In our email conversations we have taken to calling them ‘monkeys’. And no I didn’t know about them, so imagine my surprise to find out there are not two or three or even five monkeys at Speke Hall, but eight! How could I have possibly missed them? (If you look again at my photo you can see them at the far end of the lawn). So, here is one of Jeff’s photographs:
Yes, it’s almost exactly the same as the one of mine of the avenue of Irish Yews… but look at the end of the lawn…. you can see five monkey puzzle trees. And Jeff has very kindly photographed them all, in addition to the five you can see here there are another three, eight in total.
I’m curious to know exactly why they have been planted here – technically this is an Elizabethan garden in style (and obviously monkey puzzle trees were not discovered then), although of course there are Victorian additions. But this grouping of monkeys seem slightly incongruent to me, but nevertheless quite fascinating. Here they all are:
The Speke Hall monkeys, now catalogued as L11 to L18.