Well, it just goes to show I need to keep my eyes more thoroughly peeled! I had a comment on the blog from Ceri – who I assume is in Liverpool – as she told me about a monkey near ‘Old Nick’s Caves’ in Sefton Park.
Now, first of all I didn’t know where ‘Old Nick’s Caves’ were, but I guessed they were the ones at the edge of the park, near the cricket club, but had never heard the name before. So I went to have a look.
The handy information panel tells me that these caves are a Grotto built in in about 1870 by french rockwork specialist M. Combaz, who was brought in by the parks designers André and Hornblower. Victorian rockwork was popular in public parks at the time.
The Grotto has three openings and a staircase leading to an opening in the roof, and once contained waterfalls and cascades that flowed out into the Mirror Pond outside – which has now been restored, but water levels are currently very low. The caves are now closed to the public, the openings are covered by railings, but over on the UK Urban Exploration Forums – here – a tenacious local has got inside and taken photographs.
This is a delightful piece of Victorian gardening – to recreate the majesty of wild landscapes. In Anne Wilkinson’s book ‘The Victorian Gardener’, she quotes the Victorian writer Elizabeth Watts saying, ‘Some people may call it Cockney fancy to pretend to bring wild nature into trim gardens.’ But that’s exactly what the Victorians did, always wanting to go one better than nature. Elizabeth Watts describes how to create a grotto:
‘The ruder the rockwork for the grotto, and the larger in character, the better, and the outside should be so concealed as to give the idea of an excavation, not of an erection. The roof must be weather tight, and for a grotto to be of any use it must be in so dry a situation as to be quite fit to sit in, and in that case the refreshing coolness of its shade is welcome in hot weather.’
Anyway, I am here to find monkeys, not Victorian follies… and on the path I see these…
And looking up I see, that yes, there is a monkey here.
All the times I’ve walked or run or driven past here, and I’ve never noticed it! Thank you Ceri for pointing it out. It’s branches are quite brown and it has a lot of male cones which adds to the brown-ness. It’s also a bit cramped with the other planting around it, but it is now on our catalogue.