Happy Birthday to me. It’s long been a tradition that my birthday is celebrated with a trip away, sometimes for a few days or even a week, or sometimes as a day out. I like marking the passing of another year, but in a low key way. Last year me and Ronnie went to Ynys Llanddwyn, one of my favourite places. This year, I’d chosen Chatsworth House – for the garden not the house. I’ve heard that it has an impressive garden, and when I look at their website I discover there is a ‘Pinetum’ (a tree collection of conifers), and monkey puzzle trees are mentioned. That’s it then, monkeys are on the map and we head off to discover Chatsworth. (I would like to thank Agent Sew who has sent us the first DE monkeys, a fine pair in nearby Matlock Bath – here, and another near Rowsley – here, and that gave me the idea of going to Chatsworth). On the way we pick up our first four monkeys of the day, whilst still in CW postcode area they are CW6 and CW7, and CW8 and CW9 (as there are already five CW trees in the catalogue). These occur in two ‘pairs’, as I have observed that monkeys often do. The first two in next door gardens – a bit of copying? And the second ‘pair’ are also a few doors apart, although the first one is quite a mature tree and the second is a juvenile. All four of these trees were on roads where stopping the car was not possible due to traffic, so I’ve found the images on Google. Arriving at Chatsworth, well, I had expected something ‘big’, but I am surprised at the scale, it is enormous. This is what I call ‘a vista garden’. The views are important, the feeling of ‘everything the eye can see is mine’ sort of statements. This is about wealth, about frankly showing off, about gardening on a scale that is impossible without staff to manicure and preen the greenery.
We head off to the Pinetum which is in the far corner of the gardens. This was created during the time of the 6th Duke of Devonshire, and his head gardener was Joseph Paxton (who had trained at Kew). The Duke was a generous sponsor of plant-hunting expeditions, and many specimens are gathered here. Including monkeys. We find five monkeys at Chatsworth – there may be more, but we had a good hunt.
And the best monkey – in my opinion – was the last one. A delight. This is a huge specimen which is planted slap bang in the middle of the 100 steps which lead up from the maze. The tree sits grandly with views across the estate.
I’ve planned our route around the garden to finish at the The Cascade. This is a water feature of an astonishing scale, and is over 300 years old. It has 24 cut steps which are each a different size and texture so that the water gives a different sound when water runs over each one.
The information panel informs me that the water feature is run on gravity, with the water supply from lakes further up the valley. This seems incredible to me – apparently there is a 16inch iron pipe from the Emperor Lake 122metres above, and at times of low rainfall the water flow is reduced, and sure enough the map tells me: ‘In drier periods, playing of the gravity-fed waterworks is restricted.’
So that was out day at Chatsworth and a ‘nine monkey day’ which are always good days, so happy birthday to me. Ronnie’s blog post of my birthday is here.