Marks Hall: bright barks and ancient trees

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February 2019 — A sharp breeze sweeps across the hill, ruffling the silver-green eucalyptus grove in the distance. It forcefully combs the grasses and buffers the young monkey-puzzle trees that are dotted around the meadow. The air is crisp and the sky is clear. Apart from the hissing of the wind in the branches, there is barely a sound. Gondwanaland, on the western fringe of the Marks Hall estate, feels a bit otherworldly.

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Anglesey Abbey: kingdom of stems and scents

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Path lined with Cornus, grasses, Prunus serrula, Sarcococca and Rubus

February 2019 — Search for ‘Betula jacquemontii’ on the internet and the chances are the first page of results will include several pictures of the white birch grove at Anglesey Abbey. It’s a testament to the garden design team that, despite the internet’s ability to warp our perception and unrealistically heighten our expectations, this should still be a striking sight when you eventually see it in real life. Continue reading “Anglesey Abbey: kingdom of stems and scents”

A cabinet of curiosity for the people

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Joseph Denais museum: the cabinet of curiosity that survived the passage of time

Beaufort-en-Vallée, Sept. 2016 — Beaufort’s Joseph Denais museum, in western France’s Anjou, is a survivor. Built in 1905, it has the proud resplendence of a turn-of-the century post-industrial-revolution institution whose ambition was to enlighten the local community.

These days, with its collection of stuffed animals, Egyptian sarcophagi, Japanese porcelain and impressionist paintings, it has the charming incongruity of a life-size cabinet of curiosity that has miraculously made it into the 21st century.

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Fit for a king: skiing the Hochkönig area

View from a ridge: hot air balloons floating over Dienten
View from a ridge: hot air balloons floating over Dienten

Maria Alm, Feb. 2015 – The western face of the Hochkönig is a steep expanse of snow and rock. “The refuge is up there on the right,” says the waiter pointing to the ridge of the peak that gives its name to the ski area south of Salzburg. We frown and squint through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling window but all we can see is a vertiginous cliff face.

With a slightly disappointed smile, he goes on to explain that the refuge can only be accessed in the summer months, either hiking from the back or climbing up from this side. He is clad in prim traditional costume but his hands look like they have spent more time clambering in rocks than handling espresso cups. The toughest ascent, he says, takes ten hours; he’s only done the easier three-hour one. We’re impressed, of course, but right now, our mind is turning to the coffee and waffles he’s just brought.
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