I'm not much of a gardener. Instead of green fingers, I have black fingers where the numbers rub off my laptop keyboard. What gardening I do mainly consists of chopping stuff down to a manageable height. I seem to spend all my garden-allocated time cutting grass, and attacking trees and bushes. My wife thinks I've got a pruner fetish.
So it's a nice change to see some real gardens where stuff other than weeds and trees grow. I watched an interesting program about the history of Biddulph Grange gardens a while ago, and so we took a day of our vacation to pay a visit. The gardens were laid out by James Bateman in the mid 1800's based mainly on photos of foreign gardens. He supposedly never left England, and used to send his head gardener around the world collecting plants and seeds instead. It's a beautifully scenic place, as you can see here. And, yes, it has ducks (see last week).
A lot of the garden is narrow paths and steep climbs that weave between the sections of the garden, and the landscaping is extremely unusual. There is a dinosaur path edged with old bits of fallen trees, caves cut into the rocks, bridges to cross and streams with stepping stones, and odd buildings that lead you between vistas.
One of the famous features is the Dahlia Walk. At this time of year there's not much to see in terms of Dahlias as they haven't flowered yet, but its a wonderful piece of engineering that you can view from above and then walk through. During the Great War they ploughed the whole garden flat when the hall itself was a hospital, but National Trust has done an incredible job of restoring it all, as you can see. Other oddities include tiny buildings and recesses containing a seat where you can relax and admire unusual views of the garden.
Another famous part is the Chinese pavilion and lake. An old photo shows James Bateman standing next to the lake holding a Chinese blue willow pattern plate, on which he supposedly modelled this section of the garden. It is truly beautiful and stunning - the photo doesn't come near to doing it justice.
And finally, something a bit different. I used to work for a company based in Kingston-Upon-Hull many years ago, and my experience of the city has not tempted me back there since. However, it's changed a great deal since then by gaining a marina, new shopping centres, and a general facelift of the old industrial eyesore areas. Even the docks area has been spruced up. But the reason for our visit was to The Deep - a large aquarium and sea-life centre built alongside (and under) the Humber estuary. So you won't be surprised to see a photo of fish.
It's quite an amazing place, even if you have been to some of the US sea-life centres (as we have). The main tank is huge and contains the most amazing collection of fish, rays, sharks (including the chainsaw-adapted version below) and more. There's the usual tunnel where you can walk through the bottom of the tank and watch the occupants swim by. Of course, taking photos of a few million gallons of water isn't generally a hugely successful operation, but you get the gist.
There's also lots of smaller displays of aquatic animals. Some even seem quite interested in the passing hordes.
And, of course, there's penguins. How can you not enjoy watching them waddling about so ungainly on land and yet so amazingly lithe in the water.
It's not a cheap place to visit, and I never figured out how they stop the sharks from eating everything else, but it's worth a visit. Especially if you can time it, as we did, for the one day in your vacation week when it decides to pour with rain. I must be starting to get the hang of this holiday thing...