Earlier this year, when the landscape was cold and damp, the Compton Verney grounds team gathered in the cosy grounds workshop for a day split into thirds. For the first segment of the day the team headed out to explore the wider landscape, including a public footpath that takes in the lengthy lower pool over towards Combrook. Rosy faces returned with chatter about the newly discovered views of the impressive historic landscape. The second segment, after lunch, included some housekeeping items on the agenda before heading into the third and for me; the most risky segment of the day. I had in my wisdom set some homework for the team, and it was in this final session that the results would be revealed – to a good few oh’ s and ah’s, an awkward moment or two, and a fair amount of giggling! Needless to say, the team is a real cross section of talent and experience, and it leads to some fascinating discussions and laughter during work sessions, and especially during break times…I sometimes think the success of our volunteer team hinges largely on the quality of our break time chatter…and the tea, naturally! And so, back to the […]
As you may know, the park and wider landscape at Compton Verney, as well as being a designed landscape, features many different ecological habitats that are very attractive to wild flowers and creatures. Whilst we naturally manage the venue for its landscape garden qualities, we are also therefore, very much aware of its ecological importance, and we always aim to manage the landscape accordingly. I would even go as far as saying that most of our landscape management regime is based around its wild flora or fauna requirements, as opposed to managing the landscape purely for ornamental reasons. Understanding this, and that around half of the grounds volunteer team have roles devoted to wildlife or habitat recording or management, it wasn’t going to be long before we were ready to stage an event dedicated to The Wilder Side of Compton Verney! Indeed we watched with pride recently whilst our assembled team of naturalists and wildlife champions engaged visitors with the wonderful flora and fauna of Compton Verney and the local area. Throughout the day a range of displays and activities were assembled to share information on badgers, fungi, moths, trees and wild flowers, along with bees, hedgehogs, birds […]
Fungi, as fascinating and prolific as they are, are a world away from the ‘comfortable’ horticultural world I occupy. They are hugely valuable though, and their presence in a natural landscape or garden offers much more than a short term unusual feature or splash of colour. For example,
There are many times in each year when we reach a milestone, and the honey harvest is certainly one of our favourites. As such, and knowing how many honey bee supporters there are out there, Rod Oates has prepared a short report about the year he’s experienced as volunteer bee keeper at Compton Verney: The long hard winter was a real challenge for bees generally but we were fortunate that against the odds all three colonies survived, though it was not until early April that the bees became active. However the weather in late April and May was quite reasonable and all three colonies expanded their population and produced a decent amount of honey.
The grass may squelch under foot and the sky may yet have more rain for us, but the atmosphere does feel markedly different outside today at Compton Verney. I’ve just returned from carrying out a few odd jobs in the park and was uplifted as always by the flowers that are, despite the weather, out in abundance. Just a few steps from the café exit door there’s a gravel path that leads around the West Lawn, which is actually a wild flower meadow in disguise. For much of the autumn and winter season the lawn remains green just as Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown would have intended, although right now the grassy expanse is beginning its meadow season transformation, and is pierced with bright yellow Common Cowslip flowers held on tall, single stems. (Primula veris).
Whilst the exhibitions and the main gallery do not open until Saturday March 17, I take delight in writing this blog post on the very first of the grounds-only open days of the 2018 season at Compton Verney. After a particularly tough winter period where snow and storm force winds have left their mark, I’m glad to say that the paths are swept, the benches have been cleaned, the welcome centre is warm, and the first flowers of the new year stand proudly awaiting their admirers. As an historic property, Compton Verney works in some ways like estates of this size always have, at this moment in time for example, staff are once again busily working indoors to prepare for the season ahead. Staff duties today of course are more about facilities improvement or exhibition preparation, as opposed to beating exotic rugs or buffing up a fireplace grate or twelve! In a less dramatic way the grounds team of today, whilst flexing to take care of elements such as The Clearing, the Woodland Play Area or Bird Hide; have much the same tasks in hand as gardeners would have for the last three hundred years or so. My team continues to evolve the landscape gardens at Compton Verney with a view to embracing all that it is […]
I find myself sitting down for a while after a heavy morning of work putting the courtyard in order, following recent disturbance due to snow clearing. I’m pondering, as I do, what I should create in terms of this, the last Landscape & Garden Update of 2017. It certainly has been a long and very busy two months since my last post, bringing news that for another year Compton Verney attracted higher visitor numbers than the preceding year. A Growing Team Another record breaking year means more people than ever are visiting, seeing, and enjoying the park that the team and I care so much about. Most, but not quite all of the grounds team are to be seen in the image above, when we met for an end of season gathering at our recently finished grounds workshop. The team has grown over the last few years, and has become very adaptable to the many challenges that are thrown our way, but in every instance, there is always a smile on every face and a willing attitude to join in and move things forward. It is largely down to this group above, that the lawns remain green and lush, the paths stay neat and firm, the plantations keep […]
Books to inspire you to be a nature lover Working with Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane The Lost Words exhibition will include miniature libraries of books which have inspired them and we hope future generations to take imaginary and real journeys into the natural world. The Lost Words Spell Walks Our Spell Walks posts are going into the grounds as we prepare for The Lost Words Spell Walks which will take visitors to the exhibition on a journey of words and images with nature spotting on the way. The Lost Words Letterpress The first letterpress prints for The Lost Words have been rolling off the press today. Each of Robert Macfarlane’s Spells are being set and printed by Nomad Letterpress at the Whittington Press in Gloucestershire. They are being printed in a Caslon font on beautiful 100% cotton hot-pressed paper with each of the titles picked out in gold to match Jackie Morris’s iridescent watercolour and gold leaf paintings. The Lost Words Wallpaper We’re excited to see The Lost Words wallpapers going up today! Imagine stepping into a book and seeing a world without oak […]
I’m not sure if it is just me, but haven’t we enjoyed some dramatic skies this year? Maybe I’m just taking more time to look, or the weather is simply more theatrical than usual, but time and time again I have found myself standing back in awe of the cloudscape that clothes the landscape. Painterly Skies At Compton Verney of course, being a designed landscape, the views are always impressive. When heavy clouds move and the sun beams through however, the architectural landscape can be transformed to an altogether different and breathtakingly beautiful level. Wild Flower Areas In these images you can see where we have been busy removing grass and dead perennial wild flower growth. In the wide open spaces we utilise agricultural cutting and baling machines, in these smaller areas however we choose to flail cut, and then rake off the cuttings. For certain, this work could be tackled by hired-in machinery, but this once-a-year activity does keep us more closely in touch with the progress and gradual improvement of the wild flower areas that we are nurturing – whilst it is hard work, it is never wasted time. The cut areas may look shocked for a while, but in no time at all this, and other areas will be […]
Top 30 Bird species to see at Compton Verney Interested in bird watching? If your answer is yes and you are in reach of south Warwickshire then Compton Verney could be worth a visit. Although an art gallery with all the modern conveniences, Compton Verney happens to be situated in 120 acres of designed landscape and is surrounded by many more acres of woodland and beautiful countryside; it is quite simply a magnet for a wide range of bird species! Connected woodland parcels, hedgerows and streams direct birds from surrounding farmland to the wildlife site that is Compton Verney, and with an ever-growing path network that is easy to navigate, not to mention our bird hide; opportunity to spot birds is better than ever! Over 100 bird species recorded. Bird species recorded on site topped the 100 mark last year, and all were sightings by our resident bird spotter Alwyn Knapton who visits each week, adding to our knowledge of resident and migratory birds that rely on Compton Verney. From the lists I’ve picked out 30 that are typically seen, and the areas where you’re most likely to see them. If you’re a keen bird watcher, I’d suggest bringing some binoculars and dressing up in greens to maximise your chances […]
Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas) – found here playing poo-sticks by the Adam Bridge. (Photo-RSM) Over the last few weeks I have been sent some wonderful images of Flying Visitors at Compton Verney, taken by two volunteers; Arthur Owens and Michael Robertson-Smith. Some of the species weren’t identified so I felt duty bound to obtain names for information sake, as not only does it add to your interest but it’s hugely informative, directing our attention towards the host plants and habitat each species enjoys. In this respect, (and given the lack of time to research) if I’m out on identification please let me know through the comments section and I’ll research/adjust as necessary. I must say that identification was helped through two very useful websites, and to this end I am hugely grateful to both the British Dragonfly Society and Butterfly Conservation – Both of these organisations are presently offering challenges for wildlife spotters (The Big Butterfly Count 2017 & The Dragonfly Challenge) so please do check out the links in each case.
Welcome to the Landscape & Garden Update – 13.06.17. Mowing As I type both the heat and longer daylight hours continue to stretch forcing maximum growth from plants across the park at Compton Verney. Lawns in particular have been growing strongly for many weeks now, prompting frequent mowing sessions; all in an effort to keep the landscape looking just so. If I’m honest, there are times when we can be overtaken by grass growth, but our machinery has been chosen specially to allow us to ‘catch-up’ if you like, so effectively we are always in control – or so I like to think! Our latest machine acquisition was thankfully supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the on-going project to restore and re-view the ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. Meadows
The Clearing is a collaborative artwork by artists Alex Hartley and Tom James. Together they are building a geodesic dome by the lake, an ‘eye-catcher’ for the 21st Century, where visitors can explore at first hand a future afflicted by climate change. Help us to bring this vision to life at Compton Verney Park
Compton Verney has been awarded £36,000 from the DCMS / Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.
The Clearing is a vision of the future, coming to the grounds of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park from March to December 2017. British artists Alex Hartley and Tom James are creating a living, breathing encampment in the shadow of a stately home on the shores of an idyllic lake, where people can come together to explore at first hand a future afflicted by climate change. And they need your help. In the middle of The Clearing they’re building a geodesic dome from scrap materials (metal and old doors) inspired by the utopian communities of 1960s America. And now they are looking for volunteer caretakers to come and occupy it for a series of short periods throughout the year, to help bring the vision to life. In the dome, you’ll have access to a stove, a bed, a means to cook and heat water, a toilet, a solar-powered lamp, and a library of hippy-survival guides from throughout the ages. You’ll be expected to help with the upkeep of The Clearing (chopping wood, feeding the chickens, fixing the fence if it falls down etc etc), introduce visitors to the project and write a short report afterwards of what happened. Anyone […]
Between the South and West (Wild flower) Lawn is a grove of mature Lime Trees at Compton Verney. Planted in a horseshoe pattern, and between the trees a gravelled, serpentine path snakes through the grass. Standing stately as high as the mansion itself, the trees are largely pollarded specimens where the top branches have been pruned back, whilst way below Winter Aconites carpet the ground with their yellow blooms showing from Christmas through to early February. The trees themselves are beautiful, dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and were planted we believe to frame views to and from the mansion house. Aside from their aesthetic value, they also offer a wealth of opportunity for wildlife, and offer a very important roost for Noctule Bats. The trees are certainly worth seeking out if you visit Compton Verney, and are unmistakable at any time of year due to their distinctive form – branches sweeping the ground, large protruding buttresses supporting each trunk, and dense clusters of twiggy growth around three metres above the ground. At any time of year they are beautiful to see, with refreshing lime green leaves in spring moving to butter yellow through autumn. The image above was captured in November 2016 looking south, with the middle pool […]
Christmas is coming! Santa’s little helpers (The CV team) have been busy getting Compton Verney ready for the festive season. We decided to take a break from decorating and freeze for the Mannequin Challenge.
On Friday 4 & 11 November, as part of our autumn interactive event IN-LIGHT, visitors created Light Drawings at our photography stations. The colours and patterns in these images look spectacular. Here’s all the images, we hope visitors will be able to find their creations.
If butterflies and moths are your thing, or you simply appreciate a good photograph, then this web page titled ‘Winged Visitors to Compton Verney’ is for you. We’re very aware of the rich environment that surrounds us, yet whilst we celebrate its artistic merits, we also embrace its wild side and do all we can to nurture and encourage this. To this end, we endeavour to learn as much as we can about the different species that visit or reside both in the garden and surrounding areas. Awareness is one thing, but increasing our knowledge is another and so this year the grounds team were joined by a volunteer with an eye for butterflies and winged insects in particular. Arthur Owens visited on numerous occasions during the warmer months, and despite a mid season start still managed to record and photograph a good number of species. As little is now to be seen, Arthur assembled his list for us, and a potted version of those that were captured on camera are shown below. The wider list will hopefully expand in coming years and be useful in our management of the outside spaces. We hope that the listed species have been accurately identified, but if you have any comments or […]
It would be remiss of me to let another day pass without a word or two about the results achieved at Compton Verney by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. It was Brown’s ‘Place Making’ efforts, in the pursuit of fashion which put the garden on the same page as many other notable landscape gardens in the eighteenth century – a fact that remains as relevant today as then. Invited along, (and paid for!) by the prominent 14th Baron Willoughby de Broke, John Peyto-Verney in 1768, Brown’s work followed that of Robert Adam who had spent the previous eight years updating the house. With a flick of the quill away went the previously fashionable formal garden to be replaced with a new, naturalistic style landscape with trees, serpentine lake plan and rolling acres of grass for farming and leisure pursuits. Teams of labourers and garden staff spent several years transforming the gardens and landscape to Brown’s new design, whilst master tradesmen set to work on a few very notable garden additions. The whole site would have been a hive of activity as the gravel walks, canal and parterres of the previous garden were gradually replaced by smooth lawns connecting the house with the […]
Landscape & Garden Update – 25.08.16 – As is often the case, the busiest and most active times for the grounds team at Compton Verney result in less time for blogging and social media. We are however committed to the Landscape Blog and very much see it as an opportunity for the grounds team to speak directly to those who maybe can’t visit as often as they would like. If you are planning a visit however, it is worth knowing that the my monthly grounds walks, this year focused on ‘Capability’ Brown, continue. The tours are the first Thursday afternoon in the month, at 1.30 pm – please book with reception. The Fifties Allotment On almost every visitor agenda just now is the Fifties Allotment that we’ve installed to compliment the on-going Britain in the Fifties, Design and Aspiration exhibition. Little did we know that our modest allotment would be so popular, with visitors asking to look around the plot even before it was due to officially open! The success of the allotment however has been a real team effort, with volunteers being largely responsible for creating the plot we see today. From the initial planting list, I designed a plot that would be as accessible as possible, with as many details as […]
This summer’s Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration exhibition touches on the memories of those who lived through it and those who admire its aesthetic. As much as our exhibition has items loaned from other collections, Compton Verney has the local community to thank too. Without them, the 1950s takeover would not be complete. This week’s #ThrowbackThursday is not about the objects lent to the exhibition itself, but about the refurbishment of our Gallery Café. The Fifties saw to a growing population of coffee guzzlers. It was never rationed during war time as the nation preferred to sip on tea. But with the increasing amount of coffee bars which popped up in London’s Soho, these places were where the youngsters of the day preferred to be. They offered the alternative to the old fashioned tea-rooms and the smoky pubs. It was not long until these coffee bars were spread across the country. In America, these places were at the heart of the Beatnik Movement – mirroring the centrality of the salon during the French Revolution. Aside from the food and drink at the centre of our Coffee Bar 57, what ties it all together […]
One of our recent #CVgrounds volunteer recruits has been out and about photographing Butterflies at Compton Verney in July. With the Old Town Meadow, East Park, and the West Lawn maturing as wild flower meadows, not to mention a good amount of woodland and lake area; we’re rapidly becoming a drop-in centre for most local wildlife which includes some beautiful butterflies! If you’d like a stroll around to see for yourself there’s a link at the bottom of this post to visiting information, and I’d recommend in respect of butterflies visiting before the middle of August, by which time we’ll have cut the larger part of the meadow areas. Tip – a sunny day is by far better for butterfly spotting, with many species only venturing out when the sun shines! Below are a handful of stunning photographs snapped mostly by volunteer Arthur Owens that give a flavour of what can be seen during early July for example. From a grounds management perspective the images and accompanying field notes help to build a picture of butterfly and moth species that live or visit Compton Verney throughout the season, which in turn helps us select the best management options for the many areas available to us. ‘Capability’ Brown, when he completed the re-design of the Compton Verney landscape may or […]
Following the launch of a new book titled Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men – Landscape Revolution in Eighteenth century England, I’m glad to introduce a short talk that is taking place tomorrow, July 6th at Compton Verney, by the authors David Brown and Tom Williamson. For those interested or intrigued by the charismatic Mr Brown, this is a great opportunity to learn more first hand from the authors themselves; respected landscape historians. The talk will of course focus on the Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men book and in doing so will feature facts about the fascinating 18th century landscape garden designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, bringing particular focus to his business and drawing comparisons with similar figures such as the Adam brothers, Thomas Chippendale and Josiah Wedgewood. As you may know, Brown worked at Compton Verney for many years from 1768, creating a rural masterpiece that continues to be nurtured and cared for today. David Brown is Tutor of Landscape History at the University of Cambridge. Tom Williamson is Professor of Landscape History at the University of East Anglia. His books include Polite Landscapes: Gardens and Society in Eighteenth-century England (1998). Enquiries: If you’d like to find out more about the […]
It’s volunteer photograph time again, and this time yet again it’s some wonderful images of damselflies, which have all been photographed in three locations within the parkland at Compton Verney. We’re focusing afresh on butterflies, moths and damselflies and in a similar method to bird surveying, will be carrying out recording sessions with volunteers over the coming seasons.
On Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 July, The Compton Verney Summer Festival is back and better than ever! Join us for three days of brilliant beats, fantastic food and lots of family fun.