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Picture this. Autumn colours at Arlington Court…

This weekend I’ve once again been playing host to my old friend Ho, who has been taking a well earned break from a frantic work schedule to join me for a spot of relaxation in the beautiful autumnal Devon countryside.
This time we decided to take a stroll around the extensive grounds of Arlington Court, ancestral home of the Chichester family for over 500 years.

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The house itself is an imposing stone built mansion, surrounded by rolling lawns, lakes, and woodlands, criss-crossed with pathways that lead you to various viewpoints overlooking not only the gloriously varied vistas of the estate but also the picturesque church of St James (not owned by the Trust, but adjacent to the house) which just happened to be staging a flower festival at the time of our visit.

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We began our tour on the front lawn of the house, heading down to the ornamental lake, stocked with lazily cruising carp and topped with a proliferation of water lilies, pausing on the way to admire the splendor of an ancient oak tree that has stood on the site since well before the house or grounds existed.
The tree is preserved primarily for the scientifically important and internationally recognised variety of lichen, moss and fungi that festoon its gnarled and twisted trunk.

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The church is just visible through the trees that overlook the lake, providing a focal point for visitors, an invitation to investigate the hidden beauty of the peaceful sanctuary as you make your way round the estate.

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But before we headed into the cool vaulted space of the flower-strewn chapel we made our way down the shady path amongst the trees to discover what the woods had to offer.

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Before too long we came upon a small camp in a clearing, complete with a traditional clay oven beneath the billowing folds of a parachute canopy, along with rustic huts constructed from sticks salvaged from the woodland floor.

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The woods have the quiet atmosphere of a primeval forest, rotting trees left where they fell, allowing the verdant moss to take hold and making perfect burrows for small animals and insects, creating shapes that look for all the world like the backbones of long-dead dinosaurs or mythical dragons.

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Occasionally a gate or stile will allow a view across the cattle grazing fields of the deer park, to the densely wooded slopes of the valley, the trees starting to display the muted tones of autumn foliage.

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We retraced the path back to the lake and made for the tower of the church, immediately seeing signs of the floral attraction within…
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…already catching the scent of the expertly designed bouquets before we even entered the light and airy space of St James’s, the vibrant colours of hundreds of flowers perfectly complimenting the stained glass windows and ornamental carvings on the walls.
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Our final two stops were at the formal and walled kitchen gardens, the latter of which provides fresh produce for the house and its cafe.
There was even an imperious peacock to welcome us to his domain, although he didn’t seem keen on me taking his picture and I required several stealthy attempts to capture him in all his iridescent glory.
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There is even an “insect hotel” high-rise apartment block for bees and other pollinators…
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…and there is always something intriguing around the next corner or through the next inviting door.
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…and of course the Chichester family symbol, a heron grappling with an eel, is in evidence everywhere.
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All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable visit to a place that I’m sure I’ll visit again and again, because there is always something new to discover.

Arlington Court house and gardens are open until the end of October, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys relaxing amidst spectacular scenery, basking in the more genteel atmosphere of days gone by and leaving the stresses and strains of modern life behind for a few hours.

 

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Picture this. Webber’s wood, Arlington Court…

After the heavy rain of the last few days it was good to see the sun rise in a clear blue sky this morning, so Elaine and I decided to go for a stroll in the woodlands on the Arlington Court estate.

Located on the edge of Exmoor not far from Barnstaple, the sprawling estate has been owned by the Chichester family for over 500 years, although the house has only stood in the grounds since 1823.

Instead of entering the National Trust-run property at the main entrance near the house however, we took the back way in via the gate that leads into the working forestry land on the lower end of the estate, the gateposts topped with the Chichester family emblem, a heron brandishing an eel.

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From the gatehouse we made our way along the track that gives a great view over the Yeo river valley to the hills opposite – also owned by Arlington – where we have often spotted the resident herd of deer.
No deer today, but a noticeable change in the trees as autumn colours begin to show themselves.

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All along the winding track there is evidence of forestry conservation in progress.

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The most vivid autumn colours are provided by the rows of bright orange beech trees, especially when seen against the verdant green of the ferns and pines.

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A giant chestnut and ancient oak trees add different shades to the landscape.

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And on a smaller scale, the variety of alien looking fungus growing on fallen trunks and tree stumps is extraordinary, new forms and textures everywhere you look.

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But the most obvious change in the landscape today was the level of the river and the intensity of the waterfalls that criss-cross the trail, the recent rainfall having turned some of these gently trickling streams into foaming torrents that rush down the steep sides of the valley through the woods.

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The low stone bridge at the weir is almost overwhelmed by the height of the water, the arches (which I have walked through in the past) filled almost to the top…

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.. and the sparsely wooded plain on the riverbank has the look of a primordial forest.

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One of the newly expanded waterfalls which runs under the track after flowing down the rocky slope…

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… had become so impressive that I climbed the slope above the track and filmed my walk back downstream.
(You may wish to lower the volume before playing the clip)

The age of this woodland is evident wherever you look, the rugged rocky skeleton sometimes visible just beneath the surface…

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.. and some strange organic shapes too.

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If you would like to visit Arlington Court and see what else this beautiful estate has to offer, then go to THIS LINK.

 
 

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