Anyone got a light?

One of the things that amazes me about the new House at Scotney is the amount of objects and knick knacks around the house- you don’t know where to look first and you are always likely to come across a new discover. Pieces of the collection that happened to catch my eye recently are an assortment of match box holders that can be found in several rooms around the house, placed by fireplaces or next to ashtrays, made in a variety of materials and styles.

Matchbox holders as well as variety of cases to hold matches, known as vesta cases and match safes, first became popular in the mid-19th century with the introduction of the friction matches. Friction matches at this time were a little too good at their job and would sometimes spontaneously burst into flames. Match safes were then introduced to protect the user from having their coat catch alight by accident!

There are over 20 matchbox holders at Scotney castle which would have been used for domestic purposes such as lighting the fire or for smoking. Matchbox holders used within a domestic setting tended to be of larger sizes, rather than the handy pocket size match safes which could be carried on your person. One example from the collection at Scotney is a silver matchbox holder with the initials E.H and date 1900 inscribed on the case. This matchbox holder probably belonged to Edward Windsor Hussey (1855-1952), the son of Edward Hussey III who built the new house. Along with this matchbox holder is a silver cigarette case bearing the Hussey crest which is of a similar date, carrying a mark on the base of London 1898.

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Matchbox holders could come in a variety of sizes, styles and also materials. In the Library of the new House, to the side of the fireplace, are three jade matchbox holders. One is a plain rectangular box while the others have a little animal on top- a turtle and a frog.

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My favourite matchbox holder in the collection and the inspiration for this blog is a later example made of brass. This matchbox holder furthermore reflects the character of the last occupant of Scotney Castle, Mrs Betty Hussey. Mrs Hussey was a big cat lover and her last cat named Puss Puss still lives in the house today. This little brass matchbox holder depicts a cat sitting on a brick wall and captures the character of Scotney in Mrs Hussey’s time down to a tee.

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The Cherry Pick of the Autumn Pictures

Autumn is upon us. The season, so Rev.William Gilpin populariser of the Picturesque tells us, most suited to representation in painting. It’s only this season that provides the richness, the roughness, the light and shade and the variety that, for the trained Picturesque eye, are the qualities that impart to a painting life and interest.

Some of those pleasures are there to be enjoyed in the garden here at Scotney today. After heavy rain this morning, the clouds passed and the sun came out, the grass, trees and shrubs glistened, and steam rose off he moat. Here are a few photos I took this morning as I walked around.

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The sharp eyed will have noticed on the first photo that part of the Old Castle is covered with scaffolding. This is part of the regular maintenance of the decoration and fabric of the building. The gardening team take advantage of the access the scaffolding provides to control and cut back the ivy and other climbers that add to the Picturesque impression of the buildings. The impression of neglect, the appearance of decay, ivy reclaiming human made structures for nature, all of these contribute to the effect desired by the creators of the Scotney landscape. But this wildness cannot be left untamed. Allowed half the chance nature would soon engulf the Castle in vegetation and the garden would be lost under a mass of trees, rhododendrons, ivy and other vegetation. As gardeners what we have to maintain is the appearance not the actuality of wildness and neglect.

To help achieve this, in addition to the scaffolding, we had the use of a cherry-picker or MEWP (Mobile Elevating Work Platform) two weeks ago. This wonderful machine reaches the parts that other work platforms can only dream of reaching. In Dave our Premises Manager we had a skilled driver, a veritable Nureyev in his ability to negotiate the pas de deux and pirouettes necessary to strip the ivy, hydrangea and wisteria from the walls.

The photos below show Dave and the gardener Dave at work on the Old Castle and Mansion.

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Wildlife, Hops and estate management

Dear All,

It has been a little while since I have blogged, so I thought you share some pictures and stories from the last few weeks on the Scotney Castle estate.

The most obvious place to start is in regard to hops. The last day of hop picking was today (Wednesday 24th Sept) which brings to an end a busy month for Ian Strang, Scotney’s tenant farmer of 30 years, and his team. Hop picking is a massive part of Kent’s history and the influence and power from the industry is evident from the wealth of Oasts (now many of course Oast houses), the movement of county boundaries and why Kent is the ‘Garden of England’. At the height of the hop industry in the late 1800s, Kent boasted 77,000 acres of hop gardens, now however, there are only 1000 acres left in the whole country and Ian Strang is one maybe as little as 50 farmers to still grow hops. The Ranger team is certainly proud to have this tradition continued at Scotney Castle.

Hop gardens, once a they filled the Kent landscape

Hop gardens, once a they filled the Kent landscape

Tractors bring hops from the gardens into the the picking shed

Tractors bring hops from the gardens into the the picking shed

A complicated machine and strips the hops from the bines

A complicated machine strips the hops from the bines

The hops are then dried in the roundels of the oast, cooled and then baled ready for transportation

The hops are then dried in the roundels of the oast, cooled and then baled ready for transportation

 I am also very proud of Scotney Castle’s estate guides who have delivered guided walks throughout the hop picking month to over 600 people. Although picking has now ceased for 2014, tours are still going ahead for another two weeks, so if interested then please check out http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scotney-castle/things-to-see-and-do/events/

Summer from a practical point of view has been all about fencing and installation of gates. The ranger volunteers have worked really hard all summer, many thanks to their commitment. Here are Tony and Nick erecting a fence along the front drive:

Nick is using a drivel to knock in fencing posts

Nick is using a drivel to knock in fencing posts

Tony is helping to put in struts for the straining posts

Tony is helping to put in struts for the straining posts

To finish here are some wildlife photos of the last few weeks…

Bank Vole 5a

This Bank Vole was happy to hang around for a couple of photos before it scuppered away in the long grass. We found it when we moved a log stack, which had only been there for a couple of days, part of a job to clear windblown trees on a field boundary. Photo by Alison Playle.

Can you spot the smooth snake?

Can you spot the smooth snake hidden in the grass?

I believe that this is a wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) but please feel free to let me know what you think...

I believe that this is a Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) but please feel free to let me know what you think… I saw it when I was brushcutting thistles in the parkland

Dormice monitoring has continued on the estate, this little fellow was found in september, quickly sexed and weighed then put back his nest... Photo by Lucy McIntyre

Dormice monitoring has continued on the estate, this little fellow was found in september, quickly sexed and weighed then put back his nest… Photo by Lucy McIntyre

Dormice are certainly at their cutest when in torpor, but this fella, in weighing bag is a little sweetie...

Dormice are certainly at their cutest when in torpor, but this fella, in weighing bag is a little sweetie with his white breast plate…

This is a Stinkhorn fungus, which I saw in the woods the other day. Autumn is here!

This is a Stinkhorn fungus, which I saw in the woods the other day. Autumn is here!

Thanks for reading. Mark.

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Guided walks and Charcoal

The Scotney Castle ranger team have been ever busy through the summer months. From making BBQ charcoal to sell in the shop to taking scores of visitors around on guided walks has made the summer eventful…

Senior Ranger Ross Wingfield leading a guided walk

Senior Ranger Ross Wingfield leading a guided walk

Long term volunteer hero Martin, with charcoal bags...

Long term volunteer Martin, with charcoal bags…

The cycle of Scotney’s work plan fits into shape through a virtuous circle. We spend a lot of the winter months clearing back overgrown paths, ride and woodlands which makes a great habitat for various species, such as butterflies and dormice, the wood that is cut is harvested to make charcoal and volunteer estate guides lead visitors to the best places to spot this diversity. It all fits into place.

So, where to start…

Guided Walks  Every day of the week a volunteer estate guides leads a guided walk across the estate. The theme of the walk may reflect the season. Earlier in the year the theme was ‘first signs of Spring’, the walk over the last week has been ‘summer butterfly ID’ and the next one will be on Hops.

Harvested hops...

Harvested hops… Come on a Hop tour this August and September and learn more about the process

Hop gardens at Scotney....

Hops grown in traditional gardens on the estate by tenant farmer, Ian Strang.

Estate Guides 2014. Ready and willing to give a great tour...

Estate Guides 2014. Ready and willing to give a great tour…

Charcoal 

Charcoal making is a really old traditional skill. Hornbeam or Alder is said to make the best charcoal, but at Scotney we use mainly sweet chestnut, as that is what we inherited from the plantings of the hop industry. Many say it is more of an art than a science to making it but there are a few things that need to be correct. Firstly the Kiln needs to be packed correctly with the right size logs. It also needs to be burn at the right heat and for the right amount of time. I haven’t cracked it yet, but Martin, shown in the photos below has come quite good at it:

Split the logs and transport to the kiln...

Split the logs and transport to the kiln…

Stack the kiln and light it waiting for the correct temperature before putting the lid on...

Stack the kiln and light it waiting for the correct temperature before putting the lid on…

Put up the chimneys and seal the air holes and leave until smoke turns blue/grey

Put up the chimneys and seal the air holes and leave until smoke turns blue/grey

Shut the kiln right down and leave to cool...

Shut the kiln right down and leave to cool…

Next morning, see what you have got!

Next morning, see what you have got!

Thanks for reading. look out for the next blog soon…

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Once upon a time at Scotney

On Tuesday, the 1st July, exactly 10 years after their first kiss and a year before their wedding, Omid dropped onto one knee in the stunning surroundings of the Old Castle and asked his partner Mary to marry him. Although Omid and Mary had already booked their wedding at Scotney for the summer of 2015, Omid had never actually proposed. Under the ruse of getting a feel for the gardens on the exact date that their wedding will take place next year, he surprised his fiancée Mary with this beautiful and thoughtful romantic gesture on a day that he knew meant so much to both of them. Andrew Wickens of ARW photography, a Friend of Scotney who loves to capture our beautiful property, had been contacted in advance and set up in a disguise as an amateur photographer of the grounds. He was in prime place to capture the special moment in a series of photographs that we think are stunning, as is the rest of his fabulous work which can be seen on his website arwphotography.co.uk. Like many before them, Omid and Mary have fallen in love with the captivating beauty and tranquillity of Scotney and believe that its atmosphere matches them as a couple perfectly. Congratulations to Omid and Mary upon your engagement and look forward to sharing another special 1st of July with you next year!

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Old Carriage Way Restoration

Who is interested in the old carriage way?

These inquisitive cows came over to see what was going on...

These inquisitive cows came over to see what was going on…

If you are a regular to Scotney Castle estate, or a visitor, you would certainly have noticed the work taking place on the Parkland Trail, more commonly known as the blue route. So what is going on? Basically we have got machines in to restore the carriage way across the estate up to the mansion house.

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 A bit of History

 The ‘Old Carriage way’ runs right through the estate from Kilndown to the mansion and would have served as a means of showing of the picturesque parkland and woodlands to guests coming to stay with the family. At certain points along the way specially contrived vistas (or viewpoints) enabled the visitors to get snap shots of the ruined castle and mansion on their way in. However in 1842, Edward Hussey III, whose portrait remains in the dining room as I learnt recently, changed the main carriage way to approach from West Lodge, still its current location. One of the reasons, as I have always been told, was that it is a flatter approach to the mansion, meaning less sweaty horses on arrival… Nonetheless, this meant that the ‘Old Carriage Way’ went into disuse and therefore disrepair. Over the years it has silted and grassed over and the harder standing hogging pathway, a mixture of sand stone, clay and brick, was lost… in 2014, out comes the digger and dumper.

 Work today…

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Scotney Castle is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), this status is due mainly to the landscape value. Therefore careful consideration had to be taken and permission granted by Natural England before work started. We are using trusted and experienced contractors. Only a slim layer has been taken off the top of the carriage way in order to get down to the hoggin baselayer. The spoil has been removed and may well be used elsewhere in the future. The contractors have been sensitive to walkers and engaging to questions.

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Why the need to do the work? 

I have only been at Scotney for three years but in that short time I have seen each winter how wet, muddy and generally unpassable the old carriage way gets. Water runs down the path and the mud can get up over ones boots. With 130,000 visitors to Scotney Castle each year, and at least 20,000 using the blue route, we needed to make improvements to the old carriage way.  Moreover, scrapping it to its original surface has enabled the restoration of an historic pathway that now, I think, looks impressive swinging down the hill to the Sweetbourne bridge…

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 Thanks for reading.

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Calling all Fathers with a Spring in their step!

Today is Father’s Day, and in an effort to help them walk off the Hog Roast that is available (which they’ve no doubt washed down with a pint of Scotney Ale), we’ve opened up the new and improved Spring Walk.

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In the past the Spring Walk was a  narrow pathway running between the Bewl River and the park fence ending at a Chalybeate Spring sheltered under two large Western Red Cedars (Thuja plicata). In the Autumn the fence was moved to follow the line of a footpath which is marked on a 19th Century map of the estate. This has enclosed a large additional area of grassland into the garden, and provides a lovely circular walk and stunning views back towards the garden and up to the Mansion.

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Already this year, with no grazing by sheep and cattle, wild flowers have been able to flourish. Existing Red and Scarlet Oak provide autumn colour when the time comes (although that seems a long way away as we approach Midsummer), and we will be planting additional trees in the coming year.

As far as the rest of the garden goes, the Rhododendrons are largely over but there is still lots to look at. The Kalmias are out in full, and in the last week our two Stewartia pseudocamellias have been in flower. The specimen at the bottom of the main path is already dropping many of its blooms.

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