Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Fascinating Fungi

As autumn began approaching, a range of different fungi started to appear in the gardens. Garden Volunteer Bob Mansfield tells us more:

Two recent arrivals at Beningbrough have cause some interest.  The first is this rather dramatic example, seen at a distance on a yew tree in the American Garden:

On closer inspection it looks like this:

The common name for this rather dramatic fungus is ‘Chicken of the Woods’ (laetiporus sulphureus). Other common names include crab of the woods, sulphur shelf, the chicken mushroom, or the chicken fungus, because it apparently tastes like chicken. However, we do not recommend that you take off a slice for the frying pan: the fungus can absorb toxins from the tree in which it is growing, in this case yew, which is highly toxic.

The second example appeared in a grass verge and was spotted at about 11am one day at the beginning of September:

The fungus is very small, about 3 inches high, is almost transparent and has been identified as the Pleated Ink Cap - Parasola Plicatilis (our thanks to Rhona Sutherland from Oswaldkirk for helping us with the identification).  We were lucky to spot this example as it is very short lived – by 2.00pm it looked like this:

.. and an hour later it had completely disappeared.  We will keep our eyes open for fungi and will report any other unusual sightings!

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Lily Tree

Beningbrough volunteer gardener Bob Mansfield recounts the story of a very special tree.

The South Walk is a peaceful and little visited part of the Beningbrough garden, which meanders through a mixture of trees and shrubs, overlooking the parkland meadows.  One tree, however, is rather special, although unremarkable at first glance.

The tree is a Handkerchief Tree, davidia involucrata.

One thing that makes it special is that it's a commemorative tree.

Although Beningbrough does have a number of these, they are mostly memorials to people who have passed away. Not this one.

This Handkerchief Tree is different. It was planted to celebrate a birth. When you turn over the label you find out that this is Lily's tree.

So who is Lily?  Lily is the granddaughter of my friends, Mark and Joanna Caldicott. She was born to Elle and Ben in June 2008 and her grandparents wanted to mark the event with something special and long-lasting – so what better than a tree?

I checked with Gardens and Parks Manager, Des Cotton, who readily agreed to planting a tree, particularly one so unusual as a Handkerchief Tree.  So, in June 2009, gardener Steve, volunteer Bob and father Ben, skilfully aided by one year old Lily and mum, Elle, planted the two year sapling.

Ben, Elle and Lily live some way away so are not able to visit Beningbrough very often to check on the progress of Lily’s tree, but I keep an eye on it weekly, and grandparents Mark and Joanna often visit. In fact the next time the family were able to see the tree was 2 years later, when Lily was three – and here they are with it, moved from its original position as it was suffering from being too exposed.

During the visit, I took a photo of Lily which now graces the family living room and is called ‘Lily in the field’.

And now we come fully up to date. Lily is six, and this month there was another picnic, with another opportunity to see the tree

The family plans to keep visiting annually, and are all looking forward to seeing the tree in spring, in a few years time, when the handkerchief-like bracts will appear. Look out for Lily's tree when you next visit!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Lichfield: A Royal Album

Photography exhibition now open

Tuesday - Sunday until 2 November

An exhibition of photographs by one of Britain's most renowned photographers has arrived at Beningbrough for autumn, as part of Royals: then and now.
In collaboration with Lichfield Studios we're playing host to an exhibition of the Lichfield Studios’ photographs of the Royal Family. The selection includes formal portraits as well as some more informal moments, for which Lichfield is so notable.

(c) Photo by Lichfield

First cousin once-removed to The Queen, the 5th Earl of Lichfield, Patrick Lichfield, as he was known professionally, was invited to photograph the Royal Family on numerous occasions. He had an easy personality and his subjects invariably felt relaxed in his presence.

In one picture to be shown at Beningbrough, The Queen is caught in an off-duty moment, laughing and relaxed aboard the Royal Yacht, Britannia.

(c) Photo by Lichfield

In another, a young Prince Charles at Balmoral opens his arms to Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones in a tender gesture of affection.  And at the Kent wedding in June 1968, The Queen Mother is engrossed in conversation with Sir John Betjeman; the scene is as natural as any image from our own photograph albums.

A photograph of the reclusive Duke and Duchess of Windsor, relaxed and smiling at the camera is also part of the selection. Lichfield played court jester to get the smile; he purposely fell through a cane garden chair, taking the photograph as he went down. The resulting shot was published in Vogue. 

(c) Photo by Lichfield

There are several shots from the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer including the balcony shot from a unique angle.

The exhibition is open Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 5pm until 2 November. Free entry to National Trust members otherwise normal admission prices apply. For full details visit the website

Access note - the Hayloft room can only be reached by a staircase.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Secret places at Beningbrough

This look at some of Beningbrough's hidden places has been written by Rosie, a work experience student with us this week, bringing a fresh perspective to looking round the gardens.

Many visitors come to Beningbrough Hall regularly and only visit the main attractions like the Hall, Walled garden and Restaurant, but there are so many hidden gems which are often overlooked.

The new bower
There’s a brand new secret place at Beningbrough for you to enjoy, with the recently built garden bower in the American Garden. Feel free to just take a minute on your next visit to sit down and enjoy this peaceful spot to listen to the sounds of the wildlife around you.

Story telling tree
Here’s one for the kids, the story telling tree is a great place for children of any age to explore. There are little wooden chairs hidden inside the tree to sit on while enjoying a story. The tree is also great for older children to climb and explore the canopy.

Fairy house
There are also little magical features hidden on site like this miniature door, which has to be kept very secret as we don’t want to disturb the gnomes and fairies that might be living in there. Why don’t you see if you can find it on your next visit?

Fish pond
The fish pond in the East Formal is visited by many people so it might not be seen as a very secret place; however, there are still some visitors that simply walk past it, which is a shame as it is a beautiful area to explore. Enjoy watching the fish swimming around while listening to the calming trickle of the water.

Insect hotel
The Community Orchard is also a great place, with many hidden features such as the camouflaged Insect Hotel - although it may not seem like a secret place to us, it is certainly secret to the insects that live inside it. See how many different species of insects you can find.

Willow spider
While exploring the Orchard you may also happen to come across this huge creepy crawly creature hidden in the yew trees. Don’t be frightened by it like Little Miss Muffet!

Next time you come to visit, see if you can find some of the secret places you might have missed, so you can get the most out of your visit.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A quilt that tells a story

Quilt to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Royal Canadian Airforce at Beningbrough 1943-1945, by Susan Hill

As part of the Country House at War celebrations in 2013, Beningbrough volunteer Susan Hill made this wonderful sampler quilt. It was to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Airforce at Beningbrough Hall 1943 - 1945. Two Canadian squadrons were billeted at Beningbrough during this part of the war, flying out on missions from the airfield at Linton-on-Ouse, and the quilt tells their story.
Canadian Airmen at Beningbrough
The squares 'Pierced Star', 'Crazy', 'Flying Geese' and 'Card Trick' tell the story of the Canadian airmen at Beningbrough
The first square on the row above is 'Pierced Star' as the pilots would fly out at night in starry skies, often navigating by the stars.

The second is named 'Crazy', which refers to the quilting style, but also has a Beningbrough story behind it. Lady Chesterfield was Beningbrough's owner during the war, and she frequently complained about the airmen's behaviour. On her list of gripes were graffiti, theft, and riding a motorbike up the cantilevered staircase! Most of the men were very young, facing dreadful missions (47% never returned) and obviously needed to let off steam. Nevertheless, they drove Lady Chesterfield 'crazy'.

The third square is 'Flying Geese' for 408 Flying Goose Squadron at Beningbrough, and the fourth is 'Card Trick' as gambling helped the airmen pass time between missions. These are just four of the ten quilt squares which relate to the Canadian airmen.

The story of Gipsy and Olie

A particularly poignant story is told by the square 'True Lovers' Knot' where a block pattern surrounds the embroidered graffiti '1942 Gipsy and Olie' - the original of which is carved on the sitting room fireplace mantel in the Hall. For some reason, Lady Chesterfield never had it removed after the war.

Gipsy was a WAAF stationed at Beningbrough and Olie a Canadian air gunner. Olie's plane was shot down over Germany and he remained a prisoner there. On his release, he wrote to Gipsy, asking her to meet him at Southampton where his boat would dock on its way back to Canada. Sadly, she was too late. The boat had sailed, and they were never to meet again. 

The story behind the graffiti was a mystery at Beningbrough until a visit from a lady during the 1980s. When shown the graffiti by a room guide, she was overwhelmed to see it, and revealed that she was 'Gipsy'.  

Canadian women during the war 
Canadian Red Cross
As well as telling the airmen's story, the quilt also remembers the effort of Canadian women during the war. Women made quilts which were distributed by the Canadian Red Cross to families, refugees, nurses and the services. It was these Canadian Red Cross quilts and the stories of how much they meant to recipients in a time of fear and shortages inspired Susan to undertake her project. Some of the squares in her quilt use patterns which were popular with the Canadian women at the time.

A quilt made at Beningbrough 
Susan made the quilt over a year and a half, while on duty as a room guide at Beningbrough, mainly  in the "war room" which was set up to tell the story of Beningbrough at war, and also in the saloon, sitting on a window seat  - where the light was ideal.  It was a great talking point for visitors as she was making it, many of whom shared their own war recollections with her.

We're hoping to display the quilt in the Hall some time in the very near future. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Spreading the love of gardens one flower at a time.....

Today I joined colleagues from across Yorkshire to surprise passers-by in York with the gift of a free flower.

 Photo by Barry Pells
Yorkshire has 8 gardens owned by the National Trust covering over 1300 acres. Roses were given to represent formal gardens, larkspur for wildflower and wildlife gardens and rosemary to represent the kitchen gardens growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.
Today it was lovely to spread a little brightness and hear 'you've made my day'.
For further inspiration of where to visit in Yorkshire there are a series of garden articles here:
For more about the gardens as Beningbrough including a short video showing the pear arch through the year visit:
If you're in Newcastle tomorrow we might just see you there!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Useful items to maximise play time!

Below is a map to help direct you to the best places in the garden to tick off some of the 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4 this spring.

The full list of 50 things on a handy chart:

This half term pick up a free scrap book from the bothy and collect stickers at reception for the adventures you complete.

Have fun!