Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Castles in the air

I made a trip down to Dunedin last month and visited the famed Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only castle. The castle had been restored to its former glory but it was not the castle interiors I was impressed by - every old home has antique furniture and the wealthy are no's just more lavish than ordinary people's I suppose and bigger and more of it.

What impressed me was the garden surrounding it. The Barker family bought the castle when it was in ruins and over 40 years later the garden is now flourishing and befits such a grand estate. It does not have a moat like I expected a castle to have but a circular lawn forecourt, a fountain, an allee or avenue of laburnum leading down to a reflective pond, iconic cabbage trees flanking the stairs, cypress, montgomery pine shelterbelts and hedges, a seaside coastal embankment complete with gazebo and pathways, a serpentine perennial garden, a rainforest walk with pongas and natives, and secret alice in wonderland motifs.  What is not to love?

From the turret you can see out to the Otago Peninsula on a clear day or be above the clouds and mist on all other days of the year. (Dunedin seems to brood in perpetual scottish gloom). I can imagine many scottish plays being enacted here with a Lady Larnach perhaps wandering the halls at night crying 'out damned spot' with her scrubbing brush.

Well, only about five family members died untimely in this tragedy so you might expect a few unhappy ghosts wandering about. It even has a banqueting hall with three roaring fireplaces but thankfully no three weird sisters predicting Dunedin woods on the march.

I have a leaflet here entitled 'the plants at Larnach Castle' and it lists each one like they are jewels in the crown. Well they are. They are the real stars of the show and give the castle life.
I am dreaming one day I may have a castle of my own. I may look after it for 40 years or more, surviving betrayal, intrigue and nervous breakdowns but it will be there long after I'm gone...