We moved out. Just a bit of cleaning tomorrow. We wonder: Who will look after the seriously endangered place? It was home to the first Irish woman botanist Ellen Hutchins and her brothers who started the arboretum with extremely rare trees. It was home to the Kaulback family, who continued the work with enthusiasm, money and many dedicated gardeners.
We met with the “girl” who spent her happy childhood in Ardnagashel this summer. She is seventy now and cannot believe how an owner of such a precious place can let it decay to the point of no recognition. Destruction by complete negligence. Negligence due to an appalling unawareness of the significance of the place.
In about 50 hours the Ellen Hutchins Year will start. We will remember her life, her work and her death in February of 1815. We will remember the birth of Richard Hutchins (her great-grandnephew) in April of 1915. But there is hardly anything left of their legacy. A priceless botanical gem, a part of Irish heritage is nearly gone.
A lazy sunny afternoon was the background for our farewell party yesterday. Now the days are numbered, we are moving out – slowly the house will become the empty shell it was, when we moved in three seasons ago. Many of the guests in our guesthouse felt at home during this time and brought back happy memories of a very special place.
We had dreams to become worthy custodians of this once magnificent historical place where Ireland’s first woman botanist Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815) spent a couple of years. She lived in the old Big House before her brothers started an arboretum with very rare trees, some of which became Irish Champion Trees. Seeds were brought from plant collecting expeditions to Australia and other subtropical parts of the world. Most of those old trees are dead by now, as trees are living beings in need of dedication and care. Most of the tender shrubs had no protection either, and all of the paths around them are completely overgrown or destroyed by the 12 storms from last winter. The layout of this once extraordinary park is gone.
The place is for sale and we as tenants could only do as much as was permitted during those past 30 months which flew so fast… Very soon our guesthouse will be reopened in another dwelling which once was the Hutchins’ family home too. If you want to join us, come to Ballylickey House (click!).
The fragrant jasmine at the back of the house is currently flowering for the third time this year.
Our season is soon coming to an end, just yesterday more than a dozen of happy guests left Ardnagashel House. At present some new people are enjoying the place we loved so much. One lady said: I already feel very much at home! But everything comes to an end and so our days at the once so beautiful place are numbered.
Like 2013 we had so much sunshine and even heat that we could again enjoy many a delicious fig from the back yard.
I had recently met with one of the two “girls” who had spent their childhood in Ardnagashel in the fifties and sixties and I felt so incredibly sorry about her sadness to see the place of happy memories decaying more and more. I wonder what will happen in the near future. Will somebody buy the place? Will some future owners love the place as much as we did during the past few years? Like “the girl” who used to meet below “Molly”, the lovely huge Magnolia campbellii Mollicomata? Or will it be left to more destruction by storms, salty water, damp air, general neglection…
Wednesday February 12th saw the worst storm for the past two decades. Mainly the Southwest of Ireland was affected by storm Darwin, an estimated of 7,5 million trees were felled by the gales with force up to 100 mph. The following weeks we were just able to clear a few of the main paths to minimize the imminent danger they posed to visitors, though there are still more than 50 fallen trees just lying all over the place. Some of the rare and tall rhododendrons and camellias were damaged but some of them might grow better next spring as there will be much more light for them.
What was left of the lovely park of Ardnagashel is now more doomed than ever. Only the weeds around the entrances of the holiday homes are looked after (i.e. sprayed with poison).
The huge Kousa dogwood tree (Cornus kousa) near one of the two remaining cork oaks was covered in its butterfly-like flowers for many weeks and so was the jasmine in the greenhouse which covered the (at times smelly) back yard with its perfume.
The tall Trochodendron aralioides was spared by the many surrounding fallen trees. It is hardly ever noticed by passers-by – it was in full flower in May. But the nearby graceful Pinus wallichiana (Pinus griffithii) with its delicate long needles tumbled with the whole of its root system now lying upside down.
Ardnagashel House or as it is known House No. 10 is up for sale now, we weren’t able to renew our contract. So our (third) season will soon be coming to an end and we cannot any longer be custodians for this lovely historical place.
It will be very sad to say bye bye in a few weeks time but we will treasure many happy memories. We had made up the bare house to a lovely and cozy home which our guests dearly appreciated.
So far the summer of 2014 has been wonderful and nobody really noticed that the yard doesn’t look as nice as it did before the incredible floodings we had in early spring.
But there will be a new opportunity to spoil our guests and to offer them lovely holiday experiences.
Bantry Bay is huge and there are more lovely houses around.
The astonishing extremely tall silver fir (Abies alba) gave up its last big branch during the summer holidays (August 2013). Now the huge main stem cracked like a match. Only an upright growing branch is still alive and standing like a torch. According to Mike Collard from Future Forests, who had – in February – offered to cut most of the dead wood in order not to endanger visitors of the Holiday Homes in Ardnagashel, there should be around 40 tons of timber to be harvested now!
It is so very sad to be witness to the continuing decay of the once so special arboretum which was founded by the family of the first Irish woman botanist Ellen Hutchins. Her brothers and later some of her nephews brought special plants to the place of outstanding beauty and developed a place with a rare collection of trees. The dead silver fir was probably planted around the mid 19th century.
The Kaulback family bought a major part of the magnificent place (after WWII) and they continued to add more specimen trees and very special rhododendrons which had some decades to mature. Some of them might be rare seedlings from Col. Ronald Kaulback who went on two expeditions to the Himalayan mountains [the first as companion of renowned plant hunter Francis (Frank) Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958)]. Now every autumn and winter sees very rare and mature trees falling, breaking, cracking… Along with their surrendering to the gravity they kill precious neighbouring plants. What is not being killed by storms is being eaten by brambles and digested by lichens and moss.
Hard to believe that this place was of interest for many a celebrity who came to visit, among them:
- Taoiseach Éamonn de Valera
- Queen Juliana of the Netherlands
- Peter Markham Scott (the son of the famous explorer)
- Noel Streatfeild (who wrote The Ballet Shoes)
- Mazo de la Roche
- Joyce Grenfell
- Sir Thomas Pakenham
The above photograph was taken after a minor storm and just before the worst storm for 15 years (26th Dec 2013, 150 km/h), the seaweed went much further and is now ‘decorating’ the front verandah.
After the scorching heat which lasted for about 5 weeks we are now seeing torrential rainfall – between lovely patches of warm sunshine. What was a considerable threat to the visitors during the present summer holidays – especially for those walking from the new cottages to the beach – is now partly solved: a big branch of the incredibly huge silver fir (Abies alba) just crashed onto the main path from Ardnagashel House to the Killeen (No. 19 on this map).
It had been overlooking the estate for a long time, probably for more than a hundred years. For quite some time it was mistaken as an Abies gigantea and was listed as an Irish Champion Tree.
Ardnagashel saw a group of happy walkers this week.
They explored the area around the Walled Garden which is slowly decaying – what a shame, it would be great to make an organic potager out of it or a Mediterranean lavender garden. Now it’s mainly Japanese knotweed (and buttercups) growing here.