The Italianate Job

Devon Odyssey 7(yep, not done yet)
One of my favourite films, the Italian Job (original 1969 version please).  Anyway, I have digressed in the first sentence which is bad even for me.
Next on the itinerary was Tapeley Park, near Instow.  There was a leaflet for the gardens in the cottage I stayed in and it fitted into a day when I had another garden to visit so I decided to go.
I arrived at lunchtime and had a very nice lunch.  It was warm enough to sit outside which is always a good thing.  It was not too crowded and it did look like it might rain at any time, but it was pleasant enough at the time.
Tapeley, in my mind, is largely about proportion.  The house is well balanced and proportioned.  The gardens are all quite different, ranging from the formal, Italianate terraces created by Lady Rosamond Christie and it is not a huge surprise to learn that she is associated with the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris.  This whole area of the garden screams Arts and Crafts.  It is a very good example of an Italianate garden and you can see that once it was a great example of its kind.
The terraces were also all about balance and proportion.  Some elements like this row of topiarised yews were simple but incredibly effective. 
Though the lawn that they ran along the edge of looked like something was missing.  Like it had been something once and now it had been simplified down.  
There was also the semi-circular pond, which reminded me of the one at Kiftsgate but felt a little out of place, it was like it had been part of a balanced scheme but now it was just left behind.  It was pretty though and the wall around that edge of the garden that mirrored its shape fitted it extremely well.

Bits of the garden do show signs of some restoration being needed, it felt a lot like work in progress.  This is a good thing, there is a world of difference between ‘work in progress’ and ‘slow decline’ and the whole place felt like it was moving positively forward.
There are lots of steps in the garden, and great walls with Mexican daisies growing out of the cracks.  It is against the law to have an Arts and Crafts garden without copious amounts of Mexican daisies in the cracks (isn’t it?). 
I particularly liked these steps leading up out of the garden (or down into it, depends on your trajectory).  I could just picture women in Edwardian dress elegantly walking and resting in the circular area.
There are woods and a good walled kitchen garden past the shell house.  Sadly it has been vandalised, but a good shell house is a wonderful thing.
There is also a permaculture garden, which I did like.  It was a bit hidden away, tucked by the side of a children’s’ play area, it felt  like they did not quite want to shout about it just yet, but they should as it was clear it is an area of horticulture they really care about.
All this however is not the reason I went to Tapeley.  I wanted to see the labyrinth as once I had read about it I decided I would like to see it.  The labyrinth is made up from the wreckage of the monument to Archibald Clevland who was killed at the Battle of Inkerman.  The monument was struck by lightning in 1933 and totally shattered.  I nearly gave up trying to find this as whilst I thought I had followed the map and the signs I missed the one that actually pointed me in the direction.  One nice walk across a field or two later and there it is on the headland overlooking the sea.  A dramatic view spoiled a bit by the industrial buildings on the other side of the estuary. 
The labyrinth itself is laid out on the ground, some of the broken stone have bits of writing on.  I actually found it quite a thoughtful if not sad place.  Even though the wreckage of the monument has been set out and made into something else, it still felt like wreckage.  I think it might look better from above than it does from standing height, it was difficult to get an overview of the design very easily but that is being picky.  I was glad I found it, it did have a real sense of place and cleared the head nicely before setting off back to the cottage.


  1. Hi. I love stonework, so I enjoyed your tour through ths gardens. Thanks! Jane

  2. The labyrinth made me think of Little Sparta, not that I have been there but have seen many photos. The gardens look very interesting and another one to add to the list

    1. I would love to go to Little Sparta, its on my ever growing list. One day.......

  3. Thank you for introducing such an interesting garden, definately one to go on my "Must Visit" list. How lovely to have been able to sit outside for lunch. - Ronnie


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