The glass bottle domed fernery by the old mill stream at Westonbury Mill, Herefordshire
The further you get into the darkest researches of the English countryside, the more likely you are to encounter the sort of enterprising Englishman with the imagination and the land to build himself a modern folly.
Richard Pim is just such a fully fledged English eccentric. At the Westonbury Mill Water gardens near the village of Pembridge in the Welsh Marches, he has laid out the 3 ½ acre garden, around the tangle of streams and ponds behind the old corn mill, with exuberant plants and a range of follies to delight and amuse his visitors.
Sunlight streams through the glass inside the Fernery
The follies include a Dome fernery made from wine bottles – nicknamed the blotto-grotto – and a castellated Stone Tower, which spurts jets of water from its three gargoyles. (Water is pulled up the tower from the mill stream by a water wheel to a tank and then on reaching the set level, ‘flushes’ out of the gargoyle’s mouth.)
There is also a thatched African Summer House and a Spiral Mound. Spiral Mound began as a muddy mini-mountain built from the spoil from the canal. It now forms a focal point of the Wild Flower Meadow, climbed by a grass path and gives a splendid view over the meadows.
Mr Pim’s latest folly is the Oaken Tower, built by a local half-timbering specialist which overlooks the garden and has a first floor viewing platform and is nearing completion.
The tower has a watery theme, with a broad shaft up the centre displaying the mechanism of the water powered clock and singing bird – in effect a huge cuckoo clock!
In an update on his website Mr Pim reports “I am now working on parts of the water powered clock and singing bird mechanism. The musical part is being made by a friend who restored the Renaissance singing birds at the Villa d’Este – it should be fun! “
And that is of course the whole point of a folly – above all it should be fun.
Get along there and visit them this summer. The Westonbury Mill Water Gardens are open every day until the end of September. http://www.westonburymillwatergardens.com/index.html