Archive for June, 2012

Westonbury bottle dome

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.


Westonbury domeInside

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.)

Westonbury stoneTower1


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.


Westonbury oakTower3


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

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A Low Impact Woodland Home - Simon Dale (1)

Who has not at some time hankered after a Hobbit Hole? The peace, the seclusion of life in the shire? Well if you have a reasonably large garden or back yard, this dream can now be yours. There are several versions of the Hobbit Home on offer but this is a particularly attractive version. It was built by Simon Dale and his father in law in Wales, as a low impact woodland home, with only a little help from their friends using mostly materials found on site – and  it cost a princely 3000 pounds sterling.

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A Low Impact Woodland Home - Simon Dale (14)



A Low Impact Woodland Home - Simon Dale (2)

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Follies have been a bit thin on the ground lately but now comes news of one designed to cheer up folly builders everywhere. Forget the euro and feast your eyes on this:




Heinz Schönewolf, a retired bricklayer and his wife Hildegard from Dudweiler, Germany, have spent the last 37 years building a 350 square-foot fairy tale castle, right in their own backyard. The 15-meter-high and 15-meter-wide Schönewolf Castle features towers, battlements, narrow pathways, a charming Rapunzel room and even an 18,000 litre aquarium in the basement. Note too the many gnomes scattered liberally around the ramparts.

Like all the best follies, it started small but then took on a life of its own. Schönewolf told German newspaper Bild that his beautiful backyard castle started out as a simple retaining wall that he simply kept embellishing over the years. The German couple estimate they’ve spent about €50,000 on the castle so far

Ever since he started work on it, in 1975, Heinz has spent every single day making his castle better, and his wife Hildegard says they never even went on a holiday, only to visit her husband’s mother, in Hessen. Well a man needs a hobby after all.

Although he says the backyard castle will never really be finished, because he always wants to add new things, Heinz has already opened it up for public visits, free of charge.

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