Chloe Ferguson tells us all about the Sea Plantation

When the average person in Britain hears summer pool party, we generally think of a blow up paddling pool, easy to dismantle at a moment's notice due to our unbelievable luck with the weather... And perhaps, just maybe, if the mums are feeling particularly classy a pitcher of Pims could be floating about making welcomed guest appearances in between the shouting at their gang of five year olds who are determined to throw the cat in the water.

 

Yes, that's how we today perceive pool parties. However in the 1930's, that's not how the Londonderry family rolled. No, Lady Edith had summer pool parties, but instead of a temporary basin to hold everyone's sweat, she had a jellybean - shaped swimming pool overlooking Strangford Lough, along with a rotating sun-house the majority of us would kill for to escape the horrendous misfortune of tan lines.

This summer, some members of the Media Team took an expedition to the Sea Plantation, an area closed to the public to explore where Lady Edith and her famous counterparts spent those hot summer days.

The Sea Plantation, otherwise known as an embankment, was originally built to isolate Mount Stewart's House and Gardens from Strangford Lough, reducing its exposure to the eroding sea winds, finishing in 1803. This also allowed the Londonderry family reclaimed land for their own use, making the Plantation a centrepiece in the options for the family's entertainment, which is highlighted over 100 years later when in 1913 Theresa, the Lady of Londonderry at that time, described it as a "delicious walk inside the plantation within the embankment, running right round it and just covered it in moss." Then in the 1930's Edith, Lady Londonderry, chose the southern corner of the embankment to hold a swimming pool, filled by the tidal waters of Strangford Lough.

The salt-water, kidney-shaped pool was surrounded by exotic trees and tropical flowers.
The salt-water, kidney-shaped pool was surrounded by exotic trees and tropical flowers.
The salt-water, kidney-shaped pool was surrounded by exotic trees and tropical flowers.

As the Media team walked along the paradise gone wild, with a closer look we were able to capture the classically beautiful affair it once was - with remnants of large stone archways as entrances to the swimming pool, now shrouded in trees with prickly thorns bursting from within. Along this area of the plantation the view, even in the drizzly weather (my hair took HOURS to brush after the wind knotted it so much) was astonishing - a perfect 180 degree view, the Temple of the Winds on one side, Scrabo Tower on the other, and the Mournes in the centre directly facing where Lady Edith Londonderry's sunhouse stood. It was not hard to grasp why she chose this spot as we watched the sea glisten and ripple even under the wind.

A wooden gazebo structure overlooked Strangford Lough. It stood on a revolving mechanism
A wooden gazebo structure overlooked Strangford Lough. It stood on a revolving mechanism
A wooden gazebo structure overlooked Strangford Lough. It stood on a revolving mechanism

However, what piqued my interest was when we learnt about Lady Edith's fascination with exotic birds - the family had a connection to a zoo in England, which provided me with the hilarious visual image of Lady Mairi (Edith's daughter) frolicking poolside with flamingos and Edith sunbathing with a parrot perched beside her. Now, I don't know how accurate that scene is, but all I'm saying is that we don't have proof it didn't happen... (conspiracy theory alert?!). Jonny, Katie, Ren, Erin and I wandered round the side to film a vlog, and a few hilarious out-takes later, we got our footage - it's always so weird to hear yourself on camera, it's cringe-worthy. After we finished our documentation we began to run- no wait, sorry: 'walk in a quick but orderly fashion' (risk assessments, am I right?) back to our base as the rain was beginning to pour down. BUT that didn't stop us from attempting to take a few photos and boomerangs #gottagetthatshot.

Sea Plantation Stone Wall

Overall, everyone found it interesting to see where the Londonderry family came to relax and spend their summer days; filling us with fresh enthusiasm to document more about the Mount Stewart property as the Media Team in the lead up to the Conversations Festival in October. This expedition shows how similar we all are, even with a near century gap, because at the end of the day we all have memories of running (paddling)pool side trying to hold onto any slither of sunlight while we can.

Mount Stewart Youth Team visit the Sea Plantation
Mount Stewart Youth Team visit the Sea Plantation
Mount Stewart Youth Team visit the Sea Plantation

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