With the days lengthening and a real sense of summer in the air it’s a perfect time to while away a few hours exploring all that Stoneywell has to offer during the balmy days of June.
The gardens, heading toward their most luscious, present a wow moment around every corner, and one particularly stunning specimen is the Chilean flame tree. You cannot fail to notice this as you ascend the gentle rise of the path to the main cottage. The fiery red flowers contrast strongly with the luscious greens of the woodland canopy beyond and it is sure not just to catch your eye, but to keep your gaze for quite a while.
With 150 named varieties of rhododendrons throughout the grounds there is always something in bloom and June is no exception. Although at this time of year as many species finish flowering it is a good opportunity to admire the often overlooked leaves, to see just how much they vary in shape, shade and pattern.
Whilst ambling round the garden pause a while on the tennis court, a remarkably wide area of flat ground, considering the rest of Stoneywell’s undulating nature. Sydney, a keen tennis player had the court made between 1903 and 1905 blasting the rock, levelling it several times before seeding and then fencing in. It makes a great area to enjoy genteel summer games including quoits and boules.
The wilder areas of the garden that were left relatively untamed are bursting into life this month with the heathland freckled white with the delicate flowers of heath bedstraw, so named because it was gathered to freshen early mattresses and make them smell sweet. Bracken fronds are fully unfurled much to the dismay of the garden team who you may see taking it in hand by pulling much of it to prevent a complete takeover. As the fruit of the bilberry starts to plump up the other splash of colour in the heathland are the many foxgloves. A common enough plant but striking nonetheless as they stand to pink and purple attention and attract an abundance of bumblebees that enjoy their nectar.
If you creep round the garden carefully enough during a hot day in June you may be rewarded with a glimpse of some of our native reptiles basking in the sunshine, warming up and getting enough energy to go foraging for insects. Both slow-worms and common lizards make Stoneywell their home and can be found sprawled out sunbathing on warm rocks and bare soils, particularly in the morning and late afternoon.
A wander through the meadow is another highlight in June surrounded by the gentle hum bees as they fly determindely from flower to flower. Butterflies, more sedate, dance amongst the grasses. The black butterfly with white tipped wings which is seen in large numbers at the moment isn't a butterfly at all but a day-flying moth called a Chimnet Sweeper. This delightful creature lays its eggs on pignut, a small delicate flower that is also abundant in June.
Whilst it is tempting to spend as much time outdoors as possible let us not forget the cottage; with its quirky shaped-rooms and adventurous staircases, it conjures up memories of summer excitement. Take a tour and let our hosts reveal the interesting stories around the building and its collection.