Sussex Life December 2014 Poetry + solution
PUBLISHED: 13:03 01 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:40 20 March 2015
Solution for the ‘The Country Cousin’ piece by Tony Ward in the Sussex Life December issue
The Country Cousin
From generations of plantsmen
to generations of plantsmen,
The country cousin,
underwriting our hold on life.
The Ark grounded,
but no lesser seeds of life.
Noah in a labcoat.
new minds, new eyes.
Youthful inheritors, unknowing heirs,
still treasures to be found –
hunters, explorers still.
Solution - Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Explanation - Wakehurst Place is the National Trust’s most-visited property, with over 400,000 visitors annually. Bequeathed to the National Trust in 1963, two years later it was leased for the benefit of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It is often referred to as “Kew in the Country”.
The manor of Wakehurst dates from the mid 13th Century. In 1454 the estate passed by marriage to the notable Culpeper family. Thomas Culpeper was said to be one of the lovers of Catherine Howard, King Henry VIII’s fifth wife. Both were sentenced to death by the King. Catherine’s mother was also a member of the numerous Culpeper family. The present, Elizabethan, mansion was built by Sir Edward Culpeper (1561-1630) in 1590.
The first of the “generation of plantsmen” was Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654), a famous botanist and herbalist. His publications ‘The English Physitian’ (1652) and ‘Complete Herbal’ (1653) were the must-have medical guides of their day. A visit to any abbey or priory herb garden, with plants labelled with their medicinal properties, testifies to his research. The emphasis on scientific research remains a key aspect of the Royal Botanic Gardens work at Wakehurst.
The estate passed through several hands over the centuries until in 1903 it was bought by Gerald Loder (later, in 1934, Lord Wakehurst). The Loders were the second major “generation of plantsmen”. Gerald Loder was a passionate plant collector, sponsoring many plant-hunting expeditions, particularly to Eastern Asia. This is evident in ‘The Himalayan Glade’ in the gardens. He was also keenly interested in Southern Hemisphere plants (South America, Australia and New Zealand). A feature of the gardens is the grouping of plants according to their geographic origins. Gardeners will also be aware of the contribution of Gerald’s elder brother, Sir Edmund Loder (1849-1920), owner of nearby Leonardslee, to the development of ‘Loderi’ rhododendrons. The RHS Loder Cup, instituted in 1921 by Gerald as a tribute to his brother, remains the premier honour for present-day rhododendron breeders.
After Gerald Loder’s death in 1936, the legacy was further developed by the new owners, Sir Henry and Lady Eve Price, until Sir Henry bequeathed Wakehurst, with a sizeable endowment, to The National Trust in 1963. “The Kindred Spirits” now are the lessees, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
“The Ark” refers to the Millennium Seed Bank sited in the grounds. This was opened by HRH Prince Charles in the year 2000, and which he referred to as “a gold reserve ... where ... life itself is stored”. The Seed Bank is the embodiment of a global insurance policy against the extinction of plants in the wild, involving partners in 50 countries. A quarter of all plant species, some 100,000, are currently under threat due to the activities of people. This is despite the fact that plants are essential to man’s existence. They provide 75% of our food, building materials, clothing, medicines, fuel and help to combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, the ‘greenhouse gas’. Beneath the award-winning Wellcome Trust Millennium Building lies a vast storage vault, with security features no less impressive than that for gold reserves. In here, at sub-zero temperatures, are already stored the seeds of 10% (some 24,200) of the world’s plant species. The target is 25% by 2020. This £80 million initiative, the world’s largest seed conservation project, was a far-sighted result of the UK’s Millenium Commission.
Out in the grounds, another initiative to secure our future is underway. Involvement of the next generation, “new minds, new eyes”, is being encouraged by children’s natural play areas – the ‘Adventurous journeys’ project. Already in place are Willow tunnels, a Spiral Maze of scented plants, Talking Totems (North American trees including ‘pignut hickory’ and ‘alligator wood’, carved to resonate when struck by provided wooden claves) and Unexpected Endings (a labyrinth of spirals based on the Fibonaci series, a pattern at the heart of plant structure). There are more ‘adventures’ to come, “still treasures to be found”, for future generations of “hunters, explorers”.
Although not featured in the poem, for potential visitors, mention should also be made of a particular Winter Festival favourite of children and adults alike (apart from a visit to Santa). This is the centrepiece of the Winter Festival, the country’s tallest growing Christmas Tree, a 120 year-old, 118 foot Redwood. In line with Wakehurst’s conservation ethos, the 1800-odd lights are now of course low-energy bulbs, but it is still stunning.
• National Trust Handbook and Website.
• Royal Botanic Gardens website (www.kew.org/visit-wakehurst/index.htm).
• English Heritage website (http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultssingle.aspx?uid=1000189)
• Relevant websites found by searches for ‘Wakehurst Place’, ‘Royal Botanic Gardens’, ‘Millennium Seed Bank’ ,’Loder Valley Nature Reserve’, ‘The Culpepers of Wakehurst’, ‘Gerald Loder’ (also brings up Sir Giles Loder and the RHS Loder Cup award).
• ‘England’s Thousand Best Houses’, Simon Jenkins, Allen Lane, 2003 (pages 791-792).
• ‘Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank is growing fast’, Richard Gray (Science correspondent), Daily Telegraph, 21 August 2011.