First published on my original blog in October 2012
Earlier this week I decided to take a trip with my camera to one of my favourite places, the National Trust’s beautiful Powis Castle.
It was a bleak, breezy, rainswept morning but the weather forecast indicated this would pass and be replaced by sunshine. It was hard to believe, but I put my faith in British weather forecasting and set off (as you can imagine, this policy is not always successful!)
Most of the way there the car was lashed with rain, buffeted by the wind and covered in filthy spray kicked up by the inevitable lorries I would find myself stuck behind. But – all credit to the weather forecasters – as I approached Welshpool the clouds parted, the rain eased and the medieval castle and its incredible gardens were bathed in autumn sunshine.
Most Welsh castles were built by kings of Norman and French descent to subdue that nation, as they had done England in the previous centuries. However Powis Castle was one of the exceptions – it was the fortress seat of Welsh princes and building began on the formidable structure around 1200.
Much of the work to transform the castle into the lavishly decorated and furnished stately home it is today has taken place over the last four hundred years. Inside it is incredibly atmospheric, particularly the Elizabethan long gallery, where residents and guests could take a leisurely walk during spells of poor weather, admiring the works of art that would be hanging on the walls. The state bedroom is also remarkable, decorated with rich hangings and an abundance of gilt.
However, it was the gardens I had come to photograph. These are among the most beautiful in Britain and survived the 18th century fashion for naturalistic landscaping. It is thought the terraces here were created in the 1680s – each one has a different character depending on the soil type and because of their south-east aspect and the mild climate, an abundance of shrubs, climbers and herbaceous perennials are grown here.
Nobody visiting Powis can leave without being struck by the huge, cloudlike domes (or tumps) of yew that march along the upper terrace. These were probably planted in the early 18th century and are the result of centuries of clipping, then neglect and further clipping, allowing the once formal shapes to mutate into the distinctive forms we see today.
The garden also retains its original lead statues, perched high on a terrace, as well as an Orangery. Below is a 2.5 acre (1 ha) lawn, once the site of a Dutch water garden, which is planted with a carpet of daffodils, making an impressive display in April. Even farther from the castle is another formal garden– as well as a picturesque, black and white timbered cottage, now used for holiday accommodation.
On my visit the crystal clear, low angled sunshine provided a beautiful, warm light – perfect for capturing details of the planting and other garden features. Many of the herbaceous perennials were still in flower and I was particularly impressed with the pots and urns, heavy with fuchsias in full bloom. Trees and shrubs, planted on the embankment down to the lawn, also provided a vibrant display of autumn colour.
Finally I walked onto the wooded ridge, the other side of the lawn and opposite from the castle, and paused at a clearing in the trees – here I used my trusty 70-200mm lens to capture images of the building and its gardens in their entirety – as well as detail shots of the terraces, still wonderfully colourful in mid-October.