Bishops Gate gardens entrance by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland

Bishops Gate Gardens in early Spring

by admin on February 24, 2012

in Activities, Day Trips

Bishop's Gate gardens entrance by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland

The gardens at the Bishop’s Gate of Downhill Demense are a much photographed part of the Estate. They are currently undergoing significant work, but we enjoyed a wonderful rambling walk this afternoon in the late winter afternoon light and I thought I would share some photos of perhaps less documented details of the Black Glen area taken today:

Bishop's Gate gardens statue by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland Bishop's Gate gardens seat detail by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland

Here we have the remains of the statue of George William Hervey (1721-1775) who was the eldest brother of ‘our’ Bishop Frederick Augustus Hervey who built Downhill. We think of him as our own headless horseman and guests like to take photos of their head where George’s once was. On the right is a bit of detail from one of the seats which was made from scraps of stone from either the house or Mausoleum. This classical Greek wave motif is also carved around the top of the walls of the Mussenden Temple. I incorporate it into some of my pottery because I like the negative/positive visual balance of the pattern and it is a nice local link to the Mussenden Temple-Downhill Estate.

Bishop's Gate gardens path by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland Bishop's Gate gardens black glen by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland

These paths lead to the pond in the Black Glen and trace the contours of the hillside. Winding paths are also so pleasing to me with their sense of mystery and possibility and I love the starkness of the trees in the gardens in the winter. There are upper and lower paths with the steep hillside in between. Soon the hill will be covered with the lace of wild garlic and bluebells.

Bishop's Gate gardens Lady Erne's Seat by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland Bishop's Gate gardens dryads by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland

Lady Erne’s Seat looks like the top of a medieval castle turret. When my son glimpses it through the trees he is on a mission to find his way up to the ‘fairy castle’. Some say it was built as a ladies garden picnic spot, thus named for Lady Erne. It is certainly a fabulous picnic spot now with views over the sea, Castlerock village and the Downhill Mausoleum. From the Black Glen it is reached via about 50 twisting steps up to the clifftop on which it sits. One one side is a small grove of sycamore trees sculpted by the wind. We call these the Dryads, in honor of C.S. Lewis’s tree spirits from the Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis’ was born in Belfast and his family took their summer holidays in Castlerock during his childhood. So who knows, maybe my dancing dryad’s caught young Jack Lewis’s imagination too.

Bishop's Gate gardens stone walls by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland Bishop's Gate gardens Causeway stones by Mussenden Temple Downhill Demense Northern Ireland

Here we have the picnic tree with its rhythmic and beautifully constructed stone walls. Its boughs swing low making satisfying seats for a rest in the middle of a walk. And finally some basalt stone column formation exposed on one of the Black Glen paths, there are little sections of ‘Giant’s Causeway stones’ or basalt column formations all along the North Coast, which is why it is called the ‘Causeway Coast’!

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