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WP_20140928_17_26_24_ProThis last ‘garden’ from our recent trip to Portugal, is a bit of a cheat. The main attraction is the gothic splendour of the monastery and associated cathedral, but there are some wonderful outdoor spaces too, so I think its worth sharing.

The monastery was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and has maintained a close association with the Kings and Queens of Portugal throughout its history, housing several royal tombs and the national pantheon.

The church and monastery were the first gothic buildings in Portugal, and, due to its artistic and historical importance, was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1989. The Cathedral is the largest church building in Portugal and has a relatively simple undecorated interior- I was fully expecting golden baroque splendour on entering, but was pleasantly surprised.

The Cathedral is perhaps most famous for housing the tombs of King Pedro I and his mistress, Ines de Castro, assassinated, in 1355, under the orders of Peter’s father, King Afonso IV. After becoming King, Pedro ordered the remains of his beloved to be transferred to her tomb in Alcobaça and, according to a popular legend, had her crowned as Queen of Portugal and ordered court members to pay her homage by kissing her decomposing hand.

This pair of Royal tombs, of unknown authorship, are among the best works of gothic sculpture in Portugal. The tombs are supported by lions, in the case of the King, and half-men half-beasts, in the case of Ines, and both carry the recumbent figures of the deceased assisted by a group of angels. The sides of Pedro’s tomb are magnificently decorated with reliefs showing scenes from Saint Batholomew’s life, as well as scenes from Pedro and Ines’ life. Her tomb is decorated with scenes from the life of Christ.

The monastery complex provides an interesting, and, as expected, relatively simple series of rooms and spaces where the monks went about their everyday business.

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Outside, the cloister is a most inspiring space, simply furnished (and with some sympathetic conservation) with a few trees and close-cut box bushes- I was fortunate to capture it in the afternoon sun. The monastic gardens- not open to the public- are a fine example fo box edged parterres enclosing a series of beds that once were used for growing food and herbs. This important site lies about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon and is an area I hope to visit again as there are other landscapes and historical sites nearby, that we didn’t have time to visit.

Source and further information: Wikipedia


Old School Gardener


Lisbon, Portugal

Old School Gardener


We’ve been to Lisbon, Portugal quite a few times, but only on our most recent trip did we discover a beautful little restaurant/club/social centre/cultural hub close to the restaurant quarter- Casa do Alentejo.

While the outside of the former Palacio Alverca is unspectacular, its true beauty lies inside: moorish design including beautiful tiles and a huge patio. It was created 85 years ago, as a meeting place for people from Portugal’s historical province Alentejo (além Tejo means beyond the Tagus) and to cultivate its unique culture. At that time many people from this region left home in search for a better life in Lisbon.

The palace dates from the last quarter of the 17th C., but its current appearance is a result of considerable alterations carried out in 1918. Nowadays it’s the headquarters of the association of the Alentejo people. Many activities take place here: on Saturdays there are ‘Alentejo afternoons’ (tardes Alentejanas), with choral groups. On Sundays, dancing begins at 3;30 pm. Mostly elderly people come here to socialize. There’s also a library and a handicraft shop of typical products of the Alentejo region.

The dining rooms are picturesque, with open fireplaces and decorated with beautiful tiles (azulejos). The azulejo is a form of Portuguese painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tilework (Azulejo comes from the Arabic word az-zulayj, meaning polished stone).

Old School Gardener

Old School Garden

fall-lawn1Here’s another extract from a book I bought in a charity shop in the summer…..

Besom’s Truism:

No matter how much dust you sweep under the carpet, you still can’t sweep leaves under the lawn.

Laws of Lawn Clearance:

1. Any lawn cleared thoroughly of course grass and moss will reveal an area of mud supporting deep-rooted plantains.

2. Mud patches never need mowing.

3. The cleared lawn reveals that there was no cultivated grass in the first place.

Digital Law:

Flymos like toes.

 lawn cut fun

From : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener


buenos aires journey to work

Jacaranda Trees, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Old School Gardener

Growing Prosperity

Originally posted on One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?:

The adoption of new innovations such as irrigation systems, drought-resistant hybrid seeds or gaining access to asset-backed micro loans by smallholder farmers is a complicated issue. Nearly 60% of the global population live on less that $4 a day. Of this, 80% live in rural areas and agriculture is the primary source of income for over 80% of this huge rural population.

Adopting suitable innovations could improve the lives of the 2.5 billion people that rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. However, many innovative technologies remain widely inaccessible, typically in remote rural areas where governments and traditional aid has fallen short. In response to this, there has been an upsurge of start-up companies aiming to connect farmers to new innovations. By offering new products, services and markets to smallholder-farmers, farmers can increase their incomes and enjoy an improved quality of life.

Connecting farmers to innovations

Growing Prosperity coverReleased on the 17th of November, managing…

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Originally posted on robertscribbler:

October 2014 Hottest on Record

(October was again a global temperature record setter. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s monthly global temperature analysis is in and the results are once again record-making. For according to NASA’s global monitor, world temperatures were 0.76 degrees Celsius above the Earth average for the mid 20th Century.

This high temperature departure ties 2005 for hottest in NASA’s 136 year record. A temperature level that global ice core data points toward being hotter than at any time in the past 400,000 years. A record hot month in a string of record hot months for 2014. A resurgence to record high marks amidst an unprecedented spate of rising temperatures that has lasted now for more than a century running.

Global land ocean temperature index

(Global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree C above their low mark at the start of the 20th Century. It is a human-driven pace of warming 15-20 times faster than at…

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toysHere’s my second extract from the book ‘Noah’s Children’ by Sara Stein. Here she observes how American (probably western) culture has increasingly divorced children from directly finding things they need or are interested in; things that children used to find outside in the natural world:

‘Our culture makes the point that much of what most interests children is not obtainable by them. It’s our cotton balls and cinnamon sticks, not their free-for-the-gathering furry mullein leaves or minty wintergreen. What rolls or smears or makes a noise when it is squeezed is a truck we’ve bought, a set of finger paints, a stuffed animal- not the log or mud or toad that children might obtain for themselves. They can’t even get some berries for their breakfast unless we buy the fruit.’

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the wider issues raised…

Old School Gardener

Originally posted on National Trust Press Office:

A royal recruit has marked the successful one-year anniversary for an innovative carbon cutting network that brings together some of Britain’s biggest landowners.

The Fit for the Future Network, which was launched by the National Trust and the sustainable energy charity Ashden in November 2013, now has an international membership of 85 land-owning, charitable and sustainability organisations.

Snowdon hydro at National Trust Hafod y Llan farm (credit National Trust_John Millar)

The network provides a model of change – where leading organisations can share and learn practical tools and techniques to help achieve their own cleaner energy targets and together contribute to the UK’s climate change targets (80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050).

The latest organisation to sign up to the not-for-profit network is the Royal Household, which operates at Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Queen’s Galleries.

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