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Upper Streamside

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In the early 1930s, this was not really garden, but a dense grove of beeches with laurel understorey, an uninspiring legacy of Victorian woodland. In his memoirs, Brian Howell related that “In 1936/37 there were great strides up from the big bridge. The Magnolia campbellii was planted in 1936. A wooden template was made, and a concrete-stone bridge put below the Rhododendron smithii spanning the stream (a MacAndrew planting probably). This bridge was washed away in the late 1960s or early 70s and replaced with tanalised home grown timber. Then the beautiful stone bridge near the “cascade” was built, and by 1937 the “old pond” and pear-shaped one below were dug out (all by pick, shovel, barrow and Jimmy Dalling and others), and the pool was filled and stocked [with fish] in 1937. At the same time the area to the north of the stream was planted. The dipper boy below the bridge probably dates from that time. No effort was made to go further upstream from the pond at this time although my father had bought the area up the valley in the thirties, in the hope of making another pond, and it was the “new pond” for thirty years before it ever held water.”

In the 1970s Brian himself extended this part of the garden. By then the “old pond” had silted up completely, and ashes, sycamores and elders were growing where it had been. The mud was cleared out using tracked excavators and spread in the Pinetum. Numerous azaleas were planted between the pond and the house, pushing back into the laurels and bamboos, and these now form the striking splashes of colour that are so popular in the later part of the season.
The “new pond” was also built in the seventies, with the former meadow scooped out to form a hollow and an earth bund, and a diversion pipe from the stream arranged to fill it. Between the ponds, the inevitable laurels were cleared and an avenue of broad-leafed rhododendrons planted down the northern bank. In the 1980s, the swampy area on the southern side was landscaped into small ponds, and in 1992 the large timber bridge built across them. This is a reverse suspension bridge, designed by the Edinburgh-based architect Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith, a family friend. It uses the same principles and general shape as the Forth railway bridge and was built in its centenary year.

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