I am on the couch reading “Just Another Brick” by Stephen J Moles “The Restoration of the Historic Walled Gardens at Croome” and remembering a wonderful afternoon spent last year on vacation. As I am back in the UK again, my message is more personal. I hope you will enjoy.
My brother and I had the most amazing afternoon exploring the historic Walled Gardens at Croome Court. The book was a gift from our friends Chris and Karen Cronin, who are good friends with my brother Robert Fripp. You know, they’re the ones who create those massive stages and sets for rock shows, which they’ve also adapted for use in movie sound stages. However, their real labor of love is their garden, and that’s where we went to visit.
Being a tourist and learning about history is a pastime I love, so visiting Croome was a real treat.
The gardens there are the largest walled gardens in England, and they used to play a crucial role in supplying food for the occupants of the grand Croome Court. Just imagine the bustling activity of planting, nurturing, and harvesting that would have taken place there. It must have brought a sense of tranquility and stability to the people living in the big house. However, the true history of Croome is far more turbulent than the serene beauty we see today.
Let me take you back to a chilly morning in February 1840.
Picture this: all five furnaces supporting the Hot Wall are fired up, along with two additional furnaces pumping hot water to the glasshouses. If you were standing on Earls Walk, you’d witness the industrial revolution in action, with smokestacks belching out thick, black clouds of smoke, rousing the garden from its winter slumber. And if the wind blew from the east, the smoke would envelop the entire big house, obscuring it from view. These images serve as a reminder that the Walled Garden was primarily a food factory, rather than a serene countryside getaway.
The restoration of the gardens at Croome has been a step-by-step process.
As the Cronin’s told us, “You can’t start by restoring the glasshouses without first rescuing the pathways that lead to them.” The entire project has been spearheaded by the Cronins, who are both remarkable individuals with unique skills and strong personalities.
What you may find as amusing as we do, they embarked on this venture seeking a simpler life—a self-contained home and garden. They were fortunate enough to buy exactly what they were looking for without needing a mortgage.
When they first set eyes on the Croome Estate, it was a sight that defied description.
Enormous glasshouses lay in ruins, resembling shipwrecks surrounded by a sea of brambles. As Karen Cronin recalls, she was trying to take in the scene when her husband Chris uttered the words, “Well take it.” So much for a simpler life!
Our visit to the Walled Gardens at Croome was not only a beautiful experience but also a journey through time. Stephen J. Moles tells this story much better than I ever could, and I’m grateful to have received his book, “Just Another Brick,” as a gift from our friends.
If you are interested in history, gardens, or what can be accomplished by creative and generous people who believe they can turn the seemingly impossible into the possible.
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