|Issue:||Issue 27, June 2004|
Topiary, And All That
The Northeast corner of the Land is a deeply unappreciated area by many
people. Or in travel agent speak, an "undiscovered gem" for the novice
player. We already talked about the keep, in an earlier article, but
there is much more around the keep to "keep" you amused than a few
crows and a musty old griffin!
Let's start at the peninsula, just across the bank of the river. Leading away east is a luscious wood. This is pretty fertile land, lush growth, fed by a stream in the wood as well as that river to the southwest.
This is a naturalists' paradise, as witnessed by the hide set up by the
pond. And there's a lot to see. Fox's are common around here, as well as
bird life, particularly coots and similar.
Obviously this area, being on the outskirts of the keep, was used to
supply the lord in his castle. Carry on east, and you reach the
cowshed, on the edge of a couple of fields. Treasure hunters can often
find old farm implements around here that could be worth a point or
Carry on east and you hit the main thoroughfare of this area, Dally
Lane. Helpfully signposted, you can't get lost here. Head north on this
route, and you'll come to the keep. Keep on north, and you'll enter the
splendour of a vast formal garden, one to make Capability Brown weep
tears of jealousy, despite its current slightly neglected state.
The ruined terrace for example leads north to a haha. This is no joke,
but a sunken fence, or a ditch with a retaining wall used to divide
lands without defacing a landscape. It serves to keep animals from
reaching the keep, but more of that in a moment.
Keep on heading north, and you move onto the lawn, the flower garden,
the fountain, without which no formal garden is complete, an avenue of
lime trees, and to the first of the exquisite buildings at this end of
the Land. The Chinese House, built in the shape of a pagoda, but on a
much smaller scale than the real thing, as adventurers will know if they
have explored far enough beyond the river bank or under the well, at
the correct times.
Whilst normally locked, it is worth trying the door here, souvenirs
abound, although of a strictly non-Chinese ancestry, as befits this
type of area.
Let's head on west, and to one of those most strange of architectural
features, the Folly. This one was built as a ruin, rather than becoming
ruined, presumably to give some sense of age at the time these gardens
were new. Or perhaps just because the designer felt like it. It does
however afford a good view over the lake, and the music temple beyond.
Drop down to the southwest and admire two things. To the southwest, the
deer park. Now we know why that haha was built, stags would not be
popular in the main house, unless it was a trophy on the wall or a
haunch on the carving table. Or preferably both. This area still holds
a small population of wild deer, so be careful when wandering.
And to the north of the lake, a magnificent classical temple, complete
with Latin inscription. We can only assume that the builder was
referring to the prospect of making wizard when carving his inscription
from the gospel of St. Matthew. "Multi sunt vocati, pauci vero electi".
"Many are called, but few are chosen."
OK, back to the Chinese house, head east, and you reach the pantheon, a
building dedicated to all gods. Presumably the gods of Tibetan monks
and those that look after falconers too, for if you are quick off the
mark you will often find objects relating to these two rather different
Since gardens are meant to be explored and enjoyed, we can skip over the
full joys of the walled garden, summerhouse, the arbour, and various
tree lined avenues, but do keep your eyes peeled for more bird related
sites, such as the aviary, the dovecote, and similar. Often they will
be occupied by our feathered friends, unless you are here when the
vandals of a mobile bash have decimated the fauna.
As you wander you may even be lucky enough to find the odd delicacy dug
up. Truffles grow naturally here, and are dug up regularly by the local
truffle hunters. Unfortunately the local truffle hunters have tusks,
bristles, small piggy eyes, and a curly tail. So don't let them see you
picking up their lunch.
Next to the aviary and the orangey, you will notice the entrance to a
maze. It is well known that at the centre of this maze lies a beehive,
and the lucky person to reach it may sample the local honey freely. Just
beware two things. The bees themselves, who don't usually appreciate
honey thieves, and the other danger of the maze. Namely, getting lost.
Remember this is an old, established, slightly neglected maze, made of
tall yew hedges. You won't be able to see or climb over them.
There is even a map of the maze available, or at least an abstract from
it, for the full maze is known usually only to two types of people,
apart from the original designers. Those being Player Killers, and of
course, their prey, in the shape of high magic users!
Should you successfully negotiate all this, the exit back to the main
land is pretty much directly south, via the flint built spinning and
dyeing shed, from the yard of which you can look south west, over the
monastery and olive groves leading back to Il Castellare.
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