I am staying with a good friend for the weekend in her home in Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, famed for the U.K.’s first ever roundabout…yes, honestly! I will endeavour to take a picture of the roundabout before I leave. We planned to visit George Bernard Shaw’s house close by (both being literary geeks).
George Bernard Shaw bequeathed his home in the quiet village of Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire to the National Trust. The house at Shaw’s Corner has therefore been left as it was at Shaw’s death in November, 1950. George was born in Ireland and he and his wife, Charlotte lived in London, but increasingly spent their time in their home in Hertfordshire. Charlotte’s bedroom (on her request) has been turned into a museum room, the best part being the Oscar (for Pygmalion) and Nobel prize safely tucked away in a glass cabinet and under a thick green velvet robe. I have never seen either of these prestigious awards before. The house is nestled within an extraordinary large garden, with an enclosed wood cutting area, important in all the modern homes back then apparently, and a shed at the bottom of the garden with a simple desk, typewriter and even a cot bed, when you just need to lye down and think about what you are writing. I need one of those…one day ‘sigh’!
Seperated from the mainland by a causeway that is impassable to walk in high tide, St Michael’s Mount has been in the St Aubyn family for generations and is run by the National Trust. A Medieval fortress at the top of steep cliffs, St Michael’s Mount is not just a museum it is also home to an island community of about 300 people, who are the gardeners, boatmen, guides and caretakers of the island.
From the quaint Cornish village Marazion, close to Penzance, I took a boat to St Michael’s Mount, walking back later in the afternoon by the causeway during low tide. As you climb the winding steep path to the summit you are surrounded by a sub-tropical garden. For the romantic if you look down from the Medieval castle walls you can see the Medicago plant, a cutting of this plant was placed in the wedding bouquet of the first Lady St Levan, a tradition the family continue to this day.
The Archangel St Michael appeared to local fisherman in the year 495. The Fortress became a place of pilgrimage, so a church was built within the fortress walls by the Benedictine Abbey of Mont St Michel in France after the Norman invasion. This gave the island fortress it’s current name, while it’s Cornish name means ‘Grey Rock in the Woods’! I think the old stone church, which during the war had been used as an arms store, was one of the most interesting parts of the fortress.
According to local myth a giant called Cormoran lived on the island, hidden amidst dense forest that thrived on the granite salty rocks. The giant terrorized the people by wading ashore to steal sheep and cows from the mainland to feed his gigantic appetite. Until that is a young boy called Jack rowed to the island in the middle of the night, Jack dug a pit and slew the giant when he fell into the pit. It is fun to see evidence of the giant Cormoran on the stone path up to the fortress.