Russia : Kamchatka : #3 Drive to Mutnovsky

The morning of the 20th August dawned bright, clear and sunny in Petropavlovsk, the main and only real city of the Kamchatka Peninsula.  I’d slept well at the Geyser hotel and was up bright and early ready with high anticipation to begin our adventure tour into this unspoilt volcanic wilderness area.

But first, I was ready for some breakfast. The menu consisted of three choices.  The first choice was eggs and sausage; the second was a pancake filled with cream cheese; and the last choice was porridge.  I plumped for the first choice which turned out to be very good.  Maybe I was hungry.  Two fried eggs with some thickly sliced ribbons of ‘ham’ were delivered to the table.  There was dark rye and a corn bread on offer along with black tea and lemon (I could have opted for instant coffee) and a chocolate wafer biscuit.

We wandered out into the crisp morning air to meet our crew and see the 6WD truck/bus that would be our transport whilst in Russia.  Anatoly was our driver, Alexander (Sasha) our Russian guide, Gulya our translator, Demar the gofer, and most importantly, Galena, who turned out to be a very competent cook.

P1110146 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110146 © DY of jtdytravels

Our 6xWD truck/bus was an interesting vehicle.  I can’t find out what model it was except that it has a three letter Cyrillic script name (ЗИЛ) on its bonnet.  I was told that it had a new Japanese motor with a 9.46 litre capacity that burns 30 litres of diesel per 100km, when the going is good.  This drops to a litre a kilometre when the pressure in the tyres is lowered for driving on snow.  The tyre pressure can be controlled from the cabin – all very fancy!  The tyre valves are protected by substantial metal brackets on the wheel rims which protect the valves from being carved off by rocks etc.  It had five forward gears in both high and low range and can beetle along at an average of 80km/h when able to travel on well formed dirt roads.


P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

The inside of the bus was quite comfortable.  There were two rows of twin reclining seats on each side of the vehicle and a bench seat at the rear, and another one facing backwards against the cabin.  There was space above the rear bench seat for luggage.


P1110168 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110168 © DY of jtdytravels

Our first ‘rest stop’ village was filled with more drab and dilapidated buildings.

P1110170 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110170 © DY of jtdytravels

Out in the countryside we stopped at a small stream of clear fresh water.  This stream is believed to have special properties which can be beneficial to those who wash in and or drink the water.  Gulya, our Russian interpreter, tried it out.


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P1110173 © DY of jtdytravels

Strips of material have been left by ‘believers’ as they are supposed to bring good luck.


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P1110176 © DY of jtdytravels

This beautiful thistle, Cirsium kamtschaticum  Kamchatka Thistle was growing near the stream.  At first glance, it would be easy to walk straight past the plant, but on closer examination the wonderful structure of the flower became obvious.

P1110182 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110182 © DY of jtdytravels

This sign was at the stream.  It warns of dangers in the area.  However, I would suggest that the person with the shotgun is of equal or greater danger!  Interestingly, much of this sign was written in both Russian and English.  We saw very few other bilingual signs.

P1110206 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110206 © DY of jtdytravels

A small patch of rather unusual flowers caught my eye.  I had never seen them before. The name of this flower is Castilleja pallida, also known as the Pallid Paintbrush.

P1110197 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110197 © DY of jtdytravels

The strange and very complex flower of Castilleja pallida certainly deserved a closer look.  It’s a member of the Family Scrophulariaceae, the Figwort family.


P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

P1120212 © DY of jtdytravels

It was a four hour drive south from Petropavlovsk to our home for the next three nights at Mutnovsky campsite in a lovely valley with a river nearby and a beautiful volcano in the distance. Our site is in the centre, the one with the blue tent.  Another group’s camp is in the foreground.  Once parked here, the area just begged to be explored, and that’s just what we did.  As we climbed higher, the view got ever better.

P1110221 © DY of jtdyravels

P1110221 © DY of jtdytravels

Chamerion angustifolium, Fireweed or Willowherb grows widely across the cold and moderate zones of the Northern Hemisphere.  It was a significant plant around the edges of our campsite adding a luminosity to the green scenery.

P1110235 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110235 © DY of jtdytravels

This delightful pale purple bell is Pennellianthus frutescens or Shrubby Beardtongue.  It’s rather common in this southern area of the peninsula.  It also grows in the northern coast of the Okhotsk Sea, Sakhalin and Japan.  It’s used as an ornamental in some areas.

P1110208 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110208 © DY of jtdytravels

This is  Rhododendron camtschaticum,  Kamchatka Rhododendron, a native of Kamchatka.  There’s some division in the botanical world as to whether this plant is really a rhododendron.   I’ll let the botanists fight that battle.  It grows in Arctic and alpine areas from Japan to North America.

P1110240 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110240 © DY of jtdytravels

The Kamchatka rhododendron only grows to about 50cm and likes stony slopes like this.

P1110250 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110250 © DY of jtdytravels

We climbed up a very rocky area with the promise of good views from the top.  Everyone seemed to have a camera in their hand.  I’m often asked what camera I use.  Both Jennie and I, as well as many of our photographer friends, now use a Panasonic DMC TZ 30 LUMIX.  It has an excellent LEICA lens and I’m more than happy with it.  It takes very good quality video as well as still shots.  It’s small enough to fit in my pocket and I find the quality to be as good as a bulky and much heavier SLR.

P1110246 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110246 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the views from the top was of this curtain waterfall.  Worth the climb!

P1110239 © DY of jtdtravels

P1110239 © DY of jtdytravels

More Willowherb beside the track back to the campsite.  A delightful view.

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P1110269 © DY of jtdytravels

Mutnovsky campsite was set up with a blue mess tent and green staff tent.   We were supplied with smaller tents into which those who were sharing had to squeeze two people.  There certainly wasn’t room for a bag as well, so their bags had to be put back into the bus overnight.  I’d paid a single supplement so didn’t have the same problem.

P1110228 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110228 © DY of jtdytravels

The blue mess tent was only just big enough for the ten of us and the Russian crew. But the food was good.  Our chef was a winner.

P1110271 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110271 © DY of jtdytravels

After dinner, I was greeted by this wonderful photographic opportunity.

The magnificent volcano beyond the campsite sat majestically in the late afternoon light.


P1110280 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110280 © DY of jtdytravels

The day’s exploration complete, we sat around the camp fire until the dark began to descend.  A full moon then lit the evening sky. Wandering around in the middle of the night was no problem!

And so to bed, crawling into my small tent and then into my sleeping bag.  In between me and the ground was a thin pink and green bed mat.  I put the pink side down!  I slept fairly well;  I just had to get used to this!  It’s all part of trekking in wilderness areas.


All Photography Copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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UK : Cornwall : Trengwainton Garden #1


P1150533 © JT of jtdytravels

In the hills behind the Cornish coastal town of Penzance, in the small village of Madron, is the National Trust Property of Trengwainton Garden.   Although the manor house at the top of the garden is still a private residence, the garden is open to the public.  We walked up the long gentle slope of this rather narrow garden by a winding path through dense plantings; we returned by the main driveway bedecked with Rhododendron on one side and a small stream planted with bog plants on the other.  The moorland misty rain had returned, but that didn’t dampen our enjoyment of this lovely garden.



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This garden is known for its collections of magnolias, rhododendron and camellias.

Although some had finished flowering, there were plenty left for us to enjoy.



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I love azaleas; so simple and simply beautiful, especially when jewelled with rain drops.



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Because spring had come late to Cornwall, there were still some magnolia flowers to enjoy.


P1150472  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1150472 © JT of jtdytravels

Both sides of the winding pathway are densely planted with a wide variety of plants…

plants that have their origins in many places across the globe.



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The ‘gulf stream’ climate here is perfect for the Australian native, Dicksonia.



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Many new season fronds were just beginning to uncurl.



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The unusual Fuchsia excorticata is a native plant of New Zealand.  Sometimes known in Cornwall by the common name of ‘Sunburn Tree’, the trunk of this large fuchsia is characterised by its red peeling bark.  This flower has an unusual blue pollen. The flowers are followed by dark purple, almost black berries, which some people say are delicious either raw or cooked.



P1150463 © JT of jtdytravels

Some of the branches of the older trees have grown into strange shapes as they have sought the sun.



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Delightful rhododendron bells draw attention to themselves against swathes of dark green foliage .



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We think this plant belongs to the Malvacaea family of plants.

Does anyone know the name of this beauty?



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I’ve added two more photos of this flower in the hope that someone will identify it.



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In any case, it is a joy to behold!



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One densely planted part of the garden is backed by a large Pieris japonica.



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A closer look at the tree shows the beautiful softness of the combination of pinks and light greens.



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And a much closer look, shows the tiny bell like pink flowers of Pieris japonica.



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There are over 70 species of Hosta that can be used as dense and attractive ‘fillers’ along garden edges.

But, beware!  They are much loved as food by snails and slugs!



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On the other hand, they also act as beautiful receptacles for rain drops.



P1150525 © JT of jtdytravels

As the spring flowers were beginning to fade in the garden,

so the summer flowering groups, like the hydrangeas, began to bloom.

It’s is certainly a garden for all seasons.



P1060422 © DY of jtdytravels

The path crosses a small bridge where a pond is the highlight of the view.

It’s a good place to take a quiet rest

as the water bubbles out under the bridge over a small waterfall.



P1060415 © DY of jtdytravels

The light, misty rain persisted, but only enough to give rhododendron flowers a refreshing glow.

The name comes from Ancient Greek:  rhódon meaning “rose” and déndron meaning ” tree”.

This photo gives a real hint of the reason for the ‘rose’ tag.



P1060431 © DY of jtdytravels

Some rhododendron trees in their native habitats can grow very large indeed.

Even here, some were large enough to shelter beneath their branches.

That gave time to enjoy shapes of trunks and patterns on bark.



P1150557 © JT of jtdytravels

Above us, hung more of those delightful Rhododendron bells.

There are over 1000 species of this plant, so gardeners are spoilt for choice.



P1060425 © JT of jtdytravels

Finally the house came into view.  We had reached the top of the path.

This property, not open to the public, was once the residence of the powerful and very wealthy Cornish Arundell Family,  From small beginnings in the early 1200’s, when their only possession was the manor of Treloy in the parish of St Columb Major, the Arundells reached the height of their wealth and influence in the late sixteenth century when this house was built.  By then the family owned twenty-eight manors in Cornwall as well as manors and other properties in Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

The house was altered and extented in the 18th and 19th centuries and is now a Grade II listed building.  In 1814, this estate was bought by a Jamaican sugar plantation owner, Rose Price.  However, by 1833, his fortunes were diminished when his slaves in Jamaica were freed by the Emancipation Act.  In 1867, the house was bought by the Bolitho family.  Members of that family still live here.

The gardens were given to the National Trust in 1961 and are very well cared for by that organisation.  We’ll explore a very different part of this garden in our next Cornwall episode.

Jennie  and David

Photography copyright © JT and DY  of jtdytravels

UK: Cornwall: Trelissick # 3 Rhododendron Walks

One of the best known features of Trelissick is its collection of Rhododendrons which come into their own in Spring.  Many of them continue to flower into late Spring and we were able to enjoy these, the very essence of a Cornish garden it seems to me.


P1150148 © JT of jtdytravels

One of the best Rhododendron species to grow well in the upper part of the garden, where the ground is thinner and drier, is the rich red ‘Gwilt King’, a hybrid of Rhododendron griersonianum.

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P1060262 © DY of jtdytravels

When a touch of sunlight catches these flowers, they seem to glow.


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There were still plenty of new flowers to come even in mid June.

P1060267  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1060267 © DY of jtdytravels

Rhododendron buds are elegant and deserve just as close a look as the more showy flowers.


P1150196 © JT of jtdytravels

Along the Rhododendron walk, we found this moss covered seat.  Whenever I find such an empty seat, I’m reminded of UK friends who enjoyed exploring gardens with me in years gone by but who are now no longer here for me to sit and have a chat with.  I love the memories of the good times we spent together in gardens such as these and am grateful for those special times of friendship.


P1150141 © JT of jtdytravels

Walking on, we found several other Rhododendron species in flower.  Many of these were brought to Trelissick Gardens from the famous Bodnant Gardens in north Wales by Ida and Ronald Copeland when they lived here.  I don’t know their species names but each and every one of them was a delight.  I hope you enjoy our photos of a selected few of them.


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As well as Rhododendrons, there were still some azaleas in flower.


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My favourite is the Mollis Azalea. It reminds me of my wonderful Mum!

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P1060253 © DY of jtdytravels

Other trees in flower were Cornus, or Dogwoods.

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P1060253 © DY of jtdytravels

Have you ever really looked at the centre of a Dogwood flower?


P1150122 © JT of jtdytravels

In amongst the borders are plants like Aquilegia, cottage garden and border essentials with their delicate nodding flowers and delightful lacy foliage which is a rare blue-green colour. They are a beautiful foil for other larger, heavier plants and , although the fresh foliage starts growing in early spring, the flowers develop just in time to fill in when spring flowers begin to fade.

They are commonly known as Columbines or, a name I love for these beauties, Granny’s Bonnets . 


P1060190 © DY of jtdytravels

This delicately petalled Roscoea cautleyoides is another Asian plant that’s grown in this garden.  Although it’s a member of the ginger family, which has mostly tropical species, this plant comes from the mountain regions of  Sichuan and Yunann provinces. 


P1150070 © JT of jtdytravels

Another delicate white flower is the bell of Polygonatum or Solomon’s Seal.  Once classified as a member of the Lily family, this plant is now classified as a member of the family Asparagaceae.  It’s hard to keep up with these classification changes at times!

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P1150082 © JT of jtdytravels

Most Cornish gardens make some use of the lovely Astrantia along the borders of the garden.

The flowers range from white to a deep wine red.

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P1150082 © JT of jtdytravels

If we look closely we’ll see that this one has a visitor – a tiny green beetle.


P1060249 © DY of jtdytravels

Another plant used to great effect in this garden’s borders is the Geranium, commonly known in UK as Cranesbill.

I love the veined petals. There are many colours for gardeners to use and they flower for a long period.


P1150052 © JT of jtdytravels

A flower that adds a wonderful dash of colour to any border is Alstroemeria commonly called Peruvian Lily.


P1150201 © JT of jtdytravels

Time was getting away from us and, reluctantly, we followed this man and his grandson back to the carpark. I hope they had enjoyed their Trelissick experience as much as we had done.  But we still had a long way to go to Sennen Cove near Lands End where we were to stay for the next three nights.

Apart from visiting a quiet Cornish beach for the weekend, our goal in going to that southern part of Cornwall was to learn more about the kind of lives lived by David’s forbears working in the tin and copper mines from the 1600s to the 1850s when some of them made the big decision to emigrate to Australia.

More of that story anon.

Jennie and David

All photography copyright ©  Jt and Dy of jtdytravels


Northern Ireland, Rowallane Gardens

‘Rowallane is one of the foremost gardens in the British Isles… it’s a unique garden, a place to lose yourself” in the woods and meadows of a 52 acre estate, or, as the Irish call it, a’demesne’. So said the brochure for this National Trust property just south of Belfast, near the town of Saintfield.  With that sort of invitation, Rowallane was a definite on our ‘must visit’ list. And what we found was indeed worthy of being called a great garden.

The garden’s history began when the Reverend John Moore began planting here in the 1860s. He continued to develop the garden until 1903 when his nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, inherited the property. The National Trust took over in 1955 and they have been restoring, maintaining and developing the garden ever since.

As we entered through the gates, we quickly left behind the busy road to drive along an enchanting avenue of trees that gave promise of the woodland walks to come – as detailed in the brochure.. However, that was not to be for us. Why? 
The whole property was totally waterlogged by all of the rain that had tumbled down over Ireland in June. As one young Irishman said to me,”Ireland is a beautiful country – but what it needs is a roof!”   That’s very true, but you can’t have amazing green countryside and lush parks and gardens without rain. What we needed was what every self-respecting Irish person has available in the boot of their car at all times – Wellington boots!  But gumboots, as we call them, we did not have. We had all the rest of the wet weather gear required – but we did not have those essential gumboots! 

The first sight of the garden after coming through that avenue is of a green and lush treed park. What we couldn’t see was the layer of water lying under the grass.  It looked so inviting, but walking here for a closer look at all the conifers, rhododendrons, azaleas, and many other shrubs and trees was just out of the question.

This lingering bloom spoke of the spring that had just been and the promise of the next spring to come. Rowallane is renowned for its spring rhododendron and azalea display with the red flowers of the many lofty tree Rhododendrons and massed banks of lower growing varieties in a wide spectrum of colours. These are probably at their best in May. And with so many deciduous trees amongst the plantings, this must be a spectacular park when in full autumn foliage.

This famous rhododendron collection has been skilfully grouped with other shrubs and trees in the undulating site creating a scene that’s a delight to the eye. This garden is not only for plantsmen but also for the artist within us all.

After the Reverend Moore had transformed the barren hillsides into a wooded parkland and created the walled gardens and ‘pleasure grounds’, his nephew added the skills of a true planstman to develop the garden we see today. His vision was to create an informal garden, one which would be a wildlife-friendly environment, and one which would include plants from all corners of the globe, many of them rare.

He used the landscape of the drumlins to add form to his design.  The drumlins (from the Irish word droimnin meaning ‘little ridge’) are in the shape of an inverted spoon or a half buried egg. They were formed long ago by glacial ice compacting the underlying moraine. So although the climate is wet, the plants have naturally good drainage from these rounded ridges. They add interest and shape to Moore’s plantings throughout the park.

At the time of our visit, it was raining intermittently and the grounds of Rowallane’s large park were just too boggy for walking.  So we missed out on seeing the natural Rock Garden with its plantings of a wide range of alpines, heathers and dwarf rhododendrons and where meconopsis and primula were in full bloom. We also missed out on the meadows where wildflowers and masses of orchids grow. And we couldn’t walk through the farmlands that include higher drumlins that afford fabulous panoramic views over the Down countryside towards the Mountains of Mourne. Nor could we stretch our legs walking along the paths through the woods of mature trees. Many of those trees were planted in the latter half of the 1800s and early 1900s and include many rare trees and shrubs.  Next time perhaps!

In the years after the National Trust took over, one of the foremost consultants for the garden’s restoration was Lady Jean O’Neill, chairman of the National Trust Gardens Committee. This renowned plantswoman was widow of one time Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill. After her death on July 15th 2008 at the age of 93, her obituary in the Telegraph on 3rd August said of her that she was:

” a passionate plantswoman, capable of identifying everything from a blade of grass to a rainforest liana… Never claiming to be anything but an amateur, Lady O’Neill developed, and retained throughout her life, a photographic memory both for botanical detail and for the overall “look” of a plant; her recall for the latter would enable her to make a swift, positive identification where a professional botanist could only do so on completing a long technical process.

Her wide knowledge won the admiration of (many in the horticultural elite of the time). Jean O’Neill was also greatly interested in the history of plants, particularly of those which arrived in the British Isles from the New World.”

What better person than this to lead the restoration of Rowallane in keeping with Hugh Armytage Moore’s vision. It’s good to know that in the capable hands of the National Trust’s gardeners, the maintenance of this great garden will continue for many years to come for the pleasure of all. And for this alone, it is worth being a National Trust member, as we are.

On our day at Rowallane, one of the few dry areas was the old stone and brick stables, built by Reverend Moore.

The soft earthy colours of the stable wall makes a good background for the plants in the larger walled garden.


Even the stones themselves provided horticultural interest with ferns, mosses and lichens finding a niche to grow.


A different patterning of the stones and bricks was used to build the outer surrounds of the outer walled gardens.

Another of the Reverend Mooore’s projects was to improve the house. During 2012, it has again been under renovation, to provide better offices for the National Trust’s regional headquarters and better facilities for visitors and conferences.

In 1903, when the ‘demesne’ of Rowallane was inherited by Reverend Moore’s nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, the garden itself inherited a very knowledgable and keen plantsman. Not only is his name well respected in Irish horticulture but also, in 1942, the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain awarded him the ‘Victoria Medal of Honour’. He raised many of the plants in this garden from seeds collected from various parts of the world, particularly in China and the Himalayan regions, by such well known plant hunters as Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdom Ward. He established important connections with Botanic Gardens throughout the world particularly in Edinburgh,Scotland and Kew, London.  And throughout his years cultivating plants, he gave many new cultivars and hybrids the name ‘Rowallane’ such as the Candelabra Primula ‘Rowallane Rose’.

This is the original Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Rowallane’, grown by Hugh Armytage Moore from seed collected in the wild by Ernest Wilson in Eastern Asia where viburnum originates. This tree is just one of many in the gardens that bear witness to the horticultural skill and expertise of this great plantsman.

Unfortunately, we saw this special Viburnum just at the end of flowering – the petals, somewhat damaged by rain.

But we could see how these flat-topped pure white flower clusters are made up of an outer ring of large, sterile florets surrounding a central mass of small, fertile flowers.

Although the boggy conditions meant that we did not experience all that this great garden has to offer, we were able to spend a lot of time in the two excellent walled gardens. Our trigger fingers were kept busy photographing some fascinating plants and flowers – some of them with that real ‘wow’ factor.  In my next journal, we’ll look at some of the plants that attracted our special attention that day.  It was so pleasing to see that these walled gardens are kept in excellent condition by the National Trust gardeners.  We know that many gardens are not being well maintained in these times of economic downturn, but Rowallane has kept up its very high standards. We recommend it highly.

Photography © JT for jtdytravels