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Scottish Gardens
Barncluith, Lanarkshire


ARNCLUITH, or Baron's Cleugh as it used to be, and should be still called, is in the same densely-peopled, clangorous, tram-ridden, smoke-shaded district as Dalzell, lying scarcely outside the mining and manufacturing town of Hamilton, as Dalzell does outside Motherwell. But the seclusion of one is as perfect as that of the other, owing to the precipitous nature of the glen where it is built and the luxuriant greenwood which clothes the cliffs on each side of the Avon. Like Dalzell also in this, that it owes its erection to a Hamilton, namely, John of Broomhill, ancestor of the present Lord Belhaven, who built the triple dwelling house in 1583. Dorothy Wordsworth dismissed it in a sentence, devoting pages to describe the oppressive splendour of Hamilton Palace on the other side of the high road; but it is certain that neither she nor her husband can have penetrated this delectable pleasaunce, for no poet might view unmoved such a felicitous fusion of art with nature. In good truth the approaches to

Barncluith are the reverse of promising. You turn off the tram line to the east of the town, and follow for half a mile or so what was once a country lane, but is now a partly-built line of small villas or large cottage dwellings. Great trees have been uprooted to make way for these, the roadway is worn into deep ruts in the course of transition into a common street, along which you proceed until, with dramatic suddenness, the scene changes. The way parts in two, passing on either side of a row of the weirdest sycamores you ever saw. Stretching their immense arms across both roads, these half dozen venerable giants remind one of the fantastic growths in Salvator Rosa's impossible forests. The right-hand road leads up to the gateway which admits to Hamilton High Parks, where the wild white cattle still browse beneath the gnarled oaks of Cadzow Forest; the one to the left descends to another gate, within which round a narrow plateau of closely-mown sward, stand at different elevations the three houses which form the mansion of Barncluith. One is puzzled to understand why there should be three, instead of but one, nor have I met anybody who could explain the mystery; howbeit, the resulting effect is picturesque in the highest degree.

"Barneluith," says Mr. Neil Munro, "is of all the ancient dwellings in that romantic neighbourhood the one which should most bewitch the angler; it was so obviously built for peace and an artistic eye and the propinquity of good fishing, while all the others were built for war."

But you will hasten forward to view the garden—not that modern arrangement of parterres which occupies the further end of the plateau, which, indeed, is bright enough with roses and summer flowers within a girdling yew hedge, fantastically carved according to the archaic craft of toxidendry, but that other garden to the west of the house where the ground falls sheer to the sparkling Avon two hundred feet below, whereof Mr. R. S. Lorimer has written-

"Barneluith is quite unlike anything else : a detailed description can convey but little idea of its charm. It is the most romantic little garden in Scotland. Lying on one side of a great wooded valley, it is a veritable hanging garden. Four or five terraces, one above the other, sticking on the side of a cliff the general angle of which is about 55 degrees. Two little summer houses, great trees of scented box, and the flowers gathered here you feel sure would be, not a bouquet, but a posy —such an atmosphere about the place. In the twilight or the moonlight destinies might be determined in this garden."

The risk would not be less, methinks, at high noon, for there are alleys here and shaded bowers where Sol at his meridian can never do more than temper the green gloaming. It is not a garden wherein children could be turned loose to play, for the terraces are narrow—little more than dizzy ledges—with no guardian rail or breastwork to break or prevent a fall. The great extent of buttressed walls, with narrow borders at the foot, offer the most fascinating field for the enthusiast in horticulture. At present ivy runs riot over far too much of the wall-space, which might be occupied by an extensive collection of the choicest flowering shrubs. The borders also, effectively as they are stored with familiar things, such as rockets, stocks, poppies, wall-flower and ferns, present the most tempting variety of aspects to meet the requirements of every kind of hardy subject. This most enviable demesne has lately passed into the hands of a new owner (or at least occupier) for whom a most absorbing occupation lies await, if he has any turn for it, in improving these terraces into one of the most remarkable gardens in existence, horticulturally, as it is already architecturally.

For the rest, these terraces are a fantasia of clipped yew and box. One heed not grudge the labour spent on this somewhat barbarous form of decoration, albeit one may prefer a tree in the form which God has prescribed for it to one hewn laboriously into the shape of a peacock or a tea-pot. Nevertheless, there is time and money spent here upon what one cannot but regard as misdirected industry. For instance, the whole length of one of these terraces is occupied by no less than forty little square beds in the Dutch manner, each with its box edging, each enclosed with a gravel path. Weeding these paths and clipping this box must absorb a considerable amount of attention, without a corresponding spectacular result; for the effect would be far finer were these toy beds thrown into one long border, filled with the flowers of all seasons. They are designed, of course, for the separate cultivation of masterpieces of the florist's skill, and, if employed in that way, would form a distinct and attractive feature; but devoted as they are merely for the display of common flowers, the effect is meaningless and irritating.

The delights of this garden are greatly enhanced by the lovely views up and down the winding Avon, and across to the rich woodland on the further shore. And over all reigns that sense of seclusion and repose which cannot fail to appeal to the hard-wrought man of affairs as strongly as to the habitual loiterer.


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