I have been planning to make a visit to Burtown House & Gardens near Athy in County Kildare since it opened last year. Myself and some of my family finally made it there this weekend, in glorious weather.
I was surprised to note that the gardens, based in the midlands, were a couple of weeks ahead of mine here on the coast. They are so lovely – informal with a backdrop of stunning views of surrounding countryside.
The tulips were coming to an end but the paeonies were coming out and in the woodland areas the bluebells and cadleabra primulas were in full swing.
The house sits so beautifully in its setting
some more pics of the gardens…..
Burtown House is family home to the Fennells, there are two of the family members whose work I have long admired. Wendy Walsh who is now 99 years old is a renowned botanical painter and her grandson James Fennell is the talented photographer behind the fabulous Vanishing Ireland series of books, his speciality being Interiors photography and portraiture.
When not travelling around the country capturing the people of our Island in their humble abodes, he can be found behind the counter in the charming courtyard cafe at the side of the house. Copies of his books can be perused while enjoying your cup of coffee and homemade cake.
We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy our hot chocolates in the sunshine listening to Fats Waller – fine chillax after our strenuous strolling around the grounds ….. you know how it is.
Our visit was made complete by nipping in to the adjacent gallery space – at the moment housing a collection of Wendy Walsh’s stunning paintings and sketches,
.. together with some beautiful enlarged shots from the vanishing Ireland series. James tells me there are plans afoot for an audio visual exhibition where at the push of a button we will be able to hear the recordings made of the people in all his photos telling their stories.
James’s ongoing project, together with historian Turtle Bunbury is, I feel, such an important gift to us as a Nation. They have literally been travelling the length and breadth of the country recording the musings and memories of our people in their own environment, and even more fascinating for me, James has photographed their homes as they sit, many of them by their fireside or in their place of work, where they are at their most comfortable to spill their lifes stories and observations and lessons learnt. In his photographs we can see a glimpse of their surroundings, mantlepieces with decorated sills and collected mementos on display, often a sacred heart statue on the wall and the all important dresser with pieces handed down and held precious through generations.
image: ‘George Thomas with the kettle on’ in County Wicklow by James Fennell
for more about the House or the books, see: