After breakfast I headed off in the car to Ickworth Park . . . full of magnificent trees
At the park kiosk I was handed a little slip of paper with directions on it – you see, I wasn't here to just wander about – my neighbour had asked if I'd like to join her at a grape-vine pruning workshop; and, although I'd already hacked back the vines in my kitchen garden, I thought it sounded like a good way to spend a morning.
So off I drove through the park (visitors aren't normally allowed to do this, but you can walk the same parkland tracks) past the impressive elliptical dome of Ickworth House
Down the hill past the estate church to the walled garden that is now home to Ickworth Vineyard
There were five of us amateur vine owners, wanting to learn the art of pruning from expert Jillian Macready, who with her husband Charles planted and tends to the vines both here and at Wyken – another famous Suffolk vineyard. First we walked down the gentle slope towards the lake and settled down for a chat in the Earl of Bristol's Summerhouse.
Then armed with our secateurs and loppers we set off to prune the Rondo grape vines under Jillian's guidance . . .
. . . we learned about poles and cordons and spurs – growth that was too weak, too vigorous or just right – balancing the vine and thinking about how it will grow not just this year but in the future.
Most of all I learned that no vine ever looks like the diagrams in the books, and even under expert care they often don't grow how you want them to – rain, frosts, sun, drought can't be controlled! And there's so much more to find out, like 'bud rubbing' and 'canopy control' which we didn't even touch on in today's workshop! But it was a great morning, worth it to spend time working in such a stunning setting on a beautiful sunny day.
Before going home, I decided to pop into Bury St Edmunds – to the newly re-branded town art gallery Smith's Row . . .
to see the art installation that everyone is talking about
Sweet, sweet galaxy by Pip & Pop