Sunday, 30 April 2017

Portrack, Garden of Cosmic Speculation


Snake Mound and Lakes

We had been sent tickets by our daughter for the annual one day opening of Portrack Gardens of Cosmic Speculation just north of Dumfries. The house and gardens had been developed by the American architect and definer of post modernism, Charles Jencks, and his first wife Maggie Keswick. It as a place where science and the arts come together in landscapes that are a radical hybrid activity. They are according to Jencks "non-linear sciences that touch all aspects of life and a foil to the modernistic sciences that are fractured and simplistic".

I did not really know what to expect, this was part of Scotland's Gardens open day and was raising funds for Maggie's cancer care centres that were founded in memory of Maggie Keswick and now are operating in twenty or so locations mainly in the UK.

An email arrived the day before advising us to avoid arriving at opening time as there would be traffic jams to get into the parking area. We took the advice but everyone else must have delayed as well and we joined the mile long traffic jam were a couple of hours later. It took 40 minutes to travel the last 2 miles and already the early arrivals were blocked in as they tried to exit on the single track road. It was a cool but bright day, we met friends on arrival and began the journey into the magical landscapes, sculptures and random paraphernalia that sits alongside the Dumfries to Kilmarnock railway line.

We were not disappointed, the place was heaving and the gardens were buzzing with excited adults and quizzical children or that may have been the other way round. The paths provided the chance to absorb the strange juxtaposition of objects. Jencks had had great fun with bulldozers, chainsaws and acetylene torches. The sparkling white Portrack house was the only traditional object in the grounds. The adjacent property was the perfect country retreat in the fertile Nith valley. We ran into old acquaintances from the world of community development and tourism who seemed equally intrigued by the experience. We wondered if the paltry three portaloos serving 5000 guests were part of the cosmic speculation or whether Jencks was just having a laugh. After 4 hours of walking and absorbing the gardens, or should that be radical hybrid activity, we left bemused but happy.


A celebration of Scottish philosophers, philanthropists and poets
Bridge to nowhere or diving board to the river Nith
Scottish Blood line

Tits or Bum?


Spiral Mound


Adjacent property and rural idyll

Community development royalty seeking cosmic solutions

Portrack House

Walled garden

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