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Wooden it be nice

Go of a midweek morning to this County Down retreat and you’ll likely have the entire Victorian demesne to yourself. The stands of western hemlock will be yours alone to frolic in; the rhododendron wood entirely for you to saunter through, all the while admiring the outrageous conflagration of colour.

You might even star in your own make-believe film as you stroll aristocratically – with Mendelssohn on your iPod – through the dwarf-conifer garden and down to the ornamental lake. The cameras will catch your profile as you slowly and mysteriously turn to watch the sun rise over Dundrum Bay.

These riches were once in the hands of the old Anglo-Irish ascendancy in Co Down – the ‘Raj in the Rain’. During their sojourn here the Annesleys helped build up a garden full of horticultural A-listers.

As you head towards the arboretum check out Slievenaslat straight ahead – you’ll be climbing it later on – and cast your eyes leftwards to take in the shimmering waters of Castlewellan Lake. No, you won’t be swimming in it, but it’s a lovely view all the same.

Castlewellan has some of the tallest trees in Ireland, but why are trees so tall anyway? As Richard Dawkins reminds us, the sensible thing would be if they were all short – exactly the same amount of sunshine, minimum expenditure on trunk..

But it’s the cocktail-party effect: if only the guests would whisper, they’d hear one another just as well with no shouting. But there’s always one, somebody who’ll selfishly talk a bit louder than the others, so the hubbub increases.

Check out CastlewellanForestPark.

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