Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Secret Garden

This is a picture of the gateway to the walled garden in the park, taken from inside to share the glorious canopy of wisteria with you. Sorry the sweet fragrance of the moment is lost to you.

I guess everybody loves a walled garden. Not just for the micro climate it creates, nor solely for the wonderful opportunities for the gardener this presents, but for the delicious sense of a secret, sheltered, place. A sanctuary of sorts.

There was a walled garden on my uncle's farm. It had none of the red bricked splendour that curtains the gardens of the wealthy estates. Rather it was enclosed by a somewhat tumble down dry stone wall, (what else would you expect on a Welsh hill farm), perhaps reaching to the height of an average man's shoulder. Trees had planted themselves along the top so long ago, and grew so thickly, that in summer the height of the screen around us was increased by some ten or twelve feet.

In the centre of the garden was an old cherry tree which made a great castle, or tall ship, when climbed into, as well as a delicious source of sweet, chin-dribbling juiciness at the right time of year. It's leafy layered branches provided an extra veil of secrecy in as much as it hid us from all except the sharpest eyes if we could only keep quiet long enough.

In my memory there was also rich golden globes of soft-haired gooseberries too, hanging like miniature chinese lanterns on the undersides of the low bushes. I remember lying underneath them while we idled the time away absently feeding ourselves as we did so. Whether this treasure was in the walled garden, or the other larger, mainly neglected kitchen garden I'm not sure, but I do know that the rich, pulpily soft, Victoria plums belonged in that larger place.

I do remember that the grass grew long and full of seedheads around us in both places. There was always too much work and too few hands to be sure, and the television-perfect gardens, and the idea of the designers "outside rooms" of the future would have been met with total incomprehension. But oh the joy of rolling in that grass, with it's eyeball contact with the insects, and the deep scent of summer earth. To be sure the itch of the seed heads in ones clothes, and the bites of some of the insects was not so welcome, but a small enough price to pay for getting so close to the common clay from which we all spring.

And all the while there was the sense of being safely held in these secret places, for even as children, (and how much more we realise this now), there is the need for a safe place where adults cannot come, and our dreams can remain unbroken.

Perhaps you have a memory of some safe place that sustains you even now. Would that everybody had.

God Bless

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