A walk round my parents Gloucestershire garden, 35 years in the making.
My lockdown has taken place at my parents house in Gloucestershire, situated on the edge of the Cotswolds, the grand finale of valleys before the flat plains that lead to Wales. Katharine and I rushed down here from London to get married, in what turned out to be a unique (and very bespoke) service with just five of us (including us and the vicar) permitted into the lovely medieval village church. Fortunately we did, as a few days later the government banned even these little gatherings. The beginning of this extraordinary worldwide crisis started, for us at least, with a positive step.
The lockdown has meant my morning commute is no longer a packed train from Clapham to Victoria but a stroll through the garden that my parents have built over the past thirty five years at home.
They bought the house in 1985 a year after my sister was born. The garden they inherited consisted of small walled garden adjacent to the house and not much more. Bit by bit, year by year, as they have gone from young parents to grandparents, this has expanded into something quite a lot larger.
This is hardly surprising if you know my parents. My mother is tireless and my father is ambitious. He, like me, has a deep love for the great houses of England, with their historic portico’s and picture galleries, chintz wallpaper and willow trees.
My father’s personality is most clearly seen in the buildings; every few years a folly appears as if from nowhere, designed by him (although definitely not built by him and thus they are all still standing). Here are some examples;
The Stag Temple – copied from a relatively new addition to the gardens at Houghton Hall (one of my favourite houses) designed by Juliana and Isabel Bannerman. My father got the antlers that decorate the pediment from the Duke of Bedford’s herd at Woburn. The temple served as the altar for my sister’s garden wedding.
This folly doesn’t have a name, but it was the first one my parents built and so served as a hideout and fortified castle for me for much of my childhood. This was interrupted for a few years when my father let a neighbour put his bee house behind it (in lieu of honey supplies) and from then on I was too scared to go anywhere near it.
The Bandstand – this one is completely pointless. Its design was lifted from Charles Hamilton’s eighteenth century temple in the gardens at Painshill Park in Surrey. It is high Gothic, probably influenced by the buildings of Venice that Hamilton saw on his Grand Tour. It is particularly suited to our part of England, which is populated by many medieval churches in the perpendicular gothic style.
The Flowers – these are primarily my mother’s domain. In the last fortnight the tulips have bloomed to join the daffodils, bluebells and fritillaries flourishing in the borders. The choice of flowers and hedges, always box or yew, is very English.
Above is a rustic arch leading to the Harry Potter gate.
The Lake – this used to be pasture land for sheep until my father rented a digger and aided by friends created this stretch of water, complete with an island for the protection of the ducks. Everyone who visits tells them they have illusions of grandeur as this is a way too small to be called a lake and should be referred to as the pond. But my father insists that it IS a lake because it is big enough for a heron to land on, but looking this up I can now see that this theory is complete rubbish. Unfortunately, the naysayers are right, it is a pond.
There is a great view up the valley (known as Nanny’s Bottom) to the Hut from the wooden bench, which you can just see in the distance in the photo below. In a follow up post I might head up to the hut and have a poke around.
The garden has been a labour of love, a never-ending chore for my parents, but it was certainly a wonderful place to grow up in as a child and I think it has brought them a lot of joy over the last thirty-five years.
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