Garden inspiration

Before we bought the cottage I’d never really had a garden of my own. Our small back yard in London is fully decked with one small border. It takes around 30 minutes twice a year to tidy it up.

So, moving here to our wild, overgrown garden with it’s old vegetable patch, pond and stream was a bit of a shock. At times the work required feels overwhelming. Over the past few weeks however, we’ve tried to try and get out and get some inspiration from local gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme.

First up was the amazing Nant y Bedd in the Black Mountains. Set at the end of a very long valley lane with only a reservoir and forestry commission land for neighbours, this is a six acre garden created from woodland over thirty years of hard work.

One of the items on our own garden to do list is to create a walk through the woodland along the stream, so we had major envy at Nant y Bedd’s woodland walk, complete with Indiana Jones-style rope bridge (my fuzzy photo doesn’t do it justice).

However, for me the highlight was their newly-created natural swimming pool. Dug out of the ground with naturally filtered watered, this was an incredible peaceful spot and just right for a dip. Surrounded by a shepherd’s hut and fire pit it was a perfect spot to spend a day.

The following weekend we visited Tair Ffynnon, or The Garden in the Clouds. After a scorching hot day we arrived just as the weather was setting in, as it has a tendency to do in a garden 1200 feet up Hatterall Hill. Having read Anthony Woodward’s book about the creation of the ‘not garden’ (there is really no garden here to speak of, more a collection of farm instruments rusting in fields, traditional Monmouthshire gates and path-mown fields), it was great to visit the place and see for ourselves the old railway carriage that had been dragged up the mountain to form a writing space and spare bedroom.

My favourite however was the tin barn decorated with the first verse from Edward Thomas’ ‘The Lofty Sky’. Visible to walkers on the nearby Offa’s Dyke Path, the words are designed to inspire and re-energise. After our two visits to these very different, but beautiful places, I left feeling just that. 

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