Green peace in deepest England
Garden tourism is all the go. Green-thumbed travellers dig it, as it were, and there seems to be nothing more convivial than pottering about grand estates in, say, Britain, or gazing on raked-pebble pockets of perfection in the temple grounds of Kyoto, Japan’s great repository of culture.
I am not a gardener, aside from my collection of succulents, which live in little pots all in a row. Caring for them involves me staring intently at each in turn and willing it not to die. It has worked well thus far. But when I travel I like to get more involved in matters of gardening and have developed a late-in-life passion for the work of that most visionary of landscapers, Capability Brown. Last year, British gardeners and many an international visitor, including me, got excited about the tricentenary of his birth and flocked on special open days to many of the estates where his vistas can be enjoyed and strolled upon, such as at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire (pictured).
The Brits are very solid in their thinking about the weather and always seem prepared with brollies and wellington boots and those special sticks that pop open to become little seats to sit upon. I had thought it was summer so wore a sun frock and sandals and fancied there might be an ice cream van. Someone offered me a slice of lemon drizzle cake, which seemed appropriate.
In the course of covering a respectable slice of the Capability Brown trail, I read about things such as the ha-ha, a deep trench designed to keep stock at bay, and so named, my guide told me, because these recesses were so well hidden that a hapless passer-by would blurt out “Ha-ha!” before falling in. Dare I say that sounds unlikely, and goodness knows what the plunging cattle and sheep cried out. You could quiz me, too, on crinklecrankle walls and flowery meads, parterres and rills.
And because I have visited the Garden Museum in London’s Lambeth I can also identify Victorian and Edwardian implements such as a cucumber straightener but when I told my constant gardener husband about it all he could say was something that didn’t sound much like ha-ha.
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