Green peace in deep­est Eng­land

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

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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