Jul 01 2021

Sunshine and Cream Tea !

One thirty on a cloudy Friday afternoon and already we hear a rumble of cars gliding past the farmyard to the car park in a big field beyond. By two o’clock a steady stream of people begin to arrive in the garden. More and more keep coming all afternoon! Saturday and Sunday are the same, but we even have sunshine then too!  

We have been opening our garden for the National Garden Scheme Nursing Charities for many years now, but never have we had so many delightful, happy visitors: two hundred people in just three afternoons! Everyone wanted to chat, to ask questions about the garden, the house. I explained over and over again that there had been no garden when we arrived, that the pond had been a tractor shed and the flat lawn covered by three huge derelict greenhouses. They looked again in surprise!

I told how we had cleared and dug, dug and chopped, cleared and dug, and how, slowly the basic structure of a garden, long forgotten, began to emerge. Someone, sometime had cherished it. Down fell the derelict old green houses, broken glass threatening to chop off our heads.

Down came the great tin tractor shed, in went the pond, out went the fencing made of gas stove and corrugated tin. In went banks of shrubs, out went broken outhouses and bindweed and dead trees. In went roses and camellias, beech hedges. Up popped swathes of bulbs and wild flowers. Stifled for years beneath the undergrowth, they took their chance to break free at last. Slowly, slowly as we worked, a garden began to re-emerge in the valley.

As usual my dear friends helped each day with the cream teas: no plates or cups and saucers this Covid year! Instead, our local Anchorestone Café provided stylish little boxes each taking a tiny pot of jam, a scone and a scoop of clotted cream, the latter so generously donated by Hallets the Bakers and the Dartmouth Dairy.

It’s been two years now since we last opened. So much water has passed under the bridge since then! Covid 19 has changed our lives. Lockdown followed by lockdown, self-isolation, separation from friends and family, fear of infection, strict Government rules, so strictly enforced, contradictory news bulletins; all have limited our lives in a way few of us could have ever imagined or have ever experienced.

Then suddenly a few weeks ago we learnt that we could indeed go ahead and open to visitors once again. The race was on! But the weather sadly hadn’t heard the good news! It has been the strangest spring. High winds roared through the valley bending trees and flattening shrubs.  Chickens cowered in the farmyard and donkeys voted with their feet to stay in their big shed. The garden was in limbo.

We longed for rain for weeks. But as the saying goes “be careful what you wish for”: suddenly the heavens opened! Water ran off the parched ground trickling through grass, pouring down hill until it reached the stream in the valley below. The air temperature remained far below the seasonal norm. I planted out beans, peas, cavalo nero, sweet corn, courgette, even late sweet peas. They all stood still!

The sun crept out now and then from beneath black cloud, roses began to offer a few flowers while rhododendrons hung on in full bloom in June! The big buddleia alternafolia slowly began to turn blue.  The huge embothrium was just as tardy, gradually putting on its magnificent glow of scarlet weeks later than usual. It is only just beginning to fade now as we approach July. A strange year indeed.

Meanwhile Paul built a magnificent new bridge across the stream.

The days raced by. Eva and I weeded and tided, potted and pruned. Gradually we brought some sort of order into the valley. But the wild flowers, still racing beguilingly along the banks had to stay.

The fields suddenly grew lush. Sheep grazed on the hill in the sun and the weekend arrived and was gone!

One response so far

One Response to “Sunshine and Cream Tea !”

  1. Jinkson 03 Jul 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Looks wonderful Sal, I can even smell the roses! Hope they survived the rainstorms! xx

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