Who says a garden can’t talk? Lyveden New Bield

How’s this for a bit of magic?

L1130351

Lyveden New Bield is perhaps one of the most important gardens in Britain, and I’ll take a bet that many of you have never heard of it before.

L1130345
L1130289
L1130353

Or non-gardeners anyway. And why should you? The house is a ruin, and the garden unfinished.

L1130302

But… but … but… there’s a story here. Of course, there is.

L1130352

Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire was the summer house of Sir Thomas Tresham, from an Elizabethan family of staunch Roman Catholics. Because he was imprisoned for his faith for many years, he directed much of the work in the garden by letter from his book-lined cell, and you can still read the letters at the British Library. (There’s one particularly poignant note from his wife telling him how much she is missing him but rather than keeping it close to his heart, he’s used the envelope to scribble down his plans for the garden. Gardeners never change!)

L1130343

When he died in 1605, he was seriously in debt and work on the garden and house came to a halt. The house is not a ruin – it was left roofless!

IMG_8318

This meant that the garden remains as a perfect Tudor garden, without any of the ‘improvements’ so many other gardens enjoyed. Particularly as two months after Thomas’s death, his son, Francis, was exposed as a member of the Gunpowder Plot.

IMG_8335

And indeed there’s a bit of a plot about Lyveden New Bield itself. The lodge and garden are full of Roman Catholic symbolism, perhaps an example that it is best to keep secrets in the open. Obviously there are no original plants remaining but significant plants that Tresham notes in his letters (with their Catholic name in brackets) would have been Campion (Mary’s Rose or Lady’s Candles), Anemone (Candlemass Caps), Raspberry (symbol of Christ’s Passion), Wormwood (Mary’s Tree) and Hawthorn (Mary’s Mayflower). You can still see traces of the laybrinth which represented ‘a spiritual journey on the one true path’…

L1130349

… and indeed this was how the garden was found again. Oh how I love this story. An aerial photograph was taken by a Luftwaffe cameraman in 1944, and the images were then left in the US National archive in Maryland before copies were ordered and studied by the National Trust.

lyveden

The ten concentric rings you might just be able to make out would have been planted with cherry and plum trees, roses and raspberries. Wouldn’t that be fine to see again? The garden is now Grade 1 listed, and there’s certainly a lot of work happening. I’m hoping that the National Trust will plant the fruit varieties Tresham notes in his letters. Apple varieties included Great Green Costard, Dr Harvey’s and RUsset, there were Windsor, Madingley, Norwich and Hawksbill Pears, and Walnut and Moiled Plum. What’s a moiled plum? I feel the need to search one out.

L1130360

We walked up the curving paths of all four ‘snail-mounts’, imagining our skirts swishing from side to side as they would have done in Tudor times…

L1130325
L1130298

And thought about taking a boat out for fish…

L1130334

But as you can probably tell from these photographs it was a bit cold! Luckily, although we weren’t expecting it, there was a great cafe here for hot chocolate and soup, and when we went to nearby Burghley House, just look at the skies. A bonfire of beauty…

L1130369

I’m still mulling over my creative response to Lyveden New Bield, in some ways there were too many stories here to pick just one, so here’s a poem by another Catholic nobleman of the time, Robert Southwell. He had found refuge with Henry Vaux, Thomas Tresham’s brother-in-law, so I am guessing that they met. Perhaps to talk gardens and poetry, as well as religion. I hope so.

Times Go by Turns
By Robert Southwell

THE lopped tree in time may grow again,
Most naked plants renew both fruit and flower;
The sorriest wight may find release of pain,
The driest soil suck in some moistening shower.
Times go by turns, and chances change by course,
From foul to fair, from better hap to worse.

The sea of Fortune doth not ever flow,
She draws her favours to the lowest ebb.
Her tides hath equal times to come and go,
Her loom doth weave the fine and coarsest web.
No joy so great but runneth to an end,
No hap so hard but may in fine amend.

Not always fall of leaf, nor ever spring,
No endless night, yet not eternal day;
The saddest birds a season find to sing,
The roughest storm a calm may soon allay.
Thus, with succeeding turns, God tempereth all,
That man may hope to rise, yet fear to fall.

A chance may win that by mischance was lost;
The net, that holds no great, takes little fish;
In some things all, in all things none are crossed;
Few all they need, but none have all they wish.
Unmeddled joys here to no man befall;
Who least, hath some; who most, hath never all.

Digging Up Paradise… an ‘Eden of a book’

I had thought that Digging Up Paradise might just be a summer book, so what a treat to have two new reviews this week – all talking about reading it in Autumn.

First of all, a huge thanks to Rosie Johnston from The London Grip who said:

Beside an autumn fire while winds and rain tear up the garden outside, this book is pure joy. I look forward to taking it in the bike basket around Kent in the summer too. It is Salway’s gift for poetic prose that haunts the heart most of all. The harpsichord in Finchcocks Musical Museum in Goudhurst for example has been specially built (Salway writes) so the music can only be heard by the person playing it. I took this thought with me into the garden afterwards as I sat on a bench against one of the ivy covered walls and watched the light making silent songs with shadows on the grass.

IMG_8281

And she calls it ‘an Eden of a book’.

I love that!

And also a big thank you to Clare Law from Three Beautiful Things, who reviews it here, and says:

“Sarah’s meditative walks and patient observations have produced something fresh and fascinating that will continue to delight me for a long time to come.”

YAY!

IMG_8271

Now we’ve passed Halloween and even Bonfire night, is this the right time to say that Digging Up Paradise might be a perfect present for Christmas?

Oh go on then.

So just in case you have a garden/poetry lover in your family and this might sound just right gift for them, I’m very happy to sign a dedication to whoever you would like. Just get in touch with me via the comments or my email – sarahsalway@gmail.com. Copies will cost £14.50, (including – nice – postage and packing!).

A day at Long Barn, Sissinghurst’s little sister

L1120844

I wonder how many people have heard of Long Barn? I’m guessing not half as many who know about Sissinghurst, just up the road. But Long Barn is the house Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson moved into in 1915, living here for fifteen years and trying out many of the garden ideas that became so famous in their next garden.

L1120874
L1120847
L1120890
L1120851

The garden at Long Barn was partially overgrown fields when Harold and Vita moved in, so they structured the garden with a number of terraces which still exist today. I loved the description of Long Barn by Harold Nicholson that I found, “This house just comes out and jumps all over you like a spaniel.”

L1120873

Huge thanks to Long Barn’s owners, Lars and Rebecca Lemonius for letting us walk round, and we were lucky to have a talk by garden historian and designer, Marian Boswall. Here she is with Rebecca Lemonius and Louise Piper who organised the event on behalf of The Haller Charity.

L1120918

Marian explained how Harold and Vita had learnt to garden at Long Barn, and how moving from Knole (with its 365 rooms) would have created the urge to create garden rooms. I had never thought about the two together before, and this is something you can obviously see at Sissinghurst but also at Long Barn. Marian read some extraordinary extracts from Vita’s writing. It was so moving to listen to her words while looking out at the garden she was writing about. For example, we were actually looking out at these flowers and thinking just how right she was when she wrote: “The flowers of Magnolia grandiflora look like great white pigeons settling among dark leaves”. I’ll never be able to look at them in the same way again – a gift!

L1120872

The couple extended the house considerably by using an old barn that had stood below the house to turn it into the L-shaped property it is now.

L1120860

The original house is much older, of course, with parts dating bak to the mid 14th century. I loved the story that it is supposed to be the birthplace of William Caxton, the first English printer, and then not only the home for Vita Sackville-West, but also visited by writers such as Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, and E M Forster, amongst many. Another visitor was Charlie Chaplin. Can’t you imagine him trip-trip-tripping down these lawns?

L1120913

I had been asked to read my poem, Leaving Paradise, about how, when Vita Sackville-West had to leave her family home, Knole, she was given a small key so she could visit the grounds any time she wanted. The story goes that she visited only once, by moonlight, and I loved how beautiful the garden Long Barn must look in the moonlight and imagining Vita looking out towards Knole from there. Anyway, after I had read, Rebecca told me that Vita had apparently lost the key mentioned in the poem at Long Barn. It sent shivers down my back!

But it was another resident, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who sparked my interest. She moved to Long Barn in 1936 (renting from the Nicholsons who were by then at Sissinghurst), together with her aviator husband, Charles, and son. They had come to England to escape the media frenzy caused by the kidnap and murder of their baby son, Charles. Long Barn offered them the necessary privacy, and also a sanctuary at such a difficult time. In her book of letters and journal entries, The Flower and the Nettle, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote about an evening in May 1936:

I look up at the poplars and at the house, red brown, now covered with vines, the pink clematis trailing below our window. A blackbird sitting on the roof. Jon’s closed curtains, musty brown and blue through the windows.
I am very quiet and a thrush comes back to the lawn in front of me – triumph!
The cuckoos are going, and some trains in the distance.
I think I must keep this place in my mind always, part of the web of me, even when we leave it – a mark of permanent peace and beauty. As people are marks too in your life even when they are not there, or you have them no longer – permanent values.
I think how small this place would be looked down at from the air – how small to hold so much happiness, such worlds of happiness.

L1120845
L1120910
L1120864
L1120920

During their three years at Long Barn, they had another son, and I was fascinated to find this little boy was called Land. The name is after Charles Lindbergh’s maternal family, but there’s a happy connection with Vita Sackville-West’s poem, The Land, there too. Here she is reading it. Amazing voice:

Impossible to follow, but this is the poem I wrote when I was there, trying – impossibly – to imagine how the garden must have felt for someone suffering such a loss and slowly coming back to life. It was another reason to feel lucky to have been there to support the charity, <a href="http://haller.org.uk/Haller who do such wonderful work for parents and children.

Climbing like Questions
A poem for Long Barn

English lawns lush green on grey clay,
a magic carpet for when morning rises
over borrowed views… who would borrow,
say, a child in the same way, to never
think of giving back?

Past the straight hedges swaddling
secret corners, the rosa mundi climbing
like a question mark… was it your fault,
did you spend too much time in the air,
try to climb too high?

And from your window, arms outsretched
to almost catch the wax flowers roosting
like Vita’s pigeon’s… to stand on the edge
and be so alone, the sheer drop of
a heart falling.

Deep roots match rising winds
until the leaves dance like words
you can’t quite catch… how can anything
make sense because are you still
a mother if?

Some comfort in that guard of yews,
a row of straight and shadowy soldiers
by the classical grove… something shifts
deep inside, still, a change in the air.

All horizons green on green, hydrangeas
turn from green to pink and back
to green… kindness softens like wild
flowers growing in the space between stones.

PLEASE NOTE that Long Barn is not open to the public, although special provision can be made for group visits by arrangement.

I hung a poem on a branch….

That’s the title of a poem I love by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. I’ve kept a copy on my noticeboard since I first started this website, and today I got to bring it to life at Westgate Gardens in Canterbury.

i hung

Thanks to all the friends and poets who contributed poems, to Westgate Gardens for inviting me to ‘play’ in them, to all those who came along and wrote with me, and to the wonderful Wise Words Festival

L1120818

It was amazing to see one of my favourite poems brought to life. So many good moments, including hearing a small child shout at the top of his voice: ‘there’s another over here!!’ and rushing across the grass to read a poem he had just spotted to his parents, wondering if the bin men were going to take down the poems and then seeing them reading instead (and coming back to one in particular for a second longer read), watching a group of friends write a poem together and hang it up, listening to the poems we all wrote together in the workshop and wondering all over again at the magic created by people writing together.

… somewhere
bathed in light
a tree
is waving
a poem …

IMG_7661

L1120810

L1120806

L1120805

L1120802

L1120801

IMG_7672

IMG_7670

IMG_7669

IMG_7667

IMG_7664

L1120840

L1120838

L1120836

L1120832

L1120828

L1120827

L1120825

L1120822

L1120811

L1120841

L1120843

lovely gardens

IMG_7658

IMG_7656

The beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete…

L1120792

That’s one of the descriptions of Wabi-Sabi, given in Leonard Koren’s book.

L1120787

Along with ‘a beauty of things modest and humble’.

IMG_7513

And ‘a beauty of things unconventional’.

IMG_7532

It is ‘the extinction of a beauty’. 

IMG_7525

Things “wabi-sabi are usually small and compact, quiet and inward-orientated. They beckon: get close, touch, relate”

IMG_7524

I’ve just been on a walk round our neighbourhood. I took these words with me: “Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view” These photographs and my walk aren’t traditionally wabi-sabi, I used no conventional aesthetic, but instead concentrated on ‘materials that are visibly vulnerable to the effects of weathering and human treatment. They record the sun, wind, rain, heat, and cold in a language of discoloration, rust, tarnish, stain, warping, shrinking, shriveling, and cracking.” 

IMG_7534

Of course, there’s much more and I’m looking forward to finding more, but it seems to fit in with the work I’ve been doing on this website. To catch, and appreciate, the beauty of a garden at all its different stages. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Trying things out’ at Gravetye Manor

L1120779L1120667

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the garden at the hotel, Gravetye Manor, as part of a tour of garden journalists. Appropriate really because Gravetye is famous, in gardening terms, as the home of William Robinson, (1838-1935), who purchased it as a result of the money he earnt as a gardening writer.

L1120695L1120758

Hmmm, I’m obviously doing something wrong. Still, still… if you are interested in gardening, then you probably know William Robinson as the author of classics such as Wild Gardening and The English Flower Garden. Here he is at Gravetye, he spent the last decade of his life in a wheelchair but still took an active interest in the garden.  

William-Robinson-vintage-photograph-350x262

We were taken round by the current head gardener, Tom Coward, and it was fascinating to think about the challenges of maintaining a garden which needs to allow the hotel guests to feel that it is ‘their’ garden for the time they are staying, and will also look good at different times of the year.

L1120672L1120712

Not surprisingly there are intimate seating areas dotted around. Garden service, anyone?

L1120750L1120675

 

According to Tom, Robinson used the garden to ‘try things out’ that he would later write about. What was so good about the garden today is that it still feels dynamic. The plants in the Long Border, for example, all come from propagated stock, and although it looked good to me, Tom said he wanted it to be ‘bolder’, and spoke about the danger of getting lazy when you found a plant palette that worked. 

L1120673L1120691

L1120670L1120692

One of the joys of the hotel is that it sits between two very different gardening styles. At the front there is the wild garden- a meadow that leads down to the river. In 1904 Robinson planted out more than 50,000 narcissus bulbs in the pasture, woods and orchards, and the tradition continues. Apparently – and I’d love to see this in action – Tom and his gardeners can now plant 1,000 bulbs in 90 minutes, and the wild garden changes according to the season. In the winter, there are sheep to keep the grass down, with an electric fence that sometimes ‘pings’ the hotel guests. Strangely I only spotted the couple in the photograph on the right as I was looking through my images for this post. 

L1120686L1120681

 

And I’m still wondering whether I’m right in these are old-fashioned stocks… Luckily we were all very well-behaved.

L1120786L1120785

 

Meanwhile at the back, we walked past the croquet lawn…     …. and up the newly built steps…

L1120705L1120715

 

…to the highlight for me, the vegetable garden which provides most of the vegetables and cut flowers for the hotel. I’m going to keep quiet now and just let you enjoy…

L1120737L1120757

L1120748Gravetye

L1120753L1120747

 

And now I’m going to leave you with a photograph as a writing prompt… a magical pumpkin. I’m sure that’s been used as a literary device somewhere before! 

L1120755

 

Friends and reviews…

Just in this month…

First friends… a page in Kent Life with photographs from the launch, such a lovely memory:

launch

And then reviews, a happy-making review by the garden writer, Annie Gatti in the magazine, Gardens Ilustrated:

IMG_7270

And if you still haven’t got a copy of Digging Up Paradise, and would like a signed one, I do have some copies here and would be happy to add a dedication for you. Leave a comment or email me (sarahsalway@gmail.com), and we can arrange payment, postage etc.