The Botanical Park and Garden of Crete

On the plane back from Crete yesterday I noticed that the woman behind me kept her hand on the window until we had been in the air some time. I wondered if she was feeling the same pangs of loss as I was for all those endless horizons and quiet feelings of space.

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So although my head is already full of London gardens as I prepare my posts for the Chelsea Fringe

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… I can’t resist a little diversion to remind me of a blissful – less busy – day last week at the Botanical Park and Garden of Crete.

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The Park has literally risen from the ashes of a family olive farm on hillside near Chania in Western Crete. On the website, they say:

By the end of October 2004, a sudden hot wind storm from Africa caused an electricity pole wire to break. This started a wild fire, which very quickly spread around so much that no one could control it. Twenty-four hours later, the whole region around the village had burnt almost to the ground.

The damage was unprecedented: sixty thousand olive trees over 400 hundred years old had been burnt. My village had been ruined both financially and ecologically.

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But even from this tragedy something good happened, because what the family have created from the ruins is very special. Winding paths take you around a walking lesson in the world’s botany, from fruit trees to herbs to flowers to vines. All carefully chosen, tended and usefully labelled.

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And if the signs can sometimes be charmingly ‘teacherly’…

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They also introduced us to plants we’d never heard of before, and yet feel all the better for knowing now.

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But most of all it really is proof that nature is indeed the best health cure …

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… for the heart and the eye as well as the body…

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And so, in honour of its history, here’s Réne Stefanelli’s poem – THE OLIVE TREE. Please click and read – It could almost have been written for the Park.

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You can find out more about the Park at its website, and if you are in Crete, I really recommend a visit. And if you do got there, make sure you leave time to fit in a lunch at their restaurant. All the dishes are locally sourced, with herbs and fruits from the garden itself. I had chicken with oranges and lemons – so delicious I was tempted later to sneak in an extra taste!

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