Beth Chatto was an award-winning plantswoman, author and lecturer. Her work at the Gardens began in 1960. She took an overgrown wasteland of brambles, parched gravel and boggy ditches of the disused fruit farm belonging to her husband, botanist Andrew Chatto. She used plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions: right plant, right place. An inspirational, informal garden has developed.
The gardens are now a family business, run by her granddaughter Julia Boulton.The online nursery is open all year around. The gardens and are open to the public seasonally. They cover around 7 acres (2.8 ha) and include a visitor information centre, tearoom, giftshop and plant nursery.
Chatto lived in the white house that remains overlooking the Water Garden. She was often seen about the gardens up until her death in May 2018 at the age of 94.
The very end of spring is green and white. Country lanes are illuminated with cow parsley, a delicate foam of tiny petals in a sea of pale green. Every year, this is what tells me summer is near. A certain kind of sadness for the dying spring, a certain kind of hope for drier days (warm and light don’t tempt me), a certain kind of longing for the autumn that will follow. Fields of cow parsley are ticking clocks of the seasons and life; fresh young flowers blossoming and dancing on the wind now, but just like everything else soon they’ll wither and die.
“Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,— The finger-points look through like rosy blooms: Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms ‘Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass. All round our nest, far as the eye can pass, Are golden kingcup fields with silver edge Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge. ‘Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:— So this wing’d hour is dropt to us from above. Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower, This close-companioned inarticulate hour When twofold silence was the song of love.”
It was a lovely sunny winter day so we went for a car ride. That’s Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex. It was closed, naturally, so we just parked by the roadside to enjoy the water fowl and the first snowdrops. On the way back we spotted a Nero in Brentwood and had to stop for hot chocolates. Ages since I last had a takeaway hot drink, it tasted great and felt amazing to be out and about.
The choice of restaurant to end the hard lockdown phase and celebrate the beginning of the end of the quarantine (*knocks on wood*) was quite prosaic. Turns out I had a huge craving for a well-served pizza, after a few disappointing experiences at trendy places which were all about the dough while severely neglecting the toppings. So, Pizza Express it was.
Our local branch was still closed, so we plumped for Ipswich, Suffolk’s county town, boasting some interesting historic buildings and a marina where boats and pedalos navigate the Orwell River bordered by a very pleasant promenade, dotted with restaurants and cafés.
It was a beautiful day, the fried polenta strips were delicious, the beer was cold, and having a real espresso after four months of instant coffee was glorious. We walked off lunch with a stroll around the neighbourhood, had a smoothie at Kaspas and a scolding from an old lady because we were apparently sitting on the steps of some museum’s emergency exit. We were a bit miffed but promptly left, only for me to look back 100 steps later and find a bunch of cackling teenagers sitting on the very same steps we were shooed from, with the very same lady happily standing behind them.
Excuuuuuse me? I turned on my heels, salivating for blood; but as if guessing my violent intentions the woman disappeared inside the huge wooden doors. I was curious to know why was my bum so unworthy, but not enough to pay for admission to NOAH’S ARK BIBLE MUSEUM. Well, maybe next time.
Woke up feeling too cute for Northeast London, so I took myself to Suffolk with my poodle hair and iridescent sequin sneakers to spread some glamour.
In other words, I drove 100 kilometers to buy sausage rolls.
But it’s not just any sausage roll. These are Pump Street Bakery’s sausage rolls. It is an artisan bakery located in the beautiful village of Orford in Suffolk – which in addition to being a top bakery also provides the visitors with riverside prettiness and a castle.
Quick stop at Butley’s Oyster Inn for a cider; actually I just wanted to pee, but these potato chips happened (and matched color with the drinks). Note to self: next time I order sweet potato fries must remember that because they are sweet they go better with mayo instead of ketchup.
At home we dined on our Pump Street shopping. That was my quiche and base was so incredibly light and tasty. Bacon would have improved the experience, but that area of Suffolk is a middle-aged hipster’s paradise so you gotta keep a vegetarian percentage on the shelves. I’m fine with that.
Colorful doors, retro shop windows and pretty flowers in Whitstable, Kent. The little town is cute and very popular with tourists – we were overwhelmed by the crowds – don’t let these photos fool you, we go there early and later on the high street was quite packed. Understandable, as the place is 100% insta friendly, has a beach and is a hit with families. We didn’t eat there this time, but I’ve clocked many nice looking eateries too.
Spent the day @ the village of Aldeburgh, in Suffolk county. We chose it as the location for our first “long distance picnic” after the government loosened the lockdown. Aldeburgh looks like a make believe village with the colorful little façades, fishermen’s boats, windmills, sheds selling fresh and smoked fish and the perfectly round pebbles on the beach (couldn’t resist bringing some home). Their local fish and chips is considered one of the best in the country.
The picnic menu was pretty basic (sandwiches, pork pies and huge salted caramel cookies) but it was really nice to get in the car and venture back on the roads, enjoying the very few last days of spring saying her goodbyes while the roadside blooms with dog roses and cow parsleys. People and their problems and pandemics are small, a tiny ink splash on the bigger picture while nature carries on doing its thing.
The year is halfway through. And what an year it has been. I feel tempted to declare it null and void and pretend it never happen, but the reality is that the year is *is happening* – despite viruses and threats of hospitals and ventilators hovering in the air. 2020 is on fire; as soon as the flames in the forests were extinguished they took over the cities, burning the fuel of anger, frustration and despair from those who felt like they had no voice but who can no longer remain silent.
When the system bares its teeth, being gentle is not enough. Sometimes kindness doesn’t breed kindness. Sometimes goodwill does not meet an appreciative response, and after living a life wounded by brutality without hope or relief, one must defend oneself with whatever weapons are at hand.