Sunday, 2 May 2010

End of an era

It had to come sometime, but I have now handed in the keys to Chesters Walled Garden, and the door is closed. It was a lightly sunny morning and I had a last cup of tea, listening to the jubilant bird song and sitting on a large stone block by the hundred year old espalier apple trees. With no plants in lines in the sales area, the benches taken out and the signs down, it had a feeling of unreality for me, like a seaside resort in winter.

I have divided up and taken out a lot of plants, but much remains. What I can never substitute is the wonderful, crumbly soil, the product of two hundred years work and the vibrant, diverse and often surprising wildlife that I encountered every day - the wren landing on the visitors book in the shop, the stoat I met on a path in winter, the duck who led her ducklings into the sunken greenhouse, the pheasant chicks that so delighted the visitors. Irreplacable and precious.

What I take with me are the things that the garden has taught me and which I can now use to make a new (though private) garden, plus the knowledge I have gained from those 23 years that I can use in writing magazine articles and in my lectures and courses. The plan is that my new garden will open just for the National Gardens Scheme, when the blank canvas I am working on is good enough for people to look at. I shall carry on blogging and writing about the wildlife, gardens and joys of gardening in this special part of the world.

If you are able to come to Hexham, the Queen's Hall Arts Centre is having an exhibtion of the work of some of the artists who have been inspired by Chesters Walled Garden over the years - painters, printmakers, ceramic artists, photographers and more. This starts on May 29th and runs right the way through June. My contribution is a collaboration with the printmaker (and well known children's book illustrator) Kim Lewis; entitled 'Sanctuary' it is a series of 12 of Kim's very beautiful linocuts to accompany text that I have written about some of the iconic plants of the walled garden, the things that made it special. It would be lovely to have as many people as possible visit the exhibition, and there is a special Garden Memories book on display for which contributions are invited. Susie

No comments: