Monday, 15 February 2016

The Secret Garden and an Ancient Rath

The crisp sunny morning tempted us outside despite the bitter north-easterly wind. There was a tantalising hint of Spring in the air. 

A visit to a nearby walled garden beckoned – an opportunity to witness the first signs of growth and to view the aged plants in their weathered skeletal forms before lush new leaves softened them and cloaked the gnarled lichened covered branches.

The gate in the wall leading into the garden was open, and I visualised how it would look covered and hidden behind strands of thick ivy, concealing the magic behind it, just as when Mary found the old door leading into the magical and mysterious Secret Garden.

“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden - in all the places.”

I looked around for the robin, but although I heard him chirping and twittering and caught a flash of his redbreast, he was too busy to wait around for a photo opportunity. 

“Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off and they are nearly always doing it.”

A magnificent Magnolia Stellata

was central to the dormant herb beds

  surrounded by box borders.

In the winter sunlight, tall trees sent long shadows across the enclosed garden to the glasshouse,

 while knotted stems of wisteria leaned against the old stone walls.

Clumps of Snowdrops were sprinkled about the ground

 beneath the shaded canopy of ancient trees and shrubs.

Moss covered stones edged the bare earth beside the gravel paths.

A bell-tower above the stables looked over the walls of the inner and outer gardens.

Outside the walls of the garden - amongst the trees, a stray Hellebore seed had germinated in the carpet of decaying leaves on the forest floor.

We left the shelter of the walled garden and the protection of the huge trees outside the perimeter walls; 

climbing over a stile we emerged into bright sunlight and rolling grassy fields.

After we passed through three stone pillars, a herd of Bullocks noisily expressed a greeting; running rather unnervingly towards us at an alarming speed as we headed uphill 

towards the Ancient Rath, that once long ago (between 500 – 1100 AD)

 had been a defensible enclosure

 that provided protection for families and their livestock.

The threatened stampede halted abruptly as I turned to look at them and while the others watched, the leading bullock posed majestically for his photograph.

The panoramic views from the Rath looked across three town lands,

 surrounding drumlins and towards the Mountains in the distance.

Muddy and with our cheeks and noses rosy with the icy wind, we returned back down the hill, over the stile again and through the woods to the little tearoom for a welcoming hot drink.

There was a beautiful photograph of the gardens under a blanket of snow, but today’s sunshine has made me long for warmer days.

The promise of Spring and the time spent in the walled garden have fuelled my impatience to be back at the allotment and in my own garden at La Petite Maison; although admittedly the young plants that I planted last year have a very long way to go before they reach the magical splendour of the specimens I have seen today.


 (Quotes taken from the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, “The Secret Garden”)

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