In Lincolnshire once again, and in between sawing firewood, letting light and air into a half-abandoned area of the garden, we went garden visiting. We shouldn’t have.
Freud wouldn’t understand. As far as I know he made no utterances about gardening. Would he have understood ‘garden envy’? I wonder. It’s a major problem too.
Since Pam Tatam closed her much-liked nursery at Hall Farm, Harpswell, last year she’s been devoting her considerable energies to extending the already splendid garden into the space once occupied by commerce. New vistas, lawns, avenue-ettes of quince trees (‘Vranja’ the variety she has used), parterres of kitchen crops (luxuriant growth far removed from the usual mimsy potager), a vast Wellingtonia extravagantly decorated with stainless steel, a meadow of cornflowers, and off and off, almost to the horizon.
All to do with space, of course. But what sets off real envy is the garden’s silent context. OK, it’s in a lovely landscape, but it’s one that has been gardened here, where Pam’s working, for seven hundred years, perhaps more, and the evidence is still all around.
‘Come on,’ said Mark Tatam, ‘let’s go and have a look at the Tudor garden…’ And there, in the grassy field, bumps, ridges, dips, that slowly come together in the mind’s eye as pathways, sunken areas perhaps octagonal pools, or plantings for flowers and a sundial on the central ‘island’. At one edge of the field, a flint and brick retaining wall for a long walk for owner and guests to admire the grand walks, and at its end, still, a mount. Impenetrably overgrown, certainly, but a mount. Wow.
And it doesn’t stop there. The Tudor, probably late Tudor, was overlain by 18th century replanning… a straight drive up the slope to the ancient church, some fancily arcaded walls, even (a drawing shows) grand urns on spectacularly tall pillars.
All that showy stuff has vanished, but beyond the mount, and at the end of one of Pam and Mark’s existing gardens, a board baldly proclaims The Moat’. At first only a piece of woodland is to be seen, but once penetrated, there it is – a real medieval moat, quite heavily fringed with willows, alders and horse chestnuts, but with its waters still ruffled by the breeze, by alarmed moorhens, and by fish snapping at unwary insects trapped on the water’s surface. There’s no trace of the ancient house it must once have protected, but the whole thing is, on a September afternoon, beautiful, romantic, and …. horribly enviable. ‘What I think I want to do…’ says Pam, but doesn’t go on. The dream is obviously strong, but not yet for sharing, though some trees are already marked for the chainsaw. She’s done so much already, that it won’t be long before light, colour and life return to all that shadowy greenery.
The garden is open. It’s website is http://www.hall-farm.co.uk/hall-farm-gardens.html