One of the compromises when we bought our new home was the lack of a garden at the back of the house. Previous owners had done their best to bring some colour into the few square feet directly around our home but the brambles and weeds had run amock, strangling the few daffodils that tried to emerge and embedding themselves deep in the stones around the house. There’s a raised lawn on one side of the house but the moles adore it and apart from letting the snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils grow through it and giving it the occasional mow, it’s not what I call a garden. Behind the house is shady, facing north so our riverbank, a short walk down a treacherous slope, is our garden.
While we struggled with no heating, hot water or a bathroom when we arrived in Wales, the riverbank and cutting away the brambles to reveal it, became our sanctuary. It was hard work, two years of it, but when we finally broke through to the end, we were the first people to step on that part of the riverbank for over 20 years.
In some parts, we cut the brambles across the whole width of the bank but in the middle section, we created Bramble Avenue, leaving the natural habitat for the wildlife.
One day I felt an urge to cut a new path down to the river, to the right of a beautiful old tree. We uncovered a magical beach in the bend in the river. Even in the coldest weather, it’s a beautiful spot.
It’s a great place to write, drum and contact the spirits of the land.
Last weekend, we planted more willow. We tried with willow from Essex, donated by a friend but we waited too long to put it in. We planted some last year but have yet to see any signs of growth so, we’ve planted the new willow in between, hoping it will encourage the other! The ground is boggy on this part of the riverbank so the new willow, which is already sprouting, should really take off.
The plan is to create a covered path to the beach and a dome beside Pan’s Grotto, which will have access through to the end of the riverbank. With the sun still shining, my partner trekked back to the house for tea and sustenance while I attacked brambles with my trusty secateurs. We adjourned to our shelter on the river bank.
Bluebell leaves are gushing from the dead leaves all along the riverbank. The red kites have returned to the same nest they hatched a chick in last year and they’re calling as they circle overhead. The kingfisher whizzes past our noses as we drink our tea, adding a splash of jewel to the muted tones of the riverbank. Robin sits on the handle of my barrow, checking my work and waiting for the nuts he knows are in my pocket. That’s what I call a garden.