Farewell to Albertine

No, not the end of the blog, but a farewell to my dear little garden. We are moving house – like sensible people, we decided the week before Christmas was a GOOD time to do this – so I have to leave behind Albertine, The Wren, the mysterious yellow rose, and many other friends. (Not that I talk to my plants, Prince Charles-style, you understand, but I am fond of them).

Garden in summer

Garden looking its best, summer 2012

Luckily, we won’t leave everything behind – I have pots which will easily move to the new house, including my bay tree, azalea and some herbs, and I collected seeds over the autumn from foxgloves, columbine and snapdragon. No idea how these will actually turn out, as I’ve never stored seeds over winter before, but I have them in envelopes in the fridge so I hope I’ll get at least a couple of new plants from them.

Bay tree

Bay tree – 2011 Christmas present

Still, it will be hard to leave the roses I’ve nurtured over the last four years, the honeysuckle and clematis I trained up the trellis and over the dead tree, the rosemary which gets used in cooking virtually every week, and the bulbs which I won’t even get to see flowering again. I’ll also miss Alfie and Tabby, the cats who have treated my garden like a second home, though I won’t miss having to dispose of their mess…

Alfie and Tabby

Alfie and Tabby in a rare entente cordiale

On the other hand, there will be lessons I’ve learned and mistakes I won’t make again…no planting mint in anything other than a pot, as it sprawls everywhere. I won’t see the bamboo, which was so shapely and manageable for the first few years, continue in its relentless triffid-like growth (and probably eventually have to be removed). I will miss my fuchsia, but the new house has fuchsia AND hydrangea in the front garden, so no need to make any changes there.

I am also gaining a south-west facing garden (hurrah!) with a good sized lawn, but a fairly blank canvas apart from that. There is a raised bed which might be good for growing veg, and we saw a well-laden apple tree hanging over the fence – OK, not technically ours, then, but the fruit on branches which dangle over our side are up for grabs, aren’t they?

It will be a bit of a challenge to decide how much space to keep as lawn, for maximum entertaining/play space for the hordes of children who will descend on it when the sun shines, and how much room I can carve out for flowers. Do I dare to plant a tree? (I’ve always wanted to have a garden big enough to plant my favourite tree, the rowan). Will there be room for a shed? (at the moment all our gardening gear will be in the garage or utility room). Where shall I put my herbs so that they don’t spread everywhere? (It’s useful to have herbs near the kitchen, so I’m thinking pots on the patio, or a Belfast sink style planter if I can get hold of one).

The Wren rose

The Wren in all her glory, summer 2012

I am sure I’ll make a whole host of new mistakes, and make unexpected discoveries, and enjoy documenting my work on here as I go along. The big difference, though, is that we are moving to a house and garden which has been a family home for 25 years, much loved and well looked-after.

Garden, late summer 2009

Garden as it looked a year after I moved in, late summer 2009.

This time, I won’t be taking a bare concrete patch and turning it into something beautiful. I won’t be planning my first garden from scratch, based on daydreams I’d had for years. I’ve created that garden, and now I’m leaving it…so it’s a sad farewell, but besides the plants in pots and seeds, I’m taking happy memories with me. Goodbye, Albertine, may you bloom for many years to come!

Goodbye, Albertine

Goodbye, Albertine


A walk around…Glastonbury Tor

Having visited the Glastonbury Festival four times (2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011), I’m not sure I could count myself a true veteran (that honour must be reserved for those who’ve been 10 times or more, surely), but I’m certainly not a festival virgin.

One thing I’d never done, though, was visit Glastonbury itself. The Tor is visible from the festival site, often lost in rain or mist, but sometimes beautifully captured with the sun setting behind it – in my opinion, one of the reasons why the penultimate acts of the day on the Pyramid or Other stages, the sunset slot, are often the most magical of the festival, outstripping the headliners.

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor

So, when we had a long weekend in Dorset in October, I was determined to cross the border into Somerset and visit the Tor itself – and perhaps try to sneak on to the festival site out of season.

On arriving at Glastonbury village, we expected to find signs helpfully pointing us to the footpath up the Tor, but there were none – and mysteriously, the hill and tower seemed invisible from the village centre, as if they had never existed at all. We got directions from the tourist information, but it turned out to be a very baby-unfriendly route, via several stiles, kissing gates and muddy fields, and it was only on the way back we found the much easier route via the road.

I suspect Glastonbury townsfolk perhaps want to deter people finding their way to the Tor, to reduce crowds – but by signposting it so badly this surely means the tourists end up milling around the village itself, getting in the way, when they could be climbing the Tor, getting the benefit of the fresh air, exercise and views. Presumably they’d rather have tourists buying hemp clothes and crystals in the many New Age shops which litter the high street – but either way, I think Glastonbury is doing its most famous site a disservice by making it so hard to find.


Bryony hedges, Glastonbury

Eventually, we struggled to the foot of the Tor, passing beautiful autumnal hedges full of bryony, hips and dried seed-heads. We also passed several orchards, Glastonbury being famous for its connection to King Arthur and the legendary Isle of Avalon (Isle of Apples). The Tor certainly looks like an island marooned in the flat Somerset Levels – and having slogged across several steep fields I was relieved to find an easy zig zag path to take us the final leg up to the summit.

Dried seedhead

Dried seedhead

The route was enlivened by the appearance behind me of a shepherd – with a real crook! – herding his sheep up the hill, and while I was too polite to take a photo of him in action, I did manage to get a rather good one of sheep and Tor against the horizon.

Sheep and Tor

Sheep and Tor

The views from the top really were worth it – and I had fun trying to work out which direction my beloved festival site was; identifying Pennard Hill and the line of pylons which run across the site certainly helped me find the right general area, but when we were back on the road, Worthy Farm was even more elusive than the Tor.


Ferns in the bank on the path down from the Tor

We drove through Pilton, towards Pylle, crossing the familiar pylons on the way, but there was no sign of the Pyramid Stage silhouette on the horizon or any other landmarks I recognised, and it was getting late, so we turned back towards the Dorset border.

Signpost near Glastonbury

Signpost, somewhere near the elusive festival site!

I won’t be going back to Glastonbury in 2013, but after that, who knows? I certainly hope I make it back to the Tor again one day to enjoy those views….