I am not sure quite why I am bothering to write anything for this blog
now there’s a great opening line, as I could just upload all my photos from this trip and it still wouldn’t do justice to how much I loved the Oxford Botanic Gardens.
We had a long weekend planned in Oxford as the Mr was at a conference – and the Botanic Gardens was top of my list of places to visit. The colleges all look lovely but not the kind of place you can snoop on a weekday (especially not in exam season), climbing church towers not really toddler-friendly, and the museums I suspect she will enjoy much more in a few years.
So I had the rare luxury of going somewhere I wanted to go – and why not Britain’s oldest botanic garden?
I was completely out of my depth identifying the trees, though many were clearly very old, but idling around the flower beds I spotted a few favourite plants – alliums, irises, columbines.
A new one to me was (what appeared to be) a white version of a verbena. I love purple verbena but the alba variety is gorgeous…one to try and get hold of one day, if I can find it.
The gardens spill out from a formal walled area into lawns which end abruptly at the river’s edge – a sheer (unfenced) drop which the toddler teetered on the brink of, terrifyingly, to watch ducks and punts going by.
Along the river side of the gardens we also found the glasshouses, not on the Kew scale but still very impressive. Lilies, cacti, carnivorous plants.
Finally, and most importantly of all, there was a bench I needed to find. I had done my research, read up on other blogs, looked at Google Image Search, and I was determined to find Lyra and Will’s bench.
It really was the loveliest place I could have imagined – under a spreading tree, with its back to the river, and a view of flower beds stretching away towards the church towers and college walls.
We found the names Will and Lyra scratched into the wood, and I wondered how many people will fight to sit there on Midsummer Day, and dream of lost loves?
His Dark Materials is one of those books I wish had been written when I was younger – I can take or leave Harry Potter, I haven’t tackled the Hunger Games or A Song of Ice and Fire (and I don’t intend to), but if only, if only I had been 14 or so when I first encountered Lyra and Will, it would have been a life-moulding experience.
As it is, I love the books and I re-read them religiously every year, but I know they won’t quite bind themselves to my heart the way they would have if I’d read them in the crucible of teenage angst and fury. As it is, I feel a kind of nostalgia for that white-hot intensity, but mainly a relief that it has passed.
Instead, I grow my garden, I water, I nurture and plant and weed and dead-head and prune – gentle, grown-up, non-threatening pursuits – but just for a moment, I got to be Lyra sitting on her bench, and it was just perfect.