Sarah Coles


IMG_4752This year, eleven gardens on the main street of our village, Alresford, were open for charity.  Owners had been sweating guts for weeks.  All the houses along Broad Street are Georgian because after two massive fires in the 18th century they were rebuilt, each different, dignified and beautiful.   On the other side, away from the street, the gardens stretch away, long and narrow – they are based on medieval burgage plots which had to fit the narrow frontages along Broad Street, and most are still the original 20 rods by 2 rods – sometimes they are double, making the gardens 10 rods wide.  A rod is 5½ yards.  These days you have to be wealthy to own a house in Broad Street.

The houses on the garden side now have conservatories and additions which the planners are not so IMG_4751fussy about.  End of June it was, and all very floriferous.  On the patios loads of pots jammed with geraniums and the like by people who aren’t great gardeners, but some are keen and also a long stretch of peonies here, roses in nearly all, a lavender walk, herbaceous borders galore, one or two ponds.  And so we walked down the garden path, looking and admiring, and over the walls either side we saw glimpses of trees, all very rustic and lovely.

But at the very end of  these gardens?  Sometimes a sad veg plot (rich people are rarely keen on growing veg, though occasionally their gardener is) and, almost invariably, a pile of rubbish, a broken wheelbarrow, a shattered sieve, a rake without its handle and a dishevelled compost heap and a dank wall.  In two gardens, among this rubbish there were, inadvertently, glorious views of beyond – the lake, swans and trees.  Unseen by the owners – I suppose because they did not belong to them.

At the end, in every one, there should have been a temple or statue to the garden and its presiding spirit, or a seat to mark the culmination of the journey. This is what you can do with a long thin garden, you can travel and arrive.  Where was the sign of termination, of being in a place for absorption, contemplation?  One garden redeemed itself – it was short and had a shed at the end with open doors, and a welcoming comfy seat.

If you have a narrow long garden, make the wander through it satisfying for you, and the visitor.  Make the end a culmination.  Invite the spirit in.


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