Ducking under the lych gate of Old Thatch almost makes you feel like you’re entering another, more magical world. Whatever the weather the magical feel of this garden does not disappoint.
Once under the lych gate you are surrounded by high hedges and trees which rustle musically in the wind, so Old Thatch feels a million miles away from anywhere! Every time I wander under that gate into the gardens, even before I get to Jacky at the counter, I feel myself relax beyond belief, and everything that matters before I step under that arch just melts away. You stand straight after ducking under the lych gate, and there is such a serene and feel to the gardens that you feel like you could stay forever.
As the wind blows, all the trees take up the sound making up a beautiful textured orchestra of silence, and the seedheads dance merrily, rattling their precious cargo. It almost makes you believe in fairies and pixies and any small magical creature you can think of, dancing to the sounds of the garden.
There is so much in to the gardens, that there is always something new to see, and take note of. The late August colours of blues, mauves and purples attract much attention from the busy honey bees and butterflies. Those aren’t the only colours in the garden, with the rose arbour sporting delicate pinky blooms and rich dark pinks of the clematis winding delicately through the wooden structure for that sudden burst of colour.
To mix authors, Old Thatch feels like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Under the blanket of serenity, there is an undercurrent of excitement about this Eden that is undoubtedly infectious and helps make it the attraction it is. It feels cathartic, almost as if you could draw strength from the calmness of this little world!
Having visited a good handful of times at various times during its open season, I never cease to lose my sense of wonder with this garden and its charming owners. Now I hope I can recognise the subtle changes in the garden through its open season (May until the end of August).
I have many favourite parts of the garden, and while I adore the water fountain and that little square of garden in which it sits (the running water holds such an attraction for me – it is peaceful, restful and yet a force for change), every part of the garden makes me feel truly content. It is a kind of a Zen I suppose, inner calm and peace after after the problems of the outside world. The garden supplies an almost a spiritual or religious feeling, and does make me realise how those who are religious feel in their faith.
Originally for me, and many of you who read this blog and frequent the Enid Blyton Society forums, the draw to them was Enid Blyton, but now, they hold so much more than that. A real appreciation for the gardens in their own right, a real hidden gem and a (not so) secret garden.
In the Entrance Garden, there is a funny old lamppost that stands at the far end, which always intrigues me. It seems to be in such a strange place, but feels right at home, often reminding me of the Entrance to Narnia in C. S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Its presence certainly draws the eye down the garden, enticing you to explore the rest of the magical space.
Following the path around the garden, past the lamppost, through the high laurel hedges, takes you into the formal garden. The beds in front of you are laid out in rectangles, cut out of box hedges, the central pieces to these beds are small holly trees cut into circles. This garden lets your eye follow the path down the garden to the Lavender Terrace, and down to the proud water feature. I remember that during my first visit I almost forgot myself and hurried down that path to the fountain, I was so desperate to examine it closely. I don’t know how I managed my self restraint but I did, and wandered the rest of the garden, following the trail on my map.
The Rose and Clematis Walk has to be my second favourite part of the garden, tied with the Lavender Terrace. The heady scents of the roses peppered with the different colours of the delicately weaving clematis always feels like walking in to a fairy grotto to me. But this walk has another feeling to it, its heavy with the years as the original timbers are over one hundred years old! It all feels very romantic- I certainly wouldn’t say no if someone asked me to marry them under that arch! 😉 (I should be so lucky!)
As you wander through the walk to Mr Alpin’s garden with its short neat grass and the raised flower beds, there is a feeling of order and control, surrounded by tall hedges once more and fruiting trees. There is something restful about this part of the garden, and from where it joins the Lane Garden (a raised circular garden), you can see the stream that used to run though the bottom of the garden.
On your way to the Circle Garden, there is a Shade Garden, right at the end of the Rose and Clematis, in the opposite direction to Mr Aplin’s Garden. This end of the garden is dominated by tall trees, and adds wonderfully to the textural orchestra of the leaves in the wind. It can feel cool under these trees and the break out into the Circle Garden from under the carefully dripping leaves is one of the nicest feelings as the sun hits you and warms your skin.
The grasses in the Circle Garden make for such a soft sweet noise in the wind as they rustle delicately in the centre piece of the garden. This garden is full of gently swaying grasses, and feels quite charming and relaxing. Grasses are one of my favourite plants; I went through a bit of a plant stage when I was about ten and started collecting grasses. I loved untangling them or ‘combing their hair’ and running the fonds through my fingers, so this garden is my ten year old self’s favourite part of the garden.
And then we come to the Water Garden, a favourite of both mine and Fiona’s, a restful place with the gurgling fountain and small round pond surrounded by beautiful tube flowers that remind me of white lilies, called Zantedeschias. These white flowers look soft to touch, like satin where the leaves look waxy, but they set off the borders of the water feature beautifully.
This garden is the one where I feel most at home in these beautiful gardens, whether it is the running water or the sound of it, I don’t know, but somehow I feel more connected to Enid Blyton in this garden than any other. I often like to do a round of the gardens before I head back to the Water Garden, loving to linger there on one of the benches and just soak up the inspiration.
The Pencil Garden is next and its message always confuses me, supposed to be easy for children to understand but not for adults, the bright red and yellows of the flowers however, add a brilliant splash of colour to this shady part of the garden, surrounded by tall hedges and trees.
The pencil garden leads on to the Cottage Garden where the charming old well sits, along with a sun dial and small pond – full of newts I think! – but bursting with colour and textures. Beautiful orange lilies, the heavy scent of the wisteria and dark pinks of the clematis on the walls. Dotted around this garden are little chairs and tables for people to enjoy their tea and cake in the sunshine (there are also chairs and tables inside if the weather happens not to be so good).
Each part of this garden is full to the brim with charm, imagination, love and fantasy. You are transported from the moment you duck under the lych gate, and each twist and turn of the gate adds magic to the experience, and it is a magic that resonates deep within your soul.
As I said earlier, Enid Blyton brought me to Old Thatch, but the gardens, in their own right, make me want to keep coming back for me. And the reason for this is simple, I just don’t want to leave!