The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson-Burnett. I have gorgeously, sleepy memories of both my Mother and Father reading it to me at bedtime throughout my childhood. I also recall loving having it read to me even when I was quite old enough to read it myself. Of course, I did read it myself too. Many times over. Though I haven't read it in a long, long time now.
On Sunday afternoons we would walk there and climb, one by one, through a hole in an old stone wall. We'd make our way down the overgrown slope to the ancient fountain which was in the centre of the ruin of a Victorian walled garden. The fountain was empty, save for a rusty old pipe that stuck up out of the centre of the floor. We would have balancing competitions there. Seeing how long we could stand on one leg on the pipe while the rest of the family counted the seconds. The fountain was one of the only things that wasn't choked in weeds so we would sit and rest there, eating apples and maybe a biscuit. If we were lucky. Lots of ants ran around us.
There were little brick plinths in the garden too and I remember we would stand on them, posing, pretending to be statues. I remember the grass always being really high. I remember having to watch out for thistles and stinging nettles. I remember blowing countless dandelion clocks and making wishes on every one. But most of all I remember feeling like we were the only ones that knew about this place. That it was all ours.
|Me and My Brother doing our balancing act in 1985|
|Dad balancing in 1985 and Mam posing with my sister in 1987|
|Little Sister, Gorgeous Mama, Uncle (Napleon Dynamite?!) and Hipster Dad in 1986|
Festina Lente (Hasten Slowly) and the people who run it do amazing work with people with intellectual disabilities. They have an equestrian centre, allotments, a little garden shop and a plant nursery.
AND, they have painstakingly restored my secret garden to its former, Victorian glory.
It is beautiful.
But, to me, it was always beautiful.
I'd be lying if I said the nostalgic part of me wasn't pining for the ragged wilderness of my youth, but another part of me is so happy that many more people get to share this magical little part of the world too.