Since I last blogged, we have handed over the keys to our Kensington flat; settled into our new, teeny-tiny, but gorgeous, Chelsea flat; bought 10% of a four acre garden; been up to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, visiting four gardens associated with Shakespeare’s family; and even snuck into a world-class garden I’d not yet seen, on the road trip to Warwickshire. Back in London, we’ve been to see Madam Butterfly at the Royal Opera House and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, just a stone’s throw from our new place. It’s been a pretty busy, pretty fun and pretty successful week all round.
The stand out for me though, was the casual – or not so casual – buying of ‘10% of a four acre garden’. I’m not trying to test your maths skills, it’s just that the other 90% won’t follow until June. But it will also follow with a house in tow and I’m over-the-moon excited.
We’ve been attempting to buy a house for 18 months and have offered on six places in total. We even saw our new four acre garden in early January and it’s taken this long to secure it. I definitely can’t recommend the English house-buying system.
But secure it we have and now I have the very exciting task of designing both house and garden. We sold most of our furniture in Sydney, thinking we’d have a very small place in London, but as we’ve thought through how we want to live here, we’ve ended up going for London shoebox and country space. Two very different properties but two properties with very green, green views, which I have realised is key to a happy, calming life for me. The end result is that we now have all the interiors as well as the exteriors to play with in Oxfordshire. I’m going to have to get my budgeting hat on, but what an enormously fun proposition!
With five false starts, I’ve not dared to start planning the new garden as yet, but having exchanged contracts yesterday afternoon, my head is racing in all sorts of directions. It was love at first sight for me and the garden, even on a very cold, frosty, January morning. It’s a very simple space, mostly grass and mature trees, but the light, the atmosphere, the blank canvas upon which we can make our own, unique place, just filled my heart with joy.
We have a little stream, a woodland, beautiful stone walls, a pond and a little orchard. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. I’m somewhat intimidated by the thought of four whole acres – was I ever really on top of my ten by ten metre Sydney garden? – but my excitement, the scale of potential and the fact that a ride-on-mower comes with the property (along with a very excited husband-rider) means that any worries seem to fade into insignificance.
Rousham was the world-class garden we visited on the way to Stratford this weekend. Of the top eight gardens you named as having a strong sense of place in my recent Masters’ survey, I had previously visited seven. Rousham was the eighth, and of all the regions in the world, how fortunate that it happened to be just down the road (purely in the interest of academic pursuit, you realise).
I’d heard about it from others: in books, magazines and from friends. But in my mind it was quite a masculine garden, full of hedges and engineering. I’ve nothing against these things, but my preference is for a bit of prettiness at least in part, so it had never quite got to the top of my list.
It turned out I couldn’t be more wrong. Those 824 of you who kindly filled in my survey were absolutely right about its sense of place. I’ll write Rousham up as a separate post, but the timing of a visit to an atmospheric country property, full of unbelievably inspiring pockets of loveliness everywhere you turned, could not have been more rewarding for me.
I do hope you’ll join me on a journey of discovery and learning, as Paul and I develop our little slice of the English countryside. And surely, there is more need than ever, for plenty of garden visiting to ensure those creative juices are fully flowing.
I’m not sure I could be more excited right now.