27 April 2009

Enjoying local gardens

The nicest thing about the place that I live, Ham in South West London, is the open spaces that range from the large Richmond Park to the small communal gardens in amongst the houses. Ham also has a large number of grand houses that have grand gardens that are, from time to time, open to the public. Last weekend I was able to visit two of them.

Ham House has a multifaceted garden and my favourite part is called the Wilderness. This is a maze like area of hedges and paths. There are four straight paths that cross in the centre, just like a Union Jack, and an ellipse that crosses all of them. This creates the ideal environment in which to play hide and seek, as many children were!

The oddly shaped spaces between the paths are planted in various ways and some include little places to sit too, My favourite places are the ones littered with wild flowers with a curved path cut through them. This seems to me to be most fitting for an area called the Wilderness and has the added advantage of being child-free due to the lack of hiding places.

Ham House is open throughout the year but other gardens are only open occasionally as part of the National Garden Scheme. One such garden belongs to St Michael's Convent on Ham Common.

The garden at St Michael's convent is simply there to be enjoyed by the residents but this is not the most important thing in their lives so it combines a charming mix of formal vistas and more unkempt areas.

Immediately behind the large house is a formal, and fairly boring, lawn but beyond that there is a large wooded section with a wide path that runs under an arch of trees. At the far end is a bench where you can sit and look all the way back to the house.

There are many paths through the garden which allow you to wander off in different directions and to see the various parts of the garden from different perspectives.

One of these paths runs along one of the garden walls (sadly there is a 70s housing development on the other side) where the mature trees provide shade and the bluebells a splash of colour.

Dotted around the garden are summer houses, statues, ponds, hidden benches, a convoluted path laid out with stones, metal arches for plants keen on climbing, and rockeries.

The garden feels unplanned (and probably is) which makes it more fun to explore and because it is only open rarely this sense of exploration is heightened.

As this is England, the visit to the gardens ended with a leisurely cup of tea which allows the real world to seep back in slowly before the journey home.

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful gardens! I am not a gardener, but I do enjoy gardens, and like them to be somewhat wild, natural, not too manicured. The second picture is my favourite, wild flowers and a meandering cut path.


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