Monmouth, late November and I'm sat in the balcony of a local theatre listening to the warm, rambling tones of Monty Don. He talks long and enthusiastically as one can imagine about the joys of gardening, travel and his journey from childhood days of forced garden work to the place he now stands. Of the many things he said one thing in particularly snagged my ear and hung on long after the talk had finished. "A garden is a lot like a river. It stays in the same place but is always changing." In many ways this is true of the gardener too, week after week, year after year tending the plants and garden, learning and being shaped by the space they work. However sometimes just like a river bursting its' banks and going wherever the ground leads, the gardener too is carried out from their usual environment and left to learn the new lay of the land.
Some of you may already know that my gardening space has also recently moved from being a predominantly city based affair to finding its lungs out in the Wye Valley, a shift from concrete to bark, leaf and soil, from the ever present hum of traffic to the mewing of buzzards overhead. This may sound overly romantic and poetic but for most parts it's true. Okay I admit there are downsides to, having found one new garden to work in that sits exposed on the wrong side of the valley, being hit by all the elements but having to say goodbye to the sun at 2 o'clock as it slips below the crest of the hill I now realise how cosy and sheltered city gardens can be.
For 10 years I lived and worked in the city of Cardiff, meeting my wife and beginning a family there. It treated me well, many friends and good memories come from those years, the gardens were varied, the clients in general the perfect people to work for. I worked on cliff tops, pottered amongst elderly cottage plants, clipped topiary in private show spaces and scramble amongst controlled wilderness in renowned artists gardens. In most I was given free rein to work as I saw fit and in many ways see it as a garden of my own.
That all changed 6 months ago. Upon a whim and a hoped for dream we packed up and moved to Monmouth, a beautiful town bordering the Forest of Dean, a place I have incredibly dear memories of due to my family holidaying here since before I was born. To say I'm biased is true but I honestly couldn't be happier here. To have the Forest on my doorstep is incredible, to be able to see it from my window is mind blowing. Having grown up in a city but then trained in a profession which ensures I spend 90% of my time outside suggests I should have made this move many moons ago.
I could happily ramble on for many pages about the Monmouth area and many chapters about the wonderful Forest of Dean, however this is a simple garden blog and I a simple gardener must focus on that.
What then of my work and the space I now find myself? In truth it's not been as big a change as one might first imagine mostly due to the fact I still travel back most days to carry on in the Cardiff gardens I've grown to know. The advantage of a relatively quick and pleasant commute means I haven't had to leave everything behind and start a fresh. this has given me the chance to find new clients and gardens at a pace that allows for quality rather than a scramble for quantity.
This is how I've ended up not only exposed and weathered on the side of a valley but in a complete blank canvas of a field that needs turning into a stock filled cottage garden bordering the 3 castles walk. It's how I've ended up too, stood in the middle of a 10 acre estate, no one around, traffic miles away and buzzards playing overhead.
To watch my family growing up amongst this place I hold so dear and being able to quietly lose myself in incredible gardens is a greater gift than I could ever hope for. There are many many happy days of gardening ahead and rest assured I will be back to ramble endlessly on about them.