Monday, 30 November 2015


Across the valley sweeps,
Rain clouds within their keep.
A storm of wind and rain to seep,
Into this gardener deep.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Dref continued

Slipping from the house as first light begins to grip the world we quietly follow the track leading up onto the mountainside, with the world still waking around us we can almost feel the mists of eden swirling around our feet as we trudge onwards and upwards into a landscape still fresh with the nights dew. A winding path through half cleared forest leads to a gate, a further track and then suddenly a split in the undergrowth appears to our right, a slimmer track halfway between an animal thoroughfare and a nearly dried up mountain stream leads onto the exposed expanse of bog, heathland and scraggy clumps of stunted trees. Nature here keeps close to the ground to prevent it being weather beaten off into a non existence, with autumn coming earlier this far north the leaves have already left the trees but were likely taken by the wind and cast to the valley below before they ever reached the foot of the tree. Leaf litter here is made up of whatever small cast offs the heathers make mixed with the droppings and remains of the animals that call this home (we found three sheep skeletons on this trip), the growing medium is hard here but centuries old and rarely disturbed, a narrow band of rich peaty top soil sits on rock and is held in place by moss and heather roots. Trees bore their roots down amongs cracks to thick seams of nutrients whilst plant and beast hunches down to avoid the winds and rain that seem to roll across in a never ending choreographed dance of cloud and sun. Even in this day and age it’s good to know such wildness is still on our doorstep, relatively speaking.

Heading on we pass through a bog and feel the landscape change beneath our feet, the softness of the moss makes way for the tenacity of the mountain heathland, tough dark green foliage clusters around our boots, dragging off peat and mud to savour later. Great rocks rise from the ground the earth bound icebergs where you know there is even more below the surface.

There are many things which impress me when out on the mountainside, the way the sheep traverse the land with relative ease, the endless drystone walls that crisscross this part of he country running for miles of incredibly tough terrain. One thing however which always strikes me and in many ways will leave me dumb with its perfection, is the balance of nature. From the full scale of the mountain and valley laid out before us to the tiniest microcosm of lichen and moss living in the cracks of fence posts. It’s all so beautiful and as a gardener I feel truly humbled by it. This is what Capability Brown understood. There are pockets of incredible detail and beauty all over the countryside around us yet the whole landscape runs seamlessly. Whether looking at the rich verdant fields below or the deep purples, greens and grey of Cadair rising above us, it’s all so perfect.

Friday, 20 November 2015

I hear it first.
A distant roaring that soon comes pouring over the hillside opposite.
I watch as wildlife is scattered, tree torn at and leaves strewn as though dust.
I watch as it comes crashing up the hill towards me.
As it first encounters the garden.
In its crazed state it doesn't even notice.

The garden does.
The plants bend under the ferocity of the onslaught.
Clouds of leaves ripped from the remaining canopies litter the sky.
I am under seige, cowering behind a wall as the garden is beaten by blows so great even the ground seems to shudder.
Then it is gone.
A silence and stillness descends.

The wind moves on.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Unseasonal season.

It’s nearly mid November and it’s currently 18.5° outside, I’m raking leaves in a t-shirt and the lawn needs another cut, it’s weird, it shouldn’t be this warm! We’ve so far had a stunning autumn and living in such a forested area I’ve been able to appreciate it every part of every day but by now I would be expecting to see the first frosts and signs of the garden heading towards its so winter slumber.
The garden needs a proper winter, we haven’t had one for the last two years and without a good hard frost pests and disease continue to prosper.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Dref Gerrig

There is a place not too far from here. Just three hours of winding Welsh roads door to door.
There is a village far from any other where a road becomes a lane, the lane a track, the track a woodland drive, the drive a cottage yard.
There is a cottage on the lower slopes of a Welsh mountain, quiet, secluded, home for four autumnal days.

This is Dref Gerrig an old basic farmhouse perched between forest and an ever rolling landscape on the feet of Cadair Idris. So far from anything that at night the sky is emblazoned with stars and by day you’d swear you could hear the slow munch of lichen dissolving stone and creeping endlessly on. It’s rare for me to leave the garden for anywhere other than forest but this mountain and landscape are something special, plus it does have some rather wondrous woodland looming up behind the house. Or did.

After a steep, narrow drive up from the village below I turn the bend expecting to see the first tentative glimpse of the cottage down a tree shrouded track only to discover a one sided expanse of sky. The forestry commission have obviously been hard at work clearing old pine plantings from the hillside, what was once dark and deeply mossy is now open, sunlit and rather daunting. Before one always had the feel of being enveloped by the land as though the woodland was physically reaching out to hug the cottage to its mountainous bosom. Now Dref sits exposed on one side with the very peak of Cadair rising up in the distance behind. Thankfully most of the broadleaf trees still stand including a stunning Beech standing sentinel next to the cottage and walking over where the woods had once stood I could soon spot the new seedlings which enriched by the sudden access to sun and rain were speeding skyward. Rowan, Oak, Beech and Larch were dominate but it didn’t take long to discover a diverse array of plant life that would become the new woodland. Give it a few hundred years.

As phenomenal as all this was there was one thing remaining. One thing that was needed to complete the perfection of this moment in time and the sudden crunch of tyres on gravel announced the arrival of it. My brother. Now much can be written about this man and how who I am now, owes much to his influence in my formative years. My love and innate fascination in nature was at the very least bolstered by him if not inspired in the first place. I’ve no doubt that without him I wouldn’t be the gardener I am today (the lovely irony is that he wouldn’t be the gardener he is without my influence either).

I can lose myself in this landscape so easily. The seemingly endless drystone walls heaving with thick verdant mosses, lichens of increasing complexity, forest glades perfectly lit by the split rays of the sun. A landscape such as this has been perfectly crafted by nature for hundreds of years, Dref itself is at least three hundred years old. As a gardener I am always amazed at what nature can achieve but here I have to not only take my hat off but throw it away never to be put back on because here is a landscape that would bring Capability Brown himself to his knees.

I will save the tales of our adventures here for another time. I’m aware of much to be told and the ever increasing length of this blog alone. I will therefore leave you will a few images of this most special of places.

Sunday, 1 November 2015


All day I've been amongst tides of mist drifting across garden with regular intervals of clear blue sky. From my point on the hill I can watch the next roll enveloping the landscape before the garden once more disappears amongst the cool droplets and the sun is split into rays of light and shadow. Fingers of tall shrubs and trees pierce the gloom as the ground locked cloud crashes ever onwards leaving behind droplets caught on leaf and gardener now basking once more in clear sky and sun.