September marks the beginning of the new school year, as well as the turn from summer to autumn. It is a time of change, of new beginnings, and of taking stock: far more so – for me, at least – than New Year itself. Having grown up in a household of teachers, and having been governed by the academic calendar myself for much of my life, there is something essential about this time of year. It is a time of nostalgia, as well as a season of looking forward.
My new beginning has been the wonderful opportunity to take on the position of Head Gardener at Horatio’s Garden in Salisbury. The garden, designed by Chelsea award-winner Cleve West, is adjacent to (indeed, part of) the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Injuries Unit at Salisbury District Hospital. It provides garden therapy, and a restorative environment of peace and quiet, for patients who are adjusting to life-changing spinal injuries.
Having served my time in private gardens of one sort and another, the chance to work alongside passionate and committed volunteers, to the benefit of patients and their families, is an absolutely amazing thing. To do so in an award-winning, beautifully designed and gloriously planted garden is horticulturally even more exciting.
For one thing, gardening can be a very solitary business. Not that I mind altogether – in fact I have written before about the pleasures of working in one’s own company – but talking to fellow volunteers, patients and other visitors on a regular basis is more than welcome.
And here is a garden which bears very much the imprint of its designer. This is, and will remain, ‘a Cleve West garden’. It is my job to act as custodian of Cleve’s vision, whilst taking the garden forward. Having talked to Cleve about this, he is adamant that the garden cannot remain static – but there is an ethos, a spirit and a sense of place to be retained whatever changes the future may bring.
I hope you will want to join me on the journey.
The sculptures featured are by Dorset-based sculptor Simon Gudgeon.