20 June 2021

What a splendidly splendid week we’ve had. The weather has ranged from good to very good to excellent, we had an outstanding short break in Wales, a delightful Garden Club outing to Warwick and the rain for the garden arrived on Friday after all the excursions were complete. Perfect!

Our short break in Wales had originally been planned for last year but the pandemic put paid to that. So, we were able to reschedule and thankfully both Wales and England had relaxed their respective restrictions sufficiently for us to be able to go this past week.

Our friend Stuart organised the expedition – he used to work with one of the owners. She and her husband both had high-powered local government jobs and gave up the rat race a few years ago. They wanted to move to a somewhat remote location and renovate some cottages with the aim of establishing a successful self-catering holiday business. They had just about completed all the work and were just about up and running when Covid came along and their plans were put on hold until this year. Fortunately, the Welsh government was very supportive – their plans included “re-wilding” the land and planting the odd several hundred trees and so was right in line with everyone’s current green agenda.

The place was absolutely gorgeous – very isolated, located just outside the village of Cilycwm which itself is about four miles north of the thriving metropolis of Llandovery, just on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. (Look it up on Google maps or your favourite mapping application). They renovated three tumble-down cottages and also have a number of off-piste camping sites amongst their 75 acres. Although we rambled about a bit and sauntered along on a couple of walks (the “girls” were much more adventurous and “serious” in their hiking expeditions) for the most part we were quite happy just to sit and relax. Now there’s a surprise!

A great break.

Thursday a torrential storm was forecast as we set off at an un-Godly early hour to make our way to Warwick. Thankfully, the torrential storm did not arrive as we were on our way to meet up with fellow Moreton Pinknians for a Garden Club outing to Warwick. Although the day was somewhat overcast, it stayed dry for the entirety of our visit to two lovely gardens in Warwick, either side of lunch at the Lord Leycester Hospital.

Our first stop was Hill Close Gardens, the detached gardens in Warwick which we have visited on a couple of occasions. These were small plots of garden just on the edge of town which local shopkeepers and businessmen owned or rented to provide some peace and quiet for their families as they largely lived “over the shop.”

The detached garden concept was popular in the Victorian period and was widespread – most large towns had them. However, they have largely disappeared under new housing developments which was also almost the fate of Hill Close. The bulldozers were literally onsite when a group of local residents stopped the work and eventually persuaded English Heritage to “list” the by this time dilapidated summer houses and sheds which most plots had. English Heritage recognised and appreciated the historical significance of the gardens and summer houses and agreed that they should be preserved. Once these sheds were listed the developers were beaten. Eventually, a trust was formed to restore the plots and the rest is history.

They are absolutely wonderful and a marvellously quiet and tranquil space literally in the middle of town.

After our tour of Hill Close we walked up to the Lord Leycester Hospital which is, of course, not a hospital as we know it but a home for retired and indigent soldiers founded by Lord Leicester, Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite courtier. The building is magnificent and we were served lunch in the Great Hall. Following lunch, most of the members went round the Master’s Garden which is a little gem, again an oasis of peace and tranquillity in the centre of town.

Finally, we made our way to Mill Garden at the bottom of Mill Street just in the shadows of Warwick Castle. This was a garden I had never been to before and it was an absolute diamond – we certainly saved the best for last.

It’s not only a magnificent garden, it’s a magnificent story. Mill Street runs down to the river just underneath Warwick Castle. The street and all the houses were owned by the Earl of Warwick who decided to sell them as a job lot by auction in 1959. Naturally, none of the individual lease holders along the street would have been able to outbid the developers who were after the site. So, a gentleman by the name of Arthur Measures, Manager of Barclays Bank in Birmingham who had lived in the cottage at the bottom of Mill Street since 1936, organised a syndicate and was successful in purchasing the street and the tenancies which were later distributed amongst the lease holders of the cottages along the street.

A stunningly gorgeous garden in a magnificently beautiful setting – a peaceful and tranquil garden again right in the middle of town.

No time this week for Greg’s Weekly Bicycle Adventures nor the usual plethora of stories from the You Could Not Make It Up department. Thank goodness! Normal service will (probably) resume next week.

Finally, Happy Father’s Day to my three sons, each of whom is a magnificent father.

and not forgetting my own father who was equally splendid.

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,

Greg

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