Furtively seeking ways to be non destructive even with this extent of neglect, I naively started with the scythe but very soon went for the garden tractor and began cutting on the longest settings around the edges where I remembered the grass paths to be.
More than once, the cutter blades ground noisily on paving stones concealed by dense growth bringing my partner into the garden with an unhappy look on his face. Worried about the health of his poor machine, he stroked the engine lid with almost a tear in his eye and took over the driving for a while.
Wonderfully informative and sensitive, dipping into The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom gave me reason to slow down my thinking and plan how to begin what feels like the destruction before the reconstruction, and maybe shift my conscience to believe that what I was about to do was merely disruption and not desolation. Images in my minds eye remind me of how the garden looked twenty years ago and the wonderful produce that came out of it.
Tasking myself to be practical and take a look over the area before daring to get excited about any restoration, my two dogs and me burrowed a narrow pathway through the dense growth to the other end of the garden to look at the orchard.
As I peered through the soft grasses which stood about 7 feet high, I could see fruit trees completely entwined struggling against the power of the undergrowth to get light and warmth. But despite their struggle, the apple trees were laden with fruit, although I couldn’t see any plums or pears. The shrubs and roses were completely overwhelmed growing only at their very tops.
Breaking through what felt like a mile deep of long established nettles to get to a gate sewn shut with intricately interwoven lengths of ivy, we were anxious to see what was on the other side. The gate hinges were stiff and rusty but opened to reveal the contents of the walled garden. Neglected for many years, the garden was a forest of thistle, nettle, willow herb and grasses, all of which towered above my head.
Stepping inside, the atmosphere altered distinctly. Moving from the cool shade of the overgrown entrance to stand within the framework of the high brick walls, the wind dropped and warmth surrounded my face, it was as sheltered and tranquil as I remembered it to be. Butterflies and moths danced around from thistle to thistle in the warm air, a beautiful sight but was in stark contrast to the sad scene of neglect. The thought was with me that to recreate a kitchen garden in here would have to begin with the destruction of almost everything currently providing their habitat.