There is a garden not a million miles away from here. In that valley on the way towards Dorset where the hills start to round and the horizon to stretch and you can sort of feel that the sea is close, even if you can't see it. We stumbled across it when we were on a Boxing Day walk when I was protesting at the big sky trying to snow. I was not well enough dressed, I admit. We came through a footpath through a little orchard and then I saw the topiary and a big gate. I knew that garden could only be an Arne Maynard. Even in the depths of winter, I knew it. Like all the best gardens, South Wood Farm is open for NGS once a year, and I put the date in the diary and counted the days.
It was everything I'd hoped for and more. I have a scrap of paper from one of my trips to Allt y Bela with scribbles on the back. Topiary, structure, short and long sight, seamless transitions between here and there, the wild moving predictably and yet inexorably to the formally domestic. South Wood Farm is a masterclass in all of the principles of compelling garden design. Did I mention the kitchen garden? Exquisite. It left me feeling elated and inspired and yet so incredibly at home.
We've done a lot of redesigning this year, and I can't pretend it is my forte. I am not creative or particularly original. But I know what I like. When we dug out the back lawn and built a Kitchen Garden, I spent hours looking at other people's ideas, other people's originality, other people's designs. Danny and I have discussed this without resolution; is there any such thing as real originality? This house is unique, should it not have a unique setting? Actually, in the end, my Kitchen Garden is based on a design by Kristy Ramage that she did for me last Summer. Fittingly, she was a big part of the building of South Wood Farm which just happens to be my favourite garden ever. Even if my own bit of land doesn't look like this one, I want to feel the same happiness and visceral, tangible beauty when I'm at home. I might not try to copy the landscaping, but I'll definitely try and copy the bliss.