Saturday, 3 June 2006

Necessary Gardening

Through lack of an item of major inspiration, I have reviewed my week and found a theme.

One afternoon of this week, B and I spent in someone else's wonderful garden, in a small ravine in a fold of Dorset hills; a natural icy cold spring spilling into a man made lake and a mill race, trees, lawns, terraced herbaceous borders, unusual trees, ducks and ducklings. Chaffinches, warm sunshine, dappled shade, slight breeze, tea and cake. Bliss

Necessary Gardening - someone else's hard work, vision and expertise, necessary to achieve this paradise for a few short months of the English summer.

Last year I discovered the National Gardens Scheme. It was one of many results of the Expert Patients' Programme. I don't like that title; it is not what it says on the tin. I will never be an expert in my conditions, I leave that to the experts.

EPP via the NHS and I was sceptical. Six weeks through the six week programme and I was happy with the outcome; some had been assisted to work at managing the effects of their chronic ill health as much as possible, others had been helped to see they could do more; I achieved comfort with doing less. The work ethic was no longer appropriate in my case. I wasn't a recovering heart op patient who needed to exercise more. I had spent most of my fifty years doing what I thought others expected of me, and now I found myself thinking I had to now use all my available energies for others, as it was others' taxes that are keeping me afloat through benefits income.

So one of the outcomes of the EPP for me is to do more for me, use some of my limited energies for fun, me time. And I feel a lot better for it.

My last post was a plea against unnecessary gardening - to neighbouring obsessives who cut, prune, turf out and compost anything that is slightly faded, big, blousey, over-blown, living its life to the full to droop, wilt, seed, wither, die, shrink back into itself ready for next season. This natural cycle is anathema to my neighbours, who come from suburbia and bring their suburban views into my countryside. Hedges to them are privet, waist high. My hedge is a line of native trees; ash, sycamore (ok, a bit of a bully that one), hawthorn, holly, mixed with ivy and bramble. Their ideal is no shrub that they can't bend down to. Grass exists to be cut, weeds are not flowers in the wrong place, they are invading barbarians. Trees do not exist in their world, and they itch to cut down mine.

The gardens that open under the NGS are paeans to others' necessary gardening. Years of planning and planting, an eye for colour and form, transferring colour combinations from Royal Horticultural Society magazines into Dorset soil.

They are always popular. Families come for the afternoon to sit and play on other peoples' lawns, walk along their paths, grandads dozing under someone else's trees. One of the things we don't have in the countryside is parks. As though they are unnecessary. So unless you are a rambler, or have your own estate, there is little open space that is public. For wheelchair users this limits leisure time out of doors. The larger county towns and coastal tourist centres have parks, often survivers from Victorian philanthropist ideals that fresh air and exercise, sedately in corsets if you were female, were good for health. My childhood summer Sundays (after morning Sunday School) were spent visiting different town and city parks where the brass band my father played in, had been invited to fill the bandstand, and the park, with popular arrangements of the classics. Parks have paths. Very helpful for wheelchairs, only then they were a rare sighting. Now, each time I go out I DO see someone else using a wheelchair or buggy.

Next week I am using my limited energy to earn my benefit and disability income. A very long but enjoyable and interesting, day long meeting of the advisory committee set up under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. My presence in my wheelchair reminds my fellow committee members and the attending local government officers, elected councillors and countryside rangers and wardens, that there is now under the Act, a new fourth user group to add to the long established Walkers, Cyclists and Equestrians: the C123Vs.

Class 1, 2 and 3 Vehicles are manual and electric wheelchairs and personal mobility vehicles - buggies, Trampers, and the like. Used by the Disabled.

As I have said before: lift me over the stile somebody. Progress is slow because the Act is not backed by cash. My dream for this Disability Shire is to include in the ROWIP (Rights of Way Improvement Plan) gradually taking place all over the country, a review in all parishes of the rights of way paths, lanes, routes, open access land, to identify places where the land in its natural state in dry conditions, would be accessible by C123V users, but are currently blocked by man made barriers - stiles, narrow kissing gates and locked field gates. The Disabled Ramblers are the experts in this field, (along with hills, vales and mountains) and are recognised and consulted as such. Much as I adore the smooth ride that is tarmac, I don't want to see man made paths in the countryside. Just a gate I can open from the wheelchair so that when the ground is hard and dry, I can trundle down to the river, across the downs, through the orchid and butterfly filled ancient ramparts. Mother Nature's own gardening. Access to open space, wide vistas, open skies, is necessary for all.

Also next week, C is helping me with necessary gardening; so that the postman can get to the front door letterbox. A thank you to B and C.


Blogger Charlesdawson said...

Hi Sally

I do so agree with your last two posts. I would hesitate to apply the word "suburban" to the phenomenon however; I prefer my favourite adjective "municipal".

Many years ago I was lucky to be stationed briefly on Blandford Camp. That site had everything: mixed woodland, farmland, and acres of chalk downland blessedly free of any cultivation since the Army acquired the place before World War I. It was like Fontmell Down, if you know that, only free of sightseers as well.

Unfortunately the land management was under the Dept of the Environment or the Property Services Agency, and their preference was for grass, half-inch high, and conifers in rows.

I went back last year, by invitation. Most of the mixed woodland I had enjoyed was regimented pines, or cleared off, and acres of the chalk downlsnad had been replaced by football-pitch-like turf, regularly mowed and herbicided. The municipal gardener mindset had won.

This evening I have been watching a humming-bird hawk-moth happily feeding on a self-set red valerian which is slowly pulling down an old brick wall on my property. Let it. The bees are loving the buttercups and soon the red admirals will be flitting around the nettles. Gardening? That's what I call gardening - providing the kind of environment in which wild life can flourish.

Sunday, 4 June 2006 at 20:09:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Good evening Charles

I love Fontmell Down and all the downlands. I love the seriously planned orchestrated formal gardens, but only to visit. I could not live a relaxed life without cow parsley, food nettles, toads and slow-worms.

I am looking forward to Badbury Ring's orchids and butterflies in a few more weeks - the ramparts are more accessible than Blandford Camp - I have reason to go there once or twice a year - you know the routine; security checks, guard room. Their pavements are not wheelchair accessible, so I delight in asking the guard with the gun to phone on ahead and tell them I will wait in my van and they can come out and see me !!

I think their grass mowing is done by retired military barbers. The officer's mess has wonderful 'Mouse Man' furniture - the only wildlife you will see in the whole camp is hidden carvings.

Isn't this weather bliss ! And the teenagers have been away all week so my borrowed landscape is mine again.

This is turning into a blog !

Sunday, 4 June 2006 at 20:23:00 BST  
Blogger Gimpy Mumpy said...

"lift me over the stile"....perhaps if this were required you may see a rush for your request of an accessible gate! :)

Monday, 5 June 2006 at 14:08:00 BST  
Blogger BloggingMone said...

I am usually getting a bit confused about the use of the words "park" and "garden" in English. We have the same words in German "Park" and "Garten", of which "Park" is the place with groomed lawns and flowers in a row and that sort of things, except maybe the Hamburg "Stadtpark", which in some parts looks more like a forest. A "Garten" however, is the somewhat wilder version and has to have at least some "useful" plants in it, such as herbs, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. In Great Britain I have visited many so called "gardens", which than turned out to be "parks" (in my opinion....) Usually one can expect parks to be accessable, but not gardens. However, there is a real garden with vegetables, flowers, trees and even sculptures in Hamburg, which is truely accessable for everyone. Manual wheelchairs are no problem and it is also a touch-garden with explainations in Braille and large print and people are encouraged to touch plants and sculptures. The sculptures have an audio description. Those using an electric wheelchair have to be excellent drivers, because the pathways sometimes are a bit narrow. And the garden seems to be an exhausting terrain for electric wheelchairs. They run out of power earlier than expected.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 16:32:00 BST  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

I think that historically you are correct, Bloggingmone. In olden times country mansions had "gardens" intensively cultivated, near the house, and then a "park" - wilder, wooded area, still enclosed.

Then "park" came to mean "public garden" as in the great London Parks, which were originally private. And nowadays these are a mixture of flower gardens and more natural, but still managed, acres.

Your gardens in Hamburg sound fabulous.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 17:20:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Hello Bloggingmone - Good to hear from you.

Cultural differences are interesting, are they not.

I think the British use of the English words 'park' and 'garden' reflects land ownership, which has been a feature of this little densely populated island for many centuries.

I have a Swedish friend who was astonised when she came to live here over twenty years ago, and found that she could not roam over the fields, downlands and woods - they were all privately owned, and she had to stay on footpaths and could not go anywhere unless there was a footpath to follow. In Sweden the open land is not privately owned, is sparsely populated and perhaps covered in snow for a large part of the year,
and is used, and respected, by all.
She still has a little log cabin out in the wilds, and just owns the little plot of land upon which it sits.

In England all land is privately owned, and up until the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the only public right of access was by a public 'right of way', (which includes most public open space in towns,cities etc), either a footpath, (on foot only including wheelchairs), a bridleway (on foot and by a bridled horse, i.e. not a carriage horse) and a much confused and sometimes mis-used designation 'by-ways' for old roads, generally wider, no longer used for local transportation (horse and cart) and never tarmaced, and finally public carriage ways, meaning roads. Interestingly, old laws never die, they simply get ignored - therefore people on foot (and wheelchair users) have priority over all rights of way, including public roads, next in the hierarchy come equestians (bridled horses), left over from pre-internal combustion engines, followed by vehicles (previously horse and carts and horse drawn carriages) and cyclists, using a relatively modern invention.

Since the Act, we now have open access land, even though it is a tiny proportion of land, so people can wander (on foot and by wheelchair) over private land without having to keep to narrow footpaths. Famously, Madonna objected to some of her land around her little estate, being designated 'access land' and fought it, largely successfully.

This is a bit of a speciality of mine, as I was appointed by the county council to be an member of the Local Access Forum, as previously mentioned.

Charles mentions land owned by the Ministry of Defence - taken out of private ownership by a compulsory purchse order at the time of war, and never returned ! Some of it becomes a wild life haven, such as the heathland where Prince Harry is practising tank driving at present, but other areas may as well be tarmac, as he laments.

After that digression, back to Parks and Gardens.

Parks - generally means large - either privately owned, as in an estate in which the owner has created 'park land' (as opposed to creating a garden, either kitchen garden for food production, or pleasure garden, to be enjoyed!), or provided by the borough or municipal council for public use. This came about in the Victorian era, after the Industrial Revolution brought many country dwellers into fast growing unhealthy towns and cities, so in the interests of public health, parks were provided for recreation. That leads to the words 'Parks' or 'Public Gardens' !!

Gardens generally refers to something smaller, and when not designated 'public gardens' refers to being in private ownership.
Which leads to the National Gardens Scheme, in which private owners of private gardens, open their private gardens to the public for a few days a year, under the NGS scheme (for public liability insurance and promotion) and charge a small fee which is then donated by them to a charity of their choice. They chose when to open their private gardens to the public, generally at a time when their gardens are looking their best. Some people have gardens designed and planted for late winter, with snow drops and hellebores, then onto spring, others mid summer, when different things are blooming, and some late summer or autumn gardens.

Therefore, private gardens large and small, are their owners' pride and joy and can be admired by the paying public.

Also, we have large estates (with or without large or small mansions) that remain privately owned, but are opened to the public for a charge, in order for the owners to raise money to maintain them. Other estates have been given by families to the National Trust, to avoid taxation through death duties, or rescued by the State from destruction when in the national interest and maintained by English Heritage. Both open to the public for a fee.

My garden is merely the land that I own around my house, and I would hesitate to call a large part of it a garden, as I cannot plant or do much, and the only thing that shows it is not part of the adjoining meadow field, is a wire fence to keep the cows out, but originally designed to keep my Airedale in !!
The feature of my garden is the borrowed landscape of the farmers' meadows for grazing (not arable crops) adjacent at the rear, with old trees and hedges, and the valley full of trees at the front leading down to the river.

When the teenagers are locked up it is bliss !

I hope this long answer to your comment has been of interest - it has inspired me to another post !

Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 17:22:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

I think Charles and I were commenting at the same time; he more succinctly than me !

Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 17:39:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Gimpy Mumpy visited me - thank you for your comment and I do so love your picture. Now, I have attempted to put a link to GM on my page, but I am thwarted - I have to admit publicly that I am well and truly stuck - I cannot find how to put that bottom hyphen between Gimpy - Mumpy. It is sat there on my keyboard on the same key as ; and : but underneath. I have searched the instruction book, the WP help, the ACCESS IBM famous blue button on my Think Pad, and continue to be thwarted -because I don't know what it is called to look it up in any index. Remember, I am in the second half of my century and when I was first introduced to computers discs were so heavy they needed two hands to lift them onto the metre high disc drives !
So, someone have pity on me, explain in simple terms what I have to switch on/ turn over/ click into, to get the bottom hyphen to link Gimpy-Mumpy.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 22:57:00 BST  
Blogger Sally's Life said...

Postscript to Bloggingmone's comment on 'Gartens' - Wednesday evening on Radio 3 programme celebrating composer Robert Schumann and poet Heinrich Heine, the commentator referred to "... Garten" and described it as "a large and useful park" !

Thursday, 8 June 2006 at 09:06:00 BST  
Blogger BloggingMone said...

Hi Sally and Charles, very enlightning comments! Now I know more about the English philosophy of parks and gardens. I have been to several gardens which were open to public for a short time (garden scheme) and those were the gardens that looked much more like little parks to me and added a lot to my confusion. About the Schubert and Heine comment: The word "useful" is important. Parks are not useful. They are nice. If a park is useful, it will be reffered to as a huge garden. God....that sounds very German ;-)

Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 10:05:00 BST  

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