While everybody has been under house arrest, the gardeners at Stanmer Park have been busy. Near the 1722 manor house built of Portland Stone for the Pelham family, Brighton Council, who run the place now, cooked up a plan to make use of a walled garden that has mostly been ignored for decades. They’ve been demolishing bits, constructing other bits, sorting out turf and – most importantly – they’ve been planting. There’s a horticultural college campus here, so they’ve got the minds and the hands from the faculty. They’ve called it The One Garden. We went there in the glorious sunshine. It’s great considering it was just a barely used space. Only about a year ago we walked through it unimpressed.
It’s not small – this is as big as the walled garden I came to know at Ripley Castle – much the same era and much the same stone. Bigger than a football field. Around the walls they have strung lines to run creepers, and they’ve dug beds. This spring they are encouraging the plants they have placed there to take hold even as they encourage the daytrippers to come with their litter and their noise. There’ll be roses there come the summer perhaps. For now a colourful clutch of young Spring flowers. It’s the bones of something beautiful, where the good people of Brighton can get a sausage roll and some accidental nature. Children were running around the beehive laughing, probably because nobody had told them it was full of bees, but better they learn early how unlikely they are to get stung so they don’t fuck everything up with a panic at a picnic aged 30. Another child was bending a sapling as hard as possible. It didn’t snap but Lou almost did. “Stop doing that!” I had a sausage roll and an apple juice from Juicy Simon’s stall. Our visit had come at the end of a long walk in the woods around the edge.
It was perfect. This clement day, and they’ve provided a distraction for all the people with that garden. It meant we could walk in the woods and believe that we were alone with the spring. The middle part of the season, as the daffodils die, the tulips triumph and the bluebells begin. A week from now the wood will be a carpet of blue. A beautiful moment if you find the right place to be.
We ended up on a green slope, near a stand of thornbushes, lying on our backs. For a moment we drifted off, but were pulled back sharply by the drifting conversation of a group of fellow walkers. Neither of us had water so we returned to the throng.
A lazy sunny day. Remember those? There’s a whole lot to come. Imagine – you’ll be pissed off at home because you’re too damn hot. I can’t wait for that. Today flashed in the memory of proper heat even if I still had a scarf and jacket. Even if the wind still blows with ice, the sun is showing up.
Before too long I’ll have my t-shirt in my hand and sea salt in my hair. Tickety boo.