Over the hills and a great way off....

A day off booked and in the diary and a weather forecast full of wind and rain.  I am going to visit Karen at Artist's Garden to see her and to look at her garden, last seen in cold and empty February.  The weather map on the BBC site shows a violent pulse of blue and green storm sweeping the North West corner of Wales in the morning.   After breakfast here in the North East corner it is windy, the air cool and brisk with the promise of rain, as I let the hens out, open up the greenhouse and decide that I will go, rain or no rain.

Westward, rising high on the Denbigh moors and the wind is snatching at the car.  It is too high and bleak here for trees.  Buffetted sheep huddle by piles of stones, pummelled by the wind.  I head down to the A5 and find the short cut through Ysbyty Ifan is closed to traffic.  The sainted sat nav sends me down towards Dolgellau.  As the car descends below the treeline there are branches on the road and new leaves whipping through the air, torn from the trees in violent handfuls.  The rain spits on my windscreen and, as I approach Blaenau Ffestiniog, the storm hits with full force.  For the next half hour I drive into a wall of water.  The wipers thrash but make no difference.  Occassionally a vehicle comes the other way, throwing up a tsunami of water as it passes.   A glimpse of scudding black water as I round a corner and I know I am driving along an estuary.  The rain closes back in.  I love it.

As I approach Harlech the storm begins to abate.  It is still raining heavily but grey stone houses and streets appear in the arc of the windscreen and the castle is clearly visible on the skyline through the rain.  Out to the west I know there are sand dunes and sea but the rain whisks me past them.  When I arrive at Karen's she puts on her waterproof to come out to say hello and we get drenched running from the car to the house.

The kettle is on.  A bulb catalogue is on the table and we immediately talk alliums.  She asks about my brother.  There is the somewhat surprising warmth of a friendship which would never have come into existence without blogging.  Ludicrously I now cannot remember the details of how I first met her face to face and how a connection forged on the internet moved on a stage.  That's daft.  It can't be more than two or three years ago so surely I should remember what happened but I don't, she feels like an old friend, like one of the friends I made years and years ago when my children were small.

It will be dry by one o' clock, I say.  We go out into the garden wrapped in fleeces as soon as the rain goes.  It is still grey and blustery and cold but the garden is bursting with peonies and new roses and the big empty bed by the wall is full of the promise of its late summer planting when she will open for the National Garden Scheme.  The new area for plant progation and plant sales is up and running, full of plants and temptation, some bought in, most grown from seed or cuttings.  The vegetable garden, now under the supervision of shedman, is immaculate and about two weeks further along than ours.

Blown back inside,  we have lunch and then the sun comes out and things need looking at and thinking about all over again, so out we go again into the glittering garden.  We talk about my garden as well as hers, other people's gardens, other people, whether or not it is worthwhile for those who live where we do to be members of the RHS (verdict: only if you want, as I did a couple of years ago, to go back and back to a local RHS garden over six months of so, to help you with your thinking about seasons.  It is a worthy organisation but it is way too South East centric).  We laugh quite a lot.  She gives me some erigeron daisies and a huge gift of plants from Dobby's garden which includes a fabulous number of pulmonaria seedlings.  Jane (Dobby) must have known that my obsession at the moment is beautiful, complicated ground cover.   I doubled the width of what I always think of as my native tree walk, grandiosely if you saw it.  It needs the spaces between the now establishing trees and the newly planted shrubs woven together in a tapestry of shifting shape and colour.  The plants need to sit in their setting of overgrown field against the backdrop of hills and valleys.  So many things would not do.  Pulmonaria are just right.

I look at my watch for the first time in hours and the day is almost gone.  How does this happen?

Time to go.

The drive back is in sun and glittering light.  Light bounces off the sea and the estuary and the trees shimmer with rain-caught sun.  I think about stopping to take some photographs but I am keen to be home again to Ian and my father in law so, as this morning, I simply keep on driving.  You will have to imagine it.

And home to smoked mackerel and new potatoes and the marmalade cat and later a glass of red wine.

Seize the day.


  1. Just read your post after an emotionally draining day (I work in mental health). Severe storms here, one of the ancient beech tree beside us has come down, fortunately only breaking a fence. At home tomorrow, but will the weather permit any therapeutic time outside?
    As always, your post enriches and brings back to a "still centre". You always write on different levels and it's really been a tonic tonight

  2. That's sounds like a terrifically fun day, mad drive in the storm and all. It's always great to see someone else's garden and get inspired. You described it well. Can't wait to see what you will do with you gift of plants. How they will look in the tree walk. I expect pictures once they have been established.


  3. Lovely day - a gift to yourself. I know what you mean about a blog friend being like one of a long, long time. I have experienced the same feeling.

  4. What a wonderful evocative post, I could almost see the rain and the wet, and then the garden, all the things I would love to grow and cannot, here winter has come with a rush of storms and cold and rain, not that we are ever really cold in winter but 10 degrees C is cold here after being in the low 20's. I really love your blog, your gardening, the highs and lows so thank you.

  5. Lovely post. How nice to make a friend through your blog.
    I was imagining seeing the Castle. The thing I love most about Wales. Castles in towns and villages. Just love it.
    Roll on September. It's Autumn here. Crisp cold days with some sun. I love walking in this weather.

  6. I hate driving in the rain, but love the idea of the lovely friend, the kettle, and the glistening garden making the trip well worth it. We expect to be living in a high rise apartment in Seoul, and I'm already plotting what I will be growing in pots in the sunny spots. I anticipate missing my scrubby grey Texas garden as much as I'll miss my friends...

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed my drive with you through the Welsh Hills. Just what I needed. Thank you.

  8. That was very lovely Elizabeth. I do pop by the Artist Garden blog and find it very inspiring. How lovely to come home to your cat and a delicious meal x

  9. It was lovely to see you yesterday Elizabeth - and exactly what I needed. Would it surprise you to know that we first met face to face about 1 year 8 months ago - our friendship feels much older and deeper than that to me too.
    I am so glad you came - the storm was so awful that I would have understood if you didnt do the drive - but ... the sun came out in the afternoon - and the scent of peonies, the sound of laughter and chatting filled the garden. Bliss

  10. What a good day out - I can't believe you had storms and rain (still in the grips of the long Spring drought over here)

    Recently so many bloggers have posted about real life friendships forged from blogging (me included) - it's a great way to find some like minds and just have a good chin-wag.

    Sounds like you had the cobwebs blown away too!


  11. So nice to make a blog friend and then meet them and find that you were right - you would get on well and become 'old friends' in no time! Your day together sounded lovely, despite the weather.

  12. Cold and wet here too. But your words add Welsh castles to my day ;~)

  13. Liz - thank you. it is rather humbling to think that anything I write might be a tonic to someone doing a serious job like yours!
    Nora - it was terrific. Photos will follow. Might take a year or two!
    Pondside - it is extraordinary isn't it, that feeling of knowing someone so well? I have a sense that if I am ever lucky enough to meet you I might well have it with you too!

  14. Penny - hard to imagine winter round the corner when we are at just the opposite point in the calendar. think I will stick with just about to be summer, although I wish it would warm up a bit.
    Chris - hope you get to see plenty of Welsh castles. I may be biased but I think the best ones are up here in the North. Ah, just remembered Chepstow, would be hard to exclude that.
    Caroline - the idea of growing in pots rather than in a field which grows things you don't want much faster than the things you do, rather appeals!

  15. Lovely, lovely day by the sound of it. I have been round a lovely garden today and my friend and I just went made at the aliums - I really must have some this year.

  16. Perfect day , buffeted sheep , steaming kettle , peonies and all . Thankyou for sharing a glimpse with us.
    As I cycled through our gale-force gusts , I gritted my teeth (plus one) and thought of smoked mackerel and new potatoes .

  17. Glad you enjoyed your day with Karen and you are absolutely welcome to the plants. They all had to come out and I hate to throw any away if they are still alive and growing. There are more if you need them!!

  18. Wondered how your journey and day had gone after reading Karen's tweet that you were on your way over on such a wild day. Glad that you had such an enjoyable day and that you managed to get out into the garden. Lovely to see you albeit briefly at Malvern and hope that it's not another year before we meet again.

  19. Susan Heather - you are very welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.
    Pipany - you would love Karen's garden I am sure. Just your kind of place.
    Karen - it astonishes me that it was only a year and eight months ago. Amazing!

  20. Celia - I think it is particularly interesting for people who live in a rural area to be able to add to their circle of friends outside their own community. It has certainly enriched mine.
    Rachel - it was a lovely day. I hope you have had one too.
    Elephant's Eye - I never expect you to have cold and wet somehow. I suppose when we do at least we have castles as you say.

  21. Hi Liz...lovely blog.
    The route is so wild and beautiful and almost Tolkein like.
    when I have been down that way the landscape seems to echo with the presence of long ago people.

  22. I'm going to take a look at Artist's blog. Sounds like a lovely day. Lovely stuff xx

  23. Sounds like a perfect day - and a great friendship. The best always do feel almost instantly long standing. I've driven that route towards Harlech myself, in that kind of weather, many times, it made me feel very nostalgic!

  24. You always write from the heart, I felt the rain, I planted the plants and I love your cat. But I can taste the wine!

  25. It is very windy here at the moment - but no rain, so double damaging to all the plants. You can see some of them desiccating, and we just cannot water everything. It is interesting what you say about the RHS - I always feel that I am not close enough for it to be worthwhile: Wisley is an hour or so on the M25 away, Rosemoor 5 hrs.

    Pomona x

  26. I am delighted to have found your blog today. Spring here in the Pacific Northwest is long and wet, but we can't complain because of how many others suffer from tornado and other natural disasters. How I would love to see your place someday, but for now it will suffice to read all about your rich life and surroundings. You touch on so many of my feeelings and thoughts. Thank you.


  27. Hello Elizabeth..... So pleased to have discovered your blog. I love this post so delightfully written.... with such expression and description, you really convey the mood of the scene you encountered on your drive that day and, living where are in Wales, I identified so well the route you took.

    I will certainly be returning to read more. Marion - Wales UK


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