Early this clear, crisp, autumn morning I walked up to Furzey Gardens and back. My purpose was to find Martin to ask him if it would be possible to arrange a visit to Minstead Lodge for a friend. Although Martin set up the establishment in that building, he now works from the gardens in a liaison role. He was the person to ask.
He wasn’t there. A welcoming notice informed visitors that the place was closed for the winter, but we were invited to stroll around if we wished. I did wish. Seated on a bench was a young woman who was waiting for Pete, who was to meet her there. She had seen Martin leaving as she arrived. She didn’t know whether he would be back.
Well, it was a beautiful day so I went for a wander. Jackie’s and my last visit had been in June when the rhododendrons were in stunning colour. For an array of dazzling reds Furzey Gardens could not compete with Exbury which we visited three days ago, but it did its best.
Having a rather smaller footprint than Exbury, it is the variation provided by the winding paths, with steps of different materials that is Furzey’s charm. It is as if one is wandering from room to room.
The large pond was looking pretty well cared for. Maintenance work clearly continues during the closed season, and in fact a group of young men I took to be trainees for that very purpose entered the gardens as I left.
The original house, now a retreat building, has a thatched roof, as do various wooden shelters distributed throughout the plot. Fairies leave signs of their presence in all kinds of nooks and crannies, often inside these constructions. Children leave letters and mementos for the little folk. The containers they bring have often been decorated with drawings and stickers.
One of the thatched buildings is rather new. It forms part of the Chelsea Garden. During our June visit this prize-winning exhibit had not yet been fully returned to its birthplace. It now has a prime position above the pond. The handmade ornamental leaves winding among the branches forming the walls of this little house are equally as resplendent as any of those the sunlight picks out on the trees outside.
Martin had not returned to the gardens by the time I was about to leave. Neither had Pete. Noura – for that was the young woman’s name – was still waiting. We got talking. She offered to take a message for Martin. When I explained the purpose of my visit, she held up her hand and said: ‘You have come to the right person’. Just a week into her new post as head of care for the training project, she was here to familiarise herself with the gardens link. She had entered my mobile number into her phone for Martin. Now she kept it for herself and gave me hers, so that I could confirm the time of the proposed visit. The chosen date is her day off, but she will come in to show us around.
A chance meeting?
Still struggling with painful sinuses, I dozed away much of the afternoon. Apparently we have quite a widespread wandering virus. Since I collected mine in France it may cover a greater area than this small Island and the Isle of Wight where Kirk and many others are suffering.
Our evening meal was Jackie’s sausage and bacon casserole; mashed potato and swede; brussels sprouts, cauliflower and runner beans, followed by her spicy bread pudding and custard. She drank Hoegaarden, whilst I enjoyed Isla Negra reserva 2013, an excellent Chilean red wine.