The Haunted Garden

“The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do.”

The garden can be one of the loneliest places, but sometimes…that’s just the way I like it.

The peace and tranquillity, coupled with all the sounds, smells, colours, plus all the wildlife makes it a very calming place to be. In one of my earlier posts (‘It’s a Kind of Magic’), I talked about the garden in your head, the one that holds all those wonderful memories that you can go back to; especially in times of stress. But do those memories of your past sometimes join you in the garden? Or, do the memories from that garden itself join you as well as your own?

“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” ~Marcel Proust

Having grown up knowing, playing and having worked at Hemingford Grey manor, and for those of you who don’t know, this is the place where the ‘Green Knowe’ children’s books were based and written by Lucy Boston. Books that were based, mainly around the house and garden, where the past inhabitants interacted with the present.

They were always happy memories from my childhood, visiting my Nan and Grandad at the manor where they worked and Mrs Boston, who always found the time to say hello. Then later in my teens, I was working there on work experience from school and then for a short time after school. These were feelings of great happiness, magical feelings and the feeling of being safe. The very same feelings I still sometimes get, especially when alone in the gardens I work at today. The safe feeling, the feeling that everything will be ok, especially when there are times of stress. Sometimes the feeling that you are not alone, although it is never a horrible feeling….but one of great comfort.

Are these just similar feelings you get when alone in the garden -as I have said before, the garden is a magical place- or do we get visited by the happy memories of our past…..I’d like to think it is both. I am not religious in any way, but personally I do believe that there is life after death and perhaps when we do pass on, we then keep a close eye on our loved ones. The place you then most feel their presence, is the place you are most at peace.

Saying all that it could just be that because I grew up knowing the Green Knowe stories, I am just making this all up in my head with an over-active imagination and when we die, that’s it, there is no coming back.

I heard many a ghost story from my Nan and Grandad and from Mrs Boston herself, concerning the house and garden. In the short time I worked there, I never saw anything but I most definitely felt that I was never alone. Was it just the wildlife or just my over active imagination? That is something I will never know. Like old houses, old gardens will always have stories of things that go bump in the night, the old Oak tree that they used to hang people on and that old lean to shed, that has plenty of big spiders and cobwebs….I think we all like a good ghost story.

Today I still work in a historical garden and often wonder about it’s past residents and perhaps, do they still visit? Have I walked in the same places as: Isaac Newton, King Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, A.A Milne, Lord Byron, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Ray and many more. This I will always find fascinating, but the one thing that makes me the most proud, is that I can always say that I have followed and walked in my Grandads footsteps.

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hannah
    May 14, 2013 @ 21:22:18

    Very true about the loneliness in the garden, I usually find it soothing though to just listen to my own thoughts with the birds in the background.

    Reply

  2. Libby
    May 18, 2013 @ 09:12:02

    I just recently lost my uncle and your beautiful post made me cry – in a good way.

    Reply

  3. Weeding the Web
    May 31, 2013 @ 11:25:45

    What a lovely post. You’ve made me want to find the books, and I shall store the quotes away. Questions of the afterlife aside, I think that, when we garden, we are connected more closely to a greater whole, and if you are part of something greater then it’s harder to feel lonely. David Attenborough said that people had told him his wildlife films were the only programmes they could bear to watch after a bereavement, and I think that is an illustration of feeling the same connection.

    Reply

  4. Kathryn Fleming
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 11:11:52

    I grew up loving the Green Knowe books too – and have passed on that delight to my children. Visited the house once but with too many others present it was a disappointing experience – so I’m glad that the reality of the books spills into the reality of the garden sometimes.

    Reply

  5. Julie
    Sep 21, 2014 @ 18:16:04

    Thought provoking post, being with some people can be a lonelier experience, than ever being physically alone in a garden. Besides some days its like a Disney production and even on rain sodden freezing cold days its an opportunity to stop and stare. Like you I wonder who walked on ground before me and its wonderful to feel so connected to your Grandad. My Great Grandfather was a gardener, we did not meet but I have an old photo of him in the kitchen, muddy boots and fag in hand, he makes me smile every time I look at the photo.

    Reply

  6. Shenandoah Kepler
    Sep 21, 2014 @ 18:19:37

    Reblogged this on Fleeting Architecture and commented:
    This captures some of the ways we connect and reconnect with our past, present, and future selves and family and friends.

    Reply

  7. thelonggardenpath
    Sep 21, 2014 @ 19:05:15

    A garden is not so much a lonely place, but more a solitary place, where you are free to relax, reflect and recuperate. I work using my grandad’s tools and see my brother sitting reading on the lawn, and the memories are so comforting. The magic of a garden!

    Reply

  8. Chloris
    Sep 21, 2014 @ 20:01:05

    What a great post. I loved the Green Knowe books. Hemingford Grey is a special place, how wonderful to have spent time there.
    I live in a house that is hundreds of years old and when I work in the garden I feel a connectness with the people who lived and worked here.
    I use the tools that belonged to my father and grandmother. My favourite garden fork is the one she got for her 98th the birthday. Using their tools I remember them working with them and I remember how passionate they were about their gardens just as I am about mine.

    Reply

  9. ontheedgegardening
    Sep 22, 2014 @ 08:21:50

    Wonderful post and I totally agree. Both myself and a female colleague have felt the presence of someone in the garden, not threatening but somehow comforting. I feel especially safe in the woods and have only once been scared when alone in the garden and that was due to someone definitely made of flesh and blood. Lovely writing, thank you.

    Reply

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