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Secret Gardens

Posted Aug 06 2009 10:35pm

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the Mulberry tree in Charlton Park, reputedly the oldest in Britain. I wonder how many people know that behind what used to be the old stable block of Charlton House, the large Jacobean manor house that stands at the front of the park, there is a series of walled gardens.

They're hidden away, behind trees and bushes, and you could easily never find them even if you walked through the main part of the park every day. I discovered them as a child - my grandparents used to take me there, and at the time one was a rose garden (which my grandmother loved) and another had a long rectangular goldfish pond with waterlilies, where I would watch the fish for what then seemed like hours (probably about five minutes!)

The rose garden and goldfish pond are long gone, and there are five gardens not two. In addition to the two large rectangular ones which I remember, there are also three smaller, square gardens. I don't think many people go there. There were a couple of elderly people sitting quietly in the sunshine, but they were almost deserted.

I could have stayed in the gardens all morning. Each one seemed more peaceful than the next.

They are designed slightly differently one from the other. Some are quite formal, with neatly cut grass and shrubs. Others have huge swathes of large, dramatic looking plants and grasses. One has been designed as a butterfly garden. and in one, tucked in amongst the other plants, someone was growing their courgettes.

I loved this central bed with its anvil-like central sculpture and these wonderful tall lilac flower spikes. Can anyone identify them?

But my favourite was one of the smaller gardens which had this intriguing little gateway. I could have sat quietly in there for hours - except that you couldn't help but want to know what was on the other side ....

... the Amnesty International Peace Garden.

And that just about summed it up really. The gardens were a little oasis of peace and tranquillity where you could forget you were in the middle of London, forget you had work to to, and forget you had problems to solve. I'm glad I found them.

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