When I was a little girl my Mum’s oldest sister, Aunty Nan, and her husband Uncle Francis bought a large building plot in the village of Alsager in Cheshire. They both worked as lecturers at the local Teacher Training College and had been living on campus in half a converted Nissan Hut. Even before they started building their new home Francis, who taught Rural Studies, began to construct and plant a garden. Looking back it must have been really hard for him to live in that hut with no outside space to call his own.
We visited them fairly regularly and once the new bungalow was completed I fell in love with the garden. There was a large and very deep pond which had been dug for some purpose when the land was still a field and which Francis incorporated into the garden and a huge weeping willow hanging over it which made a tunnel to hide in. A pump fed water to the top of an artificial stream which nonetheless looked very natural. A shrubbery between the house and the road was another place to hide – even though no-one was looking for me! But what I liked most was that I could spend hours exploring the network of paths and finding different ways to go from place to place. Of course Francis had designed them to allow himself easy access to each place he needed to work but because they interconnected they made an interesting challenge for a young explorer.
I always wanted a garden with paths like that but small suburban gardens do not lend themselves to lots of paths or you end up with tiny spaces for the plants! Even in the big space here there was, for a long time, only a figure of 8. The top loop went from the drive to the veg patch with a spur to the Orchard, then through the soft fruit and the woodland back to the sheds and behind the house to the drive. The other loop went down to the cabin, then to the stream garden and back up. Boring!
Then a year or so ago I had a digger in to clear the stream garden and the excess earth was used to make 2 new paths, one up to the sheds and the other along the stream to join up with the top loop at the edge of the woodland. Now there were choices. And a couple of weeks ago the Carmarthenshire Parmaculture Group cleared a path through the woodland I rent from my neighbour to extend the top loop. (read about it here Many Hands) A little more work by me clearing the overgrown section of the top loop and Yes! I have a network! Now there are choices and I can walk the dogs different circular routes making them longer or shorter as the whim takes me. It has taken over 50 years but my childhood dream has come true.