Singin’ in the rain (Veddw House Garden)

In the wet, Anne Wareham’s & Charles Hawes’ garden at The Veddw takes on a decidedly international flavour.

As I sang “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” with a silly French accent, I had a sudden vision of a German visitor walking up after his garden guide had disintegrated in the rain asking “Veddw I go from here?” I came across this bit of fence (which I know is representative of Welsh slate) and all I could think of was that Frasier had left the building (check the interval and closing credits on Channel 4). Then a couple from New Zealand turned up and the place got truly international.

But, corny jokes aside, here I was, on a decidedly wet day, visiting somewhere that was decidedly outdoors. And The Veddw didn’t let me down, though it let me get wet. Perhaps because of, rather than in spite of, Anne’s approach to something she hates – gardening – this place has a resilience that a lot of more flowery gardens don’t. Whilst the overhanging branches may droop a little lower (a lot in some cases), my back is still bendable and, if not enough, my knees will lower my torso a couple of inches before that nasty cracking sound.

At least in early season, this isn’t a “pretty” garden. It’s its own entity; despite whatever gardening attempts Anne may make, it has a mind of its own. You somehow feel drawn in, enveloped by something that doesn’t want to let you go. You walk up a path, thinking you’re following the plan (I printed one out from the Veddw web site and laminated it in anticipation of rain) and suddenly find yourself back where you started. Just as Frodo and his companions left The Shire and entered the Enchanted Forest so you enter an enchanted garden. There are no elves here but there are loads of surprises.

Did I “get anything” from the garden; ideas to take back to my own? Definitely no. Because The Veddw relies on scale. Even the “formal” planting areas sit within the envelope and work only in their setting. Masses of ground elder – a pernicious weed to most gardeners – become prized plants. Alchemilla mollis runs riot but somehow seems to have listened to Anne saying “Don’t grow there” and has voluntarily accepted some limitations to its spread.

This isn’t a manicured garden. If manicured is what you want you definitely don’t want to visit The Veddw. It’s wild. It’s rampant. You either love it or hate it. If you’re lucky you might manage to love some places and tolerate others. Maybe if my first visit had been on a sunny day I’d have felt very differently about this garden. In fact I think I would definitely have had more mixed feelings. But in the rain, the garden sang. Even when the rain was heavy, it sort of purred and harmonised with the birdsong, the only other sound you could hear.

In one area there were some “notices”. Book plugs of course but also a cutting from a newspaper. Seems someone had the temerity to suggest that one way to improve the garden was to demolish the house! I took no direct photographs of that as it somehow felt intrusive. But the house does sit well in this garden like which it rambles. It feels right.

At one point the rain got particularly heavy and I sheltered in what might be an old garage. Even in that, the marks on the wall left behind by removal of some climber had their own certain charm.

Maybe because The Veddw is what it is and is not what it isn’t, as I left it tugged at me, pulled a bit of me out and said it was keeping hold of that until my next visit. And I must be honest, this is the first garden I have visited to which I wanted to return as soon as I closed the gate behind me. Only once before in my life has a place exerted that pull on me and that place wasn’t a garden. But that’s another story altogether.

I plan to revisit the garden again later when, hopefully it will be dry and I’ll be able to have a proper look at it, But I’m really glad that my first visit was to hear it singin’ in the rain.

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