Monday, 7 March 2016

'The kiss of the sun for pardon...'*

This is Wells Cathedral, in Somerset. It's a very beautiful cathedral, with all sorts of treasures and interesting features, and to one side of it is another treasure. This is the garden of the Bishop's Palace.

In Wells, as the name suggests, there is a lot of water - it springs from deep inside the Mendip Hills. Little streams run down either side of the main street, and the palace is surrounded by a moat, the home of swans and ducks. (There is even a bell, which the swans are supposed to ring when they want food.) The garden is in two parts: one enclosed by the  moat, the other outside. You never know what you're going to find, when you go through a door in a wall and enter a garden...

Here to greet you is a pilgrim - one of many who must have come here over the centuries. This one was created by David Backhouse.

And here are two winged creatures. Both angels? Or is the first, with its dramatic, iridescent wings, a dragon?

And here is a king's head. He looks as if he's been carved from a nearby fallen tree. When the ivy winds round him, perhaps he'll transform into a Green Man. His face has that look about it already.

If you climb the bank, sprinkled at the moment with primroses, you come to this bastion - and you realise that this wasn't always a place of reflection and tranquillity. In 1642, this country had its religious wars. Somerset was a puritan stronghold, and the king sent troops to restore his rule. They fired at the palace from a nearby hill, and shots were fired in return from this very place. Those were turbulent years.

Here's the moat. The bank is covered with miniature narcissi, snowdrops and primroses.

You leave the inner garden - which at the moment is resting, covered with a thick layer of compost to give the roses a good start - and cross over a bridge to the outer area.

Here, we are in what used to be called the Camery. It was the Bishop's orchard. Now snowdrops grow in profusion under the trees - and look, there's a dragon!

Beside the Camery are the community allotments.

Quite a view to admire as you look up from your digging or planting.

I thought this corner would be the perfect setting for Mr MacGregor and Peter Rabbit.

On Saturday, I had the gardens almost to myself. I love this time of year in a garden. Things are just stirring. The main event is yet to come; later in the season, the empty beds will be full of colour and scent and movement, and the paths will be busy with people. I'll be back then and I know it will be beautiful. But I think I'll miss the solitude, the sense that growth is about to happen - that everything is possible - of early spring.

* I'm sure you'll know the popular rhyme:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth
You are nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.


  1. So lovely, We need places - and times - like this.

  2. Beautiful! I visited Wells briefly on my way from Bath to Glastonbury, many years ago. The bus timetable meant I only had a short time there, but I did go into the cathedral. I vaguely recall a clock where two knights come out and joust on the hour. That was in Wells, wasn't it?

  3. Yes, Sue. It has a claim to be the second oldest working clock in the world - it's 14th century. See here for a video clip!

  4. Sue, what a beautiful post! Loved it. I've visited Wells too and, like Sue B, admired the ancient clock - but I never saw the Bishop's Garden. What a treat I missed.
    My Great Grandfather - in an aside that has nothing to do with anything - was born in Wells, the son of a stone-mason. By the age of 16, he was in the Black Country which, with its dark Satanic factories, probably suited him better.

  5. I think I'd quite like to have been a stone mason. The heights would be a bit of a problem, though. And probably the cold.