I don’t know why we have a reputation for always going to the garden centre on a Sunday. I can’t remember the last time I went. We may have been here for 20 years but we’re clearly not completely English yet.
Instead of going to the garden centre, after lunch we headed for an open garden; one which conveniently welcomes dogs and is over 20 miles from us. Still, it’s always nice to have an extended drive in Max and it was lovely driving through the countryside hoping that a tractor didn’t suddenly appear coming towards us down a narrow lane.
Fortunately there were no tractors and we arrived at the rather crowded Bere Mill Farm road along with a few dozen other, oversized cars. The field they normally used for parking was rather mud-full and generally inaccessible so people were being parked wherever they could be comfortably passed. Of course our little Max was easily accommodated and we chuckled at the big, cumbersome idiots who were stuck for parking as we happily walked down the lane.
Of course, the girls had to poo every thirty as we meandered between the muddy tracks and puddles. Fortunately we were well armed with poo bags – it really is a requirement with our two that we carry at least a dozen of them anytime we venture out. Still, eventually we reached the bridge over the Upper Test river, which heralds the entry to the farm.
Sadly, only a few weeks ago, the mill and half the house burnt down in a catastrophic fire. A lot of people would have not gone ahead with an Open Garden but the family decided it would be wrong not to go ahead and so we were greeted by blue tarpaulins and miles of scaffolding.
The mill was built in the 18th century and was principally responsible for the paper made for the first printing of the original Bank of England bank notes in 1718. (In a side note, I read the other day that when first introduced, bank notes were not trusted by anyone, most preferring the more reliable coins and hand written IOUs. And now they are slowly becoming plastic and hardly ever used because cash is gradually being phased out.)
The lack of the mill and half the house, however, did not really impact on the wonderful garden. Scattered with various artworks and early spring arrivals, it is widespread and diverse. The garden is open five times a year so we are going to try and return at different times in order to see the garden develop over the year.
One of my favourite aspects was what I called The Snore House. This is a small room, overlooking the river and sheep strewn fields, containing just a double bed. The windows slide giving open access to the countryside in the summer. It’s not hard to imagine sleeping out in the summer and waking in the rural world.
Of course I claimed it was actually for when one of the people in the house started snoring too loudly and was banished to this small room to disturb only farm animals.
Wandering around the garden with the scores of others (and a fair quantity of dogs), it felt a bit crowded but that was excellent given the fact of the fire.
We completed our visit with a stop at the farm shop. They farm and sell their own (Welsh) lamb and (Belted Galloway) beef so we decided to buy some lamb chops. This was not so easy because they’d run out. I was tempted to ask the woman to run up to the field and grab one off the hoof but demurred. We wound up with some frozen cutlets and about a tonne of beef bones for the dogs.
Actually the two bridges leading to the farm had 7.5 tonne restrictions which I was very concerned about while carrying the big bag of bones. I’m sure I heard a bit of creaking.
It was a lovely day spent in a glorious garden.
We capped the day off with a delicious dinner. For the first time I tried Thai. But not just a normal Thai. I made a keto Thai green curry chicken on cauliflower rice. It was really, really good. I was very pleased. It will become a regular on the Chez Gaz menu.