When you are looking forward to something as much as I was looking forward to my trip to Wales you often set yourself up for disappointment.
Not in this case - I loved my trip from start to finish, despite the ridiculous amount of driving involved.
I loved it so much that I am going to split posting about it into 3.
One of the main motivations of going to Wales was to see the garden that Arne Maynard is creating around his renaissance house Alt-y-bela near Usk in Monmouthshire - over the 15 years that I have been interested in gardens I have found myself consistently drawn to gardens which turn out to have been designed by him and I thought that it would be great to see this garden right at the beginning of its creation.
Alt-y-bela is at the base of a valley - somehow managing to be a sun trap, rather than gloomy as so many valley bases are. I stayed at a B&B on the valley slopes and walked down via the old drovers road - so this is how I approached the house through a magical wood of white wood anenomes.
The front of the house is the only part which is gardened at the moment - a curving stone wall separates a small garden area from the drive and tall airy espaliered apple trees enclose it - there is a long curving, rough hewn oak bench for basking on and a bed of thyme and old lizard tulips in a gritty bed. Everything is pared down and beautiful.
The trees - in full blossom this week - were light and airy and I expect that they will continue to look great right the way through the year - particularly when the branches are jewelled with the small russet apples.
The back garden and the drive area is all still mud. Beautifully sculpted into curving terraces, but mud none-the-less. Arne's vision, laid before us in sweeping gestures, is of a high octane meadow, with astrantia, dark leaved cow parsley and geranium phaem flowering amidst fine meadow grasses (the mix in the neighbouring field has been analyzed and recreated).
It was wonderful to be there at this stage, and I shall definitely return to see the vision realised. I love people with passion.