Our new friend Deb described our place as 'a Sleeping Beauty' of a house when she came to visit. What didn't strike me at the time, and what makes this analogy almost too perfect is that in the original Brothers Grimm version of the fairy tale, the narcoleptic princess was called 'Briar Rose'. She's a clever woman is Deb....and I'm a bit slow on the uptake.
It's deepest winter and there's a fairy story rose in full bloom - through horizontal rain and sleet and the wind fair whistling through the garden it still shoots skyward. Our house and gardens haven't been left to sleep for a hundred years, but what we're learning is that the will for nature to reclaim what's hers is fierce.
It's been only 5 years since the council's Briarcourt Garden project relocated. It was, by all accounts, a vibrant, bustling place where people with learning disabilities would work together each day to keep the polytunnels and beds stocked with homegrown plants and flowers destined for hanging baskets and table centrepieces. We found a few precious photographs from those days and the plot is almost unrecognisable. Now not only have brambles and sedge marauded through the beds and pathways, the human echoes have stopped reverberating - when we talk in the garden the words drift off in the wind.
The gap between past and present is probably most striking in the polytunnels. Once the horticultural heart of the garden centre; concrete slabs on the floor have been forced apart by weeds and the crowns of rogue tree saplings brush the roofs. On the day we move in, we're told that foxes have been bedding down on black sacks of office shredding stored in one of the tunnels.
But not all human traces have been lost. A locker still stands proud, though now completely out of context; alongside brushes, faded fertiliser packets, broken wheelbarrows, and an old salt tin. It's worth the struggle through the brambles to uncover the secret wine bottle path that has been lovingly laid out too.
Sadly the slashes and gaping doorways are also evidence of the impact of people on the garden - I'm disgusted and bemused to find out that vandals raided the garden centre back in the day and wonder if this had a part to play in the project eventually moving on. So sad.
In spite of this, the garden fills us with hope. We've got lots of decisions to make - not least about the balance we strike between nurturing the wildlife and bringing back some of the human spirit we see in the hand-crafted path and the photographs.
We're open to ideas....