Life is moving so fast. Tomorrow marks our second anniversary at Briarcourt and this year has whipped by at twice the speed of the first.
Our moving-in anniversary has an extra-special significance for me. Since 2009, Christmas has been one of the darkest parts of my year. It really should have been the lightest and happiest - cause for a double celebration: a family time with presents, pantomimes, and nativity plays.....and a birthday. Our Christmas baby should have arrived 7 years ago, but sadly (s)he must have inherited my appalling sense of direction, took a wrong turning, and ended up growing in my left fallopian tube. In spite of reassurances from the gynae team at The Royal Sussex in Brighton that our chances of future parenthood were still strong after the surgery, it just wasn't meant to be.
In all honesty, some very dark times followed, but our pre-Christmas move to Briarcourt in 2014 not only offered us the opportunity to re-frame December from a time of aching loss to a new beginning; our wonderful renovation project also helped me regain a sense of purpose and offered somewhere for us both to invest the love and care we would have put into raising our family.
As Huddersfield Christmas number two approaches, we're hoping that another new adventure awaits us in the new year. We've been mulling over for a while now how to move forwards with our beautiful (if a little 'informal' in places!!) gardens. To have inherited the infrastructure that goes with a day centre horticulture project is pretty special...two large polytunnels, hard landscaping to suit wheelchairs, outdoor lavs, a portakabin complete with sink, and the remnants of electrics and irrigation systems are at our disposal. I'm sure Monty Don would make light work of the space....A gilded peacock garden? A Peruvian terrace? But we lack his imagination, gardening nowse, BBC budget, and behind-the-scenes gardening team. With Dunc's dad and step-mum's help, we de-docked and -brambled one of the original growing beds last autumn, and I've enjoyed a first stab at growing veg this year. With this, alongside creating potager beds (I'm told that's what you call them.....mixed flowers, fruit and veg, anyway) from the grass triangles at the front of the house, I've come to love the magic of watching seeds grow into actual flowering, fruiting, bee cafes. Frustratingly, I've generally forgotten to harvest much of what I've grown - blinded by the surprise that there is a hint of green in my fingers, and fascinated to watch the full cycle of life from seed.....to seed.
Dunc has also spent more time in the garden this year and together we've extended our ambitions beyond keeping on top of grass growth and leaf fall. After initial eye-watering quotes for re-skinning the tattered polytunnels, we took a deep breath and embarked on doing it ourselves, with the help of YouTube and moral support from more experienced gardening friends. It turned out to be possibly the most satisfying piece of renovation we've managed so far. With the bit between his teeth and another visit from his dad, Dunc has also lovingly crafted a mini-city of wooden composting boxes, and now has a favela of raised beds in his sights.
But to what end? It's all well and good us dabbling around, but it doesn't sit well that we can't take full advantage of the space. It seems wasted if it's just for us. A passing conversation with a florist friend and an appeal from the local 'One Community' charity foundation set some wheels in motion.....and suddenly we're here:
I will be spending the rest of December and January doing my best to pull together a costed project plan for 'Clem's Garden', with Dunc's help, the support of some volunteer business mentors from Natwest bank, and anyone else I can beg and borrow advice from*. I then get a chance to pitch for some start-up funding at 'A Dragon's Den Style Event'......
Our vision is to start a not for profit social enterprise run by and for people who don't have children or grandchildren to share their care, nurturing and experience with. By everyone working together to grow and sell organic cut flowers for a designated charity, we hope to help in some small way to provide a vehicle to help address the epidemic of loneliness, boredom, and low self esteem too many people face, especially in later life. As well as bringing happiness to the people who will enjoy our beautiful seasonal flowers, we hope to cultivate friendships and confidence in the growers who volunteer here. Without chemicals to contend with and the carbon that comes with shipping in and refrigerating imported flowers, we hope the bees and the rest of the wildlife at Briarcourt will prosper too.
........And who is Clem? You might guess......If they were here today, we'd share a Sat Nav and who knows.... maybe ginger hair and Dunc's passion for cycling.
*Please get in touch if there is any practical help or advice you're willing to share. Thank you so much.