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While watching the caryatids shimmy


Today is quite a momentous day.

It is the beginning of the end of Blackpitts as we exchanged contracts today are due to move out on the 13th August.

It is the right thing to do as the time has come to move on: our children are grown up, the house is too big and it would be exciting to make a new garden somewhere else but at the same time it is hugely emotional.

We first saw this place on a rainy saturday in 1991. It is right next door to my parents-in-law’s house but, in the twenty odd years in which Celestria had lived there at that time she had never been through the little wooden gate into the neighbouring farmyard. This was mostly because the farmer was quite scary – he was given to nailing dead foxes to various barns and shouting at people.

We wandered in to find a courtyard of ramshackle barns surrounded by broken concrete and junk. The decision was almost immediate: we would build a house, a garden and a life in this unappealing farmyard. We were young and enthusiastic so, after various hiccups and minor crises, we built Blackpitts. Our younger son was born in the house soon after it was completed in 1994.

The garden came after the house: there was no real design. We decided that we had to do something as the place was just mud and concrete, the children could not really go outside without tetanus shots and there was a plank leading across an old sheep dip to the front door. I designed the garden while driving a dumper truck full of topsoil around the place. “Let’s put a bed here” ( lots of topsoil), “some grass here” (less topsoil) “and a terrace about here” (no topsoil). Unorthodox but it seemed to work in the end as this garden is delicious. I can look up as I write this and see the buds bursting and the bees buzzing: sometimes it is so heartbreakingly gorgeous that I want to weep.

And now we are leaving and that makes me want to weep as well.

It is not just the house and garden which we built from a very unpromising start but a whole lifestyle. Apart from all the obvious family stuff (the lawns upon which the children played, the beech columns that became goalposts, the dogs and cats buried around the place etc, etc). It is the plants that we brought back from such-and-such a nursery, the core of many lectures which I have given over the years and even the name of my website and this blog.

Blogging from Blackpitts was born here in 2006. Do I rename it? What will it become next? What is our next incarnation? Where will we live? In what?

All these and many other questions (like”Do I move all those bricks? Or leave them here?” or “What will happen to Lovey and Dovey?”) hover over our heads.

All of them will require answers. At some point.

37 Comments Post a comment
  1. Have only just read this. Best wishes with your move. You don’t say where you are going and various people have offered suggestions. Surely you aren’t simply selling up then looking around for where to go next? But, if you are, Dorset has a lot to recommend it.


    September 24, 2014
  2. Marge #

    We moved from Cornwall after 22yrs, 3 children and the taming of 2 acres under which we have left dogs, cats and other animals. The new folks said they would look after it – I’m told they haven’t – but I smile to myself when I imagine nature creeping back in as elderberries ripen, walnuts fall, and Bramleys weigh down the boughs.
    I miss it, yes, but now we get to do it all over again.

    September 17, 2014
  3. Frances Fairegarden #

    Here’s to a wonderful new journey, James. I am also moving in August to a new home and a garden yet to be created. It is scary, wonderful and sad, but we have learned much and will use that to our advantage. Best wishes. xoxoxo

    July 29, 2014
  4. janerowena #

    You did say some time ago that you thought it would soon be time to move on, but I really hoped that it wouldn’t happen. I think you should have a preservation order put on your garden though – my best and favourite one (we have moved fairly often) was bulldozed the week after we moved out. They told us they loved it, I thought it was safe, but they told neighbours that they didn’t have a clue how to care for it.

    July 21, 2014
  5. And I never got to visit! A new challenge will be invigorating no doubt. And someone lucky gets a wonderful garden…

    July 16, 2014
  6. Life is always moving. Even if you make the decision to stand still and stay the same, you have to do things to adapt because the background is always changing.

    You’ve got so many beautiful pictures and memories to savour, now you’ll be making more in another place. What an opportunity – perhaps a little reinvention? Do you have a garden alter-ego?
    Whatever you touch is always brilliant and lovely James because that’s what you are.
    Big hugs to you, Celestria and the family.
    Lila x

    July 16, 2014
  7. Arabella Sock #

    Well I suppose that is one way to eventually get some blog comments – drop a bombshell on us!
    How shall we know how to picture you if not with a Blackpitts background? Some of us are getting old and can’t deal with change as well as we used to.

    I always hate the idea of moving but once the deed is done it’s onwards and upwards and no looking back. I think we have outgrown Brighton but I’m not sure where else I would feel the same sense of identity.

    Please make sure that when you ‘launch’ your new garden my ‘ladies’ are there to help you. We will bring cupcakes.

    June 30, 2014
  8. Stephen Byrne #

    Blimey. Gulp.
    Hope the next place is a corker and that you’re endlessly happy to boot.
    Best wishes.

    June 20, 2014
  9. I can only imagine what you are going through wrenching yourself away from such a memory filled lovely garden – hope the move goes smoothly and that you have great and new adventures at your next one, kind regards, Ursula

    June 14, 2014
  10. I often think of a line from The History Boys when faced with a life event like this …’Pass the parcel. That’s sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it, and pass it on. ‘…

    June 10, 2014
    • I know. We are passing it on and trying to be frightfully Zen about whatever will happen to it: the next people will love it in a different way.

      June 11, 2014
  11. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. I won’t do it. You can’t make me. I’ll watch the garden disintegrate around us but I couldn’t leave here.

    For the reasons you mention and more. Brave man and no doubt wise man, but I do truly hope your heart doesn’t bleed forever more. Xxx

    June 8, 2014
    • As Paul Simon didn’t quite put it ‘Just drop off the key, and set yourself free’…

      June 9, 2014
    • Thank you Anne. I think we will survive to do it all again.
      But I dread walking away..

      June 11, 2014
  12. Come north, young man. So much land, rich soil, sweet rain, so much potential…..

    June 8, 2014
    • It’s full of bloody Northerners, though.

      June 11, 2014
  13. I really feel for you and, having gone through something similar four years ago, know how many memories are held in plants (who gave them, named them, where they were from) and places (the trees the kids climbed & spied on visitors). But, four years later we’ve had the excitement of making a new garden, of further developing ideas, of experimenting and changing, and are happy. You’ll make somewhere new and special, different and happy too.

    June 7, 2014
  14. It’s a wrench when you move isn’t it. We are thinking of moving soon too. We haven’t been at ours nearly so long as you, but I find the prospect of a new garden thrilling. I wonder if you are staying in the same area and ‘downsizing’ or planning on moving somewhere else, maybe settling down by the coast. Blogging from Blackpool, perhaps?

    June 7, 2014
    • Blogging from Blackpool (or, indeed, the Blackwall Tunnel) may be a step too far.

      June 11, 2014
  15. brotchie #

    Like shaking a kaleidoscope. May you get a beauteous new pattern when all the bits settle.

    And, speaking of Lovey & Dovey, my garden has been infiltrated by three ducks this spring. I have used the Alexander-Sinclair Fowl Naming Convention, but (so far) not out loud in inappropriate circumstances.

    June 7, 2014
    • I like the idea of a kaleidoscope.
      My naming convention works with Ducks, Chicks, Cats and Dogs but is not so effective with Giraffes.

      June 11, 2014
  16. jackie hiebert #

    I still think of a garden I left behind me 8 years ago. Heart rendering, as a good friend of mine would have said. What I had to learn after we left it, was that a garden lasts only as long as that gardener is there. Hard one to learn, that. Wish you all the best in the move and all the decisions.

    June 7, 2014
    • I am under no illusions that this garden will ever be the same again. Change is inevitable.

      June 11, 2014
  17. Lawks! As someone who has considered moving from here for over 30 years I have nothing but admiration! However, the ‘Ladies That Launch’ will have to re-arrange ourvisiting schedule now….sigh! Bon chance.

    June 6, 2014
    • You Ladies blew your chances.

      June 11, 2014
  18. Gillian #

    What a wrench, James. But I hope you take away many beautiful memories and go on to make another memory-filled garden. Bonne chance. xx

    June 6, 2014
  19. If I’d written this blog you would have commented with something like: You are clearly getting on you old fucker and have but one house move before you enter The Home so choose well or we will all laugh at you.

    However, I am more sensitive and empathetic: Hell’s teeth, so many memories tied to a place. It is a very happy place you have created and the people who follow will get to enjoy that specialness too. On the downside, you may never get the chance to avenge the good hiding I gave you on the snooker table.

    I hope it all goes well and love to all the AS’s x

    June 6, 2014
    • I worry that the picture of you “giving me a good hiding on the snooker table” may give some people the wrong idea about our relationship. I only do that sort of thing with Cleve West.

      June 6, 2014
      • He does have a magnificent cueing action

        June 6, 2014
  20. So hard. Having gone through something similar ourselves, I can empathize.

    June 6, 2014
    • Thank you. I am quite enjoying throwing things away at the moment. The excitement may soon pall…

      June 11, 2014
  21. Alice A #

    I’m sure you’ll never forget those happy memories, even when elsewhere. Here’s to the memories yet to be made x

    June 6, 2014
  22. VP #

    I will miss Blackpitts too James, but I’ll still enjoy the future adventures strewn along your path.

    May you find/build another place and garden fit to make you weep.


    June 6, 2014
    • There will always be adventures.

      June 11, 2014
  23. Simon S #

    Heart wrenching but the hope of more adventures ahead.
    Best of luck to you both.

    June 6, 2014

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