Despite receiving much acclaim for his book, ‘The Garden in the Clouds; from Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise’, well known columnist and author, Antony Woodward declares an anti-interest in gardening. “My mother was a botanist and my dad, a scientist, was also potty about gardening , so my childhood experiences included being dragged around famous gardens, with aching legs whilst they banged on about Latin names. I loathed plants and the whole plant Kingdom,” he admits.
“Then, when a little older, I had the most amazing intimate moment with the breathtaking and wild landscape of Scotland; from that very moment I became passionate about wild spaces and hills.”
“My mother was in a wheelchair whilst I was growing up so access to anywhere and everywhere was always a huge issue which I think deepened my yearning for wild, inaccessible places. Now, a garden does evoke powerful emotions for me, not so much on a horticultural level but there is a deep resonance based on baggage picked up in life.”
“As an adult living in London, I longed for a hut in the hills and my wife Vez and I finally found and bid on a remote farmhouse in the Black Mountains. The day we heard it was ours, Vez gave birth to our first child and I was actually more excited about the house than our child.”
“Although we originally we tried to do the awful thing of having it as a weekend place, all I wanted to do was immerse myself in it and we eventually left London for our new Welsh home. I started to write about it as just having it still wasn’t enough; the shackles I had felt all my life had loosened but I wanted more. I wanted to consummate my relationship with the landscape, with my own paradise.”
Antony and Vez worked incredibly hard to create their Garden in the Clouds (or a Not Garden as it was lovingly referred to) for inclusion in the prestigious National Garden Schemes’ Yellow book and will be open to the public in July for the 5th year. Anthony will also be talking about Tair Ffynnon at Hay Festival later this month. “Talks are a relatively new thing,” he muses, the first one sold out quickly, so I am already booked to do a second.”
As well as being a columnist for the Times, Observer and Telegraph, he has also penned two other books, ‘Propellerhead’ and ‘A Wrong Kind of Snow’; as a gardener, I obviously couldn’t resist asking about the latter.
Antony explains, “I wrote it with a colleague, Rob Penn (who is also speaking at Hay Festival) who used to cycle into work in Abergavenny every day, usually arriving drenched and exhausted. We wanted to get a more interesting angle on the weather than other books we’d seen and as he’d studied history and I’d done geography, it all sort of meshed quite well. Britain is probably the most weather affected country in the world,” he continues, “every aspect of our culture, from music to architecture, is structured or inspired by the weather.”
You can visit www.thegardenintheclouds.co.uk for more details and great photos.