Would you be surprised if I said a letter was the catalyst for me becoming a gardener? I mean, I’ve always loved gardening but I’d never really had the confidence before to think I could do it as a living, so when the letter eldest had written all in beautiful alternate rainbow colour writing to our friends in Cornwall took off from the #BigJoinIn table we’d set up in the garden to try and recreate a bit of Purbeck Valley Folk Festival during Lockdown 2020, I hadn’t imagined it would start me down such a lovely route (I want to say up the garden path), and one which got me wondering why I hadn’t done this years ago.
There we were braving out a sunny but very gusty summer’s day in the back garden when whoosh, up went the letter above the rooftops and chimneys and somewhere off down the street. We searched and searched for it. Youngest even did a 300 metre square circuit around the local roads and houses to see if we could find it but no joy. It was only after texting the neighbour to ask if we could search there (still no luck) that I wondered if they needed a bit of help with the garden and that’s where it all started.
I want to say my admiration of a certain Mr Titchmarsh is no secret, although only a handful of people have been privy to my “Dear Alan” triology (probably don’t ask!?) but in fact a love of gardening started way before we got hooked on the fabulous transformation gardening TV show that was Ground Force. Alan, Charlie and Tommy would go to someone’s house and completely redo their garden as a surprise. It had the outdoors, nature, creativeness, kindness, suspense, not too much jeopardy, and especially the lovely Mr T. If you ever watched it you’d understand the possible fascination of a nation but it was how the garden looked that interested me. I do worry that I’m a bit of a nuisance by writing probably more than I should’ve to Alan Titchmarsh, although if he will reply…
Anyway long before all that I remember when I was little a small patch of earth my Mum and I dug at the end of the garden for me to grow pumpkins and carrots in. I’m always amazed at the wonder of germination which in fact still gets me every time. Like letter writing, gardening has always been a constant over the years. I went into Outdoor Education as a career (something else I feel passionately about) but the pandemic rather scuppered any of the freelance hours at my old place of work and figuring out what to do for a living was getting a worry.
Even having done lots of gardening projects over the years the penny still didn’t drop. During university days a friend and I renovated an old genetics garden at our teacher training campus to try and show trainees the wonders of gardening in the school setting, I ran a gardening project for local school children at Leeson House for five years between 2009-2013, and I took on an allotment for a few years during my early 40s, but as it turns out all I needed was a little flyaway letter to show me the way. That feels altogether like it was meant to be, in my mind.
So now I get to use my old Mountain Leader rucksack to carry around all my gardening tools instead of spare clothes, maps and emergency rations when I’m without car, and get to help people with their lovely gardens. Occasionally if I’m gardening for a friend I have been known to leave a little letter somewhere for them to find on garden bench or washing line, and securely attached so as to not blow away! We never did find out what happened to the other one.