Yellow Wednesday / World Book Day. To explain, my niece Jenna has a rare brain condition and communicates mostly using symbols. My sister tells me Wednesday is a Yellow Day. Today she and I had a frantic phone call about her trying to make an outfit for tomorrow’s World Book Day. There’s more chance of her cooking Christmas dinner than stitching something together. But I did get us talking about being kids and our favourite books.
I’m still undecided on mine. But one of my earliest memories of walls comes from when I was about ten, travelling from Leeds to Aberywyth on holiday to the welsh coast. Sat on sleeping bags, squished between bags and a ridiculous amount of tinned goods mum had packed, I sat for six hours listening to my little sister read chapter after chapter of Frances Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Orphan Mary, sent to her Uncle’s Yorkshire Manor, unloved and lonely. Until, she discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. With the help she finds the key and enters the abandoned garden. Later she meets, argues with and persuades the sickly Colin (her mean cousin) to go outside. What they achieve and discover together is magic.
That holiday my sister was obsessed with keeping everything a secret, finding secret hiding places, picking and poking at everything. I watched my dad teach her about wild plants, how the seeds of many can be found sheltering in stone walls, waiting to germinate and thrive, how lichens choose the bear faced exposed stone in the pollution free countryside. I vaguely remember asking lots of questions, such as, how long the walls had been there, how did they stand up, who built them, how did the animals live inside? We were both puzzled and transfixed. It wasn’t just the funny looking furry green lichens growing on the stone, or the tiny seeds hiding, but animals too; the shrews, hedgehogs, mice, voles, bats, toads, slow worms, hares. Inside, living in their own world, sheltering and traveling across the countryside.
Each year from then I’ve learnt more and more about dry stone walls, the handling and shaping of stone, conservation and the habitats they nurture. The simplicity of their design, how they represent the areas geology, that they’re not only practical but add meaning to the countryside and I don’t think I’m alone in appreciating that beauty either; especially judging by the amount of Royal Horticultural Society medals that have been won in show gardens with dry stone walls being a key feature.
I’ve put together a showcase of some (in my opinion) the most beautiful walls that remind me of her book. We offer a range of stone craftsmanship, features, walls and bespoke designs to help you create your secret garden!
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