What to do when seeking inspiration?
On a recent visit to Durham, I decided to seek out Old Durham Gardens. I had known of the existence of these 350 year old gardens for a long time, but they’re a little off the beaten track. When I arrived, on a warm and sunny Wednesday morning, I discovered that the gardens only open between 2 and 4pm on Thursdays and Saturdays in Summer. After initial disappointment (and a peer through the gates), I discovered that there was more than enough to keep me happy from the outside.
The old walls themselves are full of characterful whirls and sworls, causing the eye to drift from the gentle planting. The place has a past and the walls reflect that. In the 12th century this was a rectory. The walls were added in the 1700s to enable the cultivation of south facing fruit trees, and in the 1750s music concerts were held within. Glamorous times were ahead when the gardens were owned by an artist and icecream maker, Victor Mazzini Walton. The gardens were described in 1921 as having tennis courts, putting green, running track and a tea garden, and dances were held at weekends.
After the Second World War, Mr. Walton sold up and the gardens fell into decline. Happily, in 1985, Durham City Council purchased Old Durham and began a programme of restoration. When this lapsed, Friends of Old Durham was born and the gardens today are run by this group of volunteers.
After wandering the boundaries, it’s down the steps, and a gentle meander back to the river.
I hope you enjoyed my Saturday amble. Next weekend I’ll be in Bristol for the Hot Air Balloon festival and I suspect I’ll be too busy to join you. I hope so, anyway!