For two weeks prior to this weekend I'd been trying to find out just where this garden was and what the opening times were, but an extensive search on the internet came up with absolutely nothing. I knew that a big company owned and managed a large area of land which included the garden, but the company itself had closed down and several phone calls to their only listed number gave me nothing but a bleep followed by silence. Even the few locals I'd asked over the weekend had never heard of the garden so there was nothing for it but to take a chance, drive up to where this company's buildings were situated and try to find somebody who might know something, though I could possibly be on a wild goose chase.
When I finally got there the first person I asked was a security guard in a little 'office' close to the company's site entrance. He knew the garden existed but didn't know where it was so he directed me to the reception office down the road - and that's when I came up against what must have been two of the most unhelpful people I've ever met. They knew about the garden, didn't know where it was though they had a key to the gate (?), said it wasn't open until August, and looked at me as if I was completely bonkers when I insisted it should be open this weekend. When I asked if they had a phone number for someone who could help me they said they didn't know one - well they probably did know but just couldn't be bothered finding it, though eventually they did direct me to another reception/security office at the end of the road.
The first guy I spoke to in there didn't know anything about the garden either and by that time I was beginning to lose the will to live, however he shouted for his mate - and finally I got someone with a brain. He phoned someone he knew, explained what I wanted then passed the phone to me and the guy at the other end told me exactly how to get to the garden. Bingo! - it looked like I was finally going to find it after all. The directions I'd been given took me along the main road then a couple of miles down a winding narrow lane to a small car park, and from there it was a twenty minute walk across open land - this place certainly was very difficult to find but I'd been told to look out for a certain old stone building, and when I finally saw it up ahead I knew I was close to my goal.
Unfortunately though, when I finally did arrive at the garden I found the gate closed and locked with several chains and padlocks and a notice saying 'Private garden - keep out'. It looked like my quest had failed, the garden wasn't open to the public and there was nothing I could do but take the long walk back to the van, however a bit further round the field was a new-ish looking car and where there was a car there must be people, so I stood by the gate and shouted - and out of the garden shrubbery came a lady with a black labrador dog. I explained just what it had taken for me to find the place and she told me that the company which had taken over the land had no interest in the garden so it was closed to the public for the forseeable future - she and her husband were only there voluntarily just to tidy things up a bit as various parts were becoming overgrown.
Now I don't know if my disappointment showed on my face or if she felt sorry for me as I'd taken so much trouble to get there, but she asked me if I'd like to go in and look round. Of course the answer was 'yes please' so she opened up the gate, and after telling me a bit about the history of the place she allowed me to wander round freely and take as many photos as I wanted. Unfortunately some parts of the garden weren't quite at their best as they'd been rather neglected but it was still a very lovely place, and being in the middle of nowhere with just the sound of the little waterfall and the birds in the trees gave it an air of peace and tranquility.
All good things must end eventually though and when the lady came to tell me her husband wanted to go home for lunch I knew it was time for me to leave. I hadn't got all the photos I wanted but I'd got enough and as it had been very good of her to allow me in anyway I couldn't push my luck by asking to stay a bit longer, so I followed her up the path and out through the gate - and they were even kind enough to drive me back to the car park so I wouldn't need to walk all the way back.
As I watched them drive away I couldn't help feeling a tinge of sadness - I'd just had the privilege of being allowed to spend some time in a very special place no longer open to the general public, a place which has existed and been looked after for almost a hundred years but which currently has no future. So it looks like my unscheduled visit was probably my first and last - I don't think the lady in question will read this but if she does then I just want to say 'thank you, you made my day very special and I appreciate it very much'.