Sunday, 30 August 2009

Rurban life

I'm staying in my garden this weekend and that's just fine. In fact it's the perfect thing to do on a bank holiday weekend when everyone else is either doing things out of town or at the Carnival. Last week though, I had an attack of urbanitis and had to escape for a dose of Country.

Joyfully, I didn't have to go too far - a long drive and traffic jams are guaranteed to aggravate the symptoms. But a walk along the river at Richmond is surprisingly almost rural and helps start the cure. Once past the boating houses, the meadows at Petersham even host cows (nice to look at from afar, but assiduously avoided due to their current killer status); and the path along the Thames is fringed with wild plantlife and muddy enough to seduce you into feeling that you really are quite far away from the city; as long as you can ignore the underbellies of 747s flying into Heathrow. At only 20 minutes from home, it's definitely a no.1 Rurban experience.

Still not cured, though, I headed further afield. Officially in the country, but only a short Sunday drive into deepest, darkest Surrey, lies the wonderfully-named village of Friday Street. Thankfully it is very poorly signposted, so perhaps will remain undiscovered by townie daytrippers like me Dan, Nick and Ian. With mossy, gnarled woods to walk through, a hidden treasure of a pub, a sumptuous pond and an honesty table of plants for 50p a pot (I bought an unnamed tiny succulent), it felt like we'd taken an enchanted turn off the M25 and reached Dorset in less than an hour.

But this was just an interlude before our intended destination, the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden/. We enjoyed lunch at the Stefan Langton Inn so much (it was pudding heaven) that we left ourselves barely an hour before Hannah rang her closing bell, but it was just enough for a taster tour.

I first visited 10 years ago and loved it as much this time, although being a woodland garden, spring is probably a better time to visit. But the sculptures do sit in the landscape so well, whatever the season. There's a mix of the fun, the cliched and the beautifully crafted, and we entertained ourselves with the reflective pieces; but my favourite was the fence-sculpture made of reclaimed dead branches, and I wish I had £6k spare and a big garden to display it in... Modern art aside, the ducks in the pond were the stars of the show.

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