The rockery

That’s a misnomer, it was a whole garden in itself. But that’s what we called it. Back in the 1920s, when the Depression was seriously affecting many people, a public garden was built in South Lowestoft, and it was called Kensington Gardens, after the London one. My grandfather decided to have a rock garden constructed on similar lines, to include many small beds, paths and a number of ponds connected by winding channels. At the top was a waterfall and, at the bottom, there was a big, formal, circular pond with a fountain. The water flowed down and was piped back up again.

A huge quantity of Westmorland stone was imported and the channels were lined with concrete. The waterfall at the top could be climbed up to, there were eight ponds in all, some more interesting than others. My favourite was just over halfway down and the reason it was my favourite was that it had space around for a child to lie and look, to see the newts.

If reincarnation were a thing, which I doubt, I think I was amphibious (unless I was a horse or a dog, of course). Not a salamander or a toad, probably not a frog, most likely a newt. I adored them. In the spring, I spent hours watching them and catching them in my hand. It would have been cheating to use a net, the poor little things were tormented by my patient hand creeping behind them, then grabbing quicker than they could swim. I was fast in those days. I loved their little webbed feet and their lizard bodies. Newts lay eggs individually, not in clumps like frogspawn or strings like toadspawn, and the tadpoles are born feisty. If you pick up a frog tadpole in its little puddle, it just lies there, but a newt tadpole thrashes around furiously.

One of the ponds was quite deep, about three feet, and covered in duckweed, which looked quite like grass if you were incautious. I wasn’t, but Pearson was, and he ran into it one day. How we laughed … and how he smelt.

I don’t know how long the rock garden stretched, but I’ll guess 50 yards, and that it was five or six yards wide. The beds near the lawn had lupins in them in early summer, and the scent takes me back there, even now. The soil wasn’t looked after much, so was infested with mares tail, that ancient weed that thrives in poor soil.

At the top of the rock garden, by the Mound, my father had a brick summerhouse built, which was known as Jane’s Gazebo. A weeping willow was planted between that and the waterfall. There was a flowering currant by it too and I’ve always loved the smell. Someone told me it smells of cat pee, so I said that, evidently, I like the smell of cat pee.

Just up from Jane’s Gazebo, there was my father’s veg patch and greenhouse. This was not to be taken over by the gardener.

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