There was a terrace around the house – the drive and the house itself were at a higher level than the lawn. It was on the terrace steps that the photo of us and the dogs were taken. Below the terrace there were big flowerbeds, the width of the house. When we first moved in, the lawn was broken up by flowerbeds too – two big squares, each with a circular bed at its centre surrounded by four small ones, like squares with a bite taken out. These were filled with bedding plants. They were removed pretty soon, the arrangement was quite old-fashioned, it was a vast amount of work and it meant that the usable area of lawn was very small. Beyond the lawn were rosebeds containing 250 pink Queen Elizabeth roses – they were lovely but unscented, sadly. Then there were the herbaceous borders. They attracted loads of butterflies and bees every year. Next was a patch of rough grass where wild flowers grew, and lots of bulbs came up in the spring, and then another area of lawn before we got to the river bank, or rather the quay heading. We had riparian ownership for some feet into the Broad – 15 feet? I don’t know – and there were tall wooden pilings that boats could be moored to. On the right hand side as you looked from the house there was a slipway and a side channel for mooring boats.
I spent a lot of my childhood simply messing about in boats. We didn’t sail – it didn’t interest my father who loved speedboats and raced before the War, and my mother was afraid of the water. But I splashed around in the water and we rowed in the dinghy and I enjoyed nothing better than a clear, calm evening out on the water in one of the side channels where it was quiet and I could look for wildlife.
I also messed around in the water in the ponds in the rock garden. This was no ordinary rockery, it was huge. During the recession of the 1920s, my grandfather was instrumental in having Kensington Gardens in Lowestoft constructed – a public garden laid out quite elaborately with lots of stone boulders surrounding small flower beds, all interconnected with concrete paths. We have the original gold key from the opening ceremony, which he performed. It was very labour intensive to build and provided jobs for many men. Being a man to put his money where his mouth was, he had a similar sort of thing done at his own house. The focus was on ponds, eight of them. The topmost one had a waterfall built up of Westmorland stone. The water was pumped up, fell into the first pond, which overflowed into concrete channels and then went on to each pond in turn, ending up at a large round formal pond surrounded by a brick wall, which sprayed the water into a fountain. The small beds tended to be infested with marestail, which is a bugger to eliminate. They dried out in summer too, but I remember lots of flowers in spring. The scent of lupins takes me back there. Also the flowering currant because there was a large bush by the waterfall. My favourite pond was the one with newts in and I spent hours there.
An unusual feature of the garden was a big mound of earth covered in trees and shrubs called, erm, The Mound. I don’t know if it was there all along, it was certainly man-made, or if it was built during the War to house the air-raid shelter. We were forbidden to enter this because it was supposed to be unsafe, and I was ever obedient so, whilst I peered in, I didn’t set foot in. We could scramble over the Mound though. I remember tamarisk and rather a lot of brambles – there were various shrubs but I can’t quite place them now. The Mound was on the left of the house as you look at the photo, you can’t quite see it. On the right hand side, also out of picture, were cordon apple trees and, beyond that, two quince trees and a huge bay tree. Well, I don’t suppose bay is a tree, a shrub rather, but it was certainly very large. The quinces were marvellous, I still love the scent of quince.
I played fairly aimlessly in the garden, mostly on my own apart from the dogs. I ran about a lot, mostly being a horse. When other people were there we played tennis, using the cordon apples as a net – which I suppose did them little good – and I suppose organised hide and seek, chasing games and so on. But I was often alone and I don’t remember minding that. I played with Wink sometimes, but she is older than I am and we liked different things as a consequence.
There was a little summer house down by the river, I almost forgot. My parents didn’t use it, but we did. And my father had another one built up between the Mound and the next-door hedge, near the waterfall. It was known as Jane’s Gazebo.
I wonder at the point of memory, when it matters to no one and it’s all gone now anyway. Ah well. It’s imprinted, I couldn’t lose it if I tried.