You see, I’d been so excited about going to my first RNA conference in years - and having decidedly second thoughts on the wisdom of actually leading one of the sessions - that I hadn’t looked closely at the Newton Rigg campus. Apart from actually finding it on Google Maps, that is. So it wasn’t until I made my way through a little green gate that it finally twigged that this was a horticultural college. And that the gardens were truly something special.
On the other side of the gate lay beautifully kept lawns with swaths of meadow flowers and cottage-garden borders on either side. Ponds of all shapes and sizes, with clear water and water lilies in bloom, appeared between the beds. Further in, there were polytunnels crammed with healthy-looking flowers and vegetables that put my own poor version at home to shame. Cages enclosed blackcurrants and redcurrants, keeping them safe from human as well as animal temptation – including some very sleek-looking rabbits that kept on appearing on the lawns. And as for the herb spiral – I’ve been trying to make one out of stone, but this one was encased in metal, with herbs growing round the central spiral to a great height. I was left with a severe case of herb-spiral envy.
The gardens weren’t just beautiful and practical, they were fun, too. A large willow figure fished in one of the ponds, while two others played badminton amongst the greenery.
On the last afternoon of the Conference, I made my way back to the gardens to sit and absorb the weekend. It was a perfect place to contemplate. Green and peaceful.
I have wonderfully happy memories of the RNA conference in Penrith. I came back refreshed and inspired and with renewed enthusiasm. And the college’s lovely gardens are definitely a part of that inspiration, too.
I’ll be back ……
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