The only thing I have seen like it was the garden of my Great Aunt Ethel who lived in a caravan in an orchard not far from Cambridge. I can recall visiting what must have been well over 40 years ago and being excited, as a kid from Islington, by the clowder of what must have been semi-feral cats, rows of rabbits in scratch-built hutches and rusting objects neatly laid out in a celebration of picturesque decay. It wasn’t until years later that I realised that Ethel must have been the hushed-up avant garde element of the family.
The garden at Prospect Cottage was built by Derek Jarman, who (according to Wikipedia) was a film director, stage designer, diarist, artist gardener and author. It’s hardly surprising that somebody with such a pedigree should produce something unusual and entirely beautiful. He died in 1994 and I understand the garden has been maintained by his partner Keith Collins. He seems very generous in allowing people to tramp over his work.
The garden reflects the environment that surrounds it. Dungeness has miles of shingle beach and area is officially designated as a desert. Plants are rare and uncommon. The beach is littered with rotting boats and old buildings, bits of iron and a sense of eccentricity. At one end there are a couple of lighthouses and the nuclear power station, and the Romney, Hythe and Dimchurch 15-inch gauge one third scale steam and diesel railway.
As well as plants the garden is decorated with beach combings and its own decaying boat. It also has the text of John Donne poem “The Sun Rising” (which I knew by heart when I was 16 – can you wonder I was so keen to visit). It is all set off against the shingle of the area.
I arrived at about 10.20 a couple of Saturday’s ago and took some snaps. By the time I’d left I’d met people from 3 or 4 countries and at least another half dozen visitors had stopped for a brief look.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and hope they inspire you to visit one day. I feel so lucky to have been.