Mother Nature to the rescue

Today is a day that I have been dreading for a few months now.  It’s a year since my sister died of meningitis.  The past year has seen me blundering through the process of grief and trying to find a way to cope.  I had a real dilemma today, my parents and BIL were going out for lunch to mark the day but this just didn’t seem right for me.  I felt a strong need for fresh air, nature, something positive and uplifting I suppose.  I decided that a visit to a local arboretum would be the way to go.  I have never been a fan of arboretums but my taste and interest in horticulture are changing and I find myself looking at trees with more interest now. I thought visiting somewhere new would be a positive thing to do.

So it was off to Arley Arboretum nr Bewdley about 1 hour away.  I always get a little apprehensive on trips on my own in case I get lost and I refuse to have a SatNav as I can’t bear that disembodied voice telling me what to do.  However, I found the Arboretum first time despite the horrors of Kidderminster’s roundabouts.    I was surprised how busy it was but then the arboretum closes this weekend and it is half term and the sun was shining so it’s hardly surprising.

The Arboretum was originally planted around 1800 by Earl Mountnorris.  Due to his botanical knowledge Arley became well known for its exotic and rare tropical plants by the 1840s.  The gardens changed hands twice until it was bought by Roger Turner, an industrialist, in 1959. By this time it was neglected and Turner set about restoring the arboretum and estate.  When he died in 1999 the estate was left to a Charitable Trust which Turner had set up.  The Trust decided that the Arboretum was of sufficient importance to open it to the public and work has continued to extend the garden and arboretum.

You enter via the Italianate Garden which obviously isn’t looking at its best at this time of year.  There appears to be a lot of preparation work being done so I suspect this area is planted out with seasonal bedding.  Will be worth returning to next Spring/Summer.  From here you enter the Arboretum.  There are a couple of trails to follow which take about an hour and all the trees are clearly numbered and labelled.  Often I find too many labels annoying but given the size of the trees the labels are pretty discreet and very helpful.  I fell in love with an Aralia elata (Japanese Angelica Tree).  I tried and tried to take a photo of it that would do the tree justice but have failed due to the low light levels but you get some idea from the pic below

What captured my heart were the pink seed heads which you can just see in the photo.  I am definitely going to look at getting one of these for my garden.

One of the bonuses of this arboretum is its location overlooking a valley through which the River Severn flows.  On the far side of the valley is the Severn Valley Railway a restored steam railway which I have been on numerous times and love.  I enjoyed the fact that as you walked round the arboretum you could occasionally hear the train whistle in the distance.

The Arboretum has many beeches which are one of my favorite trees including a stunning Cut Leaf Beech (below), some huge Black Walnuts, Cedar of Lebanon, Ginkgos, Limes, Pines and Wellingtonias.  There were also lots of Acers which were looking stunning (very top pic).  It was interesting how many young trees had been planted there is obviously some serious development taking place including a young beech maze which is due to open next year, presumably to attract families more.

One of the newish areas that has been developed, though I would guess it has been there about 10 years has a wonderful Hornbeam arcade leading to it and I can imagine in a week of two when these leaves change it will also look amazing

By now you have worked your way back round to the garden and you find yourself at a small lake.  I was really surprised to see the Dawn Redwoods planted right on the edge of the lake.  There is another well pond in the arboretum and there are Dawn Redwoods planted there as well.  I haven’t looked them up yet but I am assuming that these are trees that like their roots in the water but in my head I keep thinking of the Giant Redwoods, hopefully these are a dwarf version!!

From this point you make your way back into the garden which despite the planting being over was very interesting but I will save that for another post.

I finished my visit with lunch in the tea room and watched the world go by, bought some plants and made my way home the scenic route so to avoid Kidderminster.  It took much longer but the views and scenery in rural Worcestershire are beautiful.

I feel much better than when I left home, my head feels clearer and I feel at peace.  My sister was always someone who took the attitude that life was too short and to give things a go, which is ironic given she was only 37 when she died.  I have tried very hard this year to learn from her and loosing her so young and to grab life and give it a good shake.  I haven’t always been successful, sometimes I have been so incredibly tired (another symptom of grief I’m told) but other times I have succeeded.  Before this year I wouldn’t have thought of rounding up 25 twitter/blogging friends and organising a trip for them to Highgrove, I would have found reasons not to sign up for the RHS course and I wouldn’t have thrown concerns about money to the wind and taken my sons to Italy for a holiday they will never forget.  Amazingly one of the biggest sources of support I have had over the last year has been from my blogging and twitter friends and they have no idea just how much I have appreciated their kind words and support – thank you all very much.

I’m not a religious person in the sense of organised religion and what faith I had has been seriously challenged this year but I do believe that there are forces of nature at work around us.  Once again Mother Nature has helped to heal me and recharge my batteries, I now have lots of ideas to think about and plans to take me forward.



20 Comments on “Mother Nature to the rescue

  1. I can understand your feelings at the loss of your sister, Meningitis is a terrible disease. We almost lost our daughter to it when she was nineteen years old. She had a splitting headache and went to bed thinking she had a headache. In the morning she was clearly ill, the doctor came in said she wasn’t cooperating and did she perhaps have a drink problem. One hour later I called the surgery and informed the GP that I was about to call an ambulance as I feared she may have meningitis, he was back at our place within ten minutes. My daughter was promptly taken to hospital, given massive dose of antibiotics, she recovered fully. Now in later life this experience taught me to trust my own feelings. You are a stranger to me, but I can feel for you and what you and your family have gone through.

  2. So glad you were able to spend time in what look to be beautiful natural surroundings on such a sad day. I lost my Mom this month, and being in the garden and enjoying the beauty is an enormous source of comfort.

  3. Dear Helen, I think that this was a splendid idea and know that I should have found such lovely surroundings most uplifting at what is such a very difficult and emotional time for you. The Arley Arboretum looked wonderful, trees are just so majestic and they come into their own at this time of year I always think. I know that it is an overworked phrase but Time is a great healer and you should feel proud of yourself that you have accomplished so much this year.

    I too love the Severn Valley Railway, especially having tea on the train.

  4. Helen, I am so glad that you were able to spend the day in a way that was meaningful for you. Time and Mother Nature are healers.

    I find this a moving post.

    Kidderminster is my worst nightmare when I travel down south – its OK if you are the right line, or rather – if you know which is the right lane, I never do

  5. Such a wonderful tribute to your sister and a beautiful place to visit. I’ll look forward to the post when you plant that tree in your garden. 🙂

  6. I think you made the right choice. Gardens are soothing and arboretums even more so for some reason – perhaps because trees are so solid and anchoring. I hope the visit helped you. The post was a lovely tribute to your sister.

  7. My heart goes out to you and your niece.

    The drama of that Italian formal garden appeals to me as is. I would love to see it planted just quietly in shades of green. The whistling train, and the puff of steam from the engine – balm for spirit.

  8. Helen, what a wonderful way to remember your sister – by immersing yourself in nature. There is something so healing by surrounding yourself with plants and trees.

    Wishing you peace xxx

  9. What an absolutely beautiful post. I am in tears thinking about the pain you have been through but also at the courageousness you are moving forward with in your life. I am not a very religious person either, but I am spiritual and I too find peace and clarity in the natural world. I love to see how life continues the cycle in nature – birth, growth, fading and renewal. And thank you for the stunning walk through this arboretum. I could imagine myself walking in your steps and hearing the train in the background. Be well, and be at peace. I’m sure your sister was walking with you amongst those trees…

  10. Dear Helen, I know how painful the anniversaries and holidays can be. Just do what you are doing…grieving is hard work. Be kind to yourself , follow your own timetable and find comfort where you can.

  11. So glad that you found some solace on such a difficult day Helen. There is something calm and reassuring about trees. It sounds as if your sister’s mantra about giving things a go, has provided you with inspiration and strength this year, which is a beautiful tribute to her. Take care.

  12. These times are difficult, Helen, but we all have to find our own way of coping. Time does make things easier. I do wish you well.

    Aralia elata, I fell in love with this at Dunrobin Castle, Scotland but according to my research it suckers. After suffering a stag horn sumac in a previous garden, I decided this wasn’t for my present garden. I would love to have a suitable place for both these lovely shrubs.

    Best wishes Sylvia

  13. The anniversary of my husband’s death is in a couple of weeks’ time. I still miss him like crazy, but things do get gradually better. Since he died, my life has changed dramatically. Sometimes I feel upset about it, but then I look at all the positives – the friends I’ve made, the things I’ve done, the invitations I’ve had (like being invited to go to Highgrove with a bunch of Twitter/blogging friends, even though I didn’t go!) I know from personal experience that Nature helps, and I’d like to thank you, Helen, for being a supportive and entertaining friend in the middle of your own grief.
    Love Victoria xx

  14. What a touching post about your sister. The arboretum looks like a beautiful place to think about her.
    The scenery is so pretty, and the train with the steam puffing out is a gorgeous picture.

  15. You did the right and best thing for yourself Helen! My sister died this past summer and I miss her incredibly. She loved gardening and collecting ‘garden art’ for her garden. I brought an old mailbox she had in her collection and it’s holding garden hand tools. I smile when I see it~Thank you for the lovely tour; it looks like a wonderful garden and that train shot is delightful. I’ve always wanted to experience standing by one when they steam up~I’ve seen too many Sherlock Holmes movies. gail

  16. Dear Helen, I am so sorry for the loss of your dear sister. Your decision to strike out on your own to this beautiful place seems the perfect way to put your mind and emotions at peace.

  17. Hi Helen. I haven’t been here for a while so I took some time catching up on your blog. I’m so sorry to learn of your sister’s death. Meningitis is terribly scary and dangerous. We are having it circulate near us right now ~ five people have recently died because of it and all associated in some way with the local college. Makes me want to lock the doors and stay inside. I think your choice of honoring her passing was perfect. There is a lot of comfort to be found in a garden. Good for you pushing yourself this year too. I need to do that myself!
    I also really enjoyed the tour of your garden. It looks pretty amazing to me ~ I even like your patio pavers! Of course, I’m also jealous of the greenhouse. I need to break down and just get one. It would sure help ease the long, dreary the winter months.
    ps. I am not really panicked about Christmas ~ I just thought that for a second. But when you look at the calendar, it is just right around the corner!!!!
    I hope this next year is much better for you.

  18. Pingback: Pattern & Texture – Word for Wednesday in Photos | The Patient Gardener’s Weblog

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