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May 2013 Weekender

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Weekender May 2013

Mary Davies enjoys a May journey

It is one of life's pleasures to travel through the Wicklow Mountains with friends on a sunny late spring day. It is not so long since the high peaks in the distance were covered in shining snow, but now bracken is unfurling on the lower slopes to give a sheen of pale green, and gorse is turning the hedgerows to gold. After crossing the uplands, the road branches into a valley and winds through woods where the beech trees, their clinging leaves russet brown through the winter, are putting out fresh new foliage. This part of the journey is a delight whatever the season: it is a place to encounter deer in the dusk, or to see a red squirrel.

My friends and I took a leisurely route through the countryside. We had already followed a small road up close to the mountains so that we could pass the cottage that was once mine, its roof gleaming red as ever, its hedges neatly trimmed. Now we drove over the hills nearer the coast, with wide, wonderful vistas back across a broad valley towards the high mountains in one direction and across green fields towards the sea in the other. A great boulder crowning a hilltop made a vantage point at which to pause, enjoy the views and scan the skies for a glimpse of a red kite. The scene was peaceful indeed - only a solitary mine chimney remained in view as a reminder that the nearby valley was once a place of busy industrial activity.

One narrow side valley with its small rushing stream, not too close to the old spoil heaps of the mines, is home to an unusual garden, lovingly and richly furnished with plants and distinctive features. From the road it is only the trees that catch the eye, and suggest that there is more here than an ordinary pleasant country garden. But inside the gate is a miniature world of its own. A cannon looks out over rounded bushes that suggest cannon balls; three stone elephants shelter in one woody spot, a statue in another; a small formal garden with angular box hedges strikes a contrasting note. At the far end of the garden a pool edged with ferns and mossy stones and overhung with the giant leaves of gunnera reflects in its still waters the vibrant red of an oriental bridge.

There is one particular area that above all is a place to linger. A curving bed of azaleas, in full flower in May with deep pink buds opening to a more delicate shade, encircles a large rounded boulder set in gravel: this is the Zen garden. Set within a framework of trees, grassy paths lead into the circle; stone Chinese lanterns and a small curved stone bench complete the picture.



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