a post with few humans – a couple of tourists and some carved in stone – it’s easier for me to engage with this landscape as such. At Pont du Gard, in the terrain around the landmark, those maintaining the landscape show good skills – using just enough management. The olives in this grove have a balletic quality  – a certain strength underlying a lightness of form . . .


. . . equally, the dry stone walling is rhythmic in contrast to the static character of the remnants of this ancient aqueduct that carried water from Uzés to Nimes. Some is very fragile awaiting restoration, perhaps . . .



. . . a sprinkling of chêne vert left to edge the informal track leading down to the first dramatic glimpse. Nothing could be more powerful and appropriate.



Masterful engineering – perfection in the detail of the construction – a simple and beautiful junction of stonework.



At the Monastère, ‘the antechamber to heaven’ but also close to home, the small church is receiving attention – completion of the interior next year perhaps  – with the facade finished and decorated with a frieze of ‘Eric Gill’ style carving.



Eclectic architectural details which somehow work spread around the entrance, the spacious courtyard which I was to shy to photograph, the chapel and the nuns gathering room – they’ve employed a sensitive architect. Also, stupidly, I didn’t pluck up the courage to ask to see the productive gardens – all that convent schooling still affects me badly . . .



. . . but here at the quarry at Vallabrix, no hestation on pushing through fencing and security bondaries to get as close as possible. This sand is used to manufacture Perrier bottles – so much better to drink water from glass than plastic . . . and it’s a stunning landscape to behold and walk around although the locals are not so keen on the noise and night time working. Two poems for this post, Attwood and Paz, what can I say . . .




The moment when, after many years

of hard work and a long voyage

you stand in the centre of your room,

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,

knowing at last how you got there,

and say, I own this,


is the same moment when the trees unloose

their soft arms from around you,

the birds take back their language,

the cliffs fissure and collapse,

the air moves back from you like a wave

and you can’t breathe.


No, they whisper. You own nothing.

You were a visitor, time after time

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.

We never belonged to you.

You never found us.

It was always the other way round. Margaret Atwood



Between now and now,

between I am and you are,

the word bridge.

Entering it

you enter yourself:

the world connects

and closes like a ring.

From one bank to another,

there is always

a body stretched:

a rainbow.

I’ll sleep beneath its arches. Octavio Paz


cairn + lotus

Personal; intriguing; nourishing; an oasis; a pleasure garden; inward and outward and upward looking; et al. Just a quick mind map to test out feelings of the time here in Sambucs and there are of course some elders as the title of the garden suggests . . .


. . . narrow paths run across the terraced land leading to areas, some intimate for lounging and the odd larger space for eating, through varied vegetation interlaced with sculptural features; some discreet . . .



. . . and some functional constructed from smooth river stones.

terrace + pool

Many pools alongside the dry stone walls holding the changes in level provide habitats for dragon flies, frogs and snails.


better 2 weeks ago

Poetry, inscriptions and selective writings are part of the experience. Above is the classic comment: ‘you should have been here two weeks ago, the garden looked so much better then’.



Zinc panels here in la Porte des Étoiles, display selected inspirational thoughts from Gilles Clément from le Jardin en Mouvement. Apposite for this garden that is managed on ecological systems and also retains an unmanicured look which in turn relays a welcome sense of freedom. Heaps of composted spent garden waste sit naturally at path junctions.

This impressive static cairn stands proud against the open extent of the south facing boundary. . . .

big cairn

. . . while glittering stipa shimmers against a darker background in a more enclosed area . . .



. . . lythrum, indigenous to the ditches here in Hérault, provide some flower colour. I was hoping for more colour but in truth, I should have planned an earlier visit. Next year a return in May perhaps and then better photos? Lovely garden Nicholas and Agnès and tasty lunch too.

arch final

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Rainer Maria Rilke   A Walk Poem


in tuscany

May 23, 2016

terrace poppies olives 2 copy

a short visit to friends just south of Florence. vineyard and olive groves spread across their property retained in practical flat ribbons  – some grass mown and some left long with decorative results . . .

olive old copy

. . . old olives are retained if they are single stem but those from the bad frost some years ago are being removed and replaced with fresh young plants.

terrace poppies olive copy

textures copy

Around the buildings, the owners prefer to leave the fluffy growth on the canopy. Pleasing contrasting textures in this composition . . .

cork oak 1 copy

. . . and also on the cork oak.

pienza 1

In Pienza, narrow views out to the wonderful countryside even on a cold and cloudy May day. Who gave these streets such pretty names?

pienza 2

pienza 3

pienza 4

pool2 copy

Many years ago we designed this pool garden within what once was a walled kitchen garden. Simple, clean lines, reflections, peaceful – what more to say? only that these friends understand importance of good management; many clients do not.

pool cupressus window copy

The love of the place and the people who inhabit it – this is the reason behind the choice of the poem.

poppies cupressus copy

The tumult in the heart

keeps asking questions.

And then it stops and undertakes to answer

in the same tone of voice.

No one could tell the difference.


Uninnocent, these conversations start,

and then engage the senses,

only half-meaning to.

And then there is no choice,

and then there is no sense;


until a name

and all its connotation are the same. Elizabeth Bishop

above the Gardon

March 12, 2016

A jaunt out above the gorges to see if the new seedling growth of the ferula is showing and, yes, frothy and fresh in tone, carpeting the ground around the forebears which are still strong but wonderfully light to hold as the stems are hollow now . . .

ferula old

ferula + euphorb

. . . young ferula growth here mixed in with low, lime green euphorbia, but the taller Euphorbia wulfenii also claims attention. A black-eyed form and perhaps crossed with others to form  E. x martini . . .

euphorbia 1

iris pumila purple

. . . Iris pumila – in papal cloth and in soft yellow – stop me in my tracks, not only to admire visually but, also to avoid squashing them where they sprout through the stony path.

iris pumila cream

iris pumila in stones

By le Castellas and at Table de Lecture de Paysage, the view forces the eyes to lift up away from studying up from studying the minutiae on the ground to this tableau  – the river Gard flowing in a cup shaped curve; a quite splendid panorama . . .

gardons to east

. . .  as it enters from the west  beyond Russan and beyond Anduze . . .

gardons to east detail


gardons to west

. . . and as it moves to the east flow under Pont Saint – Nicolas and then under Pont du Gard before entering the Rhone. Some folks do other physical and challenging pursuits here but I just gaze.


narcissus + globularia

How the tiny narcissus occupy this terrain and how enjoyable they are . . . so it’s eyes down again and especially when the path becomes a solid sponge like form of limestone. Perhaps it’s more like walking on a giant food grater.

narcissus in path

limestone path

Then again the view demands attention. Pont Saint-Nicolas and surroundings can only be enjoyed from this high aspect – there is nowhere to park nearby – hurrah.

pont st nicolas


Back in Vic, Commune de Ste Anastasie, grave stones neatly placed on the church wall face a flowering Rosa banksiae – my first this year on March 4th- and a wall hosting Umbilicus rapestris – great texture contrasts.

The poem reads like an old song or fairy tale to me – but no claim is made on this landscape but just simple grateful appreciation.

rosa banksiae

umbilicus rupestris 1

walking by the waters

down where an honest river

shakes hands with the sea,

a woman passed round me

in a slow, watchful circle,

as if I were a superstition;


or the worst dregs of her imagination,

so when she finally spoke

her words spliced into bars

of an old wheel. A segment of air.

Where do you come from?

‘Here,’ I said, ‘Here. These parts.’ Jackie Kay In My Country




on the beach – January

January 14, 2016


After seemingly interminable rain, hallelujah a bright day dawns – of course chilly and crisp and more than refreshing; but appetising nonetheless. The beach at Pett Level is hidden from the road by the sea wall so the view across the Military Canal to the rising land has no competition. Visually superb from a distance and also excellent at close quarters for those strolling through.

Over the sea wall, a different and equally pleasing landscape is laid out. The tide is coming in as the sun strikes short shadows and highlights the textures of the beach stones . . .



. . . sandstones of varying size contrast with finer shingle and the smooth islands of dark peat. An ancient forest lies below the water and can be seen occasionally below Cliff End revealing timber with a soft spongy texture as against the also exposed rigidly hard wood used in the old sea defences  The rhythm of the tide has left an elegant and informal wandering edge as though Poseidon has run a finger along the coastline . . .




Small waders leave their mark – turnstones and oyster catchers perhaps – searching for delicacies and holding their own among the herring gulls.



Nothing has been ‘done’ to these pix . . . clouds arrive and the sky to the east wears a dark violet cloak now . . .



. . . but remains clearer to the west with a freezing wind which meant power walking back to the sheltered lower level and a favourite view across the marsh inhabited by coots and curlews and the odd cormorant – and the sheep of course. Edward Thomas, my father’s favourite poet assisting here on a special day. January 14th 1910

to winchelsea

Out of us all

That make rhymes

Will you choose

Sometimes –

As the winds use

A crack in a wall

Or a drain,

Their joy or their pain

To whistle through –

Choose me,

You English words?


I know you:

You are light as dreams,

Tough as oak,

Precious as gold,

As poppies and corn,

Or an old cloak:

Sweet as our birds

To the ear,

As the burnet rose

In the heat

Of Midsummer:

Strange as the races

Of dead and unborn:

Strange and sweet


And familiar,

To the eye,

As the dearest faces

That a man knows,

And as lost homes are:

But though older far

Than oldest yew, –

As our hills are, old, –

Worn new

Again and again:

Young as our streams

After rain:

And as dear

As the earth which you prove

That we love.


Make me content

With some sweetness

From Wales

Whose nightingales

Have no wings, –

From Wiltshire and Kent

And Herefordshire, –

And the villages there, –

From the names, and the things

No less.

Let me sometimes dance

With you,

Or climb

Or stand perchance

In ecstasy,

Fixed and free

In a rhyme,

As poets do.  Edward Thomas  Words

Saturday morning

December 21, 2015


Been quite lazy on the blog front but then it’s good to take time out and breath. These two sitting outside Patisseries Orientales in Boulevards des Allies looked relaxed about life too. Saturday morning in Uzès means MARKET and although having been here a few weeks now, it is my first visit. My trustworthy confidante advised that a trip to Friday’s market in San Quentin is more authentic and cheaper – she’s right as always – but under murky skies, the market stalls along the Boulevard and in Place aux Herbes glistened like jewels and it was sort of fun . . .



. . . fleurs turned into chou-fleur and magnificent frisées.

choux fleurs

Wandering back down Rue Grande Bourgade where solanum continues to flower, I was grateful to this gentleman as he completed the composition – if only there was some sun and therefore some shadows.

rue petite bourgade 2

rue petite bourgade

A vine over an entrance at 32 is most sculptural and well managed – reminds me of a Pekingese fringe. And yes, the tantalising mimosa came home. Just checked and 4 years ago I was here with important beings.

no 32

no 32 close up

mimosa copy

Le soleil est toujours riant,

Depuis qu’il part de l’orient

Pour venir éclairer le monde.

Jusqu’à ce que son char soit descendu dans l’onde

La vapeur des brouillards ne voile point les cieux ;

Tous les matins un vent officieux

En écarte toutes les nues :

Ainsi nos jours ne sont jamais couverts ;

Et, dans le plus fort des hivers,

Nos campagnes sont revêtues

De fleurs et d’arbres toujours verts.


Les ruisseaux respectent leurs rives,

Et leurs naïades fugitives

Sans sortir de leur lit natal,

Errent paisiblement et ne sont point captives

Sous une prison de cristal.

Tous nos oiseaux chantent à l’ordinaire,

Leurs gosiers n’étant point glacés ;

Et n’étant pas forcés

De se cacher ou de se taire,

Ils font l’amour en liberté.

L’hiver comme l’été.


Enfin, lorsque la nuit a déployé ses voiles,

La lune, au visage changeant,

Paraît sur un trône d’argent,

Et tient cercle avec les étoiles,

Le ciel est toujours clair tant que dure son cours,

Et nous avons des nuits plus belles que vos jours.  Racine


The Sun is always laughing,

since he moved from the East

to come light up the world.

Up to what his chariot is down in the wave

of mist steam sailing point heaven;

Every morning an unofficial wind makes all naked:

so our days are never covered.

And in the height of winter,

our campaigns are coated with

flowers and evergreen trees.

Streams meet their shores,

and their fugitive naiades

without leaving their natal bed,

wander peacefully and are point

captive in a prison of Crystal.

All our birds are singing in the ordinary,

their throats being point iced;

And not being forced to hide or shut,

they make love in freedom.

The winter and the summer.


Finally, when night has deployed its sails,

the Moon, in the changing face,

appears on a silver throne,

and holds circle with the stars,

the sky is always clear as long as takes its course,

and we have most beautiful nights that your days.


Just a few fleeting glimpses of up above . . . ‘a glimpse is much harder to pin down’ Howard Hodgkin.


And, down on the ground, from a few hours in Uzès. Basalt setts inlaid in the stone to give subtle definition – a pleasing aesthetic.




Old and new – skills and  craftsmanship  – and atmosphere.



The moment when, after many years

of hard work and a long voyage

you stand in the centre of your room,

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,

knowing at last how you got there,

and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose

their soft arms from around you,

the birds take back their language,

the cliffs fissure and collapse,

the air moves back from you like a wave

and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.

You were a visitor, time after time

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.

We never belonged to you.

You never found us.

It was always the other way round. Margaret Atwood

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