Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Abergavenny - the Linda Vista gardens

A tranquil rest
 If you want a lovely place to relax and breathe mountain air in Abergavenny you could go to the Linda Vista gardens which are near the centre of this bustling town. There are formal parts and less cultivated sections where you can loll or picnic enjoying the sight of the Blorenge Mountain, which may have given the spot its name, translated as "beautiful view."

   The garden began as the private property of the Linda Vista Villa, built in 1875. It changed ownership several times before Abergavenny Council acquired it in 1957 to be transformed into a public park with added land to the west and south, the Castle meadows.
   It has an intricate layout in the formal part and the quality of the planting is exceptional with a wide variety of trees and shrubs including (I am told by Oliver Barton) a Foxglove tree, an Indian Bean tree, a Judas tree, a Gingko, a huge old London Plane and a further range in the new Autumn Colour Tree Collection.  
   Landscape gardening went through several phases of fashion in past centuries and, although this is different from the work of Capability Brown, I was reminded of his words when he saw his work as akin to that of a poet or composer: "Here I put a comma, there, where it's necessary to cut the view, I put a parenthesis, there I end it with a period and start another theme." The emphasis is on the experience of the visitor and ensuring that it is harmonious and modulated.

Things to notice
   As you enter you will see ahead a wooden sculpture which depicts aspects of the history of the town. The middle section was of particular interest to me since it shows a treacherous woman supporter allowing Owain Glyndwr into the town which he then virtually destroyed. Scorch marks from his arson were found on the beams of the Tithe Barn during restoration. This might have been one of Capability Brown's commas and the full stop for me was when I sat on some pallets near the exit before realising that they are a bug hotel in progress!

    I was aware, as I took my photographs last month, of what I believe was the habit of Victorians to look at a view with the aid of a wooden rectangle. Pointing my camera, I felt I was doing something similar and also was preserving all this for later just as Wordsworth mentally recorded his daffodils. A sonnet formed in my mind, partly because of the assonance in the name Linda Vista and partly because of the philosophical conundrum as to whether or not things continue to exist when unobserved by the human eye. Carpe diem when you are in a place like this.
                              Abergavenny May

                     This breeze, sent down from mountains, calls the name,
                     breathes "Gerddi Linda Vista" to the flowers.
                     They whisper back, the message is a frame:
                     "You count millennia; we live in hours."
                      One plant claims a brief season within Spring;
                      another takes the Autumn by surprise.
                      Here are no masters and no underlings:
                      each has its day to seize our lazing eyes.
                      Captured in sunlight by my mental click,
                      they know I am a camera - so they sway
                      toss petal locks, give their green fronds a flick,
                      as if I've caught them in their negligees.
                         Yet, when I go, will they dance on and make
                         more moving selfies for the garden's sake?

   The gardens are open all year during daylight hours and open air music concerts held here as part of the Summer Festival.  Abergavenny is served by many buses: the gardens are a short walk up through town from the bus station and are located off the car park near Tudor Street. You are only 5 minutes from Abergavenny Castle where the terrible Christmas massacre took place.
   The 83 bus will take you to Raglan and its famous castle or further to Monmouth and its associations with Henry V.

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