curiosity about the ways of the world

Nature makes a happy mess at Pond Cottage

‘But it’s the right kind of mess,’ she says, as I apologise for the tangle of wayward weeds tumbling across the path. ‘It’s so liberating. I’m going home to release my free spirit.’ Our garden visitors at the end of the season have been very kind. After a summer of unforeseen events the Pond Garden is wilder than ever.

Thickets of thistles. Dungeons of docks. Snarls of stinging nettles infiltrating the greater glory of planned planting in what we like to call the Water Garden. But on the whole the jungle around the pond is a happy escape from the mess in the wider world.

To the annoyance of a croaking heron (he doesn’t like to be disturbed), I sit for a few moments on the bank watching ducks dabble in and out of the reeds. We offer the benches to visitors as a place to sit and ponder. So I do.

Gold on the water

Leaves are beginning to fall. Beech and oak cast a little gold on the water. There’s a soothing rhythm in the changing season. Despite record floods, storms and heatwaves the leaves are turning just as they always do, just as they should.

What a year this has been. Through the challenge of a scorching summer we discovered which parts of the countryside might cope with rampaging climate change. Little did we know Truss and Kwarteng were planning a political rewilding of the economy which could endanger the lot.

There’s been turmoil on our home front too. Ray and I are finally making the big move from Edinburgh which requires an energy-efficient retrofitting of the cottage. External insulation and triple glazing are an investment story for our time, or should be. But essential building work has been delayed by that potent combination of Brexit and Covid. Then further complicated by our resident bats. As a protected species, the impressively large maternity roost is now happily rearing the next generation with guaranteed tenure of our loft (more about our dear Soprano pipistrelles and the joyful ‘bat rave’ another time).

Competing for ground, bluebells and wild garlic: picture Tommy Perman
Bluebells in the beechwood

One way and another we have had to postpone official garden Open Days this year so it’s been a great treat to find so many people keen to visit us ‘by arrangement’ through Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. Since early spring, from daffodils and bluebells to autumn fruits and berries, we have been delighted to welcome visitors to wander in our wilderness. Sometimes people just sit and watch reflections on the pond. One woman spent an hour listening to birds sing in the far clearing. Some walks end with long, meandering conversations over tea and cakes. Many people talk about the healing experience of being among trees and wild things. And some groups spring surprises like the choir members moved to a magical, spontaneous rendering of the Indian Love Call when they entered the beechwood.

Who knew?

I still find it all very hard to believe. When Ray and I bought this unruly plot of land almost thirty years ago we had no idea what we were taking on. As a journalist, for a few years I had the great privilege of writing about Scottish gardens and gardeners. Beginning with a series in The Herald I cheekily raided Scotland’s Gardens Scheme’s Yellow Book for inspiration [Seeds of Peace in Glenfarg was one of the first] – never dreaming our own garden would one day feature in the book. Yet here we are, on pages 224 and 237, in the 2022 Guide to Scottish Gardens (last year we were too late to be included in the printed listings but The Pond Garden is on the SGS website ). And we have just updated the entry for 2023 when we will be fundraising for the inspiring Children’s Hospices Across Scotland who also have a beautiful garden round their Kinross hospice, Rachel House.

Who knows what the world will look like next year. But gardening is irrepressibly forward looking (planting for growth, if that’s not a cheap shot). Autumn is the start of a new growing season. From where I’m sitting, it looks as if one of ‘our’ resident swans has returned to check his old mating ground. And there’s an optimistic order of spring bulbs due to arrive any day now.

Feature image above: looking through the ‘Willow Window’. Below ‘our’ Mr Swan.

Return of the swan, reflections on the pond at Pond Cottage


  1. fay

    Thank you David, but not really so sporadic…always an active visitor. We have had the mown grass, weeded borders, pruned hedges and bonfires to prove it.

  2. David G

    A lovely reflective and elegant piece as ever:,brings alive a place of fond memory even for this sporadic visitor…

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