I’ve written about the wonderful Collector Earl’s Garden at Arundel before, and my children love it, so it I was extremely interested to witness the reaction of 23 other kids to it.
Having been round the castle, which was the real reason for the trip, as they had been studying knights and castles this term, they were taken into the garden before heading home. Our guide (provided by the castle), sadly didn’t consider the garden worth explaining to the children, or perhaps that the children would be capable of appreciating it. So, this – in fact – very interested group of 6 and 7 year olds, were given no historical context, and not told that this wasn’t actually medieval; which would have been a reasonable assumption as more or less everything else they had seen so far that day was. As they stood at one of the fountains, asking the very sensible question of why the water coming out of it was green, the guide walked away.
Left to our own devices the children enjoyed guessing the date of the garden: ‘900 years old’ said one, ‘500’ said another, ‘Ha, ha’ said I ‘actually just five’, which amused and intrigued them. I explained that it had been a car park (much nicer like this they thought), and that the design was inspired by a glimpse of the London garden of the Collector Earl in the corner of a portrait of his wife, which sadly our guide wouldn’t let us see – not even the copy which hangs in the public restaurant. I am still not entirely sure why the water is green, but I think it may have something to do with the dream-like quality of the garden, which is referenced by the centre piece pavilion, known as Oberon’s Palace. The garden is not quite historic, not exactly modern, and has a quirkiness given by its jungly planting and elements such as the green water and the ducal coronet which bobs on top of a fountain in the pavilion.
After a loop round the rest of the old kitchen garden, and a chance to walk through the new stumpery, which has the makings of something rather wonderful, they were let loose on the labyrinth, which is mowed into the turf square in front of Oberon’s Palace. The animation in the pictures here, expresses their enthusiasm well. When talking on the train on the way home, we chatted about what they liked best and a surprising number of them liked the garden, and especially the maze.