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Village Gardens — Online Tours Not To Be Missed

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What are we to make of the virtual garden experience?

The Haddenham webteam have done a wonderful job in taking us round all 11 gardens which would have been open to the public had the village fete taken place. That represents a deal more legwork than most visitors to the fete would have been able to manage. And the virtual visit chooses a perfect May day, probes every aspect of each garden, and is accompanied by gentle and inspiring music by the likes of Gluck, Beethoven, Chopin and Greig. The visits take time — time spent most agreeably — and you probably won't want to visit all the gardens in the same session.

Compared to a real garden visit, a virtual visit is a balance of pros and cons. You miss the garden atmosphere, the gentle movement of air and scents of the day's blossom. You miss the people, the chance of meeting friends or falling into conversation with fellow admirers of a particular plant or view. It is not easy to gather the relationship between garden and house and their village setting. Above all, you miss the presence and affability of the proud owner.

What you do get with a virtual visit is an extremely thorough tour on a day well chosen for weather and at a time or series of times convenient for you. You can linger over favourite plantings or aspects and become reasonably familiar with overall garden layout. You can allow full rein to your imagination, helped along with the music, and picture how individual garden spaces might be used — for family gatherings, games, theatricals, weddings or other conviviality. Or you might imagine the owner's solitary pause for contemplation, perhaps resting from labour or savouring a perfect moment of fragrant peace, to be treasured in an unstable world.

The Haddenham Webteam's presentation may be a forced substitute for 'the real thing', but perhaps the virtual garden tour, with artful selection of views and music, should rather be seen as an entertainment or artwork in its own right. The Haddenham tour certainly meets this challenge and is a worthy pioneer of the new genre.

As a visitor virtual or real, gliding among the borders, lawns, potting sheds and greenhouses, you may dwell on the quantity of love and devotion, physical effort and other resources which have been brought to bear over many years to create the exquisitely pleasing space before you. And you may think with satisfaction of the delicate social framework of which we are all part — the village, its clubs and societies, the fete, the webteam — and how it has fostered the gardening habit and marvellously given rise not only to the gardens on display but to this admirable online offering.

By which time your finger may well be hovering over the 'donate' button

Andrew Gordon
25th May 2020