Saturday 4 February 2017


The London Marathon this year is on St George's Day, April 23, 2017. April 23 is an important day for national treasures other than St George and the London Marathon. It's also William Shakespeare's birthday - and death day. Factoids are so Radio 2. I love them.

I thought I'd treat my readers and any sponsors, actual or potential, to the good news of my continuing and extending long runs for the last two Sundays - and at the same time explore the theme of  'The Back Garden'. A visual exploration of the role of the back garden in my journey through life.

The back garden of our terraced home in St Ives - 2017

A contemporary shot. I used a cropped version of this picture for my Countdown to the London Marathon 2017 - Part 1 blog on January 17 last month but did not contextualise. Here I am in the back garden of our terraced home in St Ives in Cornwall, Dig down deep enough and you are highly

likely to find evidence of uncharted mine workings from the late 18th and early 19th centuries (see an earlier blog of mine using this link). You can see a stone bird bath on a pillar in front of the garden 'tilda. That stonework used to be in the back garden of Louise's Granny and Pop, Amy and George Scriven.

Here is a picture of  my granny and granddad taken in the 1950s in the back garden of their terraced home in Canterbury, Kent.

My Granddad and Gran in their back garden  

I was taken by my mum to Canterbury to see her mum and dad and family in this Canterbury terrace using the East Kent coach service every year or so in that decade. At the start of the 60s, these terraced homes were condemned and raised to the ground. Across the road, new council  houses were built and the community moved as one to these new homes with all mod cons. Granny and Granddad died within a year or two or this move. But Mum's sister, aunt Madge and her husband, Uncle Sonny, who had lived next door, continued living in their new council home and mum and I would make the occasional visit  to see them in Canterbury.

When my mum and I embarked on our trip to Canterbury in the 1950s, we would have set out from the family home in Bexley, Kent - a four-bedroomed semi-detached house. Here I am in the back garden with my sister, Sheila, and my teddy bear, Peter Ted - (for more on my inimitable transitional  object, see the blog that Peter Ted wrote last year, using this link).

My sister, me,  and Peter Ted

So in your imagination move now from the back garden of our St Ives terraced home, through the downstairs long room - our lower art gallery - and out the front door. Follow me as I set off on my local running circuit. Turn right for a few yards and then right again and you're on the Stennack, heading uphill out of St Ives. Keep it slow and steady until the body gets used to running up a steep hill. Keep right on and up until the pavement gives way and you look in front and behind and if it's  safe  you commit yourself to the mercies of the open road and car drivers. The road swings to the right now if you are continuing up the hill - and we are.

There is a pavement for around four hundred yards on the left hand side as we continue upwards on the road out to Zennor and St Just. And then it really is open road up to the top of the hill at Little Trevalgan. I estimate about 1.75 miles from front door to the top of the hill and the National Trust site. Peter Lanyon, the Cornish artist, crashed his glider around here in the 60s and died later in hospital. I'll post pictures of the route another time in another blog but today the theme is back- gardens ....

So here is a taster of the back garden that features most in this blog. Read on for more explanation.

An almost virginal back garden - the planting just begun

Louise and I started off our married life in an Edwardian terraced home in Windsor and then after four years we moved to a Victorian semi-detached home in north Oxford where we spent the next six years. It's not that those back gardens weren't interesting. I spent some time within them in creative horticulture - but the next homes were in East Anglia and even more absorbing. The first was a bungalow, the second one half of a newly converted barn where the back garden started off as farmland sprinkled with building rubble. And that made for a real challenge - see the picture above. A bit like the run up to the top of Little Trevalgan. We stayed in that barn home for two decades so the back garden was fully mature when we left to come to Cornwall and our terraced home here in St Ives.

Here is a picture of the horticulturalist in action.

Notice the dead elm in the farmer's field behind - long since cut down

And here is the horticulturalist in conversation with his father-in-law, Ronald Watkins.

I used to have a running circuit that took me from the barn to the neighbouring village of Wangford but the traffic became so busy on the winding road I had to give that up.

Back to my running circuit now in Cornwall. We are at the top of the hill. and we turn round and see St Ives Bay stretched out in front of us. There's Godreavy,  the island with the lighthouse - where Virginia Woolf's imagination inspired a novel. And we run down the hill, exclaiming for joy. Twenty minutes up, fifteen minutes down.

Last Sunday, three complete circuits. !0.5 miles in 107:27 minutes. The Sunday before, two and a short half circuits. 8.5 miles in 86:13 minutes.

We are on track. One other short run and a gym session fitted in this week too. So I'm still a good bet if you fancy sponsoring me at this link!         


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