THE LOST GARDEN AT SILVERBIRCH
Silverhill was a dream. One third of an acre of land at the top of Glenashdale with a view of the hills and the sea.
Purchased by me in my name with part of my divorce settlement from my first marriage, seemingly providing a base and a future for my new growing family. House plans accepted by the council, space to plan a garden, playspace for the kids and a snug Norwegian kit house with windows and decking arranged to make the most of the view.
Then things fell apart – the council amalgamated with the Region and planning approval was not automatically transferred, leading to a nightmare exchange with legal battles against the planning department; neighbours who bought the adjoining plot and built a two storey house without permission; my husband resenting more and more the fact that the land was mine, even though we had agreed to own the house together and he had his own business.
Although we built two studios and lived in caravans for several years, money was very tight and the council hassles made this even worse.
Meantime I was gifted 40 silverbirch samples by a weaving student who also had a post with the forestry department at Aberdeen. I planted these as a windbreak and they grew to 30 feet by the time we had to give up the hassles and move house.We planted indigenous trees like hazel and alder and a bay tree that grew to be 20 feet tall.
I had a vegetable garden which grew broccoli, Savoy cabbage etc. in Findhorn proportions and kept us going through the winter with veg, soft fruit and apples. My favourite Christmas dinner in those years was made up of fresh caught mackerel from the freezer, stuffed with gooseberry sauce, potatoes from the garden and whatever green veg were in season, followed by local Arran cheeses and home made chutneys.
I also had a flower garden with healing and colorful plants like marigolds and my all time favourite lilacs. Tomatoes and peppers flourished in the big caravan window
When I bought the land I wanted
to live in an ecological wooden house, if possible from Scandinavia
to live in a place where I had room to grow veg and experiment with things like a geodesic dome
to build a studio and a creative environment to practise my crafts of spinning, natural dyeing, knitting and weaving and to teach other people
to provide a magical environment for my children to explore and play
We lived at Silverbirch for 15 years, developing and shaping living space, the land and the children, making ends meet and creating beautiful work.
Then the effort became too much and the need for completion of the house essential, but there was no way that could happen with the legal and financial problems building up, So we moved.
My dreams aren’t gone, but the realisation and continuity I achieved at Silverbirch has to be let go and transformed.
Now my definite book Handweaving: The Basics has been published,
My children don’t live here any more, but I have a lovely little home with the support and maintenance I need. Most of all I have a small garden outside my window which has potential for development.
Even at this early stage it is beautiful, but then it is a harvest of dreams and wishes of a road not travelled.