Sunday, February 22, 2009


On the weekend we normally bundle the family into the car for our regular weekend Island drive. We set a time frame, usually from one to two hours, depending on how accommodating the kids are feeling, and head off into the wide blue yonder; well grey really at this time of year. Today we happened upon 'White Gable'. We first encountered this house last year when the owners advertised their open garden in the Guernsey Press (the Island's local newspaper), or it may have been the Globe (a free newspaper), I can not remember which. The family have planted thousands of snowdrop bulbs in the field at the rear of their home and welcome the public into their garden for a few weekends during the snowdrop season. You pay a small donation for the privilege and the family donates it to their selected charity.

Last year we were told that the family had sold the property and this would be the final open garden. They even invited the public to come back, once the snowdrops had finished flowering, to remove clumps of the plants to take home to their own gardens. By sheer chance we turned down their road on our drive today; believe me once you have experienced the winding, and often confusing, mainly unsigned roads of Guernsey you will appreciate that it was most definitely chance that we ever found this house again. There at the entry to the property was a large chalkboard displaying a invitation which warmly invited passers-by to come in to see the wonderful snowdrop field. It appears the new owners are more than happy to continue the tradition, or perhaps the sale of the property never went ahead; either way it was a lovely and most unexpected surprise for us. In our previous visit the tiny carpark in the house's cobbled courtyard was full to overflowing with visitors, however this year we were fortunate enough to have the entire place to ourselves. Judging by the magnitude of this year's stunning floral display not many spade-wielding members of the public had availed themselves of the offer of free snowdrops.

In the time we have lived in Guernsey we imagined that we had seen much of the Island but in recent months we have taken to driving down Ruette Tranquille at random, just to see where it will take us. Ruette Tranquille are narrow roads, of one car width, where the speed limit is fifteen miles per hour and pedestrians, bicycles and horses have the right of way. Most of these narrow roads are edged by mounded earth 'walls' which are about waist height, although in some areas of the Island they are well above head height. It is in these roads, where the head height, vegetation clad 'walls' seem to loom up from the edges of the bitumen, you have a sense of the surreal. You are enclosed by tiny plants which seem more at home at your feet than at eye level; where you need to look up to see sky and you are unable to ascertain if the road actually ever does end, as you can never quite see past the next bend. Even if you wanted to get out of your car in order to scramble up the 'walls' and see what lies hidden beyond you could not, as the roads are so narrow you are unable to open the car door. It is in these places only travellers on foot are privy to the secrets of the hedgerows; perhaps someone is trying to tell us to get out of our car and experience things at a slower pace.

In amongst the snowdrops a few winter crocus add a welcome splash of colour. The plump, squat purple and yellow blooms offers a foil to the delicate, swaying white of the snowdrops. It was one of those scenes you hold in your memory as its picture postcard quality makes it seem as if you have stepped into a fairytale and you are merely waiting for the singing Princess to dance across the field followed by her loyal entourage of cute and fluffy animal friends. This is perhaps why my daughter insisted on my taking eleven photos of her, in varying Princess like poses amongst the flowers. A little girl's dream come true.

What fairy tale is complete without a magical mushroom for the gnomes to hide under?

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