MARCH can be a wicked month - embracing both winter and spring - in its lengthening days.
Most of all, it embraces the season of faded grandeur and it is apt, therefore, to be writing about a neglected, detached cottage I visited a few weeks ago.
The cottage has long been empty, and the garden of a quarter acre, bounded to the front by a busy road and to the rear by a trout-rich river, is slowly being reclaimed by nature.
The light was fading when I entered, and I moved about conscious that I was probably walking on the dreams of those (dedicated gardeners) who must have gone before me.
The doors they used were locked, the windows boarded, but it still possessed a peculiar and haunting beauty as if awaiting their return.
There has always been, I have found, something exciting and enchanting about exploring old, empty and abandoned properties and this cottage was no exception, and I viewed it (thankfully) before the romance of decay tips it over and the whole place disappears.
Now, almost hidden among the encroaching tangle of bramble and briar, I’m touched by the beauty of the dilapidation, and even the quality of the building itself.
I feel compelled to capture and document on film its ghostly beauty, to record this winsome and alluring setting, for all too soon the atmosphere and patina of a life well lived will be sucked back down into the ground.
Certainly, the cottage has now gone beyond the need for extensive repair and updating.
The garden is unfortunately reduced to bare bones. Shape and structure are more evident than colour and complexion.
In what once must have been the rose garden the gaunt bushes are now black and skeletal.
The flowering cherry, that shortly would have looked luminescent (it soars clear of the collapsing roof) is now swaged, festooned, and battened down with wild clematis in a corsetry of stays and restraints.
Bindweed too, encroaches, chokes, and stifles the remaining ornamentals, reaching even to the top of an aged and stately cordyline.
Here, I can imagine, was spring and summer year after year, but the brilliance has now softly faded, and everything carries the peculiar beauty of picturesque decline.
I moved about the clutching growths and noticed their sombre colours, much like the wardrobe of someone getting old.
Every now and again I found flashes of youthful verve; the faded mauve and pink of ancient Michaelmas daisies, the cardinal red of cotoneaster berries hanging like drops of opal in the dampness, whilst the soft beige and tan stems of an ageing stipa gigantea look as handsome as they did when the gardener first tended their needs.
The dry-stone wall that runs along the front, sides and back of the property is now grizzled with grey lichen and fattened with mounds of green tufted moss.
Ferns and pennyroyal have already invaded the lower shaded crevasses and mind-your-own-business (helexine) revels in those areas where moisture persists.
A chill in the air and the noise of pigeons rising nosily in the woods behind break the silence and my concentration.
The days are still short this month, so I take a final look at this rural cottage.
The door and windows are almost invisible, and it won’t be long before they’ll be totally covered.
No fires are lit to keep out the evening cold and no aroma of supper swirls about where velvet-curtained windows must once have hung.
The place looks, and feels, sad and forgotten.
A garden, it would seem, cannot retain its idiosyncrasies and individuality when it is abandoned to the whims and peculiarities of nature.
Surely there’s a similar cottage in your area?