A Dorset garden – 4 Noel Road, Wallisdown
A unique garden, full of fun, entertainment, good humour and a little bit of mystery. Words by Susy Varndell, photographs by Colin Varndell
Published in September ’15
This garden must be one of the smallest in the National Garden Scheme. It is situated in a row of neat looking bungalows with nothing very extraordinary in their front gardens except some lovely flowers, until Number 4 is reached. The front of the bungalow immediately alerts you to the feast that you are about to encounter.
On entering the property one is instantly conscious of the numerous statues all around the plot as well as the very green grass, which never needs to be mown! A quick glance is all that is needed to see the expanse of the grounds: it is small and compact with many features in a tiny space. The initial observation is that it is fun and interesting. Where have all these statues come from? Do they have a story to tell? What connects them all together? On meeting the owners, Ivor and Lesley Pond, it becomes apparent that this little piece of England is a reflection of its vivacious occupiers.
Although visitors on an NGS open day are only allowed to travel one way round the small garden, the owner kindly allowed this visitor to oscillate backwards and forwards in an attempt to follow ideas through. Needless to say, it was a futile attempt, because as the owner explained with great relish, there is no grand plan, the garden has simply evolved over the years. It began many years ago when a special teacher made history come alive and Ivor remembers such wonderful lessons that his ambition was then to go to Rome, to Pompeii, to the Valley of the Kings and to Cambodia.
So the garden is a reflection of Ivor and Lesley’s travels. Quite simply, wherever the owners’ last journey took them, would dictate what idea was next generated for the garden, or which statue was to be imported from
At the top of this gently sloping plot is a Roman temple where you can sit amongst the grand pillars of Rome and look out on a magnificent view: a view from a hotel restaurant in Naples. Or if you look out in another direction you can view the Acropolis – no mean achievement when you are still sitting in a suburban garden in Bournemouth. There is a bust of Caesar, as well as statues from Cambodia, looking majestically out from the temple. One end of the temple is sheltered by a church stained glass window which although beautiful in its own right, also provides a practical purpose – it shields some rubbish and is used to protect plants during the colder winter months.
Moving on approximately two steps to the area ‘Full of Eastern Promise’ one becomes aware of a plethora of Buddhas, together with their offerings. And enjoying the spectacle from his swinging perch is a small figure: Charlie Chaplin. Next to this grotto is the Nymphaeum, a place where the nymphs can play while protecting the cascading water. The gentle stream is soothing to the senses, but as yet, no nymphs have been seen in this Nymphaeum. This may of course be because an elegant crocodile also enjoys the watery atmosphere! This area, and the crocodile statue, was inspired by a visit to the island of Ischia, Italy. Susana Walton, wife of the composer William Walton created La Mortella, an inspirational garden, which in turn has inspired this little piece of Bournemouth.
The garden does have some flora, for the many vertical structures support an array of climbing plants: clematis and an exceptional wisteria. Flowers, which are generally planted in containers, are bought from local nurseries or shops. They are chosen for their bright colours: oranges and reds, which contrast with the more sombre hues of some of the statues. There are verdant palm trees, which Ivor planted, and there are also lush fake trees either side of one of the statues, which Ivor created. Some plants have interesting looking seed heads, which on examination have been placed there from another plant – the palm trees. Ivor’s mischievous spirit is all around!
This garden, although small, is an Aladdin’s Cave of ideas and objects and wherever you look there is something of interest. It is such fun with jokes and humour all around as you amble through. The birds, which sing so sweetly, are in fact models from a local shop! Some statues are imported from the other side of the world while others are from a local outlet. The terracotta warriors, the Roman temple, the stone urns, the various statues and all the other intriguing objects are essential according to Ivor. Gardens should not just have flowers; outside spaces should be for entertainment, for fun and enjoyment and leave a smile on the visitor’s face. It would be difficult to leave Ivor and Lesley’s garden without a smile: the garden, like its owners, is full of vivacity and cheerfulness. Expect the unexpected! ◗