Saturday, 4 January 2014


When I was a child, my parents owned an old walled garden in South Devon. They put a caravan within the walls, and we would go down every Easter and summer for a week or two to relax. It was a magical part of my childhood: we would clear the vegetation off the land using slashers (long wooden handles with a sharp metal blade at the end), and later on dad bought an old Fergie tractor to clear the many month's of vegetation that would build up between our holidays.

An old orchard lay outside the walls, and lack of care had converted the trees into a moss-covered, dark space that was a wonderland for an imaginative child. Pirates would be hiding behind that tree; treasure would be buried under another.

We would go down to Teignmouth and Shaldon to paddle in the sea, and eat rock cakes at the Clipper Cafe. Dad would collect a jar of pennies and tuppences during the year, and we would spend them in the machines on Teignmouth Pier.

Those holidays defined my childhood; I even took my first steps within the garden. Later on, during my coastal walk, I made a pilgrimage back to the place to find it even more overgrown and magical than it had been as a child.

Ornaments lay in the grounds, including two ponds (one broken by my dad to drain the water after my tomboyish sister fell in). A stone sundial with a carved lion's head on each of the column's four faces was situated just outside the wall, beside an old, overgrown driveway. Tall trees overhung the driveway, meaning the sundial sat in a shaded area with an ivy floor.
The gateway into a wonderland.

One day I watched an animated version of 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', and immediately afterwards went down to the clearing and sat in front of the sundial, staring at the lions' faces. The column seemed tall, and the lions imposing. But they were not lions: they were Aslan.

Years later some of the surrounding land got developed, and builders cleared some of our property. So went the sundial, never to be seen again. But I still remember it with fondness, and hope it gives some other child a sense of wonder. But I doubt it: it belonged in that shaded dell.

We sold the land some time ago, and I will never be able to walk around it again. I have no pictures of that sundial, and have been able to find nothing similar on the 'net. Looking back over thirty-five years, it is one of the things I miss most from my childhood.

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