Issue 20 : Autumn 2005
Caroline Villers met Alasdair Forbes when both were students at the Courtauld 35 years ago and were friends until Caroline’s sudden death. With them I travelled to the Hebrides, through Italy and France and, more recently, to Devon where Alasdair created a remarkable and majestic 32 acre garden that is one of the best kept secrets in the world of horticulture.
On July 2nd he opened this to the public in aid of the Caroline Villers Research Fellowship and raised £1500 on the day. The garden is set in an intimate valley through which runs a stream that Alasdair channelled to form a series of lakes. Gradually, over two thousand trees have been planted, sculptures commissioned and a cascade built. Amazingly a large part of the valley itself is persistently mown, all year round, by Alasdair himself.
Plaz Metaxu, The Place that is In-between, as he has named it, also has an unusual enclosed garden, whose elegant austerity complements the lyrical magnificence of the lakes and the valley beyond. The scale of the enterprise is one thing, its meaning another. While his planting is extensive and striking it serves a purpose beyond horticulture. The valley tells a story, for this is a Narrative Garden, expressing what Alasdair defines as a “poetics of milieu”.
“Many areas of the garden”, he writes, “therefore bear the names of Greek gods or demigods. This is not an ornamental association, but an attempt to draw a structural connection between the way a space presents itself and the distinctive style of consciousness of a given god.” As you walk you meet echoes of Classical antiquity in corners dedicated to Hermes, or Artemis, to Pan or Narcissus. I like to think of it as that rare thing, an art historical garden.
In Caroline’s memory Alasdair has now laid out the “Paseo Caroline Villers”. This avenue, set high above his valley with a commanding vista, commemorates her love of Big Views. Caroline and Alasdair walked and talked their way together through life, until with remarkable dignity he helped to lead her out of it. As he has said, “Friendship is the perfect model for a garden”. In this sense therefore, Plaz Metaxu, The Place That Is In-between, is also a Courtauld Garden, a place where a friendship born in the Blue Room at Home House endures.
Plaz Metaxu is open by appointment.
Call 01884 860604.