Monday, 30 September 2013

Little Sparta

Last week we enjoyed the wonderful company of my cousin from South Devon.  It's always so good to see her and our time together is always happily spent.

When you are in the company of a kindred spirit it is an excellent incentive to go and do things that perhaps we don't get round to doing at any other time.  For many years I have been meaning to visit Little Sparta, an inspirational and unusual garden in Lanarkshire.  My cousin's visit provided the perfect opportunity to make the effort and go.  

To reach Little Sparta, just outside Dunsyre, we drove first from East Linton to West Linton which sits just inside the Borders.  It is a place with a lot of history and some interesting characters.  In the churchyard we saw a monumental headstone to a local poet Robert Sanderson (1836-1902).   It is not easy to find much of his poetry but I have excavated this little extract from a series of verses he wrote in dedication to the River Lyne which runs through the village.

Here where I frame my humble hymn, 
Here where I wake my lowly lays, 
I seat me 'mong the yellow broom, 
The bonny broom on Leadlaw's braes. 

While from the dense, deep, woody maze 
Embosoming the streamlet clear, 
Lyne's waters, murmuring, gently raise 
Their ceaseless song to soothe the ear. 

I can imagine the writer sitting in the sun, flanked by the rich yellow broom and maybe the coconut scent of gorse in the warm air around him with the sound of the gurgling river in the background. 

West Linton also boasts an accomplished stonemason and sculptor, James Gifford, who carved this beautiful panel around 1660.  There are quite a few pieces of his work to be seen in the village street.
We drove on to find Little Sparta (, the garden of the late Ian Hamilton Findlay.  Do look at the website to find out a lot more about this wonderful place and its creator.  I am just going to show some of my favourite things in the garden, much of which centred around the words and sentiments as well as the artefacts.
There are several themes running through the sculptures and artworks on display in the garden. The French Revolution is one of them and I think 'Les Femmes de la Revolution' might be a book written in 1854 by a French historian called Jules Michelet.  He is a rather interesting man and it's worth reading up a little about him.(
There are many classical references throughout the garden.  Apollo and Daphne are clearly very much at home here and were having a spirited chase through an area of woodland as we passed.
There are pools with wonderful reflections
and a small loch with a rowing boat.  From the photo below you can see how the top of the garden just drifts from the loch off into the surrounding landscape.  This is my favourite part of Little Sparta.  It is high up with beautiful views, heather, interesting sculptures and pieces to see.  Just lovely.
We had a peaceful and inspirational time exploring, and sitting and gazing out over the surrounding countryside.  The garden had a lot of meadowsweet which is the most delicious wild flower and herb.  Although it flowers from June through until September it was all over when we visited but another time I would go earlier in the summer to be able to enjoy the impact the plant must have on the garden.  I love its spicy smell and frothy creamy flowers.  

There are so many dimensions to Little Sparta and the man whose inspiration it is.  Do visit if you can.  You will not be disappointed, and indeed probably enchanted as we were.

PS : I would like to thank The Hawthorn Press for their permission to publish the photographs I took during my visit to Little Sparta.  Thank you.

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