15 June 2015
As Sunday ended up bright enough for me to catch a little sun on my arms and chest I naievly expected more of the same on Monday. With this in mind I’d planned a nice walk along the shore towards Hamble. Looking out of the window when I got up threw those plans into disarray. If anything it looked like rain, all thick grey cloud, black around the edges. Obviously I would have to think again.
Commando saw me poring over maps over my breakfast cocoa.
“Why don’t you go to Mayfield Park?,” he suggested. “It’s not too far and, if the weather gets worse, there are trees to shelter in.”
So I had a plan. It wasn’t too warm as I made my way along the winding road to Millers Pond and I can’t say I was enjoying the walk much at this stage. A pair of ducks sitting on the wall by the viewing platform cheered me up a bit and I stood for a while to watch them. They didn’t seem to mind, in fact the drake carried on dipping his head for worms and weed much to my annoyance as I wanted to take a picture of his lovely green feathers. The water lilies were flowering, little dots of yellow amongst the green pads and a fisherman watched me from his spot on the opposite bank. It had been raining earlier and the petals on the dog rose were still speckled with raindrops.
Mayflower park is just under the railway viaduct so I didn’t hang around too long and soon I was across the road and climbing the steep trail into the park. At this time of year I’d usually take the butterfly trail but, given the weather, I didn’t expect to see too many butterflies so I carried on up the hill. At the next trail I paused, looking along at tree roots covered in velvety moss. I was about to set off along it when I remembered that Lisa from Jumble and Jelly had told me about a nursery of the flower kind hidden away in the park. From what she said I thought it was at the very top of the hill so I carried on. The climb certainly warmed me up.
When I emerged from the trees I was at the old stable block for Mayfield House. The house is long gone. It was built in the ninteenth century near an eighteenth century water powered wood mill to which Millers Pond was the resevoir. Sadly, it suffered Bomb damage in the air raids of World War II and was demolished in 1957. Now a bowling green stands on the site. The stable block was built in 1854 at around the same time as the house. As stable blocks go it is a rather ornate one with a beautiful cupola and clock above a round, tower like structure. These days it’s used by the council as a depot which seems a shame as I’d like to have a look inside.
A trail leads behind the stables, strewn with fallen rhododendron petals at the moment. Although I wasn’t sure if it would lead me to the nursery it was so pretty I couldn’t resist it. As it happened it led me to the bowling green where a game was going on. I’ve never played bowls but, if I ever did, this would be the place to do it. The pristine grass of the green is surrounded by a wrought iron fence around which are hedges, trees and lots of lovely flowers.
Not really sure where I was heading I followed the winding path. Although I’ve been to the park many times, I even used to take my nephews there when I was in my teens, this is a part I’ve never explored before. Usually we stuck to the wide playing fields or the woodland trails and I didn’t even know there was a garden, never mind a nursery. When I found myself in a lovely enclosed garden filled with flowers I could hardly believe my luck. It may not have been the nursery but, even if I didn’t mange to find it, the trip was worth while.
In the centre of a roughtly oblong lawn surrounded by shrubs and trees was a trio of diamond shaped beds bursting with flowers. Each bed had a small conifer at its centre and the theme seemed to be pink and purple, some of my favourite colours in a garden. Even though I had to share the garden with a couple of ladies walking dogs I was happy just to be there. One side of the space had a long wall of old red bricks and a stunning bed filled with masses of different flowers. Behind it I thought I could detect greenhouses. Perhaps this was the nursery.
Eager as I might have been to find out if I was right about the greenhouse I couldn’t leave the garden unexplored. On closer inspection the pinks of the diamond beds turned out to be thrift, huge drifts of them in colours from white to deep crimson. The bees were having a field day frolicking amongst the lovely balls of flowers. There and then I resolved to get some for my own garden if I did ever find the garden centre.
Next I turned my attention to the bed along the wall. There were so many different plants I knew I’d have to curb my photo taking or I’d run out of memory on my phone, never mind time. The only thing to do was concentrate on my favourites. The tradescantia were amongst the most unusual with their trio of petals and tassels of stamen hairs. Here and there purple salvia reminded me of the toadflax along the boardwalk and made me smile.
The bees were enjoying the burgundy coloured scabious almost as much as I was and there was a huge bank of them to keep them busy. Then there were the foxgloves with their spotty throats to entice the bees away. This is a flower I’ve never grown because I know they’re poisonous but there are no small children about now so next year I might just give them a try. They really make a statement. Finally, the oriental poppies still damp from the rain and trying to hide their frilly centres.
I could easily have spent the whole day wandering in the garden looking at all the plants but I began to get a severe case of plant envy and thought I’d better try to find the nursery. Luckily, it wasn’t difficult. Leaving the garden behind I followed a path lined with yet more rhododenrons and, in next to no time I was at the entrance. What followed was half an hour of browsing, picking up and putting down pots trying to decide what to buy. Sensibly, I’d packed a strong canvas bag with long handles in my rucksack but I could have had a truck and I’d still have had problems.
This is not a large, all singing all dancing, garden centre like Haskins, it’s a small, homely place. Even so it is rammed to the gills with pots of lovely plants and the prices put the big places to shame. Aside from the large greenhouse I’d spotted from the garden, there were tables, trestles and several large poly tunnels filled with flowers of every kind. Luckily, many were in small, easy to carry pots.
Eventually I chose three small pots I could easily carry home and went to pay for them. This was when I learnt a little more about the place. I was already aware that this used to be a council nursey in an old walled garden in the park, what I didn’t know was it is also a charity. A subsidiary of chairty, Solent Mind they help people with mental health problems and learning disabilities to develop horticultural skills, confidence and, hopefully, to gain employment.
This all sounded very worthwhile and made the price of the plants seem even more of a bargain. When the lovely lady serving me told me it had been council funded I was glad that my council tax was being put to good use. Then she told me they have just cut the funding for next year and, unless they can raise the money to continue, the facility may have to close. Given the amount of money spent on digging up roads in this city and silly projects like the fences on roundabouts to ‘calm traffic,’ or as I think of it, obstruct the view and make them more dangerous, I think the council should get their priorities straight. Maybe I should write to my charming local councillor?
So, armed with my purchases and feeling a little cross, I left Mayfield Nursery. Before I set off for home I had to check out Mayfield Lodge beside the nursery. Over the years I must have passed this lovely little house hundreds of times but I always thought it was a private residence, which was one of the reasons I was unaware of the nursery. Now I was inside the imposing brick gate posts I took the opportunity to have a good look.
The delightful little single storey yellow brick building was built in 1854 for Robert Wright and the steep hill beside it is still called Wrights Hill. In 1937 when the park was taken over by Southampton Council and opened as a public park, the lodge was used as a park keeper’s house. By the beginning of this century it was derelict and falling down but, in 2011 the council put it up for sale. It has now been beautifully restored and is a family home. Yet more house envy then.
So I wandered back through the tunnel of rhododendrons, down the hill and back through Millers Pond, still thinking about the council withdrawing the funding for the lovely nursery. For a change I took the route past the Millers Pond Pub back to the village, past my old school and college, bringing back a few memories of walks home from school with a bag full of homework. This time my bag was full of plants which seems like a far better deal to me.
This route also took me past the village church and the graveyard where Pappy is buried. Of course I popped in to say hello. Right now the graveyard is a field of wildflowers dominated by oxeye daisies. I suppose some people would moan about it, wanting manicured grass around the graves. Personally, I like it as it is and I’m pretty sure Pappy would feel the same.
It may not have been the sunny day that I’d expected but the rain held off for my walk. Mayfield Nursery was a wonderful find and I can’t believe I haven’t stumbled upon it before, especially when I think about how many times I’ve wandered lost through this park. It just goes to show, no matter how well you think you know a place there are always hidden secrets to find and this was a real gem.