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The Garden in the Clouds From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise by Antony Woodward

The Garden in the Clouds From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise

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The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Longing for a countryside idyll, Antony Woodward buys an unprepossessing smallholding in the Black Mountains of Wales. Hoping to move permanently, he decides to design a garden and submit it for inclusion in the hallowed ‘Yellow Book’, the National Gardens Scheme’s guide. Ignoring all evidence that a garden is totally impractical, he embarks upon a heroic mission, defying logic and the disapproval of the NGS County Organiser, and creating an engaging, inspiring tale in the process. As the family battles adversity in the form of inclement weather and obdurate Welsh mountain sheep, his romantic project begins to take shape, paying testament to the power of one man’s grand ambition.


The Garden in the Clouds From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise by Antony Woodward

For anyone who's wanted to live the dream but never had the nerve to try. It was a derelict smallholding so high up in the Black Mountains of Wales it was routinely lost in cloud. But to Antony Woodward, Tair-Ffynnon was the most beautiful place in the world. Equally ill-at-ease in town and country after too long in London's ad-land, Woodward bought Tair-Ffynnon because he yearned to reconnect with the countryside he never felt part of as a child. But what excuse could he invent to move there permanently? The solution, he decided, was a garden. In just a year he'd create a garden so special it would be selected for the prestigious Yellow Book - the famous National Gardens Scheme guide to gardens open to the public for charity. It's an unlikely ambition to entertain in this most unlikely of settings, and one that soon sees Woodward driven by odder and odder compulsions - from hauling a 20-tonne railway carriage up the mountain to making hay with hopelessly antiquated machinery. The path to Woodward's elusive sense of belonging turns out to be a rocky and winding one, taking in childhood haunts, children's books and Proustian nostalgia trips. As the family battles gales, mud and Welsh mountain sheep of marble-eyed cunning, not to mention the notoriously fastidious NGS County Organiser, it remains deeply uncertain whether the 'Not Garden' and the 'infinity vegetable patch' (that grows only stones) will ever make the grade...Warm, thought-provoking and brilliantly funny, this is a memoir of a hopeless romantic with a grandly ludicrous ambition - an ambition to which anyone who's ever dropped into a garden centre, or opened a packet of seeds, has already succumbed.


'Told with a side-splitting brilliance that only a truly gifted writer can achieve. Not one dull page...up there with Proust as a shimmering example of classic remembrance of things past.'
Val Hennessy, Daily Mail

Carry On up a mountainside
...uplifting...hilarious...In this thoughtful departure from standard flit-lit , Antony Woodward breaks new ground - literally. What gives this book an edge is the way the author interlaces gardening tales with his family story. Although [it] will appeal to Britain's millions of gardeners, The Garden in the Clouds is much more than a horticultural tale. It is testimony to what can be achieved with a dash of imagination and a very British refusal to admit defeat.

Sara Wheeler, Mail on Sunday
'I set out determined to dislike the book, and I completely failed to do so. There can be no higher praise than that ... I read [it] through in one sitting, at first from malice, then for enjoyment.

Byron Rogers, Spectator
'Woodward's tongue-in-cheek account of finding, making and growing his own little patch of heaven is right on the button.

The Times

About the Author

Antony Woodward studied Art History at Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has produced documentaries for the BBC and ITV, written for the Independent on Sunday, Sunday Times, Time Out and Independent. His first book, 'Propellerhead', made it onto several bestseller lists.

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Book Info

Publication date

29th April 2010


Antony Woodward

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HarperPress an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


304 pages


Garden design & planning



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