Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Well I bet that got your attention! A hoe is both an agricultural and horticultural ancient tool used to shape the soil, remove the weeds, clear the soil and harvest crops. This is both physically and metaphorically apt for my story.
Since I can remember, I’ve been anxious on the inside. As I cast my mind back to the beginning, my brain was riddled with the what if’s and niggled by insignificant thoughts; that were incredibly significant to me. From the age of 18 I have lived with anxiety and only since last year been medicated. I need time off from my catastrophizing mind, as it exhausts my abundance of energy and challenges my own ability to fulfil life. I’m energetic, calm, grounded and motivated... until I’m not.
Five minutes by car there lies a magical house, with a long drive dressed with trees. This never ending road leads to a wrought iron gateway to the magnificent Kentwell Hall. This lovingly restored period house has a history that spans over 500 years. Kentwell is very much a home, and both house and gardens are run by the owners who have made it their life’s work to restore this mystical place.
I have the privilege of helping out in the gardens of Kentwell, and I can’t quite believe it! Every time I approach the house my insides are full of happiness and my face full of smiles. I know nothing about gardening... correction... I knew nothing. I have been given the opportunity to work in the parklands and gardens of my favourite place, and this is where my life and outlook has changed for the better.
As a child I was curious, I looked where I probably shouldn’t, I noticed everything but was afraid to ask questions. Now, I observe, listen and enquire. Kentwell is a playground for my overactive imagination. Amongst the secret hedged tunnels, walled gardens and potting sheds, the invisible
To most... white rabbits wiggle their fluffy tails and twitch their whiskers when they see me coming.
All I had were gloves, a ‘can do’ attitude and a love of being outdoors when I rocked up for my first day. I’d seen an advert for volunteers to help in the garden and thought ‘ if only I knew anything about gardening’. When the grounds opened I was one of the first to explore the grounds again and hug a tree or two( remember I’m single and it’s lockdown... you’ve gotta get the love where you can). Chatting away on the way in I realised they needed ‘helpers’ and they would teach me, and I signed right up.
Up the drive, past the cows, beside the dovecote is a path that leads you through the topiary trees to a very hungry caterpillar hedge, looking upon the moat that surrounds the house, filled with ravenous fish. Beyond there lies the fish pond, the walled and sunken garden and my peace of mind... oh and the ‘man shed’.
My gardening guru wears the Vietnamese hat, she is all seeing and all knowing. She works so quickly you can’t quite see her, sprite-like in these magical gardens. I think perhaps she has magic beans that she doesn’t tell me about as I plod about in my boots. It’s a great day when I’ve soaked myself cool with the hose and leave with a beetroot to bake my muffins, or rhubarb for my much loved rhubarb cake.
My first visit was spent watering and by the second I’d graduated to stick-picker-upperer. By the third I was weeding ( I was monitored... remember I knew nothing). Now, I’m chief hoe, look how far I’ve come in only a month or so. When I’m working anywhere in the gardens I can breathe, I can relax, and I don’t overthink. I’m active, engaged and love that I’m no expert and I’m learning all the time. This is all the therapy I need. There’s a vast improvement in my mental wellness, and my lust for life. My energy is overflowing and my happy hormones are off the charts.
I was right, this is a magical place, and I work beside some pretty incredible people who are volunteering too. There’s a mixture of unique skill sets, and different days bring different vibes and different jobs- always varied.
Amongst the vegetable garden I was given a hoe, my task to turn over the path and lift up the weeds and ensure that the surface was even. Metaphorically whilst hoeing, I was able to think very clearly about how I can shape the next chapter of my life. I have lifted up my own weeds, turned over my life in lock down and have made my own surface even. Now, I’ll be walking a new path.
Kentwell has and will continue to be a special place for me and many more. There’s healing here, there’s a vacation from your overthinking, there’s love, creativity and some serious roll up your sleeves and get stuck in work. This is my place and it could be yours too, could you be a ‘Happy Hoe’?
Sleep soundly with some graft in your day and positive energy in your soul, and if you’re interested in helping then email the gardening guru on firstname.lastname@example.org
Ps- I wore pink tights on Thursday
Pps- it’s a bit hot to garden in them at the moment