Plant on castle wall

The Garden at Pickering Castle

            Pickering Castle is in ruins, has been crumbling from the time it was built, in the 1000s, a thousand years ago.  You can’t walk the ramparts.  You cannot climb into a tower and imagine the castle under siege, you shooting an arrow through some notch in the stone work, or pouring hot oil onto enemy soldiers storming the castle walls.  You cannot see how people lived back then, where they cooked, ate, slept, where they defecated down a shaft built on the castle wall and dug deep into the ground.  You’ve been to castles where such knowledge was exhibited.  At Pickering, it is not.
            You’ve seen the photographs in the guide book, the caved-in walls, the moat full of weeds and brush, the few stairways blocked by wooden beams.  Only one small building, a chapel—intact, but restored only in that the National Trust has put a roof over its head—will have displays.  So why visit, except that your ten-year-old wants to, and you have been trying to accommodate his interests during a four-week tour of gardens.
            Pickering has no garden, no tour, no placards for information.  It has only its eroded self and a hefty admission charge, payable at the only point anyone has bothered to restore—the gates.
            So you go, against your judgment, certain you’ll be wasting a day.  Your son runs the castle grounds, imagination fired by ruin even more than it has been loosed by restoration.  He battles his way through the bushy moat, climbs a few unblocked stairs, ducks behind a door, shoots an imaginary arrow.  “C’mon, Dad,” he yells, and you follow him, follow his play and his pleasure until you climb to the highest point on the castle site, to a view miles in every direction, and you can see why the fortress was built where it was.  As you look down at the ruins of a millennium before, you see that in every crack, every upturned stone, every fissure and notch in the castle wall, a flower grows.  The whole place is a wild, free-range garden in which seeds themselves have decided where beauty might take root.
            “Wow,” says your son, turning around and around to take in the panorama.
            “Wow,” you say.  Everywhere, flowers have willed themselves to thrive.  And you thrive, as in all the gardens you have visited.

"The Garden at Pickering Castle" first appeared in I-70 Review







Plant on castle wall

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