Arne's journal

Untitled: a poem about Allt-y-bela


Written on Saturday 19 July 2014 as a collective poem by those attending the Open Ground creative writing course.


Chaos leans its back against man's perfection and waits.

The air is drying out, wrung out from the night.

Poke out, poke in darting black tongues feed.

Rough-hewn pavers marking patterns of movement long since obliterated.


Cock of the walk, trailing two wives, he gaudy and strutting, they subtle and delicate, quietly pecking.

The cockerel searches saturated grass, calls with gentle croaks his hens to the feast of slugs and worms.

Pecking, bobbing, strutting ceremonial procession led by the golden feet of grand master cockerel.

Silky-spun lacy hammocks of spiders' webs, sandwiched as an artwork between the window's glass and closed shutter.


Espaliered pears, arms outstretched but no partridges in sight

Carved ground the garden's soft underbelly exposed. Vulnerable and bold.

The hollyhock, pert triumph in cobbles.

Two beech bushes the round one open mouthed and his smug taller companion.

The rinds of hay rattle, in the thick burnt, yellow grass.

Turning, the shapes collide and jostle with excitement, around openings and routes around the garden.


As you turn the corner, the gentle whoosh of the stream changes key, to that of a bath filling very slowly.

Flow stone, slab steps, down to the stream.

Slow flowing bubbles on the brown, churned water,

Above the slow moving mud slung stream.

Un-channelled, water follows its own thoughts, aimless, gentle, a lesser being.


The muted but distinctive colours, nothing garish here.


For more information about Open Ground visit the website here


Sweet peas and redcurrants

The long summer days are now upon us. Here at Allt-y-bela the swallows and swifts are darting through and chattering around us feasting on the bountiful supply of insects and occasionally resting on the beam in the studio! The butterflies are wafting around seeking suitable succulent brassicas to lay their eggs and the buzzards are soaring high on the therms above.  It is just breathing with life and regeneration and the incredible microclimate here has encouraged blooms and foliage to put on their best show.

The garden is looking magical; the kitchen garden is filling the house larder full of delicious salad leaves, tomatoes, potatoes and now vegetables such as peas, fine beans and mangetout.  The mixture of sunshine and rain has been perfect for bringing on cabbages and cavelo nero, which look magnificent. Sweet peas are in abundance and filling the warm air with their heavenly scent, each day we try to harvest as many as possible to keep them growing continuously throughout the summer. Alongside these, the knot garden is brimming with dahlias, phlox, campanulas, roses, veronicastrum and annuals such as cosmos. A patchwork of beautiful colours including pale lilac, rich burgundy, soft dusty pink, silvers and the palest of blues, all combined in such a way that you begin to drift into a dreamy gaze.

Some of the red currants were harvested today, their beautiful shiny little globes of tartness were popped straight into the freezer, destined to become redcurrant jelly at a later date.  The next batch are still being protected from the birds by netting, we're hoping the blackbird doesn't find a way in before they ripen up.

At the entrance to the house, the beautiful gladioli I was given by friends in America has given us a stunning show. She is gradually fading now and giving way to Agapanthus Windsor Grey, whose subtle and soft grey colour is filling big shoes admirably.

Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer

The Merry Wives of Windsor

It had been difficult to imagine a performance at Allt-y-bela without pouring rain; but this year the weather was perfect. The sun warmed the new grass-banks of the garden theatre, and lingered until the final acts when the light from flares took over, and the dusk fell. For the first time, the stage was set with a back drop of the tall barn, fronted, almost moated, by the newly walled stream and the actors seemed to revel in it. Playing on the trepidation of the audience with unlikely, audacious leaps across the flowing water below.

The comedy of the play was brought out to the full by the company of players from the Living Willow Theatre. The frustrations of the balaclava clad Brooke (a disguised Ford) were a particular highlight, as was the querulous singing of the Welsh cleric, Sir Hugh Evans. The oh-so-flawed but magnificent Falstaff filled the stage, (and the laundry basket), too much of a presence to be brought very low by his final horned humiliation, by those posing as fairies.

A new theatre has been sworn in, and proved itself an inspiring setting. We look forward greatly to what happens next, and thank all that took part this year, for such a very, merry beginning.

For information about Shakespeare Link at the Living Willow Theatre visit their website here.