Arne's journal

Inspired by Allt-y-bela


In July, earlier this year, award-winning writer Helena Attlee and Emma Beynon led their second 'writing workshop' here in the garden at Allt-y-bela. With playful exercises that stretched our minds, and 'free writing' to overcome inhibitions, they encouraged the group to write closely observed, precise responses to the garden and its surrounding landscape.

We are so pleased they are offering a second workshop, on 26th September and it seems apt in the week that Arne's new book is published to be encouraging bookings.

If you write, or want to write, in a personal or professional way, it is a great treat to spend a day with two such inspiring and stimulating writers, who both have such a true gift for teaching.

Below are a couple of short pieces written at the last writing workshop. The first is a response I wrote to the courtyard at Allt-y-bela, an area of the garden I know very well. It was a joy to sit amongst the topiary and coolness of the courtyard, focused on articulating my feelings towards the space and the collection of plants it is home to.

Thanks very much to Ardyn Griffin for the second, which followed a discussion about an extract from A Shepherds Life by James Rebanks. It is specifically an exploration of the notion of 'heft', a word that describes a special attachment or belonging to a particular piece of land. It is used in the north of England to describe a pasture to which a flock of sheep specifically belongs. It's a moving idea to explore; the place, the land, the earth to which you feel hefted.

For more details about the course and to book a place:

Words: Kristy Ramage

Photographs: Emma Benyon and Kristy Ramage


In The Courtyard at Allt-y-bela

Tamed, trammeled, fruit rich limbs hold in, protect and tip touch the pumpkin crust.

Banding plinth of zip tongued stone flows over earth, past pounded by iron arch and hoof.

Rounded boxy children cluster, playful, up and down, infiltrated by foxy cinnamon spires, a slight unease, relieved by the Turk's Cap lily, adorned with golden gems.

Pure brilliance, centre stage.

Kristy Ramage



The top of the garden is warm, sheltered from the wind, quiet.

The welcome, the relief.

The grubby disarray. With the plants I am absorbed,  'This has germinated, this has wilted, this needs another pot, is this a weed?'

The dog grumps for she is against gardening, she will flop and sleep.

This is her home, the smells, places to lie, she has absorbed into her life's patterns.

Now the chickens have found us, they circle, they chatter, they demand.

They alarm the dog.

The peacock arrives, he finds a flower, he eats it. He is not really a garden friend.

Ardyn Griffin