7. Devon Thursday 15 June

Plaz Metaxu, Coombe House, Witheridge – Alasdair Forbes Esq

There are a number of gardens in Britain that are concerned with ideas even more than plants; in particular Ian Hamilton-Finlay’s garden at Little Sparta, Charles Jencks’s Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Dumfriesshire and Christine Facer’s at Througham Court. Plaz Metaxu, “the place that is between” is one of these gardens. Its underlying themes are classical mythology, art, music and psychology. Influenced by Taoism and Buddhism, particularly in the treatment of spaces, it is a garden of concepts and poetic symbolism, but like William Kent’s garden at Rousham, it is possible to enjoy the planting and this magical garden’s relationship with the surrounding landscape, particularly the valley, quite as much as the essential meaning underlying the garden.

The garden seems to start rather conventionally, with, in front of the house, a lawn running down to a stream and to one side, an enclosed garden with a charming wooden seat built into the top wall. The courtyard behind the house changes the tone immediately, created primarily for contemplation, it is dedicated to the god Hermes, who is able to move effortlessly between the world of the gods and that of men. The main part of the garden lies in the valley below the house, where the stream flows round a central lake that draws the visitor further into the garden and Alasdair Forbes’s classical world.

Tim Richardson has described Plaz Metaxu as “one of the most significant new gardens to have been made in Britain in recent decades.” We will therefore spend the whole morning in the garden with Alasdair Forbes. After lunch we will be free to return to explore the garden on our own and the more energetic can walk the perimeter Pastoral Loop which gives wider views across the valley which Alasdair Forbes likens to a caesura – a suspenseful pause breaking up a line of verse.