“The main things I really enjoy about this placeis being able to be in touch with nature. Gardening is about the four elements:it’s about earth, fire, water and air. You’re in touch with the earth, you needthe sun and water to make the plants grow, and fresh air is a part of all that too.” - Elisabeth

Photograph by Lynette

The house with the disappearing bedroom (and other strange tales from Closeburn)

“I hated that fly whisk.  It was made of a zebra’s tail hairs and I hated it.  It got burnt in the Glasgow blitz, and good riddance.”
But the woman remembering her childhood put it in her poem, so it still mattered.

I was spending a wonderful evening with Closeburn WRI, who had invited me along to read some of my poems to them.  Which I did.  However, I was also deeply curious as to whether I could get them to enjoy writing one of their own - and it turned out they were definitely up to the challenge. I set up a way to help them write a 6 line poem in 20 minutes, focussed on early childhood and a particular house - and then asked them to share the results.  Almost everyone did.

The experience and talent of this roomful of women really flowed over when they read out their work.  The suds and smells of washing day, the hiss and glow of gas lighting, the pleasure of stroking a long-ago cat.  That gruesome fly whisk.  And the bedroom that would disappear, because there were two sets of stairs, and a small girl who would lose her sense of direction in the dark upstairs.


The second event was a visit to Closeburn Mains in the snow, a near derelict property belonging to my parents. In one of the houses I found the remains of fifteen or so birds of varying species, in various stages of decomposition. Perhaps most beautiful was the corpse of a barn owl, incredibly well preserved, wings spread wide as if in supplication. The window through which these birds must have entered has since been boarded up, so future deaths will hopefully be prevented.

Flanked by Cedar Creek and remnant Riverine rainforest in Closeburn, Elisabeth and Paul’s cottage is a hidden treasure and her gardens, plentiful. Described by Elisabeth as “multifunctional”, the garden has an orchard and Paul and her try to grow their own vegetables. They have a very extensive bromeliad collection and numerous native trees. 

“We’ve tried to extend the Riverine Rainforest along the creek as much as possible. We’ve planted cabinet timber. We have flower gardens. I’ve got a little cottage garden growing roses and other things like that. But basically,the garden is very large and has a huge variety, a very large botanical collection of all sorts of things.” - Elisabeth

Photograph by Lynette