Making your living off your garden is a dream for many of us — but it needn't be a dream, as Anna Tyzack found when she spoke to some people who are already doing it.
In the first piece, Anna spoke to flower grower Rachel Siegfried, while in the second she turned her attention to fruit and vegetable grower Jane Scotter. Here she speaks to Viscountess Cowdray, aka Marina Cowdray.
Viscountess Cowdray, meditative gardener, West Sussex
Cowdray is best known for its polo pitches, but it is also, increasingly, a place for meditation and reflection. It all began for Viscountess Cowdray after the birth of her third child, Catrina, when she would sit alone in the ornamental woodland below the house or by one of the lakes and feel revitalised. ‘There’s something magical about the Cowdray garden — it draws you in with its wonderful sense of stillness,’ reflects Lady Cowdray.
Cowdray’s 110 acres of parkland were laid out in the early 19th century and developed by Viscount Cowdray’s great-grandfather, Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray, to include level lawns with wide borders, terracing, raised walks, rhododendron valleys and a 1,150ft-long Wellingtonia avenue.
After discovering meditation and taking a number of courses, Lord and Lady Cowdray began planting with peace and tranquillity in mind: a new woodland walk, a pyramid garden with a fountain and bench and medicinal plants, including mint, lemon verbena and comfrey.
The gardens also inspired Lady Cowdray’s sculpture, The Meditator, which evolved in her search to demystify meditation and is available to buy as jewellery.
There is now a Meditator on the front lawn at Cowdray House, which is a venue for weddings, house parties and corporate events. When their five children left home, Lord and Lady Cowdray downsized to an extended cottage on the estate. ‘They’re as connected to the garden as we are; they’re always asking when the house is free so they can go for a healing walk,’ Lady Cowdray says.
Determined that it should be a place for more people to discover the restorative powers of meditation, in 2016, Lady Cowdray transformed the nearby Cowdray Hall into a wellness retreat for meditation, yoga, chanting and Qigong (moving medi-tation) classes. ‘It’s been a dream come true for me,’ she says.
On International Yoga Day in June, hundreds of people gathered on the polo pitches to meditate and practice yoga in the evening sun. ‘Meditation might feel alien to some people, but, when you come here, you realise that it can be as simple as getting out into Nature,’ Lady Cowdray believes.
Watching a polo match will give anyone who loves riding an urge to try it for themselves — Octavia Pollock
Selham House is the perfect house for entertaining, with a pool for the summer, large rooms for the winter and