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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Happy Valley....

..... the one in Orkney, that is. I love visiting Happy Valley at any time of the year. It's a garden just outside Stenness which was created by Edwin Harold from a bare hillside from the late 1940s until the 1990s when he became too old to maintain it. Sadly Edwin died in 2005, but the land has been taken over by the local council and is maintained by a group of volunteers called "The Friends of Happy Valley". Lots of new trees have been planted in a new part of the garden, and new saplings are growing where old trees have died. This isn't a garden in the formal sense of the word, but woodland with unusual trees and plants around - the only turkey oak in Orkney for example.

And a monkey puzzle tree! The bark looks so exotic!

I love the garden, there is a stream running through it and tree lined paths. It feels like the woodlands I used to walk through as a child, or ride through with Badger. Edwin built stone waterfalls, arches and bridgeways during his time there. The old stone house is in sad repair now, with the trees and roses hugging it closely, giving it protection, as if they hope Edwin may come back.

I visited the garden with friends on Saturday and we spent a couple of hours just sitting in the sun on the grass outside the old house, listening the the stream burbling in the background, the trees occasionally moving in a light breeze, birds chattering, and the most amazingly loud hum of thousands of insects (seemingly friendly non-bitey creatures). It was magical.

There are trees on Orkney - when I first visited it was the absence of trees that struck me. But now I see there are lots of trees and shrubs around, however woodland is scarce, so Happy Valley is a real treat, hidden away with no ostentatious sign post to direct hoards of visitors. A quiet reflective place full of beauty.

Pink Purslane

And hypericum

Er - a large yellow flower .....


  1. Trees, eh? Mainlanders and their fancy ways.

    I've yet to visit Happy Valley in two years in Orkney, but I'll put that right before the summer's over.

  2. What a lovely magical place.I ,too, thought that trees wouldn't grow in Orkney as it was too windy, shows what lies are told to keep us soft southerners away!

  3. and a monkey puzzle tree! I remember my first sighting of one of those and I still get excited whenever I see one!

    It's too bad a gardener couldn't be installed in the house so that it could be kept up.

  4. Malc - aye - and watch when you're driving on Mainland roads - they have these circular things in the middle of the road - I think you approach them much as you would the Westray One-Step....

    Chris - There are several small woodlands on the Orkney Mainland, and on Hoy there is some ancient woodland in Berridale. Not huge forests - but pockets of trees around! On Graemsay just small scrub type trees though.

    VioletSy - I love the monkey puzzle tree! The house is too dilapidated to live in - was by the time Edwin moved out (no electricity or "facilities"). It will probably be turned into a visitor centre, and volunteers will keep the garden going - volunteers led by experts and maintained in the spirit Edwin would still approve of.

  5. We camped, purely by chance, in a grassy field nearby in the late eighties- and had no idea the garden was there until a local lady suggested I go and have a look.
    What serendipity! I discovered each part of the garden as it unfolded in front of me- and I was watched over all the way by a very territorial crow.

  6. Was Edwin still in residence then? It is a really magical place. I just love it - and it's so well hidden too that when you do come across it, the place really does feel all secluded and secret.