Charles Elliott

A Blackbird’s Nest

The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden

By

Bloomsbury 384pp £17.95 order from our bookshop

This exceptional book is billed as garden writing, but it is garden writing only in the sense that Moby-Dick is a treatise on whales. There is no need to have the slightest knowledge of or interest in horticulture to be enchanted by it. The author calls it ‘this blackbird’s nest of cobwebs and sheep’s wool’, which while unflattering and imprecise, does in its own idiosyncratic way convey a bit of its flavour.

It was in 1988 that Katherine Swift and her husband (an Oxford bookseller whose presence is curiously evanescent here) took a twenty-year lease on the dower house attached to a Shropshire estate called Morville Hall, a National Trust property. She quickly became obsessed with the place – its history, its setting at the head of Corve Dale, not far from Wenlock Edge and the Clee Hills, the village and countryside life going on around it. And as a veteran garden writer (as well as a rare-book librarian and historical researcher) she decided to create a serious garden on an acre or so of adjoining rough grassland. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He weeps by the side of the ocean, He weeps on the top of the hill; He purchases pancakes and lotion, And chocolate… ,
    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,