Blogger - Agnes Rothon

The tea party I went to last week was one of the most civilized affairs I have been to for a long time (how often does the parent of a young child get to sit and chat and flick through wildflower books?). Even better, it also managed to feel wonderfully like stepping back to wilder times. As we arrived, a flock of tousled children were chasing each other through waist-high grass from which ox-eye daisies and meadow buttercups gleamed golden. The small brook that trickled gently at the bottom of the spongy water-meadow garden was banked with nettles – a convenient and natural way to avoid too many changes of the children’s wet clothes.

My son, who felt instantly that this was the kind of place he understood, immediately climbed in to the low-growing oak tree that has taken twenty years to grow, splayed but sturdy, in one corner of the garden. Intermittently he would flee from this leafy hide-out to career happily along the carefully mown paths that allowed access through the grass and flowers.

At various points around the garden bamboo poles had been pushed in to the ground to stake out the numerous reasons we had all gathered that afternoon. Next to each pole grew the conical head of a common spotted orchid, each spike made up of hundreds of individual purple flowers. The orchid’s leaves grew pointed and dappled with purple-brown ink-blots. This year the garden held perhaps twenty or so common spotted orchids and one lone bee orchid, though in warmer and drier years it has seen hundreds of each species. 

The children gambled amongst the orchids, spending time to dip down and examine them carefully before dashing back to the oak tree or over to the swing. The parents sat and talked of the flowers, ate rich chocolate cake baked deliciously in an enormous paella pan and drank tea.

As someone who spends much of their working, and home, life encouraging others to notice and appreciate nature, it was a huge relief to be surrounded by so many people that seemed to value it as much as I do. The owners of the garden were holding their annual ‘orchid party’ to celebrate the flowers yearly June arrival to the water meadows surrounding the house.

The party was a celebration of the wild, of our children exploring nature through play and the pleasure gained in watching this happen. That afternoon Mother Nature was the babysitter, the orchids were our VIP’s and the food, tea and chat with friends the icing on the cake.