“By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.”
Helen Hunt Jackson.
We watched the weather forecast with more interest than usual as August came to a close. St Mary Hill Fair – traditionally held on Bank Holiday Monday – was cancelled because the fields were so waterlogged that although parking a car would have been alright, driving it back out onto the road would have needed the assistance of a tractor. But surely, I thought, if the last weekend in August was a washout then the first Sunday of September was bound to be dry, possibly even sunny.
I do not usually fret about rain – in Wales you learn early on to live with everything from misty drizzle to monsoon-like downpours. There is an old saying which goes along the lines ‘to be born Welsh is to be born privileged…’ which I think should be rewritten as ‘to be born Welsh is to know that you will spend most of your life soaked to the skin…’ That aside there was a reason for my foreboding. We were due to open our garden for the National Garden Scheme on Sunday 3rd of September. If it was pouring with rain even the most hardy of gardeners would be put off coming which would have a major effect on the money that we raise for charity by charging people to come in through the garden gate and wander about.
It rained on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday I went to Hereford to hand in my college project and – lo and behold – the sun shone. Saturday saw another fine day which was just as well because our sister cottage was having their open garden party in aid of the British Lung Foundation. No-one who is involved with our garden openings – and it takes a lot of people behind the scenes to make sure that everything goes smoothly – is under any illusion that people come to look at the gardens. We all know that what people come for is the tea and home-made cakes.
Nevertheless the weather matters because fewer people through the gate means less money for charity and more cake going to waste! Sunday morning dawned bleakly through a curtain of low, threatening cloud. Wet weather plans were put into operation: gazebos were erected outside, woodburners were lit inside. Our first visitors, Mary and Roy, arrived at 12 noon and they left at 5pm. After spending the afternoon sitting next to the fire eating his way through more cake that he imagined existed, Roy announced that he was going home to pack his bags and move in to our cottage.
In spite of the rain, all 75 of our visitors were in good humour and managed to raise £632 for NGS charities. My favourite was 4 year old Gwil who ate cake, fed the goats, ate cake, picked apples, ate cake, talked to the chickens and then ate more cake. Upon leaving Gwil’s dad said “Gwil, what would you like to say to Maria?” Gwil thought a moment and replied “Can I come and live here and stay forever?”
Monday was clearing up day at both cottages and between us by Tuesday we had washed dishes, packed the gazebos away and delivered 23 bags of unsold bric-a-brac to local charity shops which meant that everyone else could go on holiday to France
whilst I got on with the harvest
and looked after the goats.
All of these activities have left me little time to be tramping the mountains, drawing maps or doing research for the last part of my MA at Hereford. Luckily we had a dry Sunday last week so I pulled on the walking gear and headed up to walk part of the Ogwr Ridgeway. As I climbed up onto the moorland proper Welsh weather returned and has pretty much stayed ever since. But rain can’t stop a country being beautiful or a walking artist trying to capture its magic.
So I’m not sure whether this summer had any best weather but with some good friends, good humour and good waterproofs then these September days have definitely been full of autumn cheer.