Favourite Phantom Front Gardens (1)
Angerstein Lane, SE3
After yesterday’s agonies, I thought I go totally fluffy on you today and share one of my favourite secret local corners. It may be cheesy, but sometime’s CheddarVision’s just not enough…
Angerstein Lane (no prizes for guessing the provenance of that name) is one of those places that no one who stumbles upon it can quite believe is in London. A straight passageway behind the posh bit of Vanbrugh Park that curves round the edge of Blackheath – linking St John’s Park and Shooters Hill Road (ok, the A2, go ahead, smash my rustic fantasies) it is merely a dotted line on the map, but a delightful leafy retreat, complete with postbox set into ancient wall, lamp posts and overarching trees straight out of one of those postcards of ‘Old Blackheath’ you can buy in libraries. I would turn this picture into sepia except it’s so bloomin’ small already it would end up fuzzy…
Much of the back of it is garages and back entrances for the big houses on Vanbrugh Park, delightfully neglected in many cases, and there is a secret little path of modern houses (Langton Way) which is so embedded that you don’t notice it until it’s right upon you. But the rest of this path is totally empty – save for one tiny little roses-round-the-door cottage, Number 5, nestled in the only bit of clearing that the sun manages to break through. I can’t work out what happened to Numbers 1,2,3 and 4 – there is no sign that there was ever any other habitation.
At first it looks like it might be part of the giant Victorian building towering among the foliage behind it, and maybe once it was an outhouse, but it is very much a little cottage now. A low, white-walled building, it is cute in itself, but what really makes it is one of the loveliest cottage gardens I have seen in a long while. ‘Designed’ in that wonderfully hap-hazard style of the classic country garden, it has been clothed in traditional flowers and plants by someone who clearly spends a lot of his time out there – and who cares passionately about the bit of land that he’s reclaimed from the lane at the front of his house.
It’s clear the guy’s grown a lot of things from seed and cuttings, supplementing with bought specialities. The first time I walked past, he was out working and I spent some time chatting to him. A very friendly soul, he happily discussed planting ideas and pointed out his favourite bits (as gardeners usually do.)He is particularly proud of a peony he’s just acquired at great expense.
Though I would suspect this is not a totally new garden, it’s going to take a few years to fill out, but it’s already one of The Phantom’s Favourite Haunts. He’s created a tiny hawthorn hedge around it, though of course it will take years to get above knee height, and I suspect that he will always be delighted for fellow enthusiasts to enjoy it. And in the tradition of the true cottage gardeners, he’s generous too, leaving surplus plants at the gate with a note for anyone to take them.
I thoroughly recommend this little haven as a way to feel good about the world again after yesterday’s misery. Forget Chelsea Flower Show. This is real.