By happy chance I found myself with time on my hands in Chelsea last week. I weighed up my options carefully. Coffee and croissant of course. Then a morning flexing the curiosity of my retail antennae along the Kings Road.
But, best of all, in the afternoon sunlight, I ducked under the trailing greenery that all but obscures the modest gateway to the Chelsea Physic Garden. I had been meaning to visit this garden for years, and as soon as I felt the yielding curve of the worn stone threshold under my feet I knew I was in for a treat. Ancient red brick walls shield an extaordinary oasis that for over three hundred years has been tended by deft fingers and scuffed by diligent gardeners’ boots. You can literally taste history here.
The garden was founded in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries of London as a learning ground for their apprentices, so they could grow medicinal plants, collect new species and study their uses.
Dr Hans Sloane took over the freehold of the garden in 1712 and still keeps a watchful eye from his central pedestal. His heirs continue to collect the £5 per annum rent, from the charity that now runs the garden.
I couldn’t help but envy the precisely cut edges of the multiple weed free, well labelled borders... and even more, the army of gardeners moving quietly up and down with their clippers.