Last Friday afternoon, my blogging daughter, Louise (at thestorytellersabode) and I decided to drive out to the Japanese Garden, located at North Clifton, near Newark in Nottinghamshire. It’s a mere 6.4 miles from where I live, so it took no time at all to get there. I hadn’t visited the Garden since 2008, and Louise had never been before, so it made a nice change for a gloriously sunny day.
The Garden has been described as ‘One of the Inspirational Gardens of the World’ (AA) and as ‘The Best British Garden’ (ITV). It covers a relatively small area but is packed with all the traditional features of a Japanese garden. Water features and ponds with Koi carp, winding paths, bridges, moss, bamboo, pagodas and stone lanterns all blend with a sprinkling of English plants:
There is also a Crystal Garden – an indoor garden consisting of rocks, crystals and different marbles:
The Meditation Centre and Garden were created by a lovely man called Maitreya, who is often around the Garden. This is a summary of how it all came about from the information leaflet we were handed on entry:
Maitreya (Koji Takeuchi) was born in Handa, near Nagoya in Japan. In his teens he began a search for the truth. He was first led to Christianity but found it did not give him the direct experience of Jesus he wanted. So he turned to meditation and attended an intensive meditation course at a Zen monastery – and had the experience of ‘enlightenment’.
Aiming to become a meditation master, Maitreya went on to complete an MA degree in Buddhism and lived the life of a Zen monk for a time – a life he found too harsh and rigid, and out of date. After travelling and teaching meditation in Thailand, Nepal and India, on the invitation of a friend, he eventually came to England. After staying at various universities around the country, teaching and lecturing, he came across a property for sale in North Clifton, Nottinghamshire. This became the base from which he taught meditation: ‘Pure Land’ came into being in 1973.
In 1980, Maitreya began transforming a flat, 2 acre field – a ‘wilderness’ – into a Japanese garden. His aim was to create a peaceful area which guests to his Centre could enjoy. He had no previous gardening experience, but he set about creating small ‘hills’ in this flat place that would remind him of his mountainous homeland, Japan. The material for these came from the earth dug out to create the ponds. The large stones placed around the ponds came from a quarry in Derbyshire and the winding paths were determined by the positioning of the stones.
Refreshments are available at a Japanese Tea House, which is also where payment is made on entry ((£7 for adults). A variety of teas are offered, including Japanese and English tea and various fruit teas. (I couldn’t say whether coffee is available as Lou and I asked for tea). People can either sit inside the very small place, or outside in the garden, as we did.
An extra feature every year is that of the ‘Lantern Lit Evening Garden’, which can be enjoyed every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights during August and September.
There are a few reviews of the Japanese Garden online but not all are favourable. It’s undoubtedly a pretty site, but it is small. The main criticism about it is the price – that £7 is too much for such a small place. Admittedly, it’s possible to walk round quickly, but most people tend to linger and spend time sitting at various nooks around the place or in the tea garden. We also walked around more than once in order to catch things we may have missed or overlooked the previous times. It isn’t cheap, but I suppose it depends what you want from a visit to a place like this.