A Visit to a Japanese Garden

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an MA degree in Buddhism and lived the life of a Zen monk for a time – a life he found too harsh and rigid, and out of date.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.


43 thoughts on “A Visit to a Japanese Garden

  1. Incredible piece and love all the pictures. We have a garden similar to where I live and not as fancy. Hope you had a great time and thanks for sharing the adventure!

    1. Thank MG. I’ve seen a couple of other Japanese gardens and although they’re colourful and very attractive, they haven’t been as well stocked as this one. There are so may different nooks and crannies here.

  2. Beautiful Pics and history Millie. We have a Japanese Garden very close from my place. It is very similar although smaller than what you have posted here. There is no fee entry and it is a wonderful place to go to…there are ducks and fishes, turtles…frogs – a paradise for kids. It is very well maintained by college authorities here.

    1. The Japanese certainly know how to create beautiful places, Shivangi, even if some of these gardens weren’t created by anyone Japanese – the style is recreated to have the same effect. Your children are lucky to have one so close to you, especially a free one. It sounds really lovely for them.

    1. The garden is incredibly peaceful, Ali. We had a lovely sunny day for seeing it, too, so it was pleasant to sit and linger. I imagine it looks pretty in the rain, but it might not feel as comfortable walking around! We took dozens of photos between us, and I imagine Louise will be sharing some of hers before long.

    1. Thank you, Cathy. It is beautiful, and so tranquil. The sounds of tinkling water add to that effect. I was so glad we actually decided to visit that day. The sunshine made it delightful.

    1. I know you love most things about Japan, Ineke. Their gardens are very different to English ones and so decorative. As you say, they exude an air of peace and calm and it was nice to sit in there awhile.

    1. Thank you for liking my post, Irina (and for tweeting it, too!) Maitreya is a lovely man, and he has that same air of calmness about him. The garden is perfect for spending a couple of hours on a lovely sunny day.

    1. Thanks Lou. I’m waiting to see some of yours photos. And yes, it was a lovely afternoon, and I knew you’d like the garden, especially for photographing! 😀

      1. My pictures will be shared in dribs and drabs. I’ve got one ready for today’s Wordless Wednesday, and several others that will become Which Ways at some time or another. It was a perfect place for photography!

    1. Thanks Mike. It is a charming place, Mike – not big, as gardens go (like Harlow Carr and Bodnant ) – but a very pretty place to spend some time on a summer’s day.

    1. It was lovely to spend some time with Louise on her day off work. I’d been saying she’d enjoy photographing the garden for a while and it was such a warm sunny day that we thought we’d head out there. Thanks, Jeanne. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Abby. Yes, the crystals are amazing, and worth quite a lot, I would think. There were a couple of women quietly sitting in there, so we took a few photos and left them in peace.
      Oh, I know what you mean about children and running. I had six and I don’t think any of them ever walked anywhere!

      1. Yes, I’m ready for peace and quiet nowadays. Lol Our youngest is 34 and the eldest 44, so it’s a long time since they were all at home. 😀

    1. There seem to be Japanese gardens in many countries, as some of the comments on this post will back up. The garden is so tranquil and most people just spend time sitting at the various sites around the pond or along the winding paths. Thank you for reading, Arv.

  3. We had such a lovely time there, thank you, Norma! The sunshine made a lot of difference, of course, as we’d had a couple of really miserable, grey months in our part of the UK. It was also nice to spend time with Louise on one of her days off work. I was so pleased she enjoyed it, too, and her camera was put to good use. 😀

  4. Hi Millie, went over to Japanese Garden after reading your post and have written a blog on it. Have include your blog link in it. Thanks for the inspiration!😀😀😀

    1. Hi to you, Shivangi! I’m just reading your wonderful post. I was on my blog when the notification came in! I’ll be commenting as soon as I’ve finished . ❤

  5. It is a most lovely place… Doesn´t seem small… (od how we might picture things or places in our minds in a total different way .. or seize)… I would totally pay that price to visit such picturesque Garden… We have one here in Buenos Aires and I haven´t visited it in years… I will have to do so soon. Thank you for the lovely post and… Inspiration! 😀 Love & best wishes, across the miles dear Millie. ❤ xx

    1. Thank you, Aquileana! The garden probably doesn’t seem small on the photos because it’s full of nooks and crannies where there are interesting things to see. – and to photograph. I hope you have a lovely visit to the Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires. They are all lovely, restful places to be in. Much love across the many miles to you, too. ❤

    1. It would be a wonderful place to sit and read between strolling and taking photos. It’s so peaceful there, especially close to the ponds. Thank you for the lovely comment, Christy.

  6. It is a lovely peaceful place, Inese, and so close to where I live. Louise and I had been planning to visit for a while so, as it was such a lovely day, we took the opportunity. These gardens were completely ruined during the harsh winter of 2010, with temperatures of -!8 C at times. So many of the delicate, Japanese plants didn’t survive. It took a while for the gardens to be restored to their former beauty. Now it looks eve better than I remember it from 2008. Thank you for reading, Inese. 🙂

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