Now that is what I call a welcome.
I once read that the more beautiful and intricate the birdsong, the plainer and dowdier the bird. Hence the disappointingly brown and boring nightingale that sang in Berkeley Square (although someone did tell me that the nightingale referred to in the song was actually a local prostitute) But I am getting side-tracked. It seems the birdsong, plumage equation works the other way around too. So whilst the peacock that welcomed us to Wyken Hall Garden was majestic in his iridescent loveliness, his song (morning, noon and night) might lead you to wonder what peacock pie tastes like.
Somehow I cannot imagine the cafe and restaurant serving this amongst their menu of tempting light lunches ...but you never know.
I have been brought to Wyken Hall Garden in Suffolk by my friend Liz, who knows how much I like beautiful gardens. She also had a pretty good idea I would fall in love with the shop, that fills the 400 year old barn next to the garden with lovely things that any sane woman would want to take home with her. You get the idea this has been brought together by someone with great taste - and a good sense of humour. I particularly like their sign by the till for customers which reads "Unattended children will be fed a double espresso and given a free puppy".
The garden and associated businesses (farm, vineyard, cafe, shop) are the life work of the Carlisle family who have lived here since the 1950s.
When Carla married Kenneth Carlisle in the 1980s she brought an additional dimension to the gardens with her strong sense of colour and design. She also brought her rocking chairs from her home in Mississippi.
The gardens wrap themselves around the Elizabethan farmhouse in a number of 'rooms'. Those closer to the house are more intimate and slightly formal. These then radiate out into looser wilder gardens that blend naturally into the surrounding farmland.
Everywhere you look you spot places that look perfect for sitting with a book and a glass of wine, and it is not long before Liz and I are imagining what it would be like to live here.
I think that is the joy of this type of garden - it is homely and welcoming rather than stately and impressive.
Visitors can spend a relaxing hour of so wandering around in a happy daydream imagining that they do in fact live here (without having to worry about the upkeep) - and yes, a party under the apple trees would be a great place for a long Sunday lunch ...
There is a great sense of family that permeates the gardens - and it seems this extends to the family pets too.
In this case I don't think you wouldn't actually mind saying 'I'm in the dog house'!