Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Garden Detectives

Whilst channel-zapping a couple of days ago, I was seduced by a programme called ‘Great Garden Detectives’. Now, I am the world’s least enthusiastic mower of lawns and hoer of weeds, but I love gardens, and garden history and garden design fascinate me. This enthusiasm prompted me to create a mysterious garden at Tarn Cottage for Daniel Kind in The Coffin Trail, and the secret of it is revealed in The Cipher Garden. (I must admit that even I hadn't worked out exactly what the secret was when I started the latter book; fortunately, the right idea came just in time...)

The programme focused on examining the secrets of the extraordinary gardens at Port Meirion, in Wales, one of my favourite places in the world. For those of you who have not visited it, I urge you to go. It’s unlike anywhere else, a pastiche Italian village on the edge of a Welsh estuary.

Famously, Port Meirion provided the setting for that cult sixties tv series, ‘The Prisoner’, starring Patrick McGoohan as an enigmatic spy who is kidnapped and finds himself trapped in a gorgeous but weird ‘village’ from which there is no escape. McGoohan had formerly starred in ‘Danger Man’, a more orthodox thriller serial, which I much enjoyed as a boy, and I remember the bewilderment that ‘The Prisoner’ inspired nationwide when it was first screened. Now, checking out the boxed set of DVDs, it is apparent that the concept was by no means clearly thought out. But ‘The Prisoner’ remains elusive and oddly appealing to this day. Rather like Port Meirion itself.

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