Purple perfection: A visit to Hitchin's stunning lavender fields
PUBLISHED: 09:40 01 August 2016 | UPDATED: 09:40 01 August 2016
What's the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions lavender? Five or so years ago, most people would have told you that they associated lavender with old ladies. It was a plant which seemed to be synonymous with the idea of all things old fashioned.
For me, it has always conjured different images – when we were children, our neighbour had a huge lavender right outside the front of her house; bordering the path which ran all the way along the front of our row of cottages. Our friends lived on the other side of the lavender – and in the summer, when it was well grown, the lavender used to droop over the path – filling the air with its heavenly scent, and the hum of a hundred bees, who visited the plant every summer – like pilgrims, making their annual journey to pay homage to the nectar gods.
We used to dare each other to run through the trailing lavender to the other side – it was like playing roulette with the bees – they had no interest in bothering us, much less stinging us – but we were children; we didn’t know that, and we loved the thrill of the game.
Every year when we went away on our family holiday – normally to Devon or Cornwall for a couple of weeks in the summer – we would come home to find a lavender bag on our pillows – the neighbour on the other side of our house, having picked, and made beautiful little lavender bags, and placing them in our bedrooms ready for our return home.
It’s one of the fondest memories I have of her. A small kindness, but something that meant a lot, and which became a looked forward to treat. So yes – my associations with lavender did involve old ladies... but only in the most positive way!
Things have changed though. Lavender has made a huge comeback. In the last few months, I’ve had a fair amount of reason to be learning about bridal flowers... and spent a lot more time on Pinterest than I would have thought was healthy... and have seen some incredible bouquets, bridal headdresses, and venue flower displays involving, and based around lavender.
There has been a huge swing in floristry towards the more natural styles – floral arrangements including meadow flowers, ears of wheat and barley, and even the use of pumpkins and gourds is suddenly all the rage.
Where in years gone by, it would have been considered to be “budget” to use flowers that you can find in your own garden, or in hedgerows, as opposed to expensive, and perfectly preened bouquets of flawless roses, we are now seeing a massive rise in interest in the more rustic.
Lavender fits the bill here perfectly. There are few plants which can so perfectly typify the English countryside than lavender. The scent, the colour, and the way in which it can be used to give structure and height in arrangements, is virtually unsurpassable as a cut flower. Some brides are choosing to now carry a bouquet just consisting of a thick bunch of lavender, with nothing to accompany it. Lavender is back in vogue – in a big way!!
With table decorations to plan for, and with a very rustic country feel to our upcoming nuptials, my fiancé and I went to the lavender fields in Hitchin this week. As any of my regular readers will know, this is like an annual event for me – there are few places that I find as relaxing as these stunning lavender fields, just outside Hitchin in the picturesque village of Ickleford.
Not only is the smell from the fields absolutely intoxicating – it’s one of the most breath-taking sights that I’ve ever had the privilege to see.
There are very few formal gardens, or stately homes that I have visited more than once, but I find myself drawn back every summer – much like the bees who returned to the lavender of my childhood. Although I know that it will look the same, that little will have changed in the landscape of the farm, for some reason, I feel like I need to renew the image of it in my mind’s eye. I need to refresh the scent memory and remind myself of the utter beauty of this place. I find myself telling all my friends about it – urging them to visit – because it really is a case of seeing is believing…
This year, we had a slightly different motivation for our visit – not only for the reasons I’ve already given, but this year, I need to pick lavender for the wedding table decorations. We plan to dry the lavender – which you can pay a small amount to pick enough to fill a bag with. Walking away from the fields you can always smell the oil from the lavender on your hands.. lingering long after the purple landscape pales into the horizon as you drive away. It was the first time my fiancé had been to the farm, and it was really exciting for me to be able to share it with him – somewhere that is so special to me. It was really interesting to see it through someone else’s eyes for the first time – the sight that has become so familiar to me, and yet which shocks me with its sheer beauty time and time again.
For some people, lavender will never be appealing – it will always hold those tones of the old fashioned, or may simply have too strong a scent for them. I would urge people to look at the different varieties available though, before writing it off altogether. There are so many different types of lavender – some which look totally different to the traditional English variety which we might be familiar with. French lavender, white lavender… the list goes on. We have a huge bush of white lavender out the front of our own home – thoughout the autumn and winter months it doesn’t look much at all, but in the summer months it really comes into its own. The stunning white flowers really make a huge impact in the flower border, and the bees absolutely adore it – it’s constantly covered in a blanket of bees – reason enough to keep it in my mind – even if I didn’t love it like I do! With bee populations declining at such a concerning rate, we must do everything we can to plant flowers and shrubs which are attractive to them, and encourage bees into our gardens.
If you’ve not yet made the short journey over to Ickleford to see the stunning lavender fields - why not go this weekend?
For more information, and for opening times – visit hitchinlavender.com, or call 01462 434343.