LHM writes: Over the weekend of June 2nd Theresa and I enjoyed an interesting and informative study weekend, Medieval and Tudor Gardens, organised at Rewley House, Oxford, by the university’s Continuing Education department, attended by more than sixty people (https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/medieval-and-tudor-gardens). We delivered our co-written and co-presented paper first on the Saturday morning: ‘Unearthing the medieval walled garden: Greening and Healing Body and Soul.’ Our paper focused on the team’s research on healing remedies for fertility problems found in the early fourteenth-century manuscript, Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.2.5, which has close links with Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire (healing the body!) and the garden imagery everywhere apparent in the visionary writings of the thirteenth-century Helfta mystics, Mechtild of Hackeborn and Gertrude of Helfta (healing the soul!). The material elicited a lot of interest from a largely non-medievalist audience and stimulated some great questions and discussions, both after the session and in the bar that evening (where Theresa and I managed to get ourselves locked in after a 10.30pm closure!)
Other highlights include a very well-researched and information-packed paper by Rachel Delman entitled: ‘”Sche bare the key of this gardeyn”: Women and Gardens in the Middle Ages’. This paper filled in much of the material to which we could only allude or exclude from our own paper and it provided the listener with a dazzling array of literary sources for medieval gardens, particularly in English contexts. Spencer Gavin Smith’s archeologically-focused paper, ‘Parks, Gardens and Designed Landscapes of Medieval North Wales and North West Shropshire’, was also compelling – and his lively, relaxed delivery (with no notes, I hasten to add!) kept the audience riveted, particularly when he suggested that the private garden below the queen’s latrine at the castles of Harlech and Dolbadarn would have benefitted greatly from this quick and easy source of fertilizer! Perhaps, then, it is little wonder that fertile roses and the courtly lady go hand in hand in medieval literature!
The pleasure of the trip was compounded by the fact we were staying on Washington Square, with its beautiful small fenced park, mature trees, mown grass, flowers, shrubs and students taking time out from the pressures of their examinations. And, for once, the sun shone.