If you think it’s been raining in the UK this week, it hasn’t; at least not compared to the type of rain they get in Bergen. This is real rain: heavy, relentless and ubiquitous, just the sort that the extensive botanical gardens, now situated nearly 15 miles outside this pretty Norwegian city, thrive on. Ironically, it was too wet to trek out to see these during my recent trip to the university, to where I had been invited to present on the Hortus Conclusus research project at the Exploring the Middle Ages conference (November 25-7: http://www.uib.no/en/hf/90319/exploring-middle-ages). However, the smaller botanical gardens attached to the grand nineteenth-century University Museum building in which the conference was held were a little more accessible during the brief moments when the rain let up a little. In front of the museum, too, are a series of smaller, walled gardens made up of simple paths and low-growing green shrubbery and a few, regularly placed trees, now almost bare after the ravages of autumn wind and rainfall.
In summer, no doubt, these intermediary, walled garden spaces squeezed artfully between the cobbled street and the museum provide quiet areas for visitors to ponder over and process the extraordinary collection of Scandinavian medieval artifacts that form part of the museum’s collections, and to which we had special access on the final day of the conference. There was no sitting and pondering in the gardens to be had that afternoon, however. In fact, intense flooding of the main paths made them ultimately impassible, although I managed to exploit a gap in the rainclouds to photograph them before the floodwaters rose. Fortunately, I’ll be returning to Bergen in the summer of 2017 for the final meeting of the Women’s Literary Culture and the Medieval Canon network project (http://blogs.surrey.ac.uk/medievalwomen/) and will look forward to seeing both botanical and walled gardens in all their splendour then.