what lies within

Stephanie Donaldson describes her secret garden, hidden behind a locked door in Hastings.



A ‘hole-and-corner’ is an old English term meaning a secret place: somewhere you go to escape the world, to be inspired and to contemplate and create. Where is your ‘hole-and-corner’?
I live a truly ‘hole-and-corner’ life with my house and garden hidden behind a high brick wall. The only way in is through a locked wooden door in the wall

Can you explain why it is so special to you?
Although I am only five minutes walk away from the centre of Hastings Old Town, when I climb the hill to home, I’m soon in what looks like a quiet country lane overhung with trees. Open the door in the wall and I am in my Secret Garden. It is this wonderful mix of having a busy and vibrant place full of independent shops and a thriving arts scene on my doorstep with the peace and quiet behind the wall that makes my ‘hole-and-corner’ so very special.

Is it important to you to have somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of life?
It’s vital – I love to lock myself away from the world and tend my garden.

What do you like to listen to when you’re working (and why)?
When I am writing I must have silence: in the garden or the greenhouse it is Radio 4 or podcasts including This American Life or The Moth.

What elements do you think make a perfect ‘hole-and-corner’?
Privacy and the ability to exclude the outside world without explanation or excuse.

Is it private to you or do you let other people visit?
It is my home, so friends and family (and of course my husband!) are always welcome. Once every three years I open the garden for a day in aid of charity – it draws big crowds as people long to see what lies behind the wall.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Always water your basil plants in the morning – they hate to go to bed with wet feet!


Illustration: Paul Underwood