the lives and gardens of Humphrey Waterfield and Nancy Tennant
published by Clearview Books July 2022
genre: narrative non-fiction
about: love, war and gardens
'a poignant love story rich
in historical detail'
'beautifully written and constructed'
'this story is a real find, brought beautifully to life'
Humphrey Waterfield and Nancy Tennant met in 1932 when she was 35 and he was 24. In spite of the age difference between them and the judgemental opinions of society at the time, they became best friends and collaborators for life. They lived near each other, travelled widely together and were partners in the creation of Hill Pasture, 'the most beautiful small garden in England'.
Written with full access to the previously unpublished letters, diaries, photographs and memoirs of both protagonists, it is a portrait of a deeply committed 'non-marriage', and a love which endured in spite of the separation of war, age difference and sexual conformity.
Humphrey Waterfield and Nancy Tennant gazed at the three-acre meadow, which had been the village dump. It seemed an unloved, forgotten, scrappy sort of place, heavy with the aroma of sun-warmed stinging nettles and the flat, green scent of couch grass. The hum of a thousand busy insects filled the air. To the west stretched a lovely valley of interlocking fields and when they turned east, a copse of ash and willow met their gaze. There was shelter as well as a view. Tender plants could thrive here. The two friends regarded the sloping field once more and decided it would do very well. The position was perfect.
This peaceful patch of England was to become the centre of their world, their romantic earthly paradise, a publicly acclaimed work of art and a consolation for the loss and trauma of their pasts. It would also provide a smokescreen for their deepest feelings. And one day the smoke would begin to clear and the truth of who and how they really loved would be plain to see. It wasn't what it appeared to be at all.
Available from all good independent bookshops and online.