Earlier this week, I listened to Dan Pearson on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. I stumbled across it quite by chance. I’d be prompted by a friend to listen in to another castaway’s musical choices, the delectable Mark Rylance, currently starring in BBC2’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I first fell in love with Mr Rylance when he played Romeo at the RSC, many moons ago. Lord knows who played Juliet but I’m sure I hated her. So fittingly, for a blog written on St. Valentine’s Day, a teenage crush has lead me to the discovery of an incredible place.
Dan Pearson, a most respected garden designer, has had a life long passion for plants, beginning at the ridiculously early age of five with a garden pond and nurtured through out his formative years by various perceptive mentors. It was while he was describing his time on a diploma course at Kew and in particular a scholarship trip to the Himalayas that he mentioned The Valley of Flowers – “We were bowled over by the vast scale of the wild plant communities.” With a name like that I had to find out more.
The Valley of Flowers is found in Uttarakand, in northern India, often referred to as Land of the Gods for the many Hindu temples to be found in the area. It nestles among the majestic Himalayas and the trek to reach it is an arduous one by all accounts. But on reaching it, the descriptions of the sights that meets one’s eyes sound simply magical – flowers upon flowers, as far as the eye can see; orchids, primulas, campanulas, poppies and anemones, marigolds and daisies, carpeting the ground, while silver birch and rhododendron rise above them to create sub-alpine forests.
It first came to Western attention in 1931 when a group of British mountaineers lost their way and chanced upon it,naming it Valley of Flowers, rather prosaically. One of them, Frank Smythe, later to wrote an account of the journey by the same name.
Now, my appetite whetted by the various descriptions I’ve read and the beautiful photographs of fauna and flora, I’ve resolved to go and see it with my own eyes, if not this year then certainly the next, hoping that the gods will be kind and send the sunshine. I’m asking Mr Rylance if he’d like to join me.