Read The Garden in the Clouds: From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise by Antony Woodward Online


This is a warm, witty memoir of one man's unlikely quest to create out of a mountainous Welsh landscape a garden fit for inclusion in the prestigious Yellow Book - the 'Gardens of England and Wales Open for Charity' guide - in just one year....

Title : The Garden in the Clouds: From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780007216512
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 295 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Garden in the Clouds: From Derelict Smallholding to Mountain Paradise Reviews

  • Jim
    2019-02-06 01:32

    Antony Woodward wrote one of my favourite ever books, "Propellerhead", and the easy-going, likeable and near eccentric style encountered in that book continues into this one. Ostensibly about gardening, it's more a story about that the writer buying a holiday home in an alien environment - up a mountain in Wales - and then trying to get the garden into shape. So far, so cliched, but Woodward has a way fo telling his tale that draws you into it on his side. You can believe the stories he tells are true, and you can also believe that the account is incidental to the ambition of buying the house in the first place. In other words, he didn't buy the house to write the book, which I sometimes suspect some authors have done! I'm not, and wasn't, all that interested in the trials of him sculpting his garden, with the goal of getting it featured in some guide book whose name I've already forgotten. But the book kept my interest to the end, and was worth reading. Maybe it was a bit lightweight, and I might well have forgotten all about it in six months, but I don't regret passing the time with it one bit.

  • Elda
    2019-02-15 06:17

    Only because I have done a lot of those things myself in North Wales over the last two years, apart from the railway carriage, that is; that was painful to read. Sheep, bits of old iron, honey drips and pond...all the same.

  • Jessica Hinton
    2019-01-26 08:14

    My reviews can also be found at I probably need to prelude this review by explaining that I'm not much of a gardener. We recently bought a house with a fairly sizeable garden and so have got into it a bit more in an effort to turn our blank canvas into somthing interesting to look at. So I'm a trier, rather than a gardener! The point being that this is not a book I would naturally have picked for myself.However my good friend and fellow Book club member (who is extremely passionate about gardening) chose this for our Book group and I was really interested to read what I hoped was an accessible gardening book!Woodward's writing style is intentionally light-hearted and often tongue in cheek. He often points fun at his own 'towny' ways in contrast with the 'roughy toughy' proper farmers, contractors etc. around him that help him to make his 'garden' a reality. There were a couple of descriptions of his utter buffoonary that made me snort out loud. He's sort of like a 'Bill Bryson - light' in his observational humour. Not quite as acerbic and witty but in that type of vein. There were several moments throughout the book where I found myself asking, "but why would ANYONE do that?!" Suffice to say that Woodward is not looking to create your typical garden here. I had never heard of the 'Yellow book' before and actually to me it sounds like a bit of a snooty way to make gardening even more unfathomable and elitist than it already is. I think Woodward's aim was to demistify this and demonstrate that modern day 'gardening' no longer means tidy box hedges, sculpted lawns and precision planted flowerbeds, but means encompassing the landscape and embracing its history, which I can get on board with.Two things annoyed me about this book. One was that he never explained how he managed to afford all the madcap things that he kept doing. He seemed like he must be sitting on a bottomless pit of moeny somehow? It detracted from the reality of the situation somehow... just made me think of rich London folk who can afford to buy up rural idylls and do weird things with them.I was going through some other Goodreads review, and this reviewer, Jules, summed it up perfectly for me (and made me laugh to boot)...Every chapter seemed to follow the formula "I wanted a (tractor/orchard/beehive/wildflower meadow) even though I know nothing about (tractors/orchards/beehves/wildflower meadows) so I spent a ridiculous amount of money on equipment and set about trying to operate/own one in the most impractical way possible, not because of out of any commitment to sustainablity or for the sake of experimentation but because I WANTED TO DO IT THAT WAY. Unsurprisingly it all turned into a massive clusterfuck so I paid someone ridiculous amounts of money to fix it."Jules has got it spot on - almost all the chapters were exactly like that! And that level of consistent ignorant arrogance did grate on me after a while. The other annoyance is that he never really builds on his wife's character. Considering she isn't a 'character' but very much a real person! She's very much in the shadows in this book, despite it being obvious that she must have been instrumental in making the whole thing a reality and it sounds like she must be the most long-suffering wife out there.However, after a slow start I did start to enjoy the whimsical tales of tom foolery and the gentle way that Woodward mocked himself. There were some incredibly touching moments (especially the flashbacks to his childhood memories of moments with his mother) that took me by surprise and I loved the colourful descriptions of the various local characters that helped with the garden. I imagine if I was more of a passionate gardener, or knew more about the trials and tribulations of preparing a garden for the yellow book, I might have liked this even more.

  • Lucy Cummin
    2019-02-04 08:09

    What a delightful book! On a day that began at -20 F I settled down in front of the wood stove with Woodward and more or less stayed right there until bed time. Thumbnail: The Woodwards, Tony and Vez, buy a hilltop farm in the borderlands of Wales and are determined to get into the Yellow Book of the National Gardens Scheme, a charity, and open for garden visits as soon as possible which, if I have my reckoning right, was a year (or maybe two?) and a half later. My spouse and I didn't do all the things in this book, no dry stone walls, for example, and no bees, and no hauling about of a railroad car (though we have dreamed of it and we did build me a work building that is quite similar to one) but we have done much of this basic homesteading stuff in our time. The amount of work to be done was staggering and, indeed what could be more pleasurable than to read about other people working insanely hard on a day too cold to think about going outside (at least until the thermometer went into the positive). I finished up this morning with their grand opening and felt as proud of the Woodwards' achievement as can be. Along the way the book is laugh out loud funny and full of wry observations and learned wisdom about 'how things get done' (or not). *****

  • Katy
    2019-01-23 07:17

    Sadly I have been slightly disappointing by this book - it was recommended by a couple of people I trust. It is a memoir of Antony Woodward's Welsh mountainside garden creation. I have an interest in the outdoors and in gardening so this really appealed to me, however the writing was smug and indulgent and times, leaving me feeling annoyed. Some of the chapters around stone walling, bee keeping and hedge laying really appealed to me and I enjoyed reading about them. But I just can't effuse about it. Its really a 2.5 **

  • Jules
    2019-02-17 05:31

    I very rarely fail to finish a book, but I had to give up on this one about two thirds of the way in for the sake of my blood pressure. On the face of it I should have loved it - I love gardens, I love the Black Mountains and I dream of someday running away to live more sustainably somewhere beautiful. The start though was unpromising, involving the author explaining how he'd never liked gardens but wanted to create one at a deeply unpromising elevation just to prove he could, and it went downhill from there. Every chapter seemed to follow the formula "I wanted a (tractor/orchard/beehive/wildflower meadow) even though I know nothing about (tractors/orchards/beehves/wildflower meadows) so I spent a ridiculous amount of money on equipment and set about trying to operate/own one in the most impractical way possible, not because of out of any commitment to sustainablity or for the sake of experimentation but because I WANTED TO DO IT THAT WAY. Unsurprisingly it all turned into a massive clusterfuck so I paid someone ridiculous amounts of money to fix it." Even this could have been redeemed by a sympathetic narrator or some engaging characters, but I found the author mindbogglingly arrogant with his blithe assumption that none of these rural skills could be too difficult to master if these picturesque rustics could manage it. His lack of respect for the landscape and the people around him who were trying to scrape an increasingly marginal living from it rather than playing hobby farmer was cringeworthy too - I was actually biting my knuckles for the passage where he destroyed a track that his neighbours were presumably actually using for work trying to haul a twenty ton railway carriage up a mountain with the aid of a crane (he also destroyed a SSI and one of his neighbour's walls, which, while he doesn't say, I assume was probably enclosing livestock). And he didn't put much effort into getting his wife's character onto the page - all she seemed to do was get pregnant and get cold.My reaction is in part, I suppose, jealousy - he's living my dream and doing it very, very badly. And I suppose he has poured a lot of money in the local economy. But unfortunately part of the reason it's so hard for young people to make a living in the countryside and keep it viable is because of rich city folk like him pushing houseprices to unaffordable levels because they want to live in the country without actually working there and without even appreciating it much - I have no sympathy for someone who apparently never looked out of a window and saw a bird, and who spent a couple of paragraphs lamenting that his mountain view wasn't as dramatic as he'd have liked it to be.

  • Zarina
    2019-02-18 04:20

    "The Garden in the Clouds" is not an encyclopaedia with gardening tips and facts but rather an autobiographical tale of an, as the subtitle indicates, hopeless romantic. It's the story of Antony Woodward and his ideal to make a garden in the clouds. Or high up on the mountains as the case may be. From the move to Wales to all the various parts that make up his unique garden the author uses each chapter to dive into a different aspect of the transformation and manages to not only make the story consistently engaging but also surprisingly humorous. Some of the choices he has made along the line were hardly thought through properly and he knows it. Yet Woodward did not choose to rewrite those parts or ignore them, instead he uses a healthy dose of self-deprecation which makes him much more likeable and relatable and prompts the reader to root for him despite the very unlikely goal of converting the unappealing waste land into something worthy to be included in the Yellow Book of the National Garden Scheme. There were a few points to the story that the realist in me despite getting lost in the hopelessly romantic musings and actions of the author questioned however. Such as the details of the relocation from London to Wales and how the author managed to get by without a steady job and income. I am assuming at least that both he himself and his wife left their jobs in London and did not instantly start working again in Wales. The story indicates that since the move they spent most if not all of their time on the garden and especially when reading about some of Woodward's more expensive impulse buys it left me wondering how he was still able to support his family (and on that note, his wife must be an absolute saint for putting up with his splurges and his more often than not rather unrealistic ideas such as the sudden urge to obtain a railway carriage to decorate part of their land). Having said that, the descriptions of the area the story is set in are wonderfully lush and transports the reader to the rugged Welsh country side. And despite all the hiccups author Anthony Woodward encounters during his various antics (from bees invading the house to inventive sheep getting into his vegetable patch) after finishing the book I wanted to do nothing more than to pick apples in an orchard, mow a field with an antique tractor and make my own award winning honey - sticky mess and all.

  • Ade
    2019-02-21 04:05

    Antony Woodward is a former London advertising copywriter who buys a remote hill cottage in the Brecons and starts trying to turn it into the 'garden in his head'. Which means he seeks lots of advice then ignores it because "I want a pond! I want a railway carriage! I want a meadow!" - with predictably calamitous consequences in most cases and particularly so when it came to getting a twenty ton brake van up a mountain (had I been one of his long-suffering neighbours, I certainly wouldn't have been pacified by a bottle of gin). His propensity to knowingly inconvenience his local neighbours and take every advantage of their generosity to cover for his own wilful mistakes, and yet keep doing it with little shame, somewhat confirms the stereotype of the ignorant city dweller blundering about the countryside. I believe this project was partly funded (because certainly many of the problems are made to disappear by having money thrown at them) by the advance for this book, which renders the promise to donate 10% of "any royalties" to charity somewhat moot.What saves it is that Woodward relates all this with such amusing brio that, even when employing his ad-man's gift for eliding the details in describing his "1,600 foot high garden" (hem) for the National Garden Scheme book, you're prepared to forgive him and enjoy his chaotic journey. Viewed as a how-the-hell rather than a how-to, this is an enjoyable read for anyone who ever (thought they) wanted a rural retreat.Minor spoiler: it's not really about a garden. And it's not really a garden.

  • Terry Mark
    2019-02-17 07:29

    I really tried to finish this book as a friend had bought this for my birthday but only got half way.It sounded great from the outside with me being a professional gardener myself, my love of the countryside, and being a hopeless romantic at heart but in truth I really struggled with it and got bored.Taking on a project like Antony Woodward did must have been exciting for him but not for me I'm afraid.The only part I enjoyed which must have been an absolute nightmare was getting the old railway wagon to his property even though he ruined everything on the way.The type of books I normally read are magical realism generally who take me away from normal everyday life which is why i read them so this one just didn't do it for me but bravo to Antony Woodward for achieving what he did.

  • Matt Ots
    2019-02-03 04:08

    One of the best books I've read. Antony Woodward's writing style is humorous, light-hearted and down to earth. Sure, the whole idea of buying a derelict smallholidng half way up a mountain and then trying to create a garden with no prior experience of such things sounds pretty crazy/eccentric but the story is all the more engaging for that. I guess it helps if, like me, you dream of doing similar sorts of things yourself. I can appreciate that the subject matter might not be to everyone's interest, but I don't think you have to be interested in gardens or gardening to appreciate this book.

  • Hazel Osmond
    2019-01-28 07:22

    I bought this expecting a tale of a family's struggle to make a garden and got a whole lot more. You instantly warm to the teller of the tale while also thinking he is quite mad, and alongside the humour is some beautiful really tear-inducing memories from his family life. I'm not sure how he does it but the story becomes a much larger one than his or his garden or even his wider family and touches on the things we all carry around from our childhood. I felt strangely uplifted at the end of it and have given it to a couple of other people as presents for that very purpose.

  • Penny
    2019-01-23 07:19

    A cut well above the usual 'we left our well paid jobs in the city and bought a ruin in the middle of nowhere' type of book. This concentrates not on the house itself but creating a garden good enough to be an entry into the 'Yellow Book' of open gardens. The main problem is the height of the property (in the clouds some of the time).Very informative about gates, stone walling, bee keeping - and about how crafty sheep are. They are not silly at all.Woodward has an easy writing style, doesn't try too hard to be funny and never takes himself too seriously.

  • Andrée
    2019-01-30 07:31

    I wanted to like this book but it reeks of arrogant ignorance poorly disguised by loadsa money. What Ant'ney wants, Ant'ney gets. If he was my neighbour I'd loathe him.But it gets two stars for reminding me to check what apples grow best locally - so now have a choice of 70 varieties - but have to do all the work myself so won't be in the Yellow Book this year.....

  • Emmsi19
    2019-02-06 00:14

    A lovely gentle read. One man and his determination. Who in their right mind would get a train carriage up a mountain? Who would call a collection of fields and views a garden? (I question as one who gardens for my profession). This book isn't going to change your life but it may uplift it.