A landscape for life

The Garden House


The starting point for the Canyons area had been a 25ft high rampart to block out the view of the road and adjoining stables. This, of course, left a very large hole, which for years we imagined would be the site of a swimming pond. We pictured our own little beach and a summer house, where we would while away those long summer days we imagined for our retirement years. Then one evening, I saw a photograph in a book on South African bulbs which showed a mass of flamboyant flowers growing alongside a shallow stream, their glorious colours reflected in the sparkling water.  It was a lightbulb moment: we had been several times to see these magnificent floral displays in the wild, but had never witnessed the effect that water could bring. Ros was as excited as I was, as we realised that we could create an even better and more authentic version of the South African garden I had made at the Garden House, which we had been so sad to leave behind.

By 2019, I had virtually finished the shaping of the ground and was ready to move on to the next stage of building a watercourse and creating the planting spaces, when Ros was cruelly taken from this world by lung cancer, despite having never smoked in her life. Since she had been excited by the prospect of this garden from its conception, I resolved to try to finish it, making a garden that would encompass water, wildlife, and the vivid seasonal colour that she so loved to capture in her paintings. The garden, I hoped, would have a spirit of wildness, yet engender a mood of deep tranquillity.  In encapsulating so many of her passions in life, I believed there could be no more fitting tribute to a very special, very gifted human being. 

And so the Ros Wiley Tribute Garden was born.

But there was now an extra dimension. Having experienced the devastation that comes with cancer, I hoped that this garden might become a place of solace to the countless others touched by this disease, and that it might in time become a respite garden for those still affected by the indiscriminate hardship and heartache that cancer trails in its wake.

The question was, how to achieve it? It was with some trepidation that I launched a public appeal. The response was truly humbling. After a wonderfully generous response from Wildside’s supporters, visitors and friends, as I write this at the start of 2023, the Ros Wiley Tribute Garden is almost complete.  The drought of 2022 followed by a harsh winter caused more widespread plant losses that I have ever experienced at Wildside, so it will take another year or two to reach its full glory.  None the less, I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated and helped to make it a reality. I am, and Ros would have been, deeply touched by your extraordinary generosity and good will.


The centrepiece of the garden is a two-tier pavilion, that I am hoping can be sufficiently upgraded to offer a simple place of respite to cancer sufferers, families and carers, providing a few welcome moments of beauty and calm. Overlooked by nobody, and nestled into the side of the hill, it has been designed so that it forms a refuge from the elements on two levels. The lower level faces south, opening directly on to the semi-arid landscape of the watercourse, flanked by sand beds packed with colourful flowers. It should be a magical place to sit on sunny days, listening to the sound of the water as it winds its way downhill through pools and over rocky cascades, watching it sparkle and catch the reflections of the flowers.

The upper floor opens out in all directions, commanding different prospects from each compass point. It also incorporates a peaceful, covered seating area looking out on to a peaceful area of silver birch woodland that provides a refuge for many small birds. It is this upper level that has the potential to become a year-round respite centre, if we can raise the funds. This will of course involve extra costs for plumbing, insulation, heating, and equipment, and finishing it to an appropriate standard.  We will also have to make a safe and comfortable access route, in keeping with the garden.  So I am appealing to your generosity once again.



BACS transfer to Mr K Wiley



Please be assured that any funds received will go into a separate account for the sole purpose of creating the cancer respite facility.


Thank you for your support, and I look forward to welcoming you soon at Wildside. Keith Wiley


Photo: Dianne Jayne Giles

Click on an image (below) to see in its entirety.