Goethe and an afternoon walk at Harlow Carr

We went as a family to Harlow Carr Gardens on the outskirts of Harrogate this weekend.  We go every so often to enjoy a quick walk in the gardens.  It’s pretty small and really quite genteel, which is just what you would expect for Harrogate.  I prefer the beautifully landscaped gardens of Fountains Abbey outside of Ripon.  I suppose I enjoy the green and rugged feel of the outdoors over the prettiness of beautiful flower gardens.

We had to queue for ages to get lunch for 5 at Betty’s at Harlow Carr.  It took about 1 hour, but then if you arrive at the busiest time (12.30pm) on one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year, then it serves you right.  In any case, it was chucking it down with rain outside, so we were better inside than out.  The food is okay at Betty’s, nothing especially brilliant; perhaps a bit overpriced for what you get, although the ambience is posh and the views over the gardens at Harlow Carr are decent.

We had timed it well as after lunch it had dried up and was warm outside.  It was a good time for a gentle walk in the woods, passed the flowering crocosmia, dahlias and toadflax.  We enjoyed the bright metal sculptures, such as a giant spade and a poppy poking out of the beds.  The kids wanted to follow a trail backwards, so we went to the Log Ness Monster, then a fern covered summer house, a log maze, walked passed some people watching a bee-keepers demonstration at the apiary and finished it off at the wonderful willow sculptures of a whale, a mermaid and a pirate ship.  I was gobbled up just like Hanuman was eaten up by Surasa, the sea monster, while searching for Sita in the sea between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

As we walked around the woods, we came across a lunar module made from recycled things from the house, ranging from a washing machine and a metal dustbin through to saucepans and mirrors.  It was commemorating 30 years since the first man on the moon.

On it, there was a quote from Goethe which sounded really good.  On going home, I checked out the quote only to find out it was a common misquote and really came from a book (“The Scottish Himalayan Expedition” from 1951) by a Scottish mountaineer called William Hutchison Murray, within which he actually uses a loose translation from Goethe’s Faust made by John Anster in 1835 (lines 214 – 230).  Anyway the quote itself still stands as a good piece:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: 

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!””


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