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The mystical Far East... in the British Midlands

Europe

London - Once it was an overgrown wilderness where a farmer kept his pigs.

Now, with its cherry blossom, bamboo trees, pagoda and tranquil carp pond, it is a glorious slice of the mystical Far East... in the British East Midlands.

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This stunning garden lies behind an ordinary-looking house just a couple of hundred yards from the A1133 between Newark and Gainsborough.

Buddha Maitreya, a 76-year-old former monk, has spent the last 35 years of his life transforming a two-acre plot in the village of North Clifton, Nottinghamshire, into a traditional Japanese garden.

As well as the oriental elements, he has seamlessly blended in typically English favourites such as holly, forsythia, primulas, aubretia and fir trees to create his unique oasis of tranquillity.

Buddha Maitreya said: “It’s an accidental garden. When I started planting trees and flowers I had no idea what I was going to create, but simply followed my instinct of what would work for me.”

He was born Koji Takeuchi in Nagoya, Japan, to a noodle factory owner. But after rejecting mainstream life, he changed his name and became a Buddhist monk.

His travels took him to Thailand, India and Nepal, where he taught mediation for a couple of years, before a friend invited him to visit the UK, where he paid £13 000 (about R250 000) for the former farmhouse on the-then weed-infested plot of land.

“I knew straight away I could be happy there,” he said.

With no previous experience of gardening, he began the huge task of transforming the grounds into something that would remind him of his homeland but also include shrubs and flowers that would grow easily in the British climate.

All the plants were originally gifted to him from friends and students on the meditation courses he was running at the same time.

“Many times over the years I have had to thin shrubs and even flowers out, because I planted them too close to each other,” Buddha Maitreya added.

“So there has been no real process or planning to get the garden to look as it does now. It’s all down to good fortune and following my beliefs of working with nature to create harmony.”

He still runs meditation classes and Japanese tea ceremonies in the garden.

His original goal of a peaceful space to escape the stress and pressures of everyday life has also turned into a popular tourist spot, with visitors happy to pay an entrance fee of £7 for adults and £4 for children.

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