Paul Barney
Gardens Illustrated|February 2018

The owner of the deliciously surprising Edulis Nursery on his bohemian childhood, following in Gerald Durrell’s footsteps and the ferry journey that changed his life

Jodie Jones

When Paul Barney’s ship sank he was furious. “I felt such rage that my life was about to end when I had only just got started.” He was travelling home from an Estonian willow conference on that night in 1994 when disaster struck. The incident killed 852 people, and Paul was moments from death himself when he was finally winched to safety from an upturned life raft six traumatic hours later.

The path that brought him to that fateful point was by no means straightforward. He had a bohemian upbringing in rural Berkshire, surrounded by cats, dogs, chickens and guinea pigs. “There was home brew in the bath and a complete disregard for the normal rules of family life. We children had a brilliant time.”

He grew prize-winning vegetables, raced a motorbike around the country lanes and, when his father died unexpectedly, dropped out of school early. He took a job as a slumpy (the excellent name for a concrete technician) for the cash and the company car but found it “stultifyingly boring” so jacked it in and,at the age of 19, drove coast to coast across northern America. This epic road trip through extraordinary scenery ignited a fascination with geology and began his lifelong love of travel. “It’s the best way I know to get the headspace to clear your vision.”

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