How a Sussex school's secret garden became the inspiration for a hit song

Ned Mortimer, lead singer of the talented band August and After, has revealed that the lyrics to his successful track, The Orchard, from the album Embers, were inspired by his time as a child at independent school Sompting Abbotts.

Thursday, 5th October 2017, 11:53 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 4:32 am
Ned Mortimers return to Sompting Abbotts inspired a song
Ned Mortimers return to Sompting Abbotts inspired a song

The young musician returned to the school this week to surprise the pre-prep children and to perform the song with his guitar for them in the Walled Garden there.

His beautiful and haunting song, The Orchard, reflects on lost time and childhood memories. The Neo-Gothic school has a beautiful Victorian garden full of old apple trees used for playtimes. It was where Ned played as a school boy and the memory spark for the hit track.

The first verse is: “I stood here as a child and whiled away the time; As innocent as spring isn’t, and moral as a nursery rhyme; This garden’s older now but I am older still; And I’m held hostage by the time I used to kill; The Summer’s run away, and stopped to take a chill. Oh to steal a moment, Oh to seal a sweeping glance, Oh to feel the moment.”

Ned said: “When I went back to the Walled Garden, I had so many memories flood back and felt compelled to write the song.

“I was shocked by how much smaller a place is compared to your childhood recollections.

“Yet so very little had changed there. It was still that special ‘secret garden’.”

Ned, 26, from North Lancing, is a core member of indie-folk group August and After. Their albums are part of Spotify UK’s official ‘Your Coffee Break’ playlist and have garnered nearly two-million plays online.

The band was nominated in the inaugural Unsigned Music Awards as Best Country/Folk act in 2016. They have completed a Ronnie Scott’s residency, a set at Secret Garden Party 2016, several European tours and many sold-out London shows. Their music is regularly featured on BBC 6 Music and Kerrang! Radio.

Ned attended Sompting Abbotts from 1994 to 2004, and studied music under its now head of music Annette Williamson. He won a scholarship to Lancing College and went on to study Law at Cambridge.

In a recent review in The Independent, the band’s music was described as ‘nostalgia with a twist: despite isolation, saudades and struggles to communicate, the music manages to remain forward thinking, even uplifting. There’s a tentative hopefulness and refusal to despair that’s hard to resist’.

Tom Simkins of BBC Introducing Cambridgeshire says the music ‘flirts between mesmerizingly haunting and delicate uplifting moments’ and Alex Baker of Kerrang! Radio calls it ‘haunting, beautiful music’.
Ned believes that his success is rooted in the excellent musical and arts opportunities he enjoyed at Sompting Abbotts.

He said: “Sompting Abbotts gave me the chance to get involved in so much on top of the academic side; stuff like sports, music, choir and drama and I loved that.

“The music tuition was really strong and inspiring. I learned the piano [to grade 5] and the violin [to grade 8] and did a lot of singing in the choir. That classical and choral training underpins everything I’m doing now.”

The band released new single Stream on June 30, and are currently working on two new singles.

Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School is hosting an Open Doors Afternoon on Friday, October 6, from 3.30pm to 6pm.

Free activities for children include nursery sing-along to piano accompaniment, access to the Walled Garden and adventure play area, bonfire in the woods and toasted marshmallows, awesome science experiments demonstration, computer programming and coding lesson for beginners, and lots more sporty and arty fun.