My mate Martin’s mate Adrian delivered some wood yesterday. Well a lot of wood if I am honest. All cut to order from local woodlands. It should have arrived 10 days or more ago but there was snow which put everyone behindhand. Then rain. Then a problem with his vehicle. So yesterday it finally arrived. But this week Martin, who will be using it, is away working in London so it will be a week on wednesday before anything can begin.
I was starting to let myself stress about the delays and be grumpy. Then I realised how daft that was not least because this project has been donkeys years in the making. What difference does a couple of weeks make now I have found the solution to such a long conundrum?
When we moved here 23 years ago there was a rickety porch attached to the house over the original front door. About 6 feet square it had been built of whatever reclaimed material was left lying around. Quaint, Quirky but very rickety. Too small to be much use – 2 upright chairs and it was crowded – it became a dumping ground for stuff that would not be ruined by damp. Every now and again we would have an ‘idea for the porch’ conversation but nothing really appealed and we just left it to rot.
The best idea was to replace it with a conservatory but the space is quite narrow with a steep bank beyond so we would have had to build up to give a base. It is also South facing and we were advised that it would be too hot in summer so instead we built one on the West end of the house which is also more private. Eventually we had the porch knocked down and a concrete slab laid all along the South front.
Then, sadly after John had died, I bought a long thin greenhouse and had that put up to shelter the house. It has proved a good space. I grow herbs for the kitchen and the most delicate fruits – peaches and figs – in there and sit out on spring and autumn days when it is too cold to be in the wind but lovely behind the glass. But the 2 big doors lead nowhere and to get from there to the garden involves coming back into the house and then out again. It is a cul-de-sac of a space. And cleaning the outside of the glass or replacing broken panes involves teetering on the narrow ledge before the land falls way.
I tried planting the slope with shrubs to give colour and texture on the bank but it was not very successful. Partly that was because nasty perennial weeds – you know the ones brambles, nettles bindweed.. – colonised the ground and got their roots down into the stone just below the surface where I could not dig them out. Any attempt to mulch around the shrubs just resulted in stuff washing down onto the path below.
A visit to my friends Jono and Pam provided the inspiration I needed. They had built a huge deck out over a similar slope in their garden and I fell in love with it! With their permission I had a really good look at how it had been constructed, made notes and drawings and took lots of photos. The construction is quite simple but as I thought about it I realised that it was more than I could do on my own. Managing long heavy timbers, getting everything upright and level single handedly was more than I am capable of. Then Martin mentioned a job he was working on with a local garden landscaper and I realised that he would have all the skills and knowledge to do the job. He used to work in London running a playground for children with special needs and built much of the equipment there. That is where he will be next week because he still goes back to maintain the old stuff and build new. And he works for his landscaper friend when there is a wooden structure in the design. It took very little persuading to get him to agree to build my deck and once Marie and Rose had cleared the bank and put down old carpet to stop the weeds coming back (my wrist was in plaster so I could do very little!), he came to look at the space and gave me a fantastic design suggestion.
Jono and Pam’s deck has an outdoor kitchen underneath with a firepit outside it. But I could not think of a use for the space under mine so Martin suggested a split level deck which would match the contour of the slope. We will work out the exact dimensions by eye as we go along but I am really excited at the prospect of turning a problem area into a useful one. Watch this space for progress reports!