Sunday, 20 July 2014
When we bought our house, several years ago, it had no front garden. The garden-wall that ought to have been there had been demolished, and thick concrete had replaced where the garden should have been. Effectively, we just had an extra wide pavement, that people used to skateboard on. Not ideal.
Around March 2014, I started to make enquiries about replacing the wall. (I felt there was no point in reinstating the garden, without some means of stopping people from walking across it). One day, I went onto a local facebook group, to ask if anyone could recommend a local brick-layer. And by chance, a few posts down, someone was offering free bricks...
I rang them on the same day, and we went to their garden, where sure enough, they had knocked down their crumbling garden wall, and had around 2000 bricks on offer (more than enough to rebuild our own wall, as well as our neighbours', as theirs was also missing). Not only that, but the bricks were from the right era - they were identical to the wall that should have been there. They even had matching half-round bricks for the top of the wall on offer, so we could match our new wall with the original, existing wall from next door.
There were two obstacles in place: firstly, the transportation of the bricks. They were free for collection, and only a couple of miles away, but bricks are heavy! The garden they came from was up a narrow side street where an articulated lorry would never have had room to manoeuvre (even if the cost of hiring one had been an option).
Everyone said we were mad, but we took the back seats out of our Citroen Xsara Picasso, read the manual to establish the maximum weight capacity, did some sums, and began transporting bricks - load by load - back to our house. It took about twenty journeys, and we worked in rain and sun, but eventually, we had accumulated enough bricks (we hoped!) to do the job.
The second obstacle was the fact that the thick concrete was still in place. Logic dictates that it would have made sense to remove the concrete before reinstating the wall. But free bricks wouldn't wait, and I knew the opportunity was too good to pass up. So we left the concrete in place, while we collected enough bricks. The two photos below demonstrate about twenty loads of bricks, prior to dressing, stacked on the ugly concrete in front of our house.
That enormous pile of bricks then had to be dressed, by hand. The stack on the right (of grubby bricks) gradually became the stack on the left (of dressed bricks). Fortunately, our neighbours were cooperative! The photo below is the project 'at its worst.' The dressed bricks were stacked and waiting, and the concrete had been dug out enough to enable the wall to be built. It was at this point, we discovered just how thick the concrete was, and that it would be a big task to remove it.
And the front garden began to resemble a front garden...
We bought some railway sleepers to make a raised garden. (They were a bargain on ebay, but believe me when I tell you, they weigh a tonne! Again, transported by hand, via the Xsara Picasso). And we used most of the remaining bricks to raise the ground level up to the doorway.
We then positioned the railway sleepers and top-soil for the raised bed, and had gravel delivered to fill in the gap and cover the unusable earth. And at last, I was finally able to plant up my front garden with some hollies (for year-round foliage), roses for summer colour, and various other plants and shrubs. This photo was taken towards the end of last summer, after the garden was planted up, but before it was completed.
In autumn I planted a variety of spring bulbs, which have burst into life this spring now that the garden is completed. The bins are disguised with a bamboo screen, and there is a dividing fence between our own garden and the neighbours'. There is bamboo growing in an upcycled galvanised bin, and a Corkscrew Hazel beside the front door. I'll upload a separate post with photos and descriptions of the plants in our new front garden, but this completes our front garden! (With apologies that most of these photos are poor quality phone photos. Expensive cameras and heavy labour don't mix well, but I still wanted to document the progress of this project).