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Sheds Gone!

21/3/22

Today is another beautiful day and the week ahead is promising fine weather. I am determined to start the day positively and to shake off yesterday’s doldrums. I got grandad up earlier than usual because he was buzzing…obviously, he has forgotten our discussion about only using his buzzer for emergencies during the night!

Aideen has been outside on the dumper with Martin on the digger since 7:30am…Martin is an early bird! Today, they are removing the rubbly debris from the bases of the first two sheds and Martin is then breaking up the concrete beam floor of the final shed. This work takes all day and at the end there is a reasonably clear patch of earth where the sheds were sited previously.



This area is not clear yet because stacked behind the sheds are the remaining flints, slabs and bricks. Also, in front of the sheds there are piles of very heavy York stone slabs. These will be used in the patio in front of the new building. We are so close to clearing this area that at the end of the day I just stand, staring at the bare earth. It has been such a long journey to just restore this one part of the orchard back to a gentle grass slope.

Whilst this important work is in progress, I busy myself with a long list of gardening jobs. After watering seedlings in the polytunnel and the auriculas, I head out to the forest garden bed. First, I rake over the entire bed to disrupt new weed seedlings and then I finish laying compost at the far end. This job got abandoned some weeks ago when the weather became too wet. It took about six barrows to cover the final section and I then pruned the Rosa Rugosas, various berry plants and the Sea Buckthorn. Then I headed for the fruit cage and pruned all of the fruit. I’m probably a little late for this job but better late than never. I then removed my bunches of Elodea Crispa (oxygenating plants) from the reflective pond and put them in a tub of water. I then did some weeding in the fruit cage prior to adding ash and leaf mould which I will do tomorrow. My final job before going in to teach was to re-sow some parts of my modular trays where some tagetes and two varieties of Cosmos had not germinated. Thank goodness it was a much more positive day than yesterday!


 

Vicious Gooseberries!


22/3/22

As promised, the day is very warm and sunny. Aideen is outside bright and early with Martin and they see two geese that have come down to inspect the pond. They continue to shift top soil from the piles in the orchard where it was dumped during the basement excavations. The top soil is being spread over the area vacated by the sheds and is being built up to reinstate the slope that was disturbed when the sheds were built.



Then, Aideen’s dumper truck broke down. Whilst waiting for the mechanic from the hire company to fix it, she walked around the garden with me making a list of everything that needs doing before the Open Day. This is a very depressing exercise because there is SO much to do and most of it needs to be done by me! She comments that we have tried to do too much and now we are faced with a terrible mess. I try to be philosophical and tell myself, I still have nearly four weeks so I will definitely have more done by then than I have now, it will be what it will be!

I start by sowing two more 40 module trays, one with annual phlox and one with heliotropes, godetia and gazanias. This now fills the full propagator space. Whilst watering the seedlings on the bench, I notice that the slug/snail has been munching more seedlings that are normally left untouched so I create more platforms using flower pots. After this, I return to the fruit cage to continue weeding. The fruit cage has had moss removed from the brick paths and Aideen had done some weeding but I now realise she had shied away from weeding the back of the beds because of thorny fruit bushes. I brave the gooseberries and by the end of the day my arms are a criss-cross maze of scratches…gooseberries have viscous thorns! I also decide to be strict with plants like verbena and euphorbias that have self-seeded in the cage. One euphorbia comes out with some root so I attempt to transplant it in the field border. I also cut back the extremely prickly and vigorous Silven berry. Unfortunately, I do not finish weeding the beds before I go in to teach, but I do collect some beautiful lettuce and Mizuna leaves to use in a salad for lunch.



Later in the day, Patrick and then Billy join Aideen and Martin and they work incredibly hard moving soil around the building. Patrick has bought 20 gabion cages that he plans to fill with our salvaged flint to form the retaining walls that surround the end of the building. Working out a satisfactory solution to this area has required a great deal of agonising from Patrick and lengthy discussions. It has literally taken us two years to clear it away and get to this stage and we still haven’t removed everything. Also, it is not until things are cleared that it becomes possible to see properly how to restore the ground. We want to do this as sensitively as possible and to try to restore this part of the garden back to something close to its original state to finally give the beautiful arcaded wall the setting it deserves. I hope that finally we are reaching that stage.


 

A Host of Cheerful Daffodils


23/3/22

When I returned from dropping Diane off at work I went outside to the building site to encounter a flurry of fairly frantic activity. It was very warm and sunny even before 9am and poor Patrick was digging away in a sea of uneven earth trying to give a flat base for his gabion cages. The cages need to be positioned and filled in order for Martin to shift earth against them. Aideen was very concerned about her dad as uneven ground is impossible for him and also, he should have been in his office. In the end, it was decided that Martin would dig the trenches for the drains and Aideen and Patrick would set out the cages and then Aideen would work steadily at filling them throughout the day.

Patrick asked me, “Did you hear about Tiggy?” and then described discovering her trapped in the basement when they went outside this morning at 7am. She must have jumped down into the basement earlier in the morning and they found her jumping up repeatedly but not able to reach the top of the stair well (there are no stairs yet). Aideen had to climb down to rescue her…poor Tiggy!

Everyone is quite stressed at the moment as we all have too much to do. What I keep doing to distract everyone is to direct their attention to the daffodils around the pond. I probably planted about 3000 of them around the pond and more than 1000 alongside the wall and they are providing an incredible display. No one could fail to be cheered by the sight of them.



My job today is to finish the fruit cage. I do finish the weeding and then I started mixing barrows of aged wood ash and leaf mould to put on the beds around the different bushes. This is quite strenuous and unfortunately I don’t finish.



 

Fruit Cage Finished


24/3/22

The building team made amazing progress last night and managed to fill the cages with flint whilst Patrick laid the drains. This meant that Martin could backfill the trenches this morning. Martin and Aideen spent the rest of the day levelling the patio area, moving soil to reinstate the slope and fill in around the building.



I spent the morning pushing barrows of leaf mould and ash to the fruit cage. When this was done, I pruned the hydrangeas at the front of the house and then I made my way round to the front field to prune the roses. I also cut dead stems from the verbascum and trimmed the lavender plants. At the end of the day, when I return from rehearsing the church adult choir and band, Aideen and I discuss her plans for cake for the Open Day. It will be interesting to see how we will fit in baking lots of cake with everything else, but I guess we have managed in the past.


 

A Suitable Setting


25/3/22

The amazing weather continues. My list of jobs for today includes planting out the last of the onion sets. Some heat-treated sets become available later than others and these arrived in the post a couple of days ago. Luckily, I manage to squeeze them in at the end of the long bed where I have planted the others. Space is always at a premium in the section of the vegetable garden devoted to legumes and onions. I have to find space for runner beans and borlotti beans on wigwams, multiple onions (Autumn and Spring sown) shallots and garlic, not to mention dwarf French beans and later, leeks. I also already have peas and broad beans planted. It is a good job that I have moved the Jerusalem artichokes, however, whatever crop goes into that bed will have to deal with stray Jerusalem artichokes popping up! After planting out the onions, I head for the field border. Although this bed has already had a thorough weeding session and the shrubs have been pruned and dead foliage removed, I am sad to report serious weed regrowth. For example, there is an awful proliferation of burdocks that had not emerged at the first weeding. I have decided to give the border a couple of days of extra weeding to make it more respectable, but I cannot spend too long on it because there is so much else to do! On a more positive note, the building team are making excellent progress. Today is Friday, so Patrick is off work to help Aideen. Martin, the digger man, is still with us and Billy returns home early from his site and helps as well. Incredibly, they fill the entire patio area with hardcore and type 1 which is brilliant progress. I am now much more optimistic about the landscaping situation around the new building. Progress has been far quicker than I expected and hopefully this major work before the Open Day will not delay us. Most importantly, as it all comes together it was looking good. It is neat, tidy and discreet and finally the arcades are getting the setting they deserve.



 

A Two Concert Day!


26/3/22

Some days have to be written off from a gardening perspective and today is one of them.

The girls and James are off to do a concert at LSO St Luke’s and I’m off to play Elijah in Harrow. Their concert is considerably more stressful than mine and they have to leave earlier for the rehearsal. James is driving into London with Aideen, the harp and the other instruments and Diane and Meave are going on the train. I am able to leave a bit later and I get a bit done outside before I leave. I continue to weed the big field border and I plant out some Lambs Ear's spaced along the edge that I have in pots in the cold frame.

Patrick is planning to work on laying the drains to the new building. Unfortunately, because he is on his own, progress is limited which must have been frustrating for him and he has to stop work much earlier than usual because he is going to listen to the concert in London. I head off for my rehearsal which is quite a marathon – this piece consists of 42 movements! Then they all have to be played again in the concert, that is a lot of notes! I am so tired that in the rehearsal I have a little nap in some movements where the bassoons don’t play but I do stay awake in the concert…just!!!

Tonight, the clocks go forward not ideal for sleepy bassoonists but it will give me an extra hour of daylight tomorrow for weeding, hooray!


 

Spring Forward!


27/3/22

Today is Mother’s Day but unfortunately we are all feeling rather jaded. I was first back last night but the others didn’t return until 1am, Meave and Billy stayed out all night! This, combined with the clocks going forward, has rather impacted on our sleep. I am up quite early because I was needed to play in church and I’m delighted to say that I was belatedly joined by a rather dozy Aideen and Diane…there was no hope for Meave who was unconscious having returned at 7:30am!

The clocks going forward is always cause for celebration in our house because it gives us an extra hour of daylight to work outside and I was determined to utilise the extra time. I had a rather ambitious target to finish weeding the field border which obviously I did not manage…I got nearly halfway. However, it is beginning to look a great deal tidier. I was reflecting on borders whilst I should have been concentrating on Elijah and I have concluded that a key ingredient in a border is accessibility. It is incredibly useful to be able to access a border from the front and back. This makes it much easier to control. This is possible with the fruit tree border because it has a service path and it’s also possible with the central mirror borders which have a path behind them, although I have to squeeze through a hedge!

The field border is 3m deep is backed by a brick wall and there are large established shrubs at the back. This makes it very hard to keep the back weeded and last year this border did not receive enough attention. I am determined that this year I get this border back into shape but it is hard work. The rest of the family work team take a while to get into gear due to sleeping, going to church and then making a Mother’s day brunch which was much appreciated.



After lunch, they help Patrick with the drains and Meave, Billy and Diane replace the turf on the trench in the front field. I do manage to stay out until about 7:45pm and I find Patrick still outside manoeuvring gabion cages at 9:30pm but unfortunately the weekend has been less productive than normal and we have to cancel Martin for tomorrow because we are not ready for him.


 

Burdock Blitz!


28/3/22

Today is probably the last day of the good weather and snow is forecasted for Thursday. This is typical of the UK climate…one extreme to the other. I am surrounded by colour, the daffodils and polyanthas are glorious and quite a few tulips are already open. I have now started the annual worry about whether we will peak too soon with our bulb display and now all these eager blooms could be covered in snow!

James has now broken up from school and today he was here to help Aideen and they were later joined by Billy. They spend all day filling the walls of gabion cages which in places are two cages high (one stacked on top of the other). Patrick has always been keen to use these cages filled with flint as retaining walls ever since he made a bench out of them for the compost yard. Aideen and I were less convinced by the idea but I am now very happy with how they look. They have a very natural looking simplicity which feels very appropriate. It is also extremely satisfying to use the flints at last. We have collected them as they have been dug up, always intending to use them for something and now they will edge the pond and stream and now provide an elegant retaining wall.



I intend to get on with weeding the field border but first I speak to the aquatic nursery with some queries about making my order at the end of the week. I will spend quite a lot of time this week studying the catalogue and availability list. On my way out to the border, I keep spotting burdocks emerging everywhere. I grab my fierce space and start removing them from the central borders. Occasionally, I manage to remove the entire root but usually they snap off below the soil surface. The problem then is that they regenerate from the root. However, there is no alternative and I’m hoping that repeatedly removing the food production part of the plant will eventually weaken this stubborn weed. Before finally reaching the field border, I attempted to remove the burdocks out of the miniature orchard wild flower meadow, maybe I will make my bucket of burdock into liquid fertiliser. I spend the rest of the day weeding the field border and reach three quarters of its length by the time I go in to teach.


 

A Band of Frogs


29/3/22

Today I am on my own in the garden as Aideen (driven by James) is off with her harp to play Faure’s Requiem in Southwark Cathedral.



The weather is definitely changing; my jumpers are back on and the washing doesn’t dry properly on the line. I am determined to finish the field border today and when several of my pupils cancel their lessons for the evening I rearrange the remaining students so I get more time to work outside. I reflect on the thought that the last year, I did not manage to complete weeding the field border once before opening to the public, let alone twice! This border has now had things removed and added and there is more to come. By 6.00pm, I have finally finished weeding the border. I then bring up an ornamental concrete bird table (also rescued from Jeans) to place in the children’s garden next to the Mock Tudor Playhouse. My intention is to use it as a mini band stand for four ornamental frogs playing musical instruments. Although these ornamental pieces are concrete, they are old and weathered and look like stone.



The frogs have also come from Auntie Jean’s garden. My Auntie Jean loved frogs and collected all types of ornamental frogs throughout her life. One of the challenges of sorting out her house for selling (necessary to fund her continuing care) has been dealing with a massive collection of about 3000 ornamental frogs! This little group of musical frogs will provide a nice little momento of my aunt. Ironically, my poor Aunt, who amongst her many conditions suffers from dementia, no longer remembers the frogs. When asked by a paramedic on her final departure from Church Gardens to hospital, “What is your favourite animal?” she replied, “Lion”!!!!!!!!


p.s If anyone reading this blog collects frogs please let me know!

 

Problems With Water


30/3/22

This morning, a very upset Aideen comes in to inform us that Mayflower’s floor is floating – the bottom of the boat is full of water. Patrick and Aideen think it is because the boats front timber window, which needs replacing, has let the water in. This has been compounded by Mayflower’s nose being raised when her dry dock flooded which means any water collecting on the front of the boat would tip straight towards the leaky window. This is very distressing for Aideen who has spent many hours painting and insulating the bottom of the boat which is now rusting again. Poor Mayflower has inevitably been neglected in recent months because of the new building project. Hopefully, Aideen can get back to her after the Open Day, but for now we will endeavour to pump out the water. Aideen (later joined by James) continues to work on placing and filling the gabion cages coming around the back of the building.


I start the day by planting out two cordylines that have been growing in containers beside the Fruit Cage. I have felt for a while that the containers were inadequate for healthy growth of these plants so they should be found a home in the field border. I then planted out a pittosporum in the same border which is always rather tricky at this time of year because what looks like a space will not necessarily remain a space as herbaceous perennials emerge. I then bring around more garden ornaments that I’ve brought home from Jean’s house. There are two bird bath statues which I position towards the back of the central triangles of the central mirror borders. These will provide focus points and more watering places for our bird community. There is also a weathered statue of Buddha which I place next to the miniature Japanese garden which looks quite appropriate.




I then start work on the herb garden giving It a good cutting back of dead stalks which soon fills the big green barrow. Inevitably, ‘Ornamental Limelight’ is making another bid for ‘world domination’, or at least herb bed domination! I finish the day by writing a very long list of what needs doing before the Open Day. When one item is ‘weed the vegetable beds’ we know that the list is probably over optimistic!


 

Snow


31/3/22

Today was quite stressful and extremely cold. Today is the day that I had assigned to make the order from the aquatic plant nursery. I have spent nearly a week poring over plant catalogues, availability lists and price lists and I’m finally ready to make the order. However, I’m quite nervous about it because I’ve never done anything on this scale before. I am slightly guessing on quantities and areas of shelves, although, I did run my calculations past Patrick, who thinks I’m on the right track. The family have asked if I have a plan like when I design a herbaceous border and my answer is “no!”. On this occasion, I have picked everything in the catalogue that I fancy (that is available) and then ordered six of them. I explain to the family that it doesn’t really matter what plants go where but they are best put in groups of the same species. One issue has been oxygenators. I want them to just sit on the floor of the shelf but I could only find two available which were happy at that planting depth. I have then ordered about 350 aquatic planting baskets because I want to transplant the marginals into bigger pots to give them room to expand. I am also ordering lilies and the ferns, astilbes and candelabra primulas to plant along the stream. It is a very large and expensive order and I have been very apprehensive about it but the pond needs planting out as soon as possible so it is time to stop prevaricating!

After spending a lot of time making lists and phoning the nursery about oxygenators, I decide to leave my plant order and go outside. James and Aideen are outside today and they are continuing to work on the wall of flint filled gabion cages. Aideen is worried about how long it is taking as we still have so much else to do but it is a big job and it really looks brilliant.

I return to the herb garden for yet more weeding until I am driven into the tunnel by snow! The weather veers between quite dense flurries of snow and then periods of clear blue skies and sunshine, typical English weather!



In one of the longer periods of snow I decide it is a good time to sow my tomatoes. I sow two 40 module trays of more than 20 different varieties of tomato. This is probably a bit excessive but it is easy to get carried away with all the different varieties of tomato available. We love our home-grown tomatoes and look forward to months of massive tomato salads full of flavour that is never available from shop bought fruit.

When I come in to get ready for the evening choir rehearsal I have to leave the tunnel open because Pip is sleeping inside the end of the propagator. When I go out after the end of rehearsal, at about 8:15pm, she is still there and has to be gently evicted.

I then come inside where Aideen and James are working away on the new guide book. This work has been ongoing for a few weeks, every evening, even after a long day’s work outside. We have run out of guidebooks and our original version published in 2019 is now out of date. I have provided text for new features that have been added since 2019 and I have modified and added to the existing text. I have also redrawn the orchard part of the map. Aideen and James have taken lots of new, high quality photographs and are now spending hours working out the design and layout of the pages.

This is actually the most time consuming part of the job and only James knows how to operate the Photoshop software which is very good, but even the smallest changes take forever! I am very glad to leave this side of the operation to them because I would not have the patience for it. Aideen and I then make the aquatic nursery order, quite a job in itself, but a huge relief to me to send it off.


 

A Full Days Work


1/4/22

Today is the first day for a long time where I can work almost uninterrupted outside until it gets dark.

First thing this morning, there is a call from the aquatic nursery to check that I really do want to make such a large order! This slightly discombobulates me and I nervously explain the size of my pond (21m x 17m) and that I am planting about a third of the surface area. She agreed that this sounded ok and would provide a very well planted effect. She was just checking that I hadn’t over-ordered by accident. We then discussed delivery and whether I wanted everything to arrive at once because it will be such a big job to plant it all. We decide that it is best for it to arrive in one go and I will just have to work extremely hard to plant it out, but hard jobs are the norm round here.

I actually feel quite reassured once I have spoken to the nursery and I head off into the garden with my mind thinking about the best way to approach the pond planting job. I decide that I could make a start on constructing my raised planting platforms before the plants arrive. The 1 litre plants are being planted into 29cm pots that will require some raising up because the shelf is about 50cm deep. I plan to use old bricks and slabs to make a raised platform inside the pond edge for this purpose! This is also a good way of reusing the old bricks and paving slabs that were piled up behind the old sheds that we’ve now demolished. These materials all have to be moved today to finally clear the slope and terrace area prior to Martin returning tomorrow for the final earth shifting session.

Aideen and James spent the early part of the day filling cages with flint with Patrick. Then the remaining flint was moved with the dumper down to another storage area beside the stream. Yes, here we are again moving tonnes of stuff from one area to another!!! I continue to weed the herb bed and when this is completed I mulch any bare earth with mushroom compost. There is a tricky moment when my jumper becomes firmly hooked by the impressive thorns of the Szechuan Pepper Tree and I think I will need to call for help, but finally, I work myself free!

After this, I weed the Alpine beds and I decide to cut my aloes right back to some low new growth and completely remove the one at the back of the border. These plants have become rather overpowering in a bed that is supposed to be featuring more miniature specimens. I have some rooted cuttings which I might plant beside the stream. After completing this job, I start to weed the ornamental beds in the vegetable garden. When I go into the orchard to empty my barrow at about 6:30pm I realise that the family still have a lot to clear before tomorrow…two pallets of bricks, two pallets of slabs, more flints and large piles of old stone. I can see I will have to abandon my weeding and come and help. Several thousand bricks later, I come in out of the darkness at 9:15pm to put on the dinner, otherwise we will not eat. Patrick, Aideen and Diane trail in wearily at 10pm, we are almost ready for Martin but I suspect it will be an early start tomorrow!




 

Shed Area Finally Cleared


2/4/22

We are up soon after 6am because there is still quite a lot to clear before Martin arrives at 8am. Aideen is finishing off adding metal cable ties to the gabion cages so they are fully secure before the backfilling begins. This job was abandoned last night when it became too dark to see! Diane, Meave and I move the lumps of old stone into the dumper. Some pieces are so heavy we cannot lift them up into the dumper and they have to be moved in a barrow. We have been collecting these pieces of stones, some of which are carved like the broken parts of a columns, since we first came to Church Gardens. I intend to create a ‘ruin’ garden in the far corner of the orchard where I will incorporate these pieces, so that is where they are taken for now. Patrick continues to dismantle the pallet cages that housed the flint pile and we continue to move flint to the new flint cages near the stream…we still have quite a lot left! Finally, we shovel up general muck that covers the big plastic sheet that was under the flint and we are wrestling that into a one-tonne bag when Martin arrives.



As we all have a cup of tea, we look up at the arches and finally, the view is clear. The massive pile of hard-core (removed last year), the recently demolished sheds, the cages that were storing the flints and the piles of brick, slabs and old stone are finally gone. It is a beautiful morning and it is a wonderful moment to see this area clear at last…now we just have to reinstate the earth and contour it appropriately!


My whole body is aching and it is only 9am. Now I need to get back to my massive list of jobs in the garden (mainly weeding). For the rest of the day, Martin is shifting the decent top soil that has been stored in heaps between the nut trees further in the orchard. With Aideen in the dumper truck, they gradually tip it down behind the gabion cages, reinstating the sections of slope and terrace that were dug away to build the new building. Then soil is added to the ground where the derelict sheds were demolished to recreate the gentle slope coming down from the terrace.



There will always be an area of higher ground behind where the old sheds were situated which we suspect was created when they were built but that must have been there for the last 80 odd years and we do not intent to disturb it. Martin also breaks up compacted ground where diggers and dumpers have been driving for the last few months. This will help us with seeding the area with grass seed. The transformation of this area throughout the day is so amazing that is hard to not stand and stare. I am so pleased at how the terrace comes down to meet the gabion cages with a lovely gentle slope which then sweeps around the building like an embracing arm. The cages continue along the side of the patio area and will become a bench where we can sit and admire the arcades. It is very hard to imagine how it was before. This area of ground was always a challenge and now we have found a solution. There is now a proper route out of the garden when I’m leading a tour, along the terrace and down the steps. General visitors may walk up and down the slope in a similar way to the opposite side of the garden.

James and Diane spend a large part of the day moving the York stone slabs to pile neatly on pallets in front of the new building. This is a horrible job, each slab requires two people to move it! They have been on pallets randomly in front of the old sheds for months and were yet something else that needed to be moved. They will form the new patio area. There is a fire going to burn branches and old wood and there is rubbish taken to the dump. At the end of the day, Patrick and James attempt to hack out the last section of drainage channel required for the new building.

In between gazing at the beautifully clear terrace, I weed and weed and weed! By the end of the day, I have finished weeding the six ornamental beds on the left of the vegetable garden and the eight ornamental beds at the top. Mary comes to continue removing the moss from the paths. Before it gets dark, I dig up leeks and swede and pick what are probably the last Brussel sprouts for dinner. I make a chicken casserole and use up more of our potatoes in Lyonnaise potatoes although, the potatoes are now becoming soft. Work continues on the guidebook until late, Aideen wants it finished by the end of the weekend! Dinner is ridiculously late, even for us…some time after midnight. When am I going to do the washing up?


 

Pond Dipping


3/4/22

Today is a hive of activity with lots of people doing lots of things. Aideen decides to properly investigate Mayflowers on-board water problem. She takes out everything from the boat and removes the water, bailing it out with jugs. When the water is gone, a small hole is revealed that has caused the flood, so it wasn’t leaky window frames after all. After this, Aideen, with Meave’s help, finished digging the trench to run water and electrics to the boat. Diane was being visited by her boyfriend and they spent the day moving Type 1 and generally clearing up…how romantic! Later in the afternoon, Mary returned to continue with the seemingly never-ending job of removing moss from the paths. We are very grateful to her for tackling this uninspiring job because not only doesn’t it make the paths look better, it makes them less slippery. Patrick and James finished digging the trench and laying the drains to the new building. Unfortunately, when it was all filled in they realised they had forgotten a connection for a down pipe and had to dig it up again!!! I spent the day working out how to raise the planting shelf of the pond to cater for the different planting depths needed by my myriad of new, soon to be delivered, aquatic plants. I puzzled over these calculations for some time, pacing out the circumference of the pond, measuring bricks and slabs and working out what would go where. I then spent hours moving hundreds of bricks and dozens of slabs and positioning them around the pond. I then cut lots of bits of spare liner to sit under the many bricks. Then I got dressed in my waders and rubber gloves and called for assistance. My volunteer was Billy, which was good because he is big and strong and would be efficient at passing me heavy slabs whilst I was in the water. I needed to do the job quickly as possible because the water would be very cold as it was late in the day (after 5pm). There would be a limit to how long I could stay in the water.



The water was very cold and it was clear that the rubber gloves were fairly useless, immediately filling with bitterly cold water but at least giving my hands some protection from the bricks and slabs. The job was made trickier by the murkiness of the water once my movement stirred up the sediment. I was having to position the bricks on the scrap of liner by feel and touch. I was hoping my hands and arms would go numb fairly quickly, but being a keen sea swimmer, I know there is a finite time that the numbness will last. Soon, other issues became evident. The front of my top became drenched as I leant forward reaching into 50cm of freezing water to position the bricks and slabs. My hair, despite being tied up, fell forward and dangled in the water as well. Finally, my waders, which I should have secured to a belt, started to slip down and water seeped in through the top.

I managed to complete the 40m shelf and then went back to the start to add a second lower level of bricks next to the shelf. By this time, I had been in the water for over an hour and my arms and hands now had pins and needles, so I thought I should call it a day. Having ‘high-fived’ Billy, although I couldn’t feel my hands, I sloshed back to the house for a hot shower. Considering it was snowing two days ago, I probably did not choose the best time for pond dipping. Once I had thawed out, I sat down with Aideen to work on the final bits of text for the guide book…no peace for the wicked!


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