Dr Livingstone I Presume …

Well not exactly, nor did I run into Lord Lucan or any other missing individuals.

Of course not. After all, I’ve just spent the last few hours delving into the upper reaches of my garden, in sunny Hampshire.

To my knowledge, neither  Livingston or Lucan have ever ventured into my garden. Livingstone spent many years in Africa and Lucan could be anywhere having supposedly been seen everywhere.

After hacking back the brambles and Jasmine vines, and numerous other invasive plants I can state categorically that neither of the aforementioned gentlemen are to be found.

The Lost Gardens of ???

Unfortunately, this end of the garden has been neglected somewhat. Not helped by our seven month sojourn in Australia. The picture above was taken after I had made a valiant foray, boldly forging a path through the brambles and Jasmine with my electric hedge trimmer.

What’s triggered this sudden exertion ?

Well, the fence, that you can just catch glimpses of, is in a very dilapidated state. In fact I believe the plant life, that I have been cutting back, is all that is keeping it up.

The plan, much like a game of dominoes, is in several parts.

Step one, is to replace the fence. This I am going to do with the help of my daughters boyfriend. Actually, he is the expert, I will just be his bitch. So approximately twelve metres of featherboards mounted on arris rails.

Ancient Shed

Step two, is to replace this sorry broken shed. The plan is to replace it with a new one, approximately twice the size. This shed has performed admirably until late last year, when some guys I had hired to do some hedge work, chose to fall through the roof. Removing the shed will be a bit of a voyage of discovery as there are signs of subterranean habitation. That is to say there looks to be a tunnel going under the shed. You can just see the entrance to the right of the door. Potential inhabitants range from hedgehogs thru foxes to rats. Hopefully not the latter although, I believe, we would have seen more signs if there were any living that close to the house.


Step three, replace the cheap n cheerful greenhouse with a more robust version. Over the last couple of years this structure has suffered damage due to strong winds. So it’s time to get rid.

The latest storm blew off the door, breaking the plastic glazing. Blew off the skylight (now placed back on the roof). And, I have since discovered, the wind also dislodged some glazing at the back. So, no longer weatherproof. The greenhouse was used last year, to grow a bumper crop of tomatoes. Not this year though.

And finally, step four, build a new deck area to provide a base for a swing chair. Our current swing chair has suffered under the same rough weather that has damaged the greenhouse, bending and snapping the canopy frame.

So in preparation for Step One I have been clearing out the jungle. This has been more like an archaeological dig, rediscovering long lost areas. Who knew that the space behind the shed was the hiding place for our first ever patio table and chairs. Originally white, but now turned green by nature.

What is that, a snake ? Nope just a long section of garden hose, bright yellow.

Birds Skull ?

Then there are the bones. I’m guessing, judging by the size of the skull, that they are the remains of a pigeon. Question is, who did it ? Did the luckless bird fall prey to one of several neighbourhood cats, or perhaps one the kites or kestrels often seen soaring overhead.

Dinosaurus Plasticus

And what was that I spied, hiding under the coniferous canopy ? A baby dinosaur ? No, just a toy abandoned by one of our grandchildren. One brave enough to venture into our mini jungle.

The bulk of my discoveries, from behind the shed, have now found their way to the municipal tip. I didn’t have room for the old wheelbarrow or the old fridge, so another trip has to be planned. Perhaps some of the junk in the garage will find it’s way into that next load too.

As I post this, I have received notification that the fencing materials will be delivered on the 15th April. So I’d better start limbering up and get ready for some hard physical labour.

View From The Conservatory

Well, not really the view from the conservatory. More about what’s been happening in the garden, supported by a couple of photo’s.

We have had a couple of really nice days, blue skies and sunshine that have spurred us on to set about tidying up the garden. Not of course without having a spot of breakfast out on the deck. Whilst we were having our breakfast the fellow below was obtaining his.

Great Tit

This Great Tit was helping himself to the peanuts. Access had been made very easy due to the large hole the squirrels had made in our “squirrel proof” feeder. Of course I don’t begrudge him the peanuts, I don’t mind that the squirrels managed to break into feeder. My only objection is that I paid good money and that the manufacturer claimed that it was squirrel proof. I guess their product testing didn’t take into account that juvenile squirrels are small and that their head and shoulders could get through the same gaps that birds use. Oh, and that squirrel teeth must be diamond tipped as they can quite happily gnaw through steel mesh.

So back to work. Having finished our breakfast I set about a serious pruning of our apple tree. The level of my attack is such that, for the tree, it is a case of  sink or swim. I’m pretty sure there won’t be any apples this year. But I am sure, assuming the tree survives, that we will be in full production for future years. The label on the tree when we planted it said the variety was Egremont Russet and that the harvest period would be late September / October. Once the tree got into its stride, it always produced hundreds of fruit. Not that we ever managed to harvest many. The local wildlife always got there first.

First would come the squirrels. Did I mention we have squirrels ? They don’t wait for fruit or nuts to ripen. As soon as they can they are there, chomping on the green apples. Again I wouldn’t mind but I noticed they were a bit free and easy with my crop. They would grab an apple, eat half, toss the uneaten half and go get another.

Later, as the year progressed and the fruit ripened, along come the Blackbirds. They like to peck their way around the tree. They don’t eat whole apples either, just peck their way into the core then leave the apple to rot on the tree.

Finally, there are the wasps. Now these crafty blighter’s start on the really ripe apples. They seem to deliberately choose the side nearest the main trunk of the tree. Which means I couldn’t see what they were up to. I have lost count of how many apples I went to pick only to find an empty skin, still retaining the original shape. Hanging like a chinese lantern.

So this year they are all in for a shock. No apples.

Mr Robin, picture below, was very vocal during my pruning actions.


I haven’t seen any Robins eating apples but I am pretty sure they enjoy the various bugs on the tree so he was probably berating me for cutting back on his food supply.

So having decimated the apple tree, I turned my attention to cutting back the Jasmine. This was something we planted a few years back. It steadfastly refused to grow where I wanted it to go, ignored the trellis installed especially for it. That is until high winds broke said trellis causing it to hang down. The Jasmine immediately climbed aboard and smothered the trellis. The most amazing thing is that, somehow, a new clump of Jasmine self set about seventy-five feet away from the original plant and set about clambering over everything in sight. Rose bushes, Lavatera, Sweet Pea sticks and the back fence have all been fair game.

The trouble with trimming this stuff back is the way in which it twines itself around other plants. You can’t just set to, hacking and slashing, but have to unravel all of the vines, which can be a bit painful around the rose bushes which are well endowed with large thorns. We also found some sneaky brambles lurking in amongst the Jasmine vines. The spines on brambles are, I find, infinitely worse than rose thorns. Needless to say, I have several scratches and puncture wounds to show for my troubles.

All of my efforts have been overseen by Masher from his vantage point in the bird bath.


He’s called Masher as that was his previous function. He is a spud basher extraordinaire. However he was damaging our saucepans, so he was evicted from the kitchen and now spends his time trying to intimidate the pigeons who come for a drink. They don’t seem to care about his evil eye so he has become redundant as a bird scarer.

As I said, we’ve had a couple of really nice days. On the second day I took advantage of the fine weather to start another project, the laying of a base for the BBQ.

I am cheating somewhat, having purchased a few square metres of interlocking plastic shed base. The idea is that having roughly levelled the ground, I will position the plastic interlocking tiles on the prepared ground. Then a cement mix will be poured over the whole, filling the spaces in the tiles and providing a level base for the positioning of patio slabs. That’s the theory anyway. At this point I have levelled the ground and positioned the interlocking  plastic tiles.


Also keeping a watchful eye on my activities was Arry the Ant. I think he could tell I was getting a little overheated and offered a refreshing drink of water.

The BBQ base has not been completed, unfortunately, it has rained all day today so the final stage, the cement and laying of the patio slabs has been deferred.

Perhaps tomorrow, for now I have aches in places I didn’t know existed. But I do have a sense of having achieved something. The garden is looking tidier.

That Robin Again

Oh and something else, people keep asking me how I am enjoying retirement. Well over the last couple of days I have come to realise that I am liking it just fine. Being able to do stuff when you want to, being able to sit out in the sunshine having breakfast or lunch on a weekday seems to good to be true. But after all, that’s what I worked 38 years for.


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