A while back I got slightly obsessed with Lakeland’s new outdoor Tivoli tableware. In the midst of the Mother Of All Garden Projects (aka My Cumbrian Garden Project) and far from the finished product may I add, I already knew the exact colour scheme of the end decor and stumbled upon just the right tableware for all those abundant sunny Cumbrian summer days to come (yes my glass is generally almost half full if not refillable).
I featured the Tivoli tableware in my “Welly Loves..” post a month ago (you can read it here) and if you had read it, you would have come across this delightful picture of yours truly overcome by madness from the sheer size of the humungous task in hand that both myself and Mr Welly had rather unknowingly embarked upon. There was no turning back now…
We started this huge folly back in October last year (why choose nice summer days for such a grim task?). Determined as we were to achieve a beautiful back garden complete with raised beds, new patio and decorative gravel in time for summer 2017… all without any outside help. Why you ask? Well, mainly because the quotes we had got in were ridiculously pricey and besides Mr Welly aka DIY expert was on a one-man mission to prove ‘we could do it ourselves’ – err it takes two to tango in that phrase Mister…
The outcome was a long project involving sheer brute strength and endless weekends filled with back-breaking work and the odd migraine thrown in to boot (my affliction).
We started by digging up the old patio which quite frankly was an horrific task because most of it was raised over a huge mound of hardcore (ladies take note – not just a particularly insistent form of dance music from the 1990’s…).
We had to dig into said hardcore which definitely burned more calories than any illegal night’s raving. Left with huge piles of paving stone slabs, concrete and rubble there was now the huge task of getting rid of it all. We saved some of it for drainage at the bottom of our planned raised beds and the rest we managed to palm off on a friend who just happened to be building a private road (another story but not very ‘Welly’ so we’ll leave it there).
Whoever would have thought that the next step would be equally as traumatic. Raking out the existing driveway stones from our souless wind-tunnel of a back garden and then, wait for it, lifting every single raised bed sleeper from where they had kindly been dumped (“sorry love, can’t get it up yer drive”) at the front of the house, was a mighty task.
Remembering the mantra to lift from the quads and not the back, at least I was set to have the body of an athlete by the end of this long-suffering dalliance with DIY. Fitting the raised beds was relatively easy in the grand scheme of things… that is, once the wood was in place, level and screwed together; not before a large dose of bickering between the two of us – “it’s not straight!”, “you’re leaning on it!”, “get it level”, ” I can’t f***ing hold it you w***er” and other such pleasantries…
Then November arrived and with it rain and wind, cold and dark days. We ceremoniously dumped the project in favour of long weekend walks and evenings spent curled up in front of the fire drinking wine….
New Year soon came and then we were in March and as the days lengthened, the image of lazy summer days ‘hanging out’ in our new garden soon prompted us to get back on it asap.
With the raised beds in situ and three tons of hardcore delivered and laid (as easy as that… didn’t want to bore you with more arduous details), Mr Welly suddenly announced the need for a Whacker. This foreign world of outdoor labour just became utterly incomprehensible but given that perhaps this word had been invented by a one-dimensional human of the male of the species, it didn’t take long for me to work out that it basically involved hiring a huge metal machine which simply bashed (or ‘whacked’ to coin a phrase) the hardcore into place.
Next up, the paving stones. Having bought our grey limestone flags from the friendly folk at Dalston Aggregates, another huge lifting job was in order. And of course because they were all random shapes, we had to lay them first to determine the pattern and then lift them up again to lay the concrete, sigh. This is where the iphone came in handy as we snapped the pattern once down but then proceeded to erroneously lay a couple because of the odd perspective when looking back at the photos. Mucho swearing and lifting back up of flags having laid down concrete first (Mr Welly having borrowed concrete mixer from er Mr Welly Senior… apologies too much Welly now…)
Twelve hours later and we had all flags laid. My fingers were shredded (no I didn’t wear gloves) and my head suddenly exploded into a monster migraine. Off to bed I went utterly exhausted, my body spent and aching all over.
Two weeks later more tons than I care to remember of decorative gravel arrived and goodness knows how many additional tons of top soil. Yup you guessed it – more back-breaking heavy lifting…
Inbetween all this hard graft… the plants. With quite a bit of help from gardener David Hindson of Sedbergh and his cash-only-for-trade-plants-deal, we had all the beds filled.
All that was left now was to find a decent stone barbecue that would be a permanent fixture in our chill-out back garden. I came across this amazing masonry barbecue decorated in real slate online – perfect for the Lakeland setting.
Absolutely huge, it slotted in perfectly to the huge hole we’d dug our of a pre-existing stone bench running alongside the back wall. When it arrived we soon realized that despite our self-induced weight-training over the past few months, there was no way we were able to lift it given that the top part was 80 kilos alone. I hot-footed it over to my gym at The Castle Green and enlisted the help of three burly gym buddies who were most willing to oblige in exchange for a bottle of vodka each.
By mid-May we were finally finished – hurrah… and all that was left to do now was the lovely, fluffy decorative stuff – finally a NICE job for ME!!!
The final touches consisted of rattan seating purchased from Ebay and a gorgeous Lutyens bench, together with a globe water feature to decorate the raised bed I had already decided was going to have an Eastern zen feel complete with architectural grasses.
I already had a collection of rather lovely lime and grey Harlequin cushions procurred from the household ‘cushion graveyard’ upstairs (doesn’t every self-confessed interiors obsessive have one?!)
This gorgeous furniture and soft furnishings together with the fabulous Tivoli collection from Lakeland have added the finishing touches to what is now a truly wonderful and relaxing space. So was it worth all the effort? Most definitely. Would I do it again? Most definitely NOT. I won’t be swapping careers anytime soon and now appreciate my sedentary desk-based job thankyou… but if the sun is shining I’m more than happy to take my laptop outside and finish writing in my gorgeous new garden. 😊
This post is dedicated to my mother who listened in awe and saw the photos as the plans unfolded at the end of 2016.
Fiona Margaret Reade, née Bretland
26.01.49 – 11.01.17