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Set in Stone - well, concrete

It may seem an odd place to start but I often encounter the fact that one of the battles clients have is getting tradespeople to respond to their enquiries and then follow up with quotes.  So often clients contact various trades only to be ignored from the outset or, as we are about to discover, be ignored when a job looks too complicated or simply just too much like hard work.

 

I first met Peter in late 2023 after he contacted us about his small back garden.  He had had two tradespeople look at it with very different responses: the first told him a quote would be in the post – that never arrived and the second guy put forward several ideas that involved making the most of the existing concrete that ran through the centre of the garden.  Unfortunately the second guy was apparently unable to commit to a start date that kept moving further and further away until Peter gave up all hope.



Within 5 minutes of talking to Peter it became apparent that the main objective in his mind was to get rid of the concrete, which he loathed, but it had been indicated to him that this was not an option.  It was fair to say it was a logistical nightmare as access to the back garden was via a skinny alleyway and vehicle access to the front was not much better.  Just to make matters worse the property is located in a small town with no road parking and even getting our vans to the house was challenging.  But Goal One was to get rid of the concrete and that is what had to be done.


 A busy winter period meant that a start date of February was agreed and when the time arrived so did our guys with heavy duty jack hammers and our trusted tipping trailer.  The removal of the concrete that Peter had been told was not really possible was completed in just over 2 days!

 

Now Peter had the blank canvas so we left him to ponder for a week or so before our planned return to take his garden to the next phase.  Peter’s imagination had taken him to raised beds around three sides but he also craved an ‘easy access’ potager corner so Goal Two was provide this for him.  The borders around the edge had previously been set using old roof tiles that were ill placed and falling over.  We managed to source some fabulous oak sleepers which we used to reset the existing borders and provide a framework for the planting already in the garden.

 

The raised potager was to sit in a sunny corner at a slightly higher level to improve access so we set about installing this for him, again using the oak sleepers.  The plants that had previously been in that corner were relocated and then we were faced with the not insignificant task of filling the bed with new topsoil.


The other feature of the garden that Peter wanted to keep was a small ‘stone garden’ that he had previously created in front of his seating area.  The issue we now had was that where this was once framed with the concrete pathway, we were now left with an undefined area without clear purpose.  Goal Three was to the create this definition and we turned to an old friend, Everedge, who make a flexible but high quality border edging that was perfect for this task.


With the new sleek black Everedge in place around Peter’s stone border and the oak sleepers framing the rest of the garden we had one final task to complete: Goal Four levelling the land following the troughs left from the concrete removal and filling the potager.  But this was not as simple as it could be either.  The delivery lorry from the company who supplied the topsoil could not access Peter’s driveway as the road was too narrow and for the same reason the soil could not be dumped on the road.  A delivery of 10 ton of topsoil would have meant a road closure in the middle of a busy town – simply not an option.  The solution was fortuitous as we also look after the property across the road and some years earlier had had a delivery of topsoil into their garage.  


So, with their permission 10 ton of topsoil was delivered to their garage leaving our guys the unenviable task of barrowing around the corner and up into the back garden of Peter’s house – no mean feat, that’s for sure.  But mob handed, the first half was completed on day one in order to allow the garage door to be closed overnight and the remainder finished later. 

 

We had had our share of good fortune thus far but this was where that ran out.  It had been a very wet winter (the wettest in my 20 years in the Charente) but we had managed to get through the job, even with the rain, up to this point.  However levelling topsoil and heavy rain is a combination that just does not go together and for once in our world, the weather stopped play.

 

It was well over a fortnight until we had two clear days of dry weather but eventually the very last of the soil was distributed and rollered down before we were able to sprinkle the grass seed and hand the garden back to Peter to tend to.  It would have been nice to have laid turf upon our exit, but supply issues and timing were not in our favour so we were left at the mercy of grass seed.  It does not provide the instant impact of turf but in this instance it was the best solution available.



 

As has become our speciality, this was an evolving project taking it step by step with the client allowing their imagination lead the way forward.  By pausing at each stage we were able to allow Peter to take stock of the progression which meant that with each decision being led by him, he was able to end up with the garden he wanted rather than one we wanted. 




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