Once in a lifetime you find a house that you call home. Last summer my wife and I found that house. It was one of those summer days; sun shining, slight breeze, horses feeding over a stone wall, my wife happily pregnant. The house we’d come to view had been in the same family for three generations. The walls cried home to both of us. We wanted to nest. This place had a big garden, it said so on the details. We were led us up steps to a fifty foot plot overgrown with laurels. We were excited. As we pushed through the undergrowth we made plans, a vegetable plot, small greenhouse, a cutting garden edged with lavender, a play area. By the time we came to the final laurels we had moved in. There was more beyond this final hedge; an undiscovered garden overgrown with brambles. We bought the house, moved in at the end of Autumn and paid for the garden to be cleared. The true size of the garden was revealed; three hundred and fifty feet by twenty five feet on a south facing slope, the top of the garden was higher than the house!
I panicked. This was bigger than my last house and its small cottage garden. I trudged up and down my new garden kicking the earth. I stubbed my toe frequently. My swelling toe found buried paths, concrete slabs, collapsed stone walls and the remains of a piggery. A neighbour confirmed it was a piggery as my house was part of place once called Pig Row. He smiled as he told me, they’d fatten up the pigs and slaughter them in the back room of your house. I had nightmares. The remains of piggeries, milk parlours and hen houses reared up in my sleep. Pig Row consumed my dreams. The vegetable plot was a field and the cutting garden was a market garden. I would have to fatten up my new garden; fattening up costs.
With a baby on the way I was thrown into the deep end of one the oldest problems all gardeners face, creating a new garden on a tight budget. I asked my wife what she needed in a garden; a list of flowers, vegetables came my way. I wanted a greenhouse and a shed. We argued over paths and the shed. We’re still arguing over these.
Winter and the snows came, we realised we just didn’t live on a hill; we lived one thousand and eighty five feet above sea level. With the laurels gone, we were exposed to the moor that hemmed us in. The plants I bought from the old garden died. If I was to garden up here, I had to plan.
There are several constants at Pig Row, it is south facing, open to the elements; wind, snow, rain. I asked neighbours what they did to combat these. The consensus? Plant a hedge. Only a few months earlier I had paid to have six hundred feet of the stuff pulled out! I had learnt a lesson. A hedge on a hillside is worth more than a fence. Fences get blown away, mine did; along with my cloches, a wheelbarrow and a compost heap. I needed a hedge.
I redrew my plans.
There would be a cutting garden and vegetable plot protected by a new hornbeam hedge, there would be a meadow and offices sheltered by a mixed hedge of hazel and hawthorn. I had a plan all I had to do was implement it on a tight budget.
You can join the Cottage Garden Society, whose help has been central to bringing our derelict garden back to life, here.