Category Archives: garden

Barbecue Rebuild

The garden came with a brick double barbecue.   The top courses have always been loose, but things got worse when I realised the bricks were a perfect match for my chimney and I stole much of the top course.


I took the BBQ down about 4 courses until the bricks seemed secure then built it back up loosely.  A lot of the bricks were damaged so some bricks left over from the new build next door were used to make up the numbers.

The new bricks are quite nice but didn’t match.   Over a few evenings the bricks were rearranged a few times to try out some ideas.   The BBQ was steadily redesigned and ended up a course higher than the photo with the bricks arranged in a chevron pattern.

The work tops in the picture are roof slates positioned to see whether slate would look nicer than concrete.


Once happy with the pattern the bricks were positioned on the lawn in their courses.   This worked really well and I didn’t once get the bricks mixed up while I was rebuilding the BBQ.  Later all of the courses were moved onto the lawn as it helped keep the underside of the bricks damp.

The sun was hot this week and the bricks were thirsty and needed a lot of spraying.   The scaffold tower was put up with hessian sheet over it to keep the sun off me and the new cement.   Otherwise it would have been far too hot.


The BBQ was originally built in cement so I used cement to match.   It’s the first time I’ve used cement for brickwork and I’m not used to it.  I don’t like the stuff.   I’m not the first to rebuild the BBQ and it’s in metric bricks so post 1965.   Things shouldn’t need to be rebuilt this often, and getting the cement off the bricks was a real pain.

There was a fair mix of different bricks from previous rebuilds and it’s awkward to lay bricks when one of the bricks underneath has a deep frog, then the one beside it has no frog or is full of old cement.


I’m really pleased with how it turned out.   Mixing the new bricks in over the top 6 courses makes them stand out much less, and they add a bit of colour.   I went for a chevron pattern rather than a random mix simply because I have never done a brick pattern before, but the pattern isn’t all that noticeable.

The worktops are slate paving and were only £17 from the Rockery Centre in Sandy.   The slate looked great in the shop but when I put them on the BBQ they were light blue.   After a thin coat of linseed oil it went nice and black.


I had expected the work to take a couple of days but somehow this contrived to take up most of the week.   It’s good to have a little job that can be completely finished and look good.    Also useful to straighten it out as I’ve been hosting a lot of BBQs this summer.


The ducks are back

It was about this time last year that the ducks arrived and they are back again. Last year they seemed to live in the garden for a couple of days, then flew in to eat the duck food every now and again for a further few weeks.

This year they stayed for a day then met next door’s cat.  Ducks don’t seem to like cats and we haven’t seen them since.


Edit – there was a noise that sounded like a cat being attacked by a duck one evening.  Ducks are back again and we haven’t seen the cat since.

Turf, Rain and Ducks

There was a ring around the Cyprus tree where nothing but weeds would grow.   Now that the Cyprus has been replaced by a strawberry plant we’ve removed the pile of needles, added a tonne of top soil, and are going for grass.   There are other huge areas of lawn to patch in at the same time.  The grass to the right is new turf we laid on Friday and it matches well.


We got only so far on Friday.  The rest of the bank holiday weekend was good weather for ducks.  The turf turned to mud so it’s laid out on the driveway waiting for next weekend.   Oddly we now seem to have some ducks.  They arrived on Friday and are still here on Monday.


The following weekend the ducks are still here, but only one at a time.   We think they are looking after eggs.

The weather dried up and we finished the turf on Friday.  Kae has added some very creative planting and the garden now looks fabulous.


The planning conditions look like they have all been approved. We’ve got a great planning officer.

Lawn Roller

Next door hired a roller for the weekend, but finished their driveway by Saturday morning.   We borrowed it to roll the lawn which had been very tufty underfoot.

It worked – the lawn is now much more level.   Hopefully the grass will survive.



The remainder of the greenhouse arrived this week, but as the weather was not looking good first thing Saturday morning I bought a cheap concrete breaker and dug up the ugly part of the concrete slab.


With the skip full and the weather nicer we started assembling the greenhouse on the remaining part of the slab after lunch.  The slab is in a perfect position to have sun all day long.   We gave up at 18:30, both exhausted from moving all that concrete.


The concrete moving caught up with us on Sunday. 🙂  1.5 days in the glass is in the sides and the roof started.   The instructions are terrible so we’re making it up as we go along from here.


2.5 days in and the roof glass is mostly in.   It takes trained professionals 2.5 days to erect the greenhouse so we’re only a day out.  The scaffold tower base was really handy for installing the roof panels.


It took another day to finish the greenhouse.   I haven’t seen Kae since – I think she’s moved in there.   I still need to make some staging and fit some guttering to the rear where it drips on the fence.


Next job is to finish the fence.  From there driveway then  finally the kitchen!

Another Unfinished Fence

I submitted a form to discharge the planning conditions last weekend.   It takes ages to decide on which bricks and tiles to use.   In the end I just picked some but have changed my mind already.   We also have general agreement with building regs about what we need to do as part of the change of use.   Things might start happening in a few months!

Meanwhile the fence at the back of the garden wasn’t in very good condition.  It turns out 2014 was a very bad year to order a new fence.  Supplies of fencing dried up after the storms in January so the new fence took a while to arrive.


We started putting in the new fence this weekend.  It’s maybe 4 inches higher than the old one which had slipped a bit and was generally falling down.  The increased height is just enough to hide the top of the cars that started parking behind it after the messy willow was trimmed.


Kae did a fabulous job cleaning the concrete slab ready for the greenhouse which was to be a project for Easter bank holiday weekend.  But unfortunately they have so far sent only half a greenhouse.

7 weeks later at the start of June the fence was (nearly) finished.   The diminishing roof lines of the house, barn and greenhouse work well from the main road too.


Here is a before photo from November 2012.  It’s a parking area for the Wellsfield bungalows but nobody used to park there because of the tree mess.  Neighbours are much happier now.  They have suggested the willow could be cropped a little lower next time – it doesn’t seem to have any trouble growing back.



The willow in the back garden is a magnificent tree.  But it is mad to have such a big magnificent tree quite so close to an old house without much in the way of foundations.

So it is now a much smaller willow.  I don’t mind the settlement on that corner of the building, but I hope the willow will think twice before growing into my drains again.  The Tree People did an excellent job.

It’ll grow back.




The conifer on the other hand might not grow back.  Removing the conifer was a condition of the planning application because it is pushing over a garden wall that they like.  Fortunately the wall survived and I am hoping to support it with a structural trellis.



The question to the conservation officer turned into a pre-planning application.  Hopefully we’ll hear something back soon.  It will be at least another 3 months (if all goes really well) before we have planning permission which will give me a chance to earn some money to pay for the work.

So we’ve been doing the garden.   We tried to plant some flowers under the Cypress Leylandii tree but they aren’t growing.  The ivy growing on the barn had died (I might have accidentally cut through all the stems after I moved in) but I don’t want to cut it down until all the birds have finished nesting.