We’re fortunate to have a lot of green space out the back of our house — it came about because we moved out of London to rural Gloucestershire, and the prices of property vary wildly between the two places. There’s about an acre all told — some of it garden, some of it largely unused field.
When we moved in, there were basically no trees on the land at all (see above, taken from the top floor of the house in November 2005, a few months after we arrived.)
So we set about putting in a bunch of trees down in the area just past the summer-house: an orchard of fruit trees, interspersed with various kinds of willows to help absorb some of the bogginess. (Our neighbours Andy and Judy Tyler did the actual work.) Here’s a rough plan of how it was laid out.
Further back, we also put in a sun-trap made of conifers, several little groves of silver birches along the lane, and some other bits and pieces. Twelve years later, without our really having realised it, all those trees had become pretty enormous. Here’s how it looks right now:
You can see a few things have changed. We have a different car, we put in a greenhouse on the patio, we took out the shed (which was rotting away), and the summer house has been treated enough times that it’s now brown instead of white. But the big change is the trees.
A few weeks ago, we realised we’d lost the view of the distant hills, which used to be one of the nicest things about the garden. So we decided to take down some of the trees that blocked it. At first, we thought we’d get in a specialist. But then I saw a cordless chainsaw for sale in Lidl when I was doing the weekly food-shopping — something I’d not realised existed. A little bit of research later, and I ordered one of these at the low price of £108:
- It’s really light: you can use it one-handed if you need to.
- It’s quiet — no louder than a food processor.
- It’s surprisingly powerful (though obviously much less powerful than proper petrol-driven chainsaw).
- It’s amazingly simple to use and to maintain.
- The blade is only 10 inches (25 cm) long — though that’s not been a problem for my purposes.
- A fully charged battery doesn’t last nearly as long as I’d like.
- You might cut your arm off.
Anyway, for the couple of weeks, I’ve been cheerfully spending an hour or two each day taking down some of the trees, removing big branches from others, stripping them of their thin branches, and reducing the thicker ones to firewood for the winter. It’s a form of exercise that I actively enjoy, which is a rarity.
Stupidly, I didn’t think to take “before” photos, so I only have “after”s. And even those are already outdated, as I’ve been working for another week since I took them. But that’s what we have. Here’s the corner of our track, where the orchard was previously completely obscured by a big, bushy willow. That’s gone now: you can see the stumps on the right.
Those who’ve seen this area in the flesh recently will recognise what a huge change it is.
(The climbing frame will be next to go. The boys are too old for it, and it’s rusting to pieces. Plus we need the orchard space for three new trees.)
Next to go was a grove of four silver birches near the corner of the track. Those are now just stumps, which I hope will regrow in time. The wood of the trunks is sawed and chopped and cached in our woodshed; the rest is piled on a bonfire (which actually got a lot bigger than shown here before we finally burned it yesterday).
Here’s the woodshed, as it was several days ago:
The blue tarpaulin covers the decomposing body of some kind of mammal, probably a goat or sheep, which became too smelly to be allowed to sit uncovered. As I kept chopping more wood and needing more space in the woodshed, I reached the point a few days ago were I just buried the horrible skeleton, keeping only the skull. Now, there’s about three times as much wood as shown here, covering all the part of the shed that the tarpaulin obscured, piled up high. We have enough for the whole of winter.
Here’s the effect on the view, as it was a week ago:
You can make out a bit of the Malverns and Wales now. Here it is in close-up:
Since I took that photo, the view has improved significantly. I’ve taken out the next silver birch the frames the left side of the cropped image and the one further back in the field that frames the right side; and I’ve trimmed the neighbours’ fruit-tree which is growing up into the view space in this photo.
Work continues. It’s very satisfying.