A saner man might have run a mile or more. Not only by the size of the garden, but also the level of neglect when I first met him. Maybe he liked a challenge? On his first visit to Orchards, an ancient double butler sink leant against the dry sandstone wall on the north side of the house, as if to hold back the sandstone that was popping out at awkward angles. What Philip thought I never asked. The hard work was obvious! Signs of neglect were all around. The top long border behind the sandstone wall was full of grass. A solitary Mahonia flowered bravely at the edge of the sandstone steps. Kolkwitzia amabilis - the Beauty Bush - stood naked in the middle of the long back border, slowly peeling last years' bark. Variegated Vinca smothered the wall. Saxifraga urbinum - London Pride - dripped in and out of the undulating crevices of sandstone. The crazy-paved area at the top of the steps was awash with weeds and grass.
This was the first major project that Philip undertook.
Not content with rebuilding the wall, we set-to with digger and dumper and removed lorry loads of soil to make a rear paved area. The excavations were taken back as far as the Kolkwitzia (the pale twiggy shrub). The narrow central steps were removed and new wider curved steps were built.
The above photograph shows the first stage of the project. You can see the shallow level of topsoil above the yellow clay.
The Haphazard Gardener - www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1781764131