After my husband’s summer war against overgrown trees, shrubs and flowerbeds, some old outbuildings, no longer camouflaged by ivy, were just asking to be given a new lease of life.
The first step in our resurrection of two old privies, a pigsty and a Wendy House was to discharge their contents onto the lawn. (Thankfully the privy buckets had disappeared decades before.) I liked to think of the resulting installation as “Tracy Emin’s Shed”.
After multiple trips to the tip and a couple more to IKEA, the conversions were complete. A few coats of pastel-coloured fence paint and the addition of minimal furnishings turned the Wendy House into an art studio fit for our teenage daughter. Once a new clear roof panel had linked the privy building to the pigsty, the introduction of a workbench provided my husband with a carpenter’s workshop. I was the only one in the family without my own outhouse.
A Room with a View
Then one day, admiring the orderly view of the restored buildings from my favourite armchair, I realised we’d done much more than tidy the garden. We’d evolved our own little village.
Not that we’ve been slashing and burning like a fast-food chain through rainforest. Our approach was far more respectful of local wildlife. I’ve never heard as much birdsong in our garden, and the frogs in the pond are flourishing.
Not Strictly for the Birds
Like any decent village, our garden includes plenty of facilities for humans too. There’s a play area with a swing set and trampoline for the benefit of young visitors. For older, wearier souls there are plenty of benches at strategic intervals. For the peckish, there’s plenty of nourishment to be had from the trees. It’s been our best year ever for pears. Once we’ve finished resurrecting the kitchen garden beds, the last task on our list, there’ll be soft fruit and vegetables too.
If it’s spiritual nourishment you’re after, a buddha statue holds court in the shade beneath the damson tree. He’s a handy distraction from our miniature civic amenity centre: a row of compost bins offering their own “ashes to ashes” message about the circle of life.
Finally, for everyone’s peace of mind, Dorothy, our stately calico cat, provides a round-the-clock Neighbourhood Watch service.
As the dark nights of winter approach, it’s a comfort to be able to look out on my own little world. This Englishwoman’s home is her castle.
And if Brexit goes horribly haywire, I can always place an order with the carpenter’s shop to set about making a drawbridge.
If you’d like to read more of my columns from the Tetbury Advertiser, Young By Name, this collection of pieces from 2010-2015 is available in paperback (ISBN 978-1911223030) and ebook.
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