Digging the first trench for wall footings

I dug a 5m×60cm×50cm trench yesterday. It was hard work.

Although I’d mentioned in passing that the compost bin dismantlement had been entirely completed, I’d never explicitly blogged about the results. From back in December, then:


With the resulting pile(s) of bricks:


I counted over a hundred whole, unmortared bricks, and at least as many broken, and at least as many with substantial mortar on them.

The trench for one of our new retaining walls ran straight through the old site of the compost bins: it turns out it also needed to be so wide that I had to remove the trellis you see above, and heave over the rather wonky old planter we inherited from the previous owners, made from bits of decking wood. This being done, I began to dig.

The first couple of metres—under the old site of the bins!—went remarkably smoothly, and I was starting to get cocky, when I removed the slab separating rich bin soil from the rest of the garden, to find… bricks?


It turned out that there was an entire course of bricks, laid closely together as paving, under the surface:


Under these ran some of the apple tree’s old roots! Pulling up these bricks yielding yet another decent pile of sound bricks, plus a paving slab and a section of pipe:


Eventually, with a few mortared bricks still left to clear, I was losing light and so called it a day. Here was the result of some three and a half hours’ work:


I was able to put my recently acquired scaffolding boards to good use, to ensure I still had a path to the shed:


All in all I’m really pleased with this result, and I think I can spend another full 7-hour day digging the second, 10-metre trench, without worrying about it too much.

Laying the concrete for the footings will be another job: one which I might get professional advice about, to ensure it’s sound, and level, and thick enough! But I’m going to wait until the next few days of frosts lift, before I worry about any of this again.


Winter textures

On my walk around Sheffield just under a week ago, I took a lot of photos. Some of them made a good photo essay; others had a rather niche appeal….

While the following four scenes might be at best unglamorous (and at worst boring) to others, I’ve been thinking recently about how to make our new garden have both a well architected feel, and also feel like it’s part of the wider Sheffield landscape. I want to use our old York-ish stone, not just because re-use is good for sustainability and the environment, but also because it borrows from “old Sheffield”; similarly, I’d like to borrow from elsewhere nearby.

For example, this path up through a wood suggests that desire lines further from the house could make use of our fragments of brick from dismantling the compost bins:


Back near the greenhouse and compost bins, this kind of path could work quite well: along with being a time-saver, it would also make the back of the garden feel wilder.

I’m still trying to work out how to top off my retaining walls—made, hopefully, entirely out of reclaimed local stones from the old walls—and these walls around small trees near Ecclesall Woods looked nice:


Whether I’ll have enough regularly shaped stone to do this or not, we’ll have to see!

I also like the look of these mossy, half-buried sleepers, and wonder if this could be a way of doing steps or some kind of informal culvert:


And on that note, I should mention that I still have a longing for a water feature in the garden. I don’t quite know how it will look, and this pipe is the least glamorous photo of all:


But again, the use of old stonework is really interesting. I like the idea of having damp-loving plants around it too.

That’s it, really. It’s very boring inspiration, as inspiration goes: but hopefully thinking about this sort of thing will make the finished garden feel more like it belongs.

Edit: I missed one!


I can’t tell whether this terracotta channel from a downpipe, down a steep garden edge to a drain, is really pretty, really ugly, really inventive or a bit of a kludge. But it did seem both remarkable and of a piece with the rest of the street of houses, so it ended up on the camera. I do rather like the way it’s started to merge in with the landscaping, though.