Three dumpy bags of local quarry stone were carefully lowered onto our neighbour’s parking area on Friday. I set to work straight away, wheeling it in my trusty wheelbarrow up to the top end of the garden. Two tonnes were shifted on Friday afternoon, the remaining tonne on Saturday morning.
Our estate was built 40 odd years ago on farmland, indeed, the road we live in is named after the farmer. Our garden occupies what was the corner of a field, bounded on two sides by a soil bank that was probably faced with stone in the past. Last year one neighbour had the section of bank between us removed and replaced with a fence, leaving a ten meter stretch of bank running into the corner of the garden. What the landscapers failed to do was to shore up the cut end of the bank that remained. That was my first task on Saturday morning.
The stonework on our side of the boundary is 70 cms high, but the neighbour’s garden is about 60 cms lower, so on their side I had to dig soil away down to their level, then build it back up with stone. Once that was done and backfilled with soil, I brought the stonework back into our garden and constructed a ninety degree corner into the main run of the wall. I sorted out some of the longest pieces of stone to build into the corner for stability.
By close of play on Saturday I had built up to around 60cm height for about 3m along the bank. I’d hit 5 o’clock, or as it’s better known round here, beer o’clock.
Sunday morning saw battle commence once more. I set up my camera on a tripod and hit the shutter on the hour, every hour, from 9 til 5. I thought I might get it finished, but it still needed another course of stone along about half its length. I was getting to the end of the stone, which meant there often wasn’t a piece the size and shape I wanted for a particular spot.
I have to admit I was a bit thrown by how variable the stone was in size and shape. There are many miles of stone walls (built with mortar), and hedges (packed with soil), in Cornwall. No two are the same. I imagine they get somewhat different types of stone even from different parts of the same quarry but what I got wasn’t what I was expecting. What I expected was flat pieces of various sizes and thicknesses but with a more or less flat top and bottom face and an edge that would form the face of my wall. There were a few like that, but mostly it was lumps with faces at odd angles. There’s a nagging thought in my head that I might have been fobbed off with a lot of reject stone that a more experienced customer might have taken one look at and told them to take away. The fact is I have no idea, I could as easily have been given a very good sample or an entirely average one, I just don’t know.
I did the best I could with what I had. I picked good faces to form the front of the wall, I ran some longer pieces straight into the bank, to bind the stone to the bank. I tried to keep it straight but to have a slight batter against the bank. I filled in with soil as I went up, tamping it down firmly with a piece wood. With about 15cms to go, I pulled a line tight across the top and fitted a final course to give reasonably straight top to the wall. I tried to ensure that every piece was held in place by being wedged between its neighbours or held down by a piece on top, preferably both.
The next phase is to erect a fence along the middle of the bank but I’m hoping for a few days break before the materials for that get delivered. I need to get my trusty double handed shovel back to dig holes for the posts. On present plans I’ll dig this area over then leave it for the winter. My present plans have a habit of not lasting long so that probably won’t happen.
Moving the tunnel was definitely the right thing to do but it’s robbed me of an out of sight dumping ground for spare paving slabs and pots of struggling plants. It’s also robbed me of the place I put plants pending a decision about what to do with them. The plant atop the wall is a prostrate camellia, still in its pot but that might well find a home up there. I’ve already planted a few daffs and chionodoxas along the top. It’s a start.