Client: Private Resident
Area: Idle, Bradford
Timescale: 6 weeks
We were invited by a young professional couple living in Idle, Bradford to advise and quote for extending the small patio to the rear of their ‘90s property, which had been built into rising ground. The patio was the full width of the narrow plot and extended approximately 5 metres to a 2.5m high timber gabion retainer, through the centre of which was a steep single flight of timber steps leading to a further patio area and lawn. At the top of the garden was a small raised area housing a large chicken house.
The initial request was to move the retaining wall further back into the bank to increase the depth of the patio area with a view to also accommodating a possible small house extension in the future. We had several reservations about this and discussed these with the clients to try and achieve a workable and cost-effective solution for them. They complained that the retainer made the rear of the house dark internally and also cast too much shade on the patio. We advised that moving the retainer back would only move the problem itself and not solve it. We were also concerned that we would have to put a substantial construction in place on either side of the excavation to retain the gardens of the neighbouring houses. Through this consultation process the clients realized just how broad a variety of landscaping tasks we were able to undertake and contracted us to design and remake the entire garden.
The challenge now was to extend the patio area, retain the ground beyond and that which would be exposed to each side, level the middle lawned area, increase the size of the upper hard surface, and overall add interest and functionality to a narrow long plot. Furthermore, there was the possibility that an elderly parent who enjoyed gardening may also come to live at the property in the future, and so there was a requirement for easy access to the rockery with minimal steps.
Our solution was to excavate into the bank and create a sweeping rockery ‘bay’ with integral pathway, which would achieve the retainer requirement, open up views to the top of the garden and create interest and planting opportunities adjacent to patio area. The middle section would be leveled and re-turfed, and the top area increased in size to accommodate the chicken house and a large timber summer-house.
Access to the rear of the house was along a narrow pathway down the side of the house that was further divided by a central fence. This fence was to be taken down to allow plant access and its replacement was costed in. Using a mini-digger and mini-dumper we removed the gabions followed by around 40 tonnes of spoil to level the upper areas, push the patio back and create the profile for the rockery. The spoil was taken and piled on a convenient parking area at the front of the house and eventually removed by grab wagon.
The construction work began with Oak landscaping sleepers and we created a low horizontal retainer and integral seat at the foot of the rockery, as well as an ‘S-shaped vertical retainer for the upper level. 10 tonnes of newly-quarried local sandstone boulders were then placed by hand to build the rockery, taking care to provide a pleasing shape and planting niches which would later be filled with top-soil. The clients were keen for a cascade water feature and this was built into one side of the rockery taking full advantage of the slope for water flow. To complete the lower level the patio was paved with Indian Flags, interspersed with complementing gravels; the customer didn’t want to flag the entire area and potentially waste money when they extend the house into part of this area. A matching flag and paving pathway was laid through the rockery and this was flanked with short sections of dry stone walling with integral seating.
The central section was laid entirely to lawn using high quality natural turfs, shaped borders were augmented with fresh top-soil, and shrubs and a flowering Cherry tree were relocated. Land drainage was installed at strategic points to relieve areas of standing water.
The upper section was doubled in size. The chicken house was re-located and a concrete flag base laid to accommodate the summer-house which the clients were to supply and erect themselves. Finally, the area was completed with a second small area of turf, gravels and small rockeries.
Follow the full story in pictures below. Click to enlarge.