A delayed start


So it’s now the middle of July 2017, some 9 months after I left work and a year since Chris left teaching. It’s quite an adjustment moving to a “post work” life and it has taken us some time to get used to it. It’s not so much that I miss “work”, I certainly don’t miss the pointless meetings and conference calls, but even though I have worked remotely for much of the recent past, there is still a sense of loss of “belonging” or “purpose” and certainly structure that I had when I was working. Living to a budget also has its moments 😀. Don’t get me wrong I love our life now. Love the freedom to do what we want when we want to and also the opportunity to do things really properly. We’ve achieved a huge amount since we moved to Millbank some 25 years ago, but it was always a case of squeezing jobs into weekends. Now I don’t have to clear everything away and can really get stuck into projects. Chris always says (a little unfairly) that I never finish things, that’s not totally fair, but I have enjoyed being able to plan and deliver on a number of projects that I had put off while I was working. So the purpose of this blog is to record all the projects I am involved with now I have “retired” primarily for my own benefit – to remind me of the before, during and after. Let’s see if this is something that I stick with 😉

Building the raised beds

So over the past month or so I have continued with the landscaping of the fruit and veg area and started to put the raised beds into place. I spend quite a lot of time thinking and planning when I am in the garden and since the last update the scope of the project has definately expanded a little – the original plan for 5 raised beds has been expanded to 11 and I am thinking about incorporating an area for hens…

Here is the original plan – literally on the back of an envelope. You can see the five beds running along the side of the track with an area at the end of the garden for compost and bonfires. At the end nearest the house I’m planning to build a shed to store tools and hopefully the fruits of my labour. Im thinking about espalier training some apple trees in between the two paths and then a further area for soft fruits such as Rasberries, Gooseberries and blackcurrants.


I decided to use 22mm pressure treated softwood gravel boards from our local timber merchants – Dennis Brown in Woodchester. This is available in 3m lengths so I used that to determine the dimensions of each bed – 3m x 1.5m. To connect the sides and anchor each bed in place I bought a load of 50mm square pressure treated softwood posts. I then cut the posts to the required lengths and sawed one end of each post into a point. With 8 posts per bed and 4 cuts per point this became a little tedious…

So here’s the first one just about finished. Note the weed control fabric that will be used under the footpaths to try to limit the amount of weeds on the site. I was really happy with the quality of the soil – way better than elsewhere in the garden. Im sure this area must have been cultivated in the distant past – though Im sure not in the past 50 years at least. The first bed went in pretty much to plan and with some small changes to my approach I was then able to build out the additional beds.


Here you can see progress through beds 2 to 4 – the 5th bed took a little longer because I had to finish off the site grading.

As I mentioned at the start, I tend to daydream a little while I am in the garden and even as I was building these beds I started to expand the scope of the project. First expansion is that in addition to the 5 vegetable beds which I will rotate on an annual basis, I am adding 2 half size (1.5m square) beds, one at each end, for “permanent” crops – Rhubarb at one end and Asparagus at the other.

The end closest to the house needed a lot of stone clearing and then the levels built up – by transferring soil from the far end of the patch. The second bed will be situated where the wheelbarrow is – I have built a bonfire and will need to burn that before I can dig out the area.

You will also notice that I have now marked out the second (black posts) and third (white posts) tiers of the terracing. I am planning these as four 3m x 1m beds which will be used for soft fruits.

Can’t wait for it to stop raining so I can get back out there rather than writing about it!

Developing the Fruit and Veg Garden

Originally I was planning on locating the fruit and veg area in the top field near the greenhouse, but over time I became concerned about the daily trek to the area – particularly as we get older! I also noticed that with the leaves on the trees there was limited daylight, even in the middle of summer. So I looked for a plan b, and staring me in the face everytime I approach the house is the triangle of land on the right of the track approaching the house. I got thinking, did a bit of clearing and realized that with some terracing this could be the spot. I had also become aware of “No Dig gardening” so the prospect of raised beds and a good mulch made it seem more viable. Still a lot of work though!

Here is the patch just after an initial strimming of the nettles and brambles etc. Ready for about 5 bonfires which we lit simultaneously one evening early Autumn 2016.



Here is another view of the area – taken in late spring 2017 as I was monitoring the progress of the sun – this view is looking due south and the area gets great sunshine through the afternoon and evening. I swear the camera doesn’t do full justice to the angle though…







So the very first thing I needed to do was create an access path for the wheelbarrow. I decided to create a single point of access from the drive then fork the path, following the contours and tracks made years ago by our sheep.








Next I marked out the bottom part of the area into 5 3×1.5m beds with 80cm paths between and either side.


Then it was time to start clearing the weeds. Because I was trying to minimize disturbing the soil too much I focused on clearing the top 9-12 inches, planning on using a mulch and a bit of work in the coming years to complete the job. However I had forgotten about some of the tree roots remaining from a clearance we did about 15 years ago. This one took two days to remove!






So this is where I have got to so far. Need to complete the landscaping then add the raised beds. To be continued…

Recapping the past 9 months

So what have I done since retiring?

  • Built a secure bike shed with wood store
  • Redecorated the living room
  • Installed underfloor heating and re-tiled the en-suite bathroom
  • Erected the greenhouse and built staging, levelled the ground ready for paving and cold frames
  • Felled and managed a load of trees
  • Built two additional wood stores
  • Created a footpath and steps up the hill behind the house
  • Cleared the pond and planted new Lilies
  • Cleared the stable, glazed the side window, repaired the side door and installed lighting and new shelving/workbench
  • Started clearing the way for a new fruit and veg area
  • Excavated and cleaned the stone path in the cottage garden
  • Built gates and pergolas for Christine’s cottage garden
  • Built triple composting bins
  • Done a lot of planning and research for the new extension

Some of the above are ongoing projects and I plan on documenting their progress in this blog. Whether the completed projects get any further mention will depend on whether I run out of internal jobs when the weather is too bad to get outside. 

We’ve also taken the opportunity to get away a few times:

  • California
  • Mallorca
  • Barcelona
  • UK Gardens – Wisley, Rosemore, Heligan, Eden, Westonburt Arboretum and Painswick Rococo Gardens
  • Watopia. Zwift saved my cycling over the winter