|beautifully green, but steep and virtually inaccessible|
|not to be attempted in less than a 4x4|
Earlier in the summer I got some quotes to improve the drive access to my property is it was rather steep and at an angle too tight to negotiate from one direction for even the nimblist of cars, I doubt even a London cab could have taken the turn. Quote chosen, it was then suggested that I arrange for someone from the water company to come and mark where the mains pipes go so that they don’t get damaged during the excavations. We’re talking 20 - 30 cubic metres of soil movement here. That was easy, an engineer was on site by the time I’d returned from the offices via the market and he took several hours to be sure that he was marking the right place. The pipes in question come straight from the reservoir on the hill and supply three or four neighbouring villages. I would not have been popular if there had been any disruption to supply. Thankfully the pipes are well out of the way and I asked that the company come to do the work.
They had suggested two days of work with digger, tractor and trailer, a couple of lorry loads of stone chippings and all would be done. But when would they come to do it?
By chance, on the Tuesday afternoon, hours after I had returned from two weeks away, they popped by to look at the pipe markings. Happy with what they saw, we agreed that work would proceed on Thursday and Friday of that week and they went away.
All of a sudden I to decide what I could do in preparation as I knew they would just rip everything out with the bulldozer and I would be left with a couple of hundred metres of bare clayey soil. All the plants, trees and shrubs would end up in a big pile with the disguarded earth and it would take ages for it to settle afterwards. Much better to get rid or save as much all I could and leave them with a clear area to work with.
My other tasks went by the by as I hurriedly sawed down trees, by hand, that might serve as firewood, haul away old decaying branches and timber for compost, soil improvement and insect hotels. I dug out crates of wild plants, wild strawberries, lungwort, ferns, geraniums, iris, violets, dead nettle and thirty or so smallish hedging plants and tucked them away in the shade for later. I worked till dark that Tuesday and again all the next day, dismantling my newly erected letter box and getting everything as sorted as I could before the carnage began.
Sure enough at 07:15 on Thursday morning, just at first light, the digger arrived and I managed to squeeze Percy out before it was too late. He spent two nights next door out of the way as the digger worked it’s magic and the tractor and trailer carted load after load of soil to the other side of the property. Thankfully I had somewhere easy for it to be tipped and I made the most use of the earth moving opportunities with the big machinery on site. Two loads of topsoil await spreading by the chalet to level off the ground and make it more usable in the long term. A large mound, of topsoil again, to supplement raised beds in the veggie area and two large loads of the cleanest, crumbliest, clay we could get, put to one side in readiness for my wall renders. There’s nothing like making the most of an opportunity, it can sit there, under it’s tarp for the next year or so and be ready to mix when it comes to constructing the house walls. The rest of the spoil, tree stumps and all have gone over the bank at the back, roughly leveled with the giant machine then shoveled and raked by my own fair hand in readiness for sowing with seed. I’m not sure how it’ll work as there’s little top soil to be seen, though I sprinkled on a good quantity of grass and clover seed to see what happens, then as an after thought, just to get it green again, a couple of packets of radish. If they do well I’ll have plenty till the weather turns and then possibly even enough seed for resowing next year. Too late really, I know, but it’s rather worth a chance.
In a day the heavy work was done. It took several discussions and a bit of insistence to get almost exactly what I wanted, which wasn’t bad in my book after hearing some of the stories people tell. I think it’ll stand me in good stead, to have used a french company, as the two guys know everyone in the neighbourhood and one of them is in charge of the team that looks after the road that goes passed the end of my drive.
I was right, there were several hundred square metres of bare earth, much on a steep slope, with rain clouds threatening in the distance. The guys stopped for the day and went home, gravel on order for delivery after lunch the following day. I swung into action, with the aim of stabilizing the steepest of the slope before it was washed into the road by the threatening rain. I hauled old beams and lintels from the other side of the garden, crafted pegs out of broken pallet pieces and set too creating a series of mini terraces. By nightfall the most precipitous slope was secured at the most basic level. The overnight rain was light and there were no major landslides so following morning I continued hauling timbers from about the site and pegging them to the slope until, by lunchtime, it started to resemble a grandstand at a sports field. The first stage of stabilizing done.
|work in progress|
|an easier slope and a gentler corner|
|the end of day one|
|that's going to wash away if it rains, for sure|