Saturday, 17 September 2011

Pond excavation, 1

The arrival of large Tonka Toys had been anticipated for the last three weekends but the weather has derailed our plans. Today however it was a case of "getting on with it" regardless of the rain. The first thing to be dealt with were the remaining huge tree stumps which were moved onto the driveway.

Various unwanted stumps and shrubbery that have been in our way for the last three years were pulled out of the large driveway bed faster than I could make three cups of coffee - hence the lack of pictures!

Geoff then turned his attention to the Coppice. We very nearly called the whole thing off at this point - driving rain and hail are absolutely not the right conditions for working on soil but we'd all got to the 'sod it and get on with it' stage. I wish there were photos of the ground sculpting in progress because it was amazing to watch the precision and dexterity of someone who really knows what he's doing with heavy plant. Sadly, conditions were such that Management had done the sensible thing and tootled off to the shops whilst LP and I tried to shelter under trees and muttered darkly about the amount of water running down our collars .... we had a two hour period that you wouldn't put a dog out in so I definitely wasn't getting the Canon out to play.

The weather then decided to be somewhat more helpful and digging out the top pond was going to be much more straightforward. Allegedly ...

See that bank the digger is sitting on? Hmmm, the perils of trying to excavate a pond on ground which slopes. I was off doing something else (probably getting dry) and left the boys to dig a big hole and pile up the soil on the low side in order that the top of the pond was level.

This turned out to be a big mistake but that comes later ...

Firstly we had to deal with another mistake, that of not recognising just HOW MUCH this garden slopes. How much being the difference between the north and south ends of our outline for the big pond ...

A difference of 33" (that's close to 1 metre for young people who never learnt proper measurements). I know it doesn't look like it, but that string line is level, flat, completely horizontal, which is (strangely) just how water likes to settle . . .

A difference which would have involved a bank the size of a small dam that would have looked dreadful. Over the wonderful pasties Management had brought back from Harrisons (without doubt the best butcher and pie supplier in West Cumbria) we cogitated Plan B, and Plan C, and Plan D.

We decided to ignore the problem whilst Management and I tried to redesign the big pond and left Geoff and LP to carry on making a mess excavating near the top pond.

They enjoyed this bit. It involved removing an old manhole cover and destroying the brick chamber. Once upon a time this estate was heated with oil from a central tank at the top of the hill. 20 years ago the village got gas and the oil pipes are now redundant so it was time to remove as much of the old services as possible.

It involved severing a previously sealed pipe which allowed waste oil to escape, half of it into the soil, some of it all over LP (he didn't enjoy that bit) and the remainder into hurriedly placed buckets.

Nothing at Bag End is simple and we couldn't be too cavalier with pulling up old pipes as we knew the electricity supply was in the vicinity. Thankfully that was one of the things we didn't uncover during the weekend ....

When Geoff came to assess this job he made some excellent suggestions about creating an overflow channel between the ponds which had small pools along its route. Someone, somewhere thought that the hole left after the oil pipe removal would be a good small pool and so a little hole got bigger, and bigger, until I called a halt and explained that the "small pool" was now as big as most ordinary garden ponds!

In the meantime Geoff had come up with a solution to the sloping ground/big pond problem. By destroying even more of the lawn (but avoiding orchids) and moving goodness-knows-how-many tons of soil he created a large level platform. And whilst he and LP went home for a well-deserved beer, Management and I had the job of coming up with location number four thousand three hundred and eleventy-seven for the big pond.


  1. Life's never boring and routine at Bag End is it?

  2. Mini diggers are great fun aren't they? Looking forward to seeing the Twin Tarns when they are finished.

  3. Well I don't know about you, but I feel exhausted after reading all about it!

    One saving grace — you didn't have to move all of that soil by hand. At least these sort of tasks are one-offs and you will reap the benefits for many years to come.

  4. Hi Sue, certainly never boring {giggle}, but occasionally I wish for a "routine" that didn't include tatty old gardening trousers almost every day!

    CB, the digger was great fun and I showed remarkable restrain when offered the chance to drive it. Hope you will not wait until the tarns are finished before you next visit because that would be a very long time ...

    James, exhausted is one word (I can think of a few others ☺) This is one job that could never have been done by hand, not even Mighty Mouse (a.k.a. LP) could have managed this. The fact that it only has to be done once is the only thing that has stopped me having a complete meltdown at the mess and mud ....


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