A Troubling Start.
Our cottage is centuries old. It is a ‘listed’ building; meaning that is has protected status and modifications cannot be made, externally. This ensures the building retains it’s historical appearance. It is timber framed and all of the original wood beams remained in place. That is, until we discovered that the cottage was suffering from an infestation of ‘Death Watch Beetles’; busily eating into the historic woodwork, behind the walls!
The year began with our walls being dismantled and all that was left was scaffolding and the plaster board/lathe and plaster that remained. This was very cold, but we had decided not to temporarily relocate, for doing so would be difficult with our dogs and with the gardens needing ongoing care.
Over the first three months of the year, from around 7.30am every day, we had builders tearing the place apart. They literally had to remove quite a lot of the original timbers at the front of the building, for sadly the beetles had eaten so much of the wood that it was truly astonishing that the building had not collapsed.
Here are some photos and you will see just how bad this was:
Thankfully, that level of damage was consigned to the front of the premises and so no further beams had to be removed and replaced. Before the restoration was completed, the remaining wood structures were fumigated.
The listed building status required that the materials used to rebuild, were the same as those that were used back in the 1500’s. In fact, furthermore, the listing also required that the same methods of building were used; so the builders had to rebuild the timber frame they had dismantled, using only the tools and fitting methods that would have been used in the 1500’s. This was fascinating to watch and this is something that is done so well in England.
It had seemed as though the building work would never end, but by the time that spring was well under way, the work was completed and we returned, thankfully, to a state of normality.
I had managed to get some of the clean up from winter, achieved. I had also cleared got much of the spring planting done. I was sticking with traditional cottage garden pants; in keeping with the style of the building. So, I planted geraniums, delphiniums, lupins, petunias, poppies, violets, erigeron, daffodils and tulips came through beautifully, foxgloves, lavendar and a number of daisy-like flowering plants that would spread across the beds and pots nicely. I had less time to think about the planting, this year, due to the building work having impacted.
I had managed to plant tomatoes, chillies, bell peppers, courgettes and herbs including sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano into my little veg patch These did beautifully well, through the year.
Once all of this was done, and with the help of George; our gardener, cutting the grass and trimming our hedge down ready for the year’s growth, the rest of the year became simply about maintaining the garden. This is a lovely time. The garden grows, develops and then simply needs regular but gentle maintenance.
With my Parkinson’s symptoms, I have a lot of difficulty with gardening, so I have a number of useful gadgets to help me. These include a kneeling step which can be flipped over to become a seat and long handled tools so that reaching to dig with a trowel, for example, is not too difficult.
I was very pleased that my mum was getting excited about designing a makeover for her own garden, in not far away Aldeburgh, on the Suffolk coast a little south of us.
She had faced difficult health challenges in recent years and she had started to feel much better. This galvanised her into being motivated about a complete make-over of her little garden, at her bungalow.
So, I connected my mum with her gardener and she chose some new fencing. George went round to my mum’s and did a wonderful job of removing her old fences and installing her lovely new fencing, with trellis for the roses she planned to grow.
It was great to see my mum become so motivated and when we visited her she would describe the new garden furniture she wanted and the planting ideas she had. In fact, we got a few plants in by the end of the year, and she was delighted. She took great joy in talking about how she looked forward to seeing her new tulips and daffodils coming through in the next spring.
This is the magic of gardens and outdoor spaces. It is also the magic of indoor houseplants. Connecting with nature brings many therapeutic benefits; not least of all to mental and emotional well-being. For me, it also offers activity which is a form of physiotherapy; keeping me active and agile, where I can and while I can, within limitations caused by Parkinson’s.
My mum’s enthusiasm and optimism for the coming year was infectious and we were so looking forward to seeing her plans come to fruition, as indeed our own garden was becoming what we wanted; little by little, each year.
Little did we know that the new year would herald unexpected disaster that would change our lives, forever…