Trains And Drains

Things are all set to change around here.  The disused railway at the rear of our house is to be pressed back into service.  On the one hand I will be sorry to lose a great place to walk, it’s a fantastic place for wildflowers, insects and birds.  Already the vegetation has been ripped out and it looks a bit desolate but, it is for the greater good.

In the first instance this line will carry freight from the quarries ‘up bonk’, as one of our farming friends says.  That’s the Peak District to the rest of the world.  The trains will take large blocks of stone down to Bristol for building flood defences.  It will also be used by the local steam railway located about two miles down the track from us.  Not only will we be able to watch narrow boats floating by the front, we will also be treated to steam trains at the back.  We will be wallowing in industrial nostalgia!

There are more ambitious plans to link local towns and villages to the national railway network, not a bad thing as rural dwellers by necessity tend to be very car dependent.  Significantly, this could include the small village of Alton, which thanks to the massive theme park next door is one of the most visited places in Britain.  I’m wondering if I will be able to hop on and off trains hobo style as they chunter past our house?

We too have been busy with our less ambitious, but just as logistically challenging, attempts at bringing our overgrown, sloping garden back into use.  We are now working on the second terrace, which will be used for growing fruit such as raspberries, blackcurrants and strawbs.

I’ve been digging a trench for a drainage pipe because our fine, clay soil is very water retentive and I’m hoping to relieve some of the pressure on the retaining wall.  The pipe was free from a scrapyard, we are also able to get tonnes of bricks for free.  Apparently they are damaged but they are more than adequate for our purposes.  I’m a bit gutted that we had to fork out for the large gravel to go on top, but weighed against what I spend on fruit I guess it will be worthwhile.

Filling this space is going to be challenging.  We will use bricks for some of the infill but for fruit we will really need a good layer of topsoil.  Some of this can be sourced from other areas of the garden, but to minimize buying any in (which is a pain when you have no road access) I’m going to treat the area like an enormous compost heap.  From now until Autumn 2012, which is the earliest we’re likely to plant, I will fill it with layers of organic matter in the manner of Patricia Lanza’s lasagne gardening technique.

I hope you like the bright and cheerful cosmos hedge, which was grown from seed.  I planted it to hide some of the ugliness of the bare sleepers, knowing that no permanent planting could take place yet.  It has proved a real hit with the insect population here, in particular hoverflies.  Speaking of which, here is a picture of one on a thistle that was taken whilst walking on the railway track.  Now a fond memory!

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