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Wealden Landscape Designs - Experts in Landscape Garden Design, Garden Construction and Garden Maintenance Services

Wealden Landscape Designs - Recent Large-Scale Projects

As garden designers it is always exciting to get the opportunity to design and build a big budget garden. The story that follows narrates the construction status to date of one such domestic garden we were recently commissioned to design and build. Luckily for us our client had a significant budget to spend. The garden is set on the attractive slopes of the Kent Downs.

 

Recent Large-Scale Project

We first met our client at their 2.5 acre property early in September 2009.

As we were shown around their grounds they were able to explain their thoughts and aspirations for their garden.

We also took this opportunity to explore some of our own initial ideas too.

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The property is situated on the top of hill with the garden and grounds dropping steeply away to the rear.

This would mean we would encounter some stiff logistical challenges when the construction began.

As we walked round it also became apparent that the existing terracing around the house was looking rather “tired” to say the least.

Recent Large-Scale Project

In fact a number of the existing retaining walls showed significant areas of disrepair and collapse.

Being quite old now, the original construction methods employed were insufficiently robust for the amount of soil the walls had to hold back.

Recent Large-Scale Project

A further issue was that the grounds were completely riddled with rabbit warrens.

Recent Large-Scale Project

An existing outhouse, although an attractive feature in itself was in a seriously poor condition therefore part of our remit was to demolish it.

This was a pity because there was a delightful lean-to wooden greenhouse to the side of it which would have to come down also as a consequence.

We were keen to try and re-constitute this somehow in our new design.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Part of our instruction was to create a level area of lawn for the children to play on.

We were also required to replace a substantial part of the existing terracing to give a sizeable area for outdoor entertainment.

This would be enhanced by a fitted “outdoor kitchen” and stereo hi-fi sound system.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The customer was keen to create a large vegetable plot too.

A number of other requirements were discussed including ponds, a fire-pit, summerhouses and the like.

Recent Large-Scale Project

In our final design the existing large parking area was turned into a feature driveway and turning circle with an island planted bed and up-lighters.

Recent Large-Scale Project

We were also tasked with coming up with something more interesting to do with the rest of the area which was mainly laid to grass and rabbit warrens!

The rabbits were clearly going to be an issue but the solution needed to be humane.

Finally all the planting areas were to be supplied by a rain water fed irrigation system.

Recent Large-Scale Project

We agreed to construct the project through winter so that our customer could get full use of the garden come May onwards.

Naturally the winter weather can present some challenges and as we all now know this last winter has certainly been no exception.

Recent Large-Scale Project

In its elevated position the property enjoys extensive views of the surrounding countryside however the existing arrangement meant that your eye was immediately drawn to some rather ugly factory buildings in the distance.

Recent Large-Scale Project

At some time in the past someone had obviously planted a large conifer to block out the view of the factory from the French windows.

Unfortunately it would be impossible to obscure this unwanted feature from all parts of the garden and so we set out to at least try to create a new focal point from the main garden terrace.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Fortunately our client’s estate boasts a number of specimen trees.

In particular there were several beautiful silver birches that we thought might help provide the solution.

Unfortunately though, these were in the main obscured by a high hedge (which effectively surrounded all of the existing rear terracing) which would therefore in part, have to come down.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Construction work commenced in late November and our first task was to enlarge the existing parking area by laying a temporary surface using road planings.

This was in order to provide a good sized receiving area for the large quantity of materials we would need whilst still providing enough room for our client’s vehicles as well as our own. This temporary work will later form part of the foundation for the new parking area and turning circle.

This temporary work would later form part of the foundation for the new parking area and turning circle.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Access to the main terrace area was to be difficult to say the least being approximately 70 yards away. However to make matters worse we first had to go down the steep hill before going back up and around.

Unfortunately the constant inclement weather we experienced (if it wasn’t raining it was snowing) meant that we quickly had to dispense with the large dumper truck (it just couldn’t handle the wet and the severe slope) so all materials had to be transported around by the 13 tonne tracked digger. Not ideal.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Opening up access for the materials also meant removing the hedging and trees which were blocking the view across the property.

This was the view we wanted to create as the new focal point.

A big digger makes light of this kind of work!

Recent Large-Scale Project

As we hoped the removal of the first part of the hedge opened up wonderful views to the far corner of the property.

Your eye being drawn instinctively through the gap.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Although we still intended replacing the top terrace which leads from the kitchen we found this to be rather exposed to the wind and felt that by locating the main entertainment area further down the slope that this provided natural shelter via the tall adjacent hedge.

Recent Large-Scale Project

This also had the benefit of bringing the intended focal point we had created more into line.

In so doing directing ones gaze away from the factory buildings (as intended).

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The view looking back up would look good too when finished.

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Next came the demolition of the outhouse and the existing concrete slab terracing to enable work to commence on the foundations for the new terracing.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The main staggered quadrant terraces were carefully marked out with the help of a laser level to ensure that heights were accurate.

To give you an idea, the terracing had to cope with a 13 feet drop (4 metres) over just 60 feet (19 metres) therefore calculating the various heights to allow for gradient and stepping had to be precise.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The individual terrace segments were themselves levelled out skilfully using a digger.

The foundations for the various retaining walls were then dug and filled with concrete.

Re-enforcing bars were used where appropriate for additional strength and stability.

Recent Large-Scale Project

To ensure a professional long lasting foundation the levelled terracing was first covered by a layer of geo-synthetic material on top of which was placed another layer of type 1 sub-base material.

This ensures long term stability yet remains water permeable. (Incidentally many “cowboys” ignore this essential process in order to reduce cost however such common practice will inevitably lead to major problems within a year or two.)

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Later in the process, this layer will be topped off with an additional bedding layer and then finally the chosen paving.

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With the terraces now “dry” work commenced on the block and brick work.

The main materials chosen by our customer were a fine vintage brick complemented by ethically sourced fossil mint Indian sandstone.

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The back block wall you can see will ultimately be rendered and painted so that the impression of brick doesn’t become overpowering.

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From the back corner of the block work on the upper tier will branch out a wooden pergola and further down on the next terrace a canopied kitchen area will be created.

Recent Large-Scale Project

With the upper terracing area stable and well underway the next task was to start levelling the ground to the bottom of the terrace to take out the slope and create a level lawned area protected by the existing hedge.

Recent Large-Scale Project

This area will also support the main waterfall feature, pond and bridge.

Recent Large-Scale Project

This required a huge amount of earth removal and a very high retaining wall to hold back the soil to the back of the house.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Basically any retaining wall over 6 feet in height requires the design efforts of a civil engineer and with the finished height over 13 feet, this was no exception.

The forces on the wall are immense.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The design the engineer settled on was a cantilever double thickness wall.

The cantilever comprises a large 3 dimensional steel re-enforced keyed slab with the steels running vertically and horizontally up through the centre of the wall.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The idea is that the turning moment on the back of the wall from the retained soil is resisted by the large re-enforced slab working against the soil below.

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Any sliding effects are also prevented from the addition of a vertical re-enforced key that goes deeper into the ground.

The steel and concrete re-enforcement counters the various shear forces.

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The steel framework is built up in sections and then each section carefully lowered into place and levelled.

Recent Large-Scale Project

As the wall went up it was progressively tied into the ground behind and then back filled with crushed concrete for added stability.

Once the front wall is built the “cavity” is then filled with concrete for added strength.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The wall has to be some three feet higher than needed in order to allow sufficient soil to be laid over the steel re-enforced concrete slab to enable sufficient planting depth.

This is essential as such a high wall will need visually “softening” quite a bit which will be done in this case with another pergola (with walkway through) and selective planting.

Again the wall will be rendered and painted to tone the whole effect down.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Meanwhile we started to prepare the rest of the grounds for the addition of oak sleeper walkways to be cut through new areas of wild flower meadow.

The first step was to strip away completely the topsoil which will be put back later after the slopes have been shaped and the walkways cut.

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In addition we commenced work on the inner retaining wall for the circular grassed sun terrace.

The outer wall will be set lower to accommodate a planting bed around the periphery.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The vegetable patch had to be created on the existing fenced vegetable patch situated on a steeply sloping part of the garden.

As well as being difficult to garden on (given the steepness of the slope) it also makes even watering of the crops practically impossible too.

To overcome these issues we settled on a green sleeper design effectively terracing the planters down the slope using the sleepers to retain the soil.

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We also chose irregular shaped planters to add visual interest and to allow the path through the patch to meander more across the slope to make gardening easier.

After all, have you ever seen how much devastation a runaway wheelbarrow can cause?

At the bottom you will see we have created a concrete plinth to take a garden shed.

Recent Large-Scale Project

You can see here that the high retaining wall is now three quarters height with the work commenced now on the front “skin”.

Progress here is quite slow as we take care to lay just a few courses at a time, allowing them to set before back filling with concrete.

This prevents the wall from bowing out.

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With the major ground works nearing completion we are able to make a start on the terracing.

The lovely colours of the natural sandstone really stand out.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Meanwhile we have run in the trunking behind the main wall which will house all the electrical cables.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The pergola covering the top terrace is now erected and helps to carry the eye across the garden to the focal point.

The brick surround to the front will become a small water feature.

Recent Large-Scale Project

With the majority of the sandstone now laid the joints are carefully weather pointed.

This prevents the wall from bowing out.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Looking down on the lower terraces the paving is near completion.

The gaps that are left will form the flower and shrub borders.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Big cheers all round as the large retaining wall is finally completed!

At last a decent spell of good weather has enabled this to move on.

Recent Large-Scale Project The circular walls to the grassed terrace are really taking shape now too.
Recent Large-Scale Project

With the large retaining wall complete we are able to back fill behind the wall with gravel which is then finished off with a large layer of topsoil.

This has created a large increase in the size of the lawn immediately to the rear of the house and is now ready for turfing and the construction of the top pond.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The main lower pond is now excavated and roughly shaped.

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The concrete footings are made either side of the pond for the feature bridge that will lead from the steps.

The process of placing back the topsoil has also commenced.

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The completed retaining wall prior to rendering.

Once the rendering and the pond is complete the topsoil will be brought back in and then the whole area re-turfed.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The main slope has been sculpted and the topsoil put back on to allow work to commence on the new oak sleeper paths.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The areas to the side of the path will be prepared for sowing the wild flower meadow.

Finally the sleeper paths will be finished off with a layer of bark to complement the natural feel.

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In a hidden corner the construction of the fire pit entertainment area starts to take shape.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The vegetable area is complete with the addition of Breedon gravel to the walkways.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Using a thick layer of sand the detailed shape of the main pond is formed. The sand will protect the butyl rubber liner from damage.

The ledges are created at varying depths to site the marginal plants.

A gentle slope is also created to encourage local wildlife to enter.

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That’s a big thumbs up as the rendering to the large retaining wall nears completion.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The top pond that will be the source of the waterfall is created and the new lawn is laid.

A row of yews is planted along the edge to complement the existing yew hedge to the right.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Rendering of the top terrace wall is completed and the selected plants are laid out in preparation for planting.

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It’s now time to get the electrics in for the lighting.

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The area below the top terrace is also re-turfed.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The butyl rubber pond liner is laid across the excavated pond and the process of filling the pond is started.

As the pond fills creases in the liner will naturally form and these will need to be carefully folded into place.

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The semi circular grass terrace nears completion as the yew hedge and turf are completed.

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Here is the semi-circular terrace from another angle looking back towards the house.

The rocks are a small feature to tie in with the waterfall at the other end of the large wall.

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Work on the waterfall continues in earnest.

The butyl liner is shaped from the top feeder pond, down the wall and into the bottom pond and then covered by carefully placed rocks.

Recent Large-Scale Project

Turf is laid around the lower pond.

The turves are overlapped into the pond which will shortly help naturalise the pond. These will be cut and shaped later.

Small marginal plant plugs will be inserted through the turf to complete the effect.

Recent Large-Scale Project The main entertainment terrace is practically complete.

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Here you can see the top feeder pond that will act as the source for the waterfall.

Again this has been naturalised with overlapping turves.

The remaining pond liner will be covered in rocks.

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The rendering of the fire-pit wall is complete.

Recent Large-Scale Project

The final piece of the semi-circular grass terrace is underway with the creation of a new feature rockery.

Recent Large-Scale Project

With the high wall complete a pergola is erected to create a covered walkway. The addition of the pergola has the immediate effect of “lowering” the high retaining wall thus reducing its impact.

And with selective planting it will again soften the overall effect especially when the climbers take hold and the other plants mature.

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The construction of the waterfall, pond and bridge is near completion.

Some final rendering is required before we can “switch on.”

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Rocks and aggregates are added to complete the theme.

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The small water feature is completed and planted up under the top terrace pergola.

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“Bingo!”

The pumps are switched on and water begins to flow.

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The fire pit is complete.

Wooden seating, aggregates and a few pavers set off this area for quiet relaxation or friendly discussion.

Wait for nightfall and simply add logs and a lighted match. (Oh and perhaps just the odd glass of wine or two!)

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The outdoor kitchen now starts to take shape.

Some contemporary lighting adds to the ambience.

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Discretely hidden in the planting are a pair of class leading “Bowers and Wilkins” outdoor all-weather speakers.

Driven by an “Arcam” amplifier with “Chord” interconnects the outdoor sound system represents some of the best of British hi-fi.

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The waterfall gently cascades to give just the right amount of sound.

We don’t want “Niagra” drowning out the conversation.

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The top pond which feeds the waterfall and main lower pond.

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We chose to use another pergola and staggered trellising to separate the main garden from the drive area.

This helped to create privacy whilst adding a degree of interest to the walk through.

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So finally you see here the view from the top terrace as we near completion.

Over these past several months we have witnessed quite a fantastic transformation.

Given the original difficulty of the terrain, we have been able to create some wonderful entertainment areas, country walk ways, a modern vegetable garden and several discrete hideaways to facilitate some quiet reflection.

Recent Large-Scale Project Whilst it is always exciting to hand over a new garden to its owner there is a tinge of sadness also as the team has become quite attached to the project. We now have to wait for nature to add the final element, i.e. maturity.
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