The words “Gordon” and “Bennett” spring to mind. In that order. Why? Mud. That’s why. Lots of mud. A shin-deep, squidgy, boot-sucking mudfest.

The Sketch

On a one to ten scale of tiring days, there’ve been days when I’ve walked further, found more caches, and got home in better shape. This day was hard going from start to finish. Really hard going.

The plan was to scoot around the European part of my old Flags of All Nations series. I adopted these out last year when I was struggling with mojo. I’d finally concluded that the mental burden of having to maintain them rather than finding new ones was too much. If I’m only going out 12 times a year I don’t want 4 of those to be maintenance runs. So I adopted them out, and they are now sitting on my map as solved but unfound caches. And they are (comparatively) close to home, and within the boundary of the “local area” that we’re supposed to stay in during Lockdown Tier 4. So solved, close by, and allowed to go there. Plus it was my last day before returning to work and a required grid filler for my Shifty-Fifty Challenge.

So all well-and-good with the concept, now on to the implementation.

Around Hazeley Wood

The European route is basically a couple of overlapping loops from Hazeley in the south up to Stony Stratford. They run along the western edge of Milton Keynes, but are still mainly in the countryside rather than urban.

There’s a car park near Hazeley School in Milton Keynes which works as a start point for this section, but it’s not a place I’m especially happy to leave my car all day. It’s become a bit of a rubbish dump and it’s not overlooked by any houses, so it’s not a great place. Kas kindly agreed to drop me off there early in the morning and fetch me back later, so I didn’t have to leave my own car. At just before 8:30 am we were in that car park, and I was doing my usual pfaff-about trying to get everything into the right pocket (either in my coat or in the bag).

The first section takes you past Hazeley Wood and down onto the road running between Whaddon and Calverton. Past Hazeley Wood is all ploughed fields, and this is where the mud first hit me. It was squelchy. The route then goes along that road up a fairly steep hill. This section was all quite fast going. I’d promised Pesh (the new owner) that I’d take a load of spares and do maintenance where needed. The first of these was before I reached the road. It was so wet that I didn’t even try to get the log out of the bag. I just signed a fresh one and put it in the box (having first drained the puddle out of it).

Across the Fields

Quite close to the road junction in Upper Weald, I headed back south again to follow the MK Boundary Walk. When I planned this section I set it up as several overlapping loops, but the downside of that is that there’s a bit of doubling back involved if you’re trying to do all of them in one go. The method of looping back is to take a path that I didn’t set caches along. On the day I was setting in this area the fields were all full of cows, and it wasn’t appealing to try to find good locations there. On reflection, if Pesh needs to move any this would be a decent place to look, as there’s easily room for three. He needs to be careful of the mud though. Part of the path is an unsurfaced farm track, which is mainly mud whenever it has rained.

Once I got onto the MK Boundary Walk things started to become hard work. Until then it’d mainly been road or paved paths, but here it’s just the edges of agricultural fields. Whilst they still have grass on that is deceptive, because the rain we’d had in the previous three weeks meant it was like walking on a sponge all the way along. It was just exhausting. Wherever the grass was missing it was shin-deep in sludge.

Thankfully all of the caches were still there. I changed a couple of logs on this stretch but nothing serious.

Brief Encounter

As I was walking along the road in the section at Lower Weald I was passed by the good lady wife on her bike. She’d been out to turn her legs over while I was out walking. She’d talked about taking that route, but I never assumed she’d pass just at the point I was walking along there. A nice surprise. She was about 30 minutes from home. I wasn’t.

From here I was more or less heading back towards home, but the underfoot conditions were slowing me down. When I climbed back to the road at Middle Weald I had to cross a field which had maize in it last summer. It now has lots of mud in it. And the stumps of the crop. That was hard work. I was getting taller and heavier as I walked, if you know what I mean. This stretch took me back to the junction at Upper Weald.

From here it’s necessary to double back to complete the route. There are four caches that cut right across the middle of the loop. When I was setting them here I was running out of usable places. It is 700m across to find four caches, and hence 700m back uphill to get out again. And then a further 700m across road and field to get to the next cache. By this stage I’d found 50 of the 60 on the walk and though I was in good shape to get back in an hour, having so far spent about 5 hours.

Building Works

The final stretch runs along what used to be the North Bucks Way footpath/bridleway. It probably still is, to be honest. Anyway, I had completely forgotten that this stretch can be really muddy even in the summer. At this point in the winter I was seriously in danger of losing a boot. I got wet socks several times. There wasn’t any long grass to wipe it all off and I was just getting dirtier and dirtier. I was still finding the caches (or in a couple of cases, replacing caches in the locations I originally set them), but it was slow going and my feet were hurting.

When I eventually made it to the last cache (and changed the log) I then gleefully phoned Kas and asked her to come and fetch me, but please, please, bring a change of shoes and a towel to put over the seats. She was there in under 10 minutes. That last stretch of 10 caches is under two miles long, but it took me a good hour and a half to walk it, and by the time I finished I was cold, wet and exhausted.

Still, I’ve now finished another day finished on the Shifty-Fifty Challenge. I found 60 more caches, and earned myself beer or two for walking 19 km in 7 hours. I enjoy it really, even though I moan a lot. If I didn’t enjoy it, I’d stop doing it.

The Finds

I made a total of 60 finds during the day.

Shifty Fifty Challenge

Shifty Fifty Challenge

A New Hope

As it’s the end of the year, or the start of a new one. At this time there’s always some chat on geocaching forums about who achieved what in the past year, and what plans you have in the coming year. I don’t normally go in for setting targets. I haven’t in the last couple of years because I’ve lost my caching mojo a little bit. In the case of 2020, you couldn’t really plan to do anything at all. So whilst I was sitting at home over the New Year I invented the Shifty Fifty Challenge.

As we enter 2021 we’re still in lockdown, so I can’t plan anything at all. Indeed I can’t even travel outside of our immediate area. That causes a bit of an issue because you’re more likely to do caches close to home than anywhere else. Right now I’m limited to caching in Milton Keynes until the world gets back on its feet a bit.

As a long-time cacher, you might expect I’ve got none at all to do near home, but you’d be wrong. In the past 3-4 years I’ve spent most of my caching days out by driving over to Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire to do big series. I’ve spent relatively little time finding caches locally, and really haven’t done any “odd ones and twos” at all. This meant I’d got a stock of 60-70 caches in town, plus maybe 200 more in the outlying villages. In addition, there’s a new series of about 40 around Olney. That’s enough for a while, I guess. Also, since Groundspeak started reviewing the world of Lab Caches, there’s loads of them around. There’ve been about eight groups of them set up in MK, of which I’ve only done three.

What’s the story?

So what about challenges and targets? I mean I’ve titled this post as if it’s about a challenge, haven’t I? Yes, I have.

The challenge I chose is to try to reach at least 50 total finds on each of the 366 days in the year. Not all in the one year – that would be impossible unless I was retired and divorced. I am neither of those and don’t plan to be. I may retire at some point, but there’s two children to fully educate first. So 50 total finds minimum on each of 366 days of the year. When I set the challenge, at the very beginning of 2021, that meant finding caches on 264 of 366 days. It also meant at least 9,464 finds. You can see it’s not a simple challenge for me. One of the days needing attention is February 29th, so I can’t finish before 2024. Another one is Christmas Day. Another is my kids’ birthday.

It’s taken me 10 years to make 12,736 finds so far, so it’s possible that a further 9,464 will take me another 7-8 years.

Having devised a challenge, I obviously needed a suitably bad name for it. So two words, something that rhymes with “fifty”, but can’t be “nifty” because that’s the name of a lottery. The Shifty Fifty Challenge it is, then.

Why choose this?

Why did I set such a challenge, one that’s simple in concept but time-consuming to achieve? Mainly because I don’t like challenges, or more specifically I don’t like feeling that I am obliged to go out caching. A few years back (2013, I think) I set myself a very aggressive target to fill each day with at least one cache. I had something like 160 days needing to be filled and it became a chore. There was a night in February when I couldn’t find the needed cache, and another day in June where I simply forgot to go.

After that year I no longer pay any attention to “streaks” of caching. Maybe that’s something for retired people who’ve moved to a new area. So to be honest, the Shifty Fifty isn’t not really a challenge. It’s just a review of the calendar to give some sort of priority when choosing days to go caching. I will prefer to stay at home on weekends when I already have 50 finds on each day, and I will prefer to go out on weekends when one or both days need a boost. It also helps me spot weekend days which only need a handful of finds (so can be done by driving and walking locally) and ones which need forty or more, and so need a “proper” trip out.

The scale of the problem

The picture below shows the size of the Shifty Fifty Challenge following my (successful) attempt to bring January 1st up to scratch.

Shifty Fifty Challenge Starting Grid

I sort of also set myself a target of trying to get 2,021 finds in 2021. This is totally dependent on the lockdown situation starting to ease no later than the start of February. Any later than that and I’ll be trying to pack in too many caches at the end of the year. I’ll most likely run out of places to go locally. January 2021 has nine weekend days that need attention, two require under 10 finds and the rest require over 30. If I complete 4 of those 9 days I’ll be happy.

So for now, I have maybe 300 caches available that I can access during lockdown, but relatively few of those are big series that can be used for days when over 30 finds are required.

All in all, I guess it’s more of a strategy than a plan. I am setting off with the best of intentions, but wary that I might be pushed back by forces outside my control. What a strange world we live in now, when a comment like that is true. The Shifty Fifty Challenge is born, and I very much hope it survives its infancy.

20 Questions

20 Questions

The Sketch

I was minding my own business on Facebook one night (errr, is it possible to mind your own business on Facebook ?) when a certain local geocaching blogger, or blogging geocacher, asked me if I’d like to contribute to his experiment and answer a short quiz about my life in geocaching. He’s building a series of “20 questions” blog posts, where he asks geocachers to talk about their hobby.

A memorable one near NorthamptonDoes a one-legged duck swim in circles? I’m always up for wittering on about an interesting subject, and even more so if that interesting subject happens to be me. So here goes.

The geocacher in question is Washknight, and you can see the results of the experiment so far at

So here goes. Hold onto your hat…………………

And in the spirit of keeping things fresh, I’ve updated the whole post and some of the answers during an exercise where I had to change a redundant WordPress plugin, which forced me to redo pretty much every post that has embedded images.

1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?

I’d like to start by saying that it’s all the fault of my wonderful wife. No, really. I’d never heard of it. She’d been signed up for a few months and never actually been out searching.

She made me do it!

We were lucky enough to spend a long weekend in May 2010 in Marrakech. It was a corporate jolly that I won for being a top achiever. I joined most of the other top 5% on a weekend away in North Africa. The invite was for two, so Kas came with me too, naturally. The juniors stayed at home with my parents.

The weekend consisted of a packed programme of corporate schmoozing with a very short window of just 3 hours on the Saturday afternoon for doing things not in the official programme.  It seemed a bit of a waste to go all the way to Marrakech and then come home again without seeing anything, so we booked an extra couple of nights in a hotel closer to the city centre (and somewhat cheaper) than the event location so we could have a look around before heading home.

On our final day Kas told me we were off into some random park near the city centre to try a new game. “Oooh er !” thinks I. The game in question was not quite what I was expecting, but it must have been OK because I’ve now done it nearly 13,000 times in 10 years. I’ve done it in 19 different countries, in all bar 3 counties in England, and in several counties in Wales and Scotland. Sometimes I do it with the kids, sometimes with friends, and quite often on my own. I’ve done it on every different day in the year.

My first ever find

2. Do you remember your first find?

Isn’t that a Pulp song ?

Absolutely ! It was the Cyber Parc Cache in the Cyber Park in central Marrakech. There’s a picture of it here.

I remember it mainly because we were, to say the least, comedy cachers. We were trying to use the official caching app on an iPhone 3. The GPS in those was suspect at the best of times, and there was no 3G signal either, so we were wandering around using only a compass and distance. It was hot, and we were being watched. And as I still had no idea what we were doing, the conversation with Kas went along the lines of…

“What are we looking for?”
“I dunno”

“OK, so where is it ?”
“I dunno”

…and so on. But we did find it eventually – well, I found it because it was above Kas’s eyeline – and the rest, as they say in France, c’est l’histoire.

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?

That depends on what kind of a caching day it is.

If I’m in town, or I don’t want to attract too much attention, or if I’m just doing a casual bit of caching I use my iPhone with the Geosphere app. (Update in 2020 – Geosphere long since passed its sell-by date, so for casual caching I now use either cachly or the Groundspeak app).

If I’m officially “going out caching” (which is coded for “I’ll be away some time, and when I come back, I’ll be mucky”) I use my Garmin Montana 650 – the batteries last longer than the phone, it’s fully waterproof, and the GPS locator is (I have to admit after doubting it for a few years) much better than the phone. It even survived being dropped down a drain once, although in this instance I use the word “survived” in very much of a Trigger’s Broom sense. It survived by being reincarnated in a completely new box. Good job we had decent home contents insurance.

I did once find two without any kind of GPS device. I stared at Google satellite view for a while, memorized the position and the hint, and then went for a walk. One of those two was quite a remarkable find. In a tree, in a hedge, and I found it by pacing out about 150 of my steps from a junction between 2 paths. Amazingly I found it in the third tree I tried. The other one that day was under a bridge, but I was still amazed to find it because it had been disabled after a load of DNFs.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

I live in Milton Keynes. It’s very green for an urban area and we have standing permission from the MK Parks Trust to place caches so long as they’re not in dumb places where people will trample all the plants down. There are a lot of caches here, but mainly isolated rather than in walkable series. There’s several good series around the perimeter though.

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

The most memorable piece of tupperware was probably Sangam – It’s at one of the 4 centres belonging to the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and it’s in Pune, India. It’s a simple little puzzle and I went there on an otherwise dead Saturday morning before catching a flight from Pune to Chennai (via Hyderabad – don’t ask!) in the afternoon. Given the location, I thought I’d better warn them. They were most welcoming and gave me a full tour of their site before abandoning me to look for the cache. And they gave me tea. And a biscuit. And before you get any dodgy thoughts about me, there were no girl guides there at the time apart from the staff, and part of the reason I went was so that I could raid their shop and bring home lots of bags, badges, and other stuff for my two daughters.

Without a doubt the best experience (and best find) was attending the first ever Giga Event in Munich in August 2014. Myself and Travelling Pumpkin (daughter the elder) went down on the bus that Simply Paul organised. It was an excellent trip and a brilliantly done event.

6. List three essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

If one of the kids is with me that would be Pringles, Maltesers and more Pringles. Otherwise we don’t get very far.

If I’m on my own it would be a small multi-tool, a notebook and my camera. And spare batteries. That’s four. I don’t use the multi-tool very often, but just in case.

I very rarely carry swaps. I have a bucket full at home and never take any out with me.

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?

Simply Paul. Nothing else compares.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?

When I started I was probably a 9. Now I’m into it a bit more I’m probably about a 4. Most of my caches are done on quite long walks out in the country, where most of the caches are quite simple but the overall effect is a large total and a healthy suntan, most days. I go geocaching mainly to get me away from my work, which is sedentary and home-based.

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.

Two whole days on a bus to attend an event. OK, it was a good event, and we visited 8 different countries on the trip, but that’s something that would be hard to convince a non-cacher about – especially the part about watching the Sound of Music on the bus’s TVs whilst driving back through Austria and Switzerland. Spending an entire week in Northern France finding geocaches, and only taking one day off to visit central Paris, would be equally obsessive, I guess.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?

Yes. I left a big chunk of my scalp hanging from a sharp stick in Blackpool one night. It was a hedge that had recently been cut by one of those massive council fastened-to-a-tractor things, and it was dark, and I didn’t see the pointy end. It might have been worse. I guess it was about 4 inches away from taking my eye out.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?

What annoys me most about other cachers are the ones who get annoyed about other cachers. It’s only a game. Chill.

Seriously, I can’t be doing with all the stressing about logging protocol, and whether you’re allowed to find puzzles you haven’t solved and whether you can claim a find on a cache up a tree when you sent the kids up, and the like. It’s a bit of fun, innit! I go caching for fresh air and exercise. I don’t go because I want more time in front of a PC or because I want to get into a fight. It was quite entertaining to watch two cachers having a fight in the car park at the UK Mega in Llangolen in 2016 though.

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?

There was an FTF hunt in Oakhill Wood one night. I have no idea why I went, given that it’s behind the prison and the place gives me the willies in daylight never mind at night. And I went on my own.

I found it though.

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

The kids come caching with me sometimes. Kas comes out occasionally. She thinks I’m obsessed. But then she runs marathons for fun, so calling me obsessed is leaning towards the proverbial pot-kettle-black scenario.

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?

Most of the muggles I meet when out caching tend to fall into the “livestock” category. I’ve had very few human muggle incidents and to be quite honest I don’t spend a lot of time trying to disguise things – you see a lot of people out on the streets doing much more weird things than furtling around in the bushes. I have never been challenged in a threatening way. I generally go with the “I’m playing a treasure hunting game” line and see where the discussion takes me. A couple of times when people have been in my way and don’t look like moving I go with the old “you’re not really seeing me do this, and there is nothing here of interest” one, which is a surprisingly good way to knock someone off guard and make them relax.

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?

Probably colouring in all the English counties on my profile. As I write this post I have 6 to do – East Yorkshire, Suffolk, Essex, Isle of Wight, Devon & Cornwall.

So that was 2014. I still haven’t completed the challenge, though I did make a disappointing trip out to Suffolk and Essex one day and we grabbed one in East Yorkshire on the way up to Newcastle once. So now 3 left to do.

Since 2018, when I changed jobs, caching has become a lot less frequent and very opportunistic in nature, and as a result I don’t really bother setting specific targets. I’ll do challenge caches if I already meet them and they are somewhere I’m going anyway, but I don’t often do caches specifically to meet any target or challenge. I’ve been caching for ten years and I still haven’t filled the D/T grid, for instance.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

I used to have, until I found them all. As things stand now it would have to be the promise of something pretty spectacular to make me go back for a second attempt at anything. I have learned to embrace the inner quitter. Anyway, I travel a long way most times I go out, so unless it’s a big series that takes two attempts I pretty much never return to the scene of a previous crime.

17. What three words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you?

Good question, if only because it requires at least three answers.

  • Fresh air. I like to get out in it. Some areas have fresher air than others.
  • Meeting other people and pretending not to be doing anything suspicious, unless they are also not doing it.
  • Always having an excuse for going somewhere I’ve never been before. I’m a restless soul and I always liked geography.

18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

I find it relaxing and it helps me sort of organize my memories. I’m a bit retentive at the best of times and I like to feel I’ve captured something about my trips other than the photos. I use my blog like Dumbledore uses the pensieve.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.

I’m not one for championing my own work, generally, but I quite like Imbibing Imber.

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?

Well, Washknight’s one, obviously. There are no others. (Can I have my fiver now please ?)

Update for 2020

Since 2014 there’ve been a few new highlights:

  • We’ve done monster “colour in as many countries/regions as possible” trips while taking family holidays in Italy and France
  • I spent a week in northern France with Travelling Pumpkin finding a series of 600 puzzles
  • I “coloured in” Asia, or more specifically Japan, when Kas got an entry into the 2018 Tokyo Marathon and her chosen running buddy didn’t – she needed someone to fill half a hotel room
  • We spent a week in the French Alps finding some of the highest caches in Europe
  • I’ve completed more than 1,000 of ryo62’s caches, and as a result he’s placed a cache named after me (and I’ve been to find it)
  • I’ve travelled for mega events in Aberdeen, Llangolen, Kent, Bruges, Valenciennes, Saint Omer, Dunkirk as well as more local Geolympix ones
  • I spent a mad 2020 Leap Day attending 11 different events in 24 hours
  • I increased my total finds to nearly 13,000, despite having very quiet years in 2019 and 2020

Beneath the Bamboo

Beneath the Bamboo

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We extended the planting bed underneath the big black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), having removed the step in the patio. It needed to be tidied up a bit.

This is the part of the garden that can be seen through the back windows of the lounge, so it was quite important to get it right. There were a few plants that were right underneath the bamboo. The plan was to extend the planting bed to give them more light and space. The area is big enough now for more plants, if we are ever allowed to go out and buy any.

Beneath the Bamboo

Beneath the Bamboo

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Beneath the bamboo? What’s he going on about now?

When we first did the patio we had a step between the side and back of the house. There’s quite a big drop and we had to do something. As time progressed we made a couple of other plans for the garden. We moved a massive black-stemmed bamboo so that it was against the fence and near this corner of the patio. It’s fair to say that the bamboo has thrived – its tallest stems are now a good 4m high. It’s a clumpy one rather than a spready one, which is also a good thing. It does occasionally put a long runner under the soil, but not very often. I found one runner of about 1m length under the lawn and another of 1.5m alongside the retaining wall. That one came to an end where it met the brick wall. It hadn’t climbed into the light.

Back at the plot, we had a planting bed near the bamboo that wasn’t big enough for much to grow. The area tends to suffer from shade in the afternoon. We decided to rectify the situation by extending the bed, and by removing the step. From the first photo on this page you can see how much we extended it. The area that looks like sand is, actually, sand. That’s because it used to be under the patio. So I guess we added about 1.5m. This will give us a nice big new area to plant up beneath the bamboo. I will need to find plants that enjoy only having sunlight in the morning, but that shouldn’t be hard.

The plan was to frame this new bed with the new retaining wall and with a low wall around the square bit of the patio. Not difficult apart from building a wall in a straight line all the way across the back of the house. Again not difficult apart from needing to leave a 3m wide gap until I’d laid the new patio. There were some strings involved, and some swearing because the string kept moving in the wind.

To make the new wall here I had to shore up what used to be the edge of the patio. I’d undercut it, so I laid a bed of breeze blocks roughly onto a concrete bed to hold everything. The plan was to lay decorative bricks on the top for that straight wall. I knew the breeze blocks would be buried, so if they didn’t quite align with the bricks it wouldn’t be a problem.

When excavating here I had flashbacks to previous phases of the garden and to fishing out heaps of old materials. I can’t remember whether it was me or the original pavers who buried all those old bricks. There was a lot of cack and not a lot of soil in the edge of that bed. And there was some strange stuff buried under the reclaimed patio. The completed bed needed a lot of back-filling with soil and sand, but it should now be good for planting.

That’s been a feature of this rework. Whenever I’m working on the soil I find myself with a handy pile of sand. I’ve dug much of this into the soil, along with the old compost from a load of empty plant pots. It improves the condition of the soil significantly. When I say “improve” I actually mean “turn it into soil”.

Much of our back garden consists of a substance you could put straight onto potter’s wheel. It has an infinite capacity for absorbing compost and sand without ever turning into good quality soil. It always clump into massive balls that are sloppy in the winter and rock-hard in the summer. Plants which “prefer free draining soil” just have to put up with it. Clay is quite fertile, but it’s very heavy and it prevents the spread of delicate filament roots. I kid you not, we’ve had plants in our garden that we tried to move after five years and their roots haven’t spread beyond the shape and size of the original plastic pots that they came in. How they managed to find enough nutrients to keep growing I’ll never know. Anyway, lesson learned. Make a really big hole and back fill it with something a young plant can grow in.

At the time of starting this post, in late September 2020, you can see I’d just reached the point of having put coping stones on the low wall. The retaining wall at the back is finished. It doesn’t need a lot of work doing on the bed before we plant it. I have still got to do the paving slabs in that corner though. That will be the next phase of paving, which I have lined up for the week’s holiday at the end of October.

By the end of 2020 I’d paved the whole area here and around the side of the house. The only part remaining is to find some plants for the new area of bed.

Planting Bed #3

Planting Bed #3

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Planting Bed #3. I’m not sure which of us owns the rights to planting this one.

Planting Bed #3

Planting Bed #3

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Planting Bed #3 was originally unplanned, and resulted from the realisation that one of the others couldn’t be as large as originally planned. It’s not that we were going to be short of planting beds. I mean, I’m going to have to buy enough soil to build a 1/2 scale model of Maiden Castle so that I can fill all these beds, but I have to admit that adding this one gives a certain symmetry to the chimney. Anyway, it’s a long span of bare wall that has been a long span of bare wall for 20 years. Breaking that up a little bit felt like a good idea.

In engineering terms, this was also the area of wall that suffered the worst from the bad slope on the old patio. It got very wet every time there was any rain. So I decided it might be better to put a bed in as part of the big plan.

You can see from the photos that at the time of writing, in late September 2020, the bed has all the brickwork done but doesn’t have coping and doesn’t contain any plants. That time will come. In fact, it already passed. Check out the completed Planting Bed #3 in the gallery.

As with a couple of the other beds, we also have no idea what the planting scheme will be in this one. I fancy either one that contains alpines or one that contains desert plants. Both like very dry soil, so maybe I’ll put both together. There must be a high alpine desert somewhere. What grows there? Although in Milton Keynes they’ll have to be high-alpine desert plants that can cope with a bit of rain.

Fast forward to March. I bought a load of topsoil and filed up all four of the beds round the side. By this stage we’d decided the bed was Izzy’s. It’s in full sun so she’d researched and chosen a few things.

We drove over to our local branch of Frosts Garden Centre to see what we could find. Apparently it was a bit early for summer-flowering things, so we just got some of the earlier varieties and vowed to return a couple of weeks later. I guess that by Easter weekend they’ll has restocked. In the meantime, we’ll leave it with the Choiysa, Hebe and Dianthus.

Planting Bed #2

Planting Bed #2

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Planting Bed #2. This one belongs to Izzy. She wants to plant it with something to attract insects.

Planting Bed #2

Planting Bed #2

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Planting bed #2 originated on a weekend back in the early part of 2020, when I walked around the back garden with Kas trying to decide on some remodelling. As part of that plan we agreed some planting beds, and I duly painted the chosen locations onto the patio so I didn’t forget. It didn’t have a name or number back then, but things move on.

Skip a couple of months and the beginning of the rework programme. One of the first things I did was to start setting out these planting beds. The original plan had this bed somewhat larger until I started setting things out. I concluded that it wouldn’t leave enough space for walking past, so I shrunk it somewhat, but only after deciding to put another (previously unplanned) bed the other side of the chimney.

So from the first photo you can see the original planned size. The second photo shows what Planting Bed #2 looked like at the end of September 2020, with all the brickwork done but not yet with coping stones or any actual planting. There’s not much more to say about this one, or at least, nothing more can be said until I finish it. There’s a photo in the gallery of the finished item prior to planting. It will never be any cleaner or tidier than this. It might get prettier though.

This one is going to be Izzy’s and she wants to fill it with things that attract insects. Plants, presumably, rather than the carcass of a dead wildebeest. We’ll have to go plant shopping specifically for insect-friendly things.