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Torfaen Tales

Pond Life

I’m quite a keen gardener, I suppose. However my garden has never really been planned or designed, it’s just evolved over the years. My husband has no interest in gardening. I put ideas to him from time to time, but I think he hardly even hears what I’m saying. The positive side of this is that I get to do whatever I want without even the faintest whiff of marital conflict.

We’ve been in this house for eight years, and for a long time I’ve been pondering what to do with the ‘difficult’ bit of the garden. I’ve created some lovely herbaceous borders close to the house at the back and front, and at the back we have a bit of lawn edged with a narrow ‘seasonal’ bed. But the land drops away beyond the lawn. Luckily the previous owners undertook the arduous task of building the retaining wall which keeps the rest of the garden firmly on its terrace. But nobody has ever done anything much with the scrappy triangle, a no-man’s land at the tail end of our plot. Up until this year all I had managed to do was kill off the brambles. The soil down there is clayey, and the few plants I’ve tried to introduce haven’t done very well.

It was New Year’s Day when I had my brilliant idea. Why not dig a pond? A rough triangular shape, occupying much of the land below the lawn. I had visions of a rockery at the far end, with a big clump of bamboo.

I scuttled inside for pencil and paper to draw some rough sketches. This was the best idea I’d had in a long time. I could hardly wait to tell my husband, but I knew I’d get a better hearing if I waited until he’d finished watching the football on TV.

He pursed his lips and nodded. ‘Sounds okay to me. But what would you do with the soil you dug out?’

To be honest, I hadn’t thought of that. Trying to solve the problem of excess soil put me in a despondent mood for days, but by the weekend I had it all sorted.

Again I waited until my husband’s football match had ended.

‘I’ve solved the problem of the soil,’ I announced.

He looked blank, so I had to remind him about my proposed pond.

‘I’ve been talking to Ron and Mildred next door. Ron’s been thinking of adapting their garden so Mildred can garden from her wheelchair. That would mean building walls to bring the flower beds up to wheelchair height, and he would need plenty of soil to fill the beds. I explained that the soil wasn’t the best quality, but he reckons with the addition of sand and leaf mould he could improve it sufficiently.’

So I started work on my excavations. It seemed the more I dug, the further I had to go. It was starting to stress me out, and I was doubting the wisdom of my bright idea. So I had to change my way of thinking. I decided not to set myself a time limit, and to look upon digging as a form of exercise. Not for me the expense of the gym!

Come rain or shine, I did a bit of digging almost every day. And by April, to my amazement, I had a crater that looked as though a bomb had exploded at the back of the house. I could tell my husband was impressed, because he helped me lay the pond liner. Now all we needed was some rain to fill it. Using tap water was out of the question as we were on a metered supply.

Nature being the perverse creature it is, at that point we had a heat wave. Day after day of brilliant sunshine, and temperatures almost up to thirty degrees. ‘Wales swelters’, shouted the newspaper headlines. ‘Long, hot summer predicted.‘ Local authorities started to mutter about water restrictions. My pond liner sat there and mocked me, grey and dusty, without so much as a teeny puddle at the bottom.

Then after about a fortnight the rain came. Slow and steady during the first couple of weeks, but then it gathered momentum and we were deluged day after day. Ron next door wasn’t very happy. He had mountains of soil to contend with, and it was too wet most of the time for him to get on with his brickwork.

My pond, however, was growing day by day. The kids put a depth gauge in the middle, and took bets on how deep the water would get week by week. May turned to June, and still the rain came. Television news showed parts of the UK with serious flooding problems. The promise of a long, hot summer had been just empty words, it seemed. June turned to July, and still the heavens opened day by day.

It seemed I was the only person who was happy with the rain. My pond was by this time practically full, and the plants on the rockery were growing beautifully. I had abandoned the idea of bamboo upon finding out that it spread like wildfire and sprang up in places you didn’t want it. Instead I planted a cherry tree, and although it was a rather uninspiring stick this year I hoped next spring to have blossom reflecting in the calm waters of my oasis. Standing on the lawn with my eyes half closed it didn’t take much imagination to conjure up a beautiful picture in what was already a very much improved piece of waste land.

by Karenne Griffin

Last Modified on: 05-11-2015

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