Monday 30 March 2009

Building the waterfall and stream last!

I'm bone tired, I've got mysterious bruises all over my legs, my hands don't want to work properly and my get-up-and-go has completely scarpered. It must be Monday morning!

Why do I never learn? Why don't I stop shifting soil, moving rocks or whatever half an hour before exhaustion sets in, rather than just after?!Why do I continue to delude myself that I have the fitness and energy levels of a 22 year old when every Monday my body tells me otherwise?!

ANYWAY! Enough of feeling sorry for myself - it was totally self-inflicted and does not deserve sympathy, SO, back to last summer.......waterfall and stream building, yeah! The summer of '08 was not the best British summer we've ever had! It tipped it down a lot of the time - but there were some good days and we grabbed them with both hands.

Before the waterfall stone could be put in place I had to dig out the stream route so that Himself could see the angle the stone needed to be set at in the pond side. My red sweatshirt is on the main island stone. The stream will curve round behind the island before curving back towards the right to flow down to the bottom pond.

Himself was allowed to build ONE straight wall in the pond - which was to be under the waterfall stone and, therefore, completely hidden!

The water in the pond was held back by one of our chunky wooden beams which was long enough to reach right across the pond and to have the butyl liner and fleece liner draped back over it. The light grey fabric is the fleece liner. It was all kept in place by a couple of random bits of stone carefully plonked on top!

Himself had replaced the original waterfall stone after it had broken in two after being accidentaly dropped when being moved. The photo below shows the original stone, with its nice curved shape - but, apparently, it was a pig to place and get level........ Hmm, was the breakage really an accident?!!

There are no photos of Himself laying the new waterfall stone as I was off doing something else at the time, so wasn't around to take photos!

Once the stone was levelled to Himself's wonderfully perfectionist standards and satisfaction, it had to be tested to check that the water would flow evenly over all its width. Himself and the ever magnificent Pete roughly laid both liners down the stream bed and into the bottom pond, which was then filled by hosepipe until there was enough water to be pumped up to the fill the top pond whilst still leaving a decent level in the bottom pond. (You can tell from the description who worked out all the technical details like flow rate etc - and it wasn't me!)

The new posh German pump was turned on and we stood with baited breath as the top pond water level slowly rose and began to trickle smoothly and SO evenly over the waterfall and into the stream bed. Shouts of joy (me!) and amazement (Himself!) could be heard across Chesterfield.
Pete just laughed at us!

The water looks brackish because it had been sitting in the pond for several weeks with no filter system and there is reflected light from all the trees that surround it, but it wasn't quite as bad as it looks in the photo - honest!

The water then burbled, gurgled and flowed its way merrily down the proto-stream until it finally fell into the bottom pond for the very first time. I was well giddy by this point and nearly toppled into the bottom pond in my excitement!

Another excellent weekend's work!

Friday 13 March 2009

Yet more ways to get big rocks into a pond!

Having successfully completed the beach and retaining wall end of the pond, we finally turned our minds to the waterfall end - something Himself had been trying to block out (...or should that be 'avoid'?) for quite some time!

As the pond is supposed to look like it's full of rocks which have been carried downstream from Mount Fuji in the spring snowmelt (yeah, yeah - I know....... over-active imagination going at full pelt again!), we needed a couple of big rocks to sit one either side of the waterfall stone to look like the waterfall had been created by the rocks forcing the water through the narrow gap between them - are you still with me or has my imagination gone too far this time?!

Himself and Calamity (one of Last-Born's vast entourage of admirers!) built two scaffold towers, one either side of the waterfall, and used some of the strongest timbers from our random collection of 'bits' to make the support between the towers for the chain hoist to be fastened to, to allow us to hoist the rocks out over the edge of the pond and lowered down to reach the shelf.

I was still having to be careful because of problems with the scar tissue from my surgery, so I settled for making sure the pond liner on the shelf was nice and flat with no sharp edges on the folds.

Like when we put the other big rocks into the pond, I was only allowed one shot at choosing the right ones - so the pressure was on! Rocks were looked at from all angles, rotated, stood on end, discarded, reclaimed, discarded again...........until Himself bellowed "JUST CHOOSE!....... They're going to be mostly covered with water anyway!"

This did rather focus my mind somewhat and two were chosen. Himself and Calamity manhandled the stones to almost at the pond's edge.

Himself then chisled the bottom of the rock to make it slightly angled so that it would lean back a little bit against the pond wall. Luckily sandstone (our local stone) is fairly soft and breaks easily, so it was quite a quick job to knock the appropriate amount off.

We then used levers to lift the rock up enough to get small beams underneath, which would allow us easy access for the strops. I am standing on the pond shelf, so you can see that the finished water depth will be right up at the top of my wellies! Later 'paddling' to put smaller stones in place proved that there was about 1cm clearance - so I had to be very careful not to 'slosh' or I got very soggy feet! ( I wasn't careful enough though........ I leant forward to place a stone and got a wellie full of water. Yuk!)

The two cross members in place and the strop ready to go round the stone.

Himself begining to make the 4 way loop round the rock ready for hoisting.

Himself ready to guide the rock out from under the scaffold to over the shelf, then down into position. I am hauling on the chain to lift the rock and Calamity is catching the chain to prevent chain grease from getting on everything!

The two rocks in place - the waterfall stone was still covered up at this point. We'd put several layers of assorted 'stuff' over it to protect it from mishap. Having broken one waterfall stone already, we weren't about to let it happen again!

Rocks in place, waterfall stone uncovered, water level back up to the correct height (or wellie depth!). Oh happy day!

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Life's a beach!

How sad am I? - I have so been looking for a way to use that title!
Anyway, on with the saga of the pond and the beach:

Himself, having studied the land behind the pond in a worried fashion for several days, decided that if we didn't do anything all the soil from the fruit cage was going to leap forward about a yard and end up in the pond! So he decreed that we needed a BIG retaining stone to prevent this from happening. In my usual fashion I moaned and groaned and said that the soil wouldn't go anywhere (mainly because I wanted to play at making the beach at this point, rather than shift more big rocks!). Himself quite rightly ignored me and started to clear back the soil near the pond and flatten the base to take a retaining wall of a rock.

Himself moving the topsoil in preparation for the rock.
Having realised that resistance was futile, I then opted to help. Having cleared the area and identified an appropriate (for that read very big and heavy) rock, we loaded it onto the flintstones trolley on the yard and hauled it up the garden- jolly hard work for just two of us!
As there was a steepish slope down to where we wanted it and we were using a scaffold tower with feet all at the same level, we had to securely prop up the pond-side legs. We did this by building two little mortar-free towers out of spare bricks topped off with a couple of bits of paving slab we had hanging around.
As we weren't sure how well this technique would work or how we'd position the rock, we protected the liners by folding them over another beam which straddled the pond.

Himself moving a wacking great beam of wood onto the now secure scaffold tower. The beam will support the chain hoist to lift the rock up - which is waiting patiently on the trolley!
The next step was to build a track for the trolley to trundle on. It definately trundled rather than rolled - mainly becasue the wheels were tree trunk shaped rather than round! The trolley was then shoved carefully along the track until it was under the chain hoist.
You can see in this photo how far back the butyl liner goes under the pebbles. Once all the stones are in place on the shelf the water level will be raised again, so the liner has to be high enough to prevent seepage. We used the same method of the plastic coated corrugated sheeting to provide stable edging - and the butyl went up and over the top of the sheeting and is held in place by backfilled soil.

Trolley and rock in place under the chain hoist.
Then the trolley had to be removed!
Oh, we got SO good with levers when shifting these rocks that we could have positioned them on a sixpence!

He's not levering on his own - he's just adjusting the position of the trolley!

Himself levered the rock up, I slid the strops underneath, he lowered the rock back down, then we fastened the strop to the chain hoist, hauled the rock up and removed the trolley.
Strops in place, rock ready to be raised.

THis is the rock securely held up by the chain hoist whilst Himself moves the trolley and the track.
The rock was then lowered down onto the pond ledge which had had a layer of sand put on it first. The rock was swiveled around until the best position was found and lowered gently into place.

The position was marked and the rock was hoisted up again to allow the fleece liner and the butyl top liner to be laid underneath it - I have to confess that my heart was in my mouth as I put the liners in place with half a tonne of rock above my hands! The photo above shows Himself smoothing sand marked by the rock as we swiveled it into place.
Once the main retaining rock was in place we could position the smaller stones - I tried quite a few (okay - lots!) before finding the correct combination of shapes and sizes that looked right together as well as appearing natural in their positionings. Himself sorted out and tidied up the excess liner ,which will not be visible once the tea house is completed.

The big rock (on the right of the photo) looks far less impressive here because I'd backfilled the area with the topsoil we'd removed earlier. All the stones had fleece liner offcuts underneath to prevent damage to the butyl.

This is looking down on the mostly completed beach from the path. The triangular gap between the three stones is a planting gap.

The completed beach with some planting in place.
Not a bad afternoon's work really!