Sahara Desert Comes to Yorkshire

4th September 2016

“The once beautiful garden looked dead, decaying and arid with only a few trees standing – just like the encroachment of the Sahara desert in North Africa…….!”

There is an intense rivalry in Alabama between the American college football teams of the University of Alabama and the University of Auburn. There is a court case pending where an Alabama fan stands accused of poisoning a row of trees where the Auburn fans tie ribbons when their team wins – some would say this is taking football rivalry too far – but it did bring back memories of a strange experience many years ago.

A gentleman called asking us to come up with a solution to drain his rear lawn during times of rainfall. He said to call at any time when passing, jump over the rear fence and give him a call at work when on site.

The next day I arrived along the shared access road and drove around the back of a number of exclusive properties – to see a fantastic garden walled along three sides and a post and rail fence as it abutted the shared drive.

A great deal of money had obviously been spent on this meticulously maintained garden, whose centre piece was a rich and well-manicured lawn of about 400 square meters. The garden was divided into sections consisting of contrasting semi mature plants and shrubs, with care being taken to ensure colour in each part throughout the year. There were palm trees, evergreens and shrubs, large cacti and ferns, ornate pots, and roses trained to grow up the walls, interspersed with beautiful hanging baskets. There was also an elaborate garden shed about the size of a small cottage, and very complex water feature and fish pond.

My thought, as I climbed over the fence, was how difficult the reinstatement of any excavation would be; I walked around the edge of the lawn (to avoid putting footprints in the grass) to the obvious low point, and proceeded onto the ornate patio and carefully lifted the nearby manhole.

I began to sketch a drawing of the garden when a van arrived on the access road, and a couple of guys got out, one shouted over asking me what I was doing, I began to explain that I was looking at how to drain the lawn, one of them interrupted and said “You don’t want to get involved here mate, he won’t pay you, that’s why we’re here ‘cos he’s not paid us for laying that lawn last year”.
The other came from the back of the van carrying a large 5 gallon back pack sprayer full of liquid. I twigged on pretty much straight away and said, “Round – up! ….. you’re not going to are you?”

“Too right mate, we’ve no choice, second hand turf isn’t worth anything and he’s not willing to pay” was the reply as he climbed over the fence and began to spray the beautifully manicured lawn”.

At this point one of the neighbours came out asking what was happening. The contractor explained about the unpaid bill whilst the other continued spraying. The neighbour commented, “He doesn’t pay anybody, the people who planted the trees haven’t been paid and neither as my mate who fitted his windows, if I were you I’d spray the bloody lot!” “We could, but we’ve no water with us” the Contractor said. “No problem” the neighbour replied, “I’ve got an outside tap …. be my guest”.

At this point I made my excuses and left as they started spraying the shrubs and plants….. I never did call the householder and he didn’t call me.

I passed by some months later and couldn’t resist stopping for a look – the once beautiful garden looked dead, decaying and arid with only a few trees standing – just like the encroachment of the Sahara desert in North Africa!

Just glad we didn’t get involved in that job!

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