Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


Our houses are built on a drained marsh.

There used to be donkeys here; and leatherjackets.

The donkeys were moved when the houses were built; but the leatherjackets stayed.

* * * * *

The builder went bankrupt after building our street.

I know the precise moment when he realised his doom. It was when he was preparing to lay turfs on what might have been my lawn.

Who can blame him that he laid them any-old-how in such circumstances? Or that, after a bit, he began to lay them any-old-where? Or that, in the end, he lost heart completely and simply packed up and went home with his misery?


Nevertheless, I was left with two patches of rough ground strewn loosely with squares, some missing, some merely bases upon which desiccated prickles could comfortably crumble; and each ensemble petering out in an unsightly collection of right angles.

This was the last heat of summer.

I watered.

I watered and the turfs struggled on. Sometimes, in the autumn, I'd look down on them from an upstairs window and wonder if "wilted chequerboard" might catch on as a garden fashion.


And now, I feel strangely obliged to provide an illustration.

I didn't photograph my builder's version of lawn-ness so I'll just run down the road and take a picture of grass dieing because it is too short and too dry and its roots have been sheered off to make a 'nice straight edge'.

Done it.
Here it is.

Esther Montgomery always said
"Nature doesn't grow straight unless it’s a reed."
"This," she said, "is what some 'gardeners' simply don't understand."
By 'gardeners' she meant people like me because I like things neat. And she meant people who run borough parks departments; and people who mow the grass on industrial estates.

Here are some reeds.

(They might be rushes.)
The photo below is from my holiday. I don't know why I'm putting it here! The water in the foreground is a nine mile long brackish lagoon. Then there is a huge bank of pebbles called Chesil Beach and, beyond that, the sea. The cube on the top is a sentry box. If you walk further to the right when the flag is flying you might be shot because this is the beginning of an army fireing range. Not that this would happen on purpose; nor are you likely to have walked that far on pebbles, it's heavy work. And for part of the year, walkers and anglers are asked to keep away because little terns breed there.

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Brenda Jean said...

How interesting--lovely rushes, and my, I guess walking on those pebbles could be dangerous if someone was energetic enough to walk far enough!

Lucy said...

Brenda Jean - hello.

Glad you enjoyed today's post - even though I know you are missing Esther.

Walking on Chesil Beach . . . in 'the old days' when people were poorer and there were more stone quarries on Portland, men used to walk the 7 / 9 miles from Abbotsbury along the pebbles at the beginning of the week - and walk all the way back at the end of it.

There are also the remains of iron ship wrecks up there.

I don't know whether you are familiar with the novel 'Moonfleet' by J. Meade Falkener? But that is set close by.


Alan said...

When I teach people about using grazing to build soil and feed their animals I try to make them understand that when you clip (or eat) the top of the grass down, the roots self prune to the same length. Done correctly, this can build a lot of organic mater in the soil and make for beautiful pasture (or lawn). But incessantly mowing every week to keep it 1.25 inches long results in a very weak root system and no stored reserves. At that point any stress will kill it. Some how the lawn care people forget (or never knew) that. Their solution, feed it more chemicals, water it more, and mow more often. Maybe we should let the lawn run wild once in a while.

rosa said...

Alan, that is completely fascinating. Thank you for that!
Hello Lucy!
I heard that Thomas Hardy lived for a time in your area. What a literary landscape! (Although perhaps that isn't hard to achieve in your 'green & pleasant land'...!)

Lucy said...

Alan - I agree with Rosa - you have left a really interesting comment.

I must say, I breathed a sigh of relief and appreciation when I read it. I don't know much about growing anything and the little I do I learnt from Esther who is a very opinionated person and 'opinionated' doesn't necessarily mean the opinions are right and I'm especially nervous when passing on Esther's theories because her gardening style isn't exactly conventional.

So - many thanks - and hats off to a real expert!