There are winter jobs…


… and then there are winter JOBS. Jobs which deserve their capital letters. Jobs which you’ve probably been avoiding for several years, if you’re anything like me*.

And then one sunny day, when you don’t have a deadline for the first time in months, you suddenly find yourself down the builders’ merchants ordering three tons of gravel. Like you do.


You then get back, have an argument about the size of the order which you win by pointing out that gravel magically disappears when you start putting it down and that you have got two old paths, one new path and an area by the pigsty plus the log store / ty lawnmower to do, and then the guys delivering the gravel can’t get up the hill because someone has parked on it, and then they have to do a strange reversing manoeuvre to go the wrong way down a one-way street so they can at least see the main road they’re emerging on to, during which time the man moves the parked car, and then they get to the right spot by going round in an alternative circular route because they didn’t see the man move his car, then they have to crane three giant bags of gravel over an old stone wall, avoiding the pear tree, the greenhouse and the Hell Hound of Harlech – and then a friend calls round in the middle of all this…. that sort of day.

I’m never complaining about a deadline again.

Anyway, this is what is happening:


This is the pigsty area, complete with old feeding trough which isn’t going anywhere, coal bunker which is where I store compost, and the side, hardly ever exposed, of the extension to the pigsty itself. That’s where chopped logs live in the winter, and the lawnmower lives the rest of the year. It is, essentially, mud. As you can see, there’s baler plastic under some of the old gravel, but it’s more and more baler plastic and less and less gravel.

Both of the existing paths have huge sections which are also mud, and which have – over time – gradually slumped so that all the gravel is either at one end or strewn around the garden. So they’ve been dug out

old path

(and, I am ashamed to say, weedkilled) and any plants moved, except for an old fern – I have billions – and a rotten stump which was previously interestingly shaped but which is now merely unpleasantly rotten. They are toast. Soggy, manky toast, but toast.

Then there’s the new path.


Well, it’s not exactly new as such. It was a path / death trap, because everyone knows that the way to create a path is to take some old roofing slates and miscellaneous rubble, stamp them into the soil, and shove some concrete in the gaps. (Removing the slates revealed one that was broken but carved, and I’m next door to a burial ground. Er…) So this now needs digging out, the edges tidying, and gravel laying.

And then you remember that your old wheelbarrow rotted through and went to the tip, and that you haven’t quite got round to replacing it because of the deadlines, and so you dash off to the farmers’ supply place, source of such delights, and they have two, both of which are broken, and so you zoom ten miles to Porthmadog and hooray, hooray, Wilkinsons have ONE left, and it’s the big one which you wanted. And then you get back and it’s dark anyway.

That sort of day.

I need some pretty flowers to remind me why I do this:


That’s better. That’s mad, mind, because these don’t usually get cracking until well into March, but I’m not quibbling. For once.

*Who knows, this year I might even paint the trellis…


27 Comments Add yours

  1. It looks so nice to have it done, and you do have the pretty flowers, which for me makes all the difference between a good day and a bad day.

    1. kate says:

      Spot on! It does, doesn’t it? The rest of the garden might look like a cross between a builders’ yard and a rather messy children’s play area, but I’ve got flowers!

  2. Pauline says:

    My back aches with just thinking about moving all that gravel.! We have the same problem, it is amazing how it disappears isn’t it? Once done though it will look really good and you will be so pleased with the result.

    1. kate says:

      So glad I got the wheelbarrow – the thought of doing it by the bucketload had me in the car and off faster than a speeding bullet.

      Everyone who has ever had anything to do with spreading gravel thinks exactly the same – the ones I’ve had a problem with are the people who’ve never seen the magic disappearing gravel effect in action….

  3. sorry Kate I’m smiling at ’10 miles’ to get your wheel barrow, I go 23 miles just to do my weekly shopping, do you find the gravel acts like a weed seed bed? that is what puts me off gravel in a wet climate, Frances

    1. kate says:

      Hiya Frances, thought of you when I wrote that – when I was growing up we were 10 miles from milk, let alone garden equipment! (I remember my mother standing in M&S in Inverness, saying ‘now where have they put the lambing ointment?’) mind you, that’s 10 miles if you didn’t count Sandy’s cows…

      If you get the gravel deep enough, I’ve found that it’s not too bad and any weeds which do make it through can be pulled out fairly easily. It only really gets bad – for me, anyway – when the gravel mystically vanishes after about five years. Where does it go, I wonder?

  4. I spent a large part of a previous life removing gravel from a garden in order to plant plants- it never ended. Gravel’s like that, a bit like weeds – always in the wrong place

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it, though? Mind you, I put a huge ammount on one of these paths about 12 years ago, and there’s very little sign of it -anywhere – now. I think it’s migratory, on perhaps a ten year cycle…

      Or maybe I’ve just been moving too much gravel…

  5. Cathy says:

    Painting the trellis…don’t you think that’s a tad ambitious Kate…?! 😉 Enjoy seeing your bags of gravel getting emptier, and let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later!

    1. kate says:

      Ho ho ho on the trellis… this time, 2017, I’ll probably be saying ‘and this year, we’re going to paint the trellis…’ Except am having whole house exterior painted this year – the winter storms have taken their toll, one consequence of a sea view. At that point the trellis will look even more horrible, which may provide motivation. Or not.

      And in the meantime, hello gravel!

  6. VP says:


    I need that 3 tons of gravel – sounds like your delivery men might have gone past my house in the process of getting to you. Shame, ‘cos I would have hijacked them 😉

    On top of the need for your gravel, I also have a shed to clear out because I no longer have any hope of getting into it.

    1. kate says:

      I looked nto my shed, aka the old outside loo, yesterday. It was not a pretty sight.

      But at least I could a) open the door and b) see inside. Tried to peer inside the pigsty and couldn’t get near enough for more than a glimpse because of a pallet that ‘might come in handy’. P managed to see in, tho. Me: ‘What’s that big lump of wood thing?’. P: ‘What big lump of wood thing?’ So am none the wiser.

      MY GRAVEL. Grrrrrrrrr.

      1. VP says:

        Ah yes, what is it with men and collections of wood ‘that might come in handy’? We have a similar problem in our garage.

        1. kate says:

          It’s a caveman thing. Like tree climbing with chainsaws. Er, ish…

  7. VP says:

    Though having said that… to be fair I have a pallet that ‘might come in handy for later’ on the front drive (Karen and/or Jane may remember it from when they visited). It’s earmarked as a tool tidy thingy for the shed… when I get get in the shed that is.

    1. kate says:

      Hee hee – No comment…

  8. croftgarden says:

    Oh come on Kate, only 3 tons! I hope this is only the preliminary load otherwise I can only award you the novice gravel shovellers badge. If you can manage 10 you get a certificate and a medal! It’s also cheaper by the lorry load.

    1. kate says:

      Aw, shucks…

      I am gradually learning – last time I did the paths I had the small sacks. Several times. And then a few more. But at least I didn’t disrupt the village then. At least it was in school time so I didn’t have too much of an audience!

      1. croftgarden says:

        It always starts with small amounts and soon you’ll be welcoming the annual arrival of the gravel lorry like an old friend. The good news is that once you’ve recovered from aches and pains you’ll have a figure like a super model – should you want one.
        Not being able to resist the opportunity to interfere, should you really be shovelling? I think you need a fit young man to do it for you.

        1. kate says:

          Have told that to the fit young man. He just asked me if I’d managed to get a wheelbarrow.

          Fit young men aren’t like they used to be. Mind you, they’re not as young as they used to be either. We’re tackling it on Monday, and I have a physio session – coincidentally – booked for that afternoon…

        2. kate says:

          P.S. Define ‘fit’… Hee hee

  9. Exhausting. Bet you run out of gravel. Want to come round and tackle mine too? I have two large bags of gravel, but it really needs washing before laying… It’s going to be grand when finished, look forward to inspecting the new path!!

    1. kate says:

      Washing? Washing? You’re not making life easy for yourselves, are you…. I reckon the usual weather will give mine a good washing once it’s down (and maybe before). Fngers xxxxxx for decent weather lasting a bit longer!

      1. Well, I recovered the gravel from beds in the back garden, so mingled with soil. So if I don’t wash it, weeds. Sooner than will arrive anyway. But I doubt I’ll have the patience for the washing thing. Seems like a waste of water when we get so much free water from the sky. Ho hum.

        1. kate says:

          Ah yes, weeds. I think the only thing my gravel will grow is small builders’ merchants…

          Hm, maybe I’ve had too much coffee?

  10. Angie says:

    I’ve only ever moved 3 tons of gravel once before and I vowed never again!
    When we take a notion to get a job done there is no stopping us. Your day sounds like the kind of day I usual have when I do things on a whim..
    Good luck with it all

    1. kate says:

      I’m beginning to feel like that and I’ve not so much as shifted a shovelful yet. It is looming, almost as though Jabba the Hut has taken up residence in my bottom garden just by the greenhouse. Next thing you know I’ll be chained to it, wearing a skimpy bikini thingy…

      (Apologises for Excessive Star Wars trilogy refs, sorry about that – I may be getting this path task out of proportion.)

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