By Chris Myers
RHS Gold Medal Winning Designer, TV Presenter, Off Grid Dweller
As any garden designer or landscaper will tell you, what we do involves the use and understanding of a vast amount of skills.
Landscape creation often requires building work, joinery, groundworks and electrical installations, all of which come together to provide the platform we plantsmen initially set out to work upon.
The ability to work with such varying skills has put me in good stead for things that crop up, both in and out of my working world.
I have found myself drawing on an understanding of construction, joinery and electrics as I continue to renovate my off-grid home in the Yorkshire Dales.
These skills have also helped me adapt the work myself and my team carry out to suit a world outside of the domestic garden.
One example of this cropped up about five years ago.
The events team at Bolton Abbey, an estate in the Yorkshire Dales, were looking to enhance one of their woodland walks by somehow making it fun for families - whatever the weather.
The general idea was that children would enjoy it so much, they would take the adults for a walk, a break from the norm, with no more muttering of those immortal words -ARE WE THERE YET?!
The idea was great, but the estate needed to find someone to physically make it happen! Having worked with the them in the past, they sounded me out for my ideas.
There wasn't much cash to invest and, as with many new projects, it had to prove its worth.
A bit of ‘outside the box’ thinking was required.
As an attempt to keep costs down, but make the walk, quirky we decided to look into making obstacles / playthings for children to do whilst on the walk using materials that were readily found on the estate.
As is so often the case these days, some internet browsing provided me with inspiration and, following a couple of trips out to adventure playgrounds, I had what I needed to come up with some plans for the activities.
An array of obstacles was agreed on and the materials were sourced; some of them from stock already stored on the estate, and other bits and pieces brought in through reclamation and outdoor activity companies
Then, using our many skills acquired through landscaping. we started to make things, and the Welly Walk was born!
One of the biggest challenges was creating the walk’s activities.
The footpath in question runs alongside the river Wharfe and is quite narrow and winding at times, and the gear we used to make the equipment was heavy and cumbersome - and we had to somehow get it into the wood!
But with some more ‘thinking outside the box’, we got the stuff there.
Some of it was carried across the river during low water, some taken by hand or in wheelbarrows and some of the really heavy bits were moved in a track barrow!
The first install took almost three weeks and, once complete, we could only hope that it would be a success.
Thankfully, it was, and we are now in year five.
The features are taken in each year before winter, which allows us to carry out any maintenance before they are reinstalled for the following summer.
Experience has allowed us to shave the install time down to one week and each year we try to add something new to the walk.
It is such a heart-warming feeling to see children running ahead of their parents, smiles beaming, and cries of ‘RACE YOU TO THE NEXT ONE!’
It’s great to see families out enjoying the natural environment, experiencing nature in a new way - and where better than in a woodland beside a river (and in Yorkshire, of course!).
Posted 28th Nov 12:11pm
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