I Didn’t Need Another Hobby …

September 28, 2022

And yet it seems I have one, or a project on my hands at least: restoring the gravel drive.

Partially cleared weed grown gravel drive

The orthodox way to sort out a weed-grown gravel drive is to spray the lot with herbicides and then dump a bag of fresh gravel on the top but I was never going to do the first step, and the second is increasingly recognised as being unsustainable. So I’ve gone for the alternative, which is to painstakingly dig out the weeds, pull out the shreds of landscape fabric which was doing nothing to keep them down, and rake out the gravel that’s become embedded into the soil underneath over the years, inch by gradual inch.

Like unravelling wool, this is actually more enjoyable than it sounds. Even though I know that the drive will be weedridden again as soon as – maybe even before – I get the whole thing clear, there is a meditative enjoyment to be had in doing a task that is just difficult enough to be absorbing, while it’s still possible to make visible progress in an afternoon. Add in a couple of podcasts or a decent few hour’s worth of radio programmes (adjusted for whether a monarch has recently died or not) and you will also learn something. Plus it’s time spent outdoors and, as autumn and winter looms, that feels increasingly precious.

And besides, it certainly beats cycle campaigning, especially at the local level, which has the same repetitive nature but largely without the visible sense of progress. After 11 years at the helm of the Bigtownshire Cycle Campaign we thought that, if nothing else, we’d at least finally cracked the problem of the Rood Fair blocking our main cycle path, the one that joins all the other cycle paths together and which is summarily closed for a week every year since time immemorial. Last year, we actually managed to get a meeting with the fair operator and the council together and amazingly came up with an agreed solution to the issue that was too late for that fair but would definitely, definitely be in place this year.

Definitely …

There’s little more dispiriting than starting your week by setting aside all the positive things you were hoping to do and instead spending the morning lobbying the coonsil and anyone else you can get to listen, simply to get them to implement the thing that they have already agreed they would do. Especially after you’ve just spent a week visiting three cities whose authorities have actually been getting stuff done. So, after having most of yesterday morning hijacked by the ultimate in dispiriting activities, and with no chance of doing anything productive with the time left, I did the sensible thing and headed out to the garden to reclaim another few centimetres of gravel for civilisation.

Pointless as it may have been, it felt way more productive …

(I should add, in fairness to the coonsil, that after a combination of our lobbying, an official complaint, and some journalistic enquiries, a way has been found to reopen the cycle route. So a victory of sorts but oh dear sweet baby Jesus, why does it have to be this hard?)

It is an Enduring Mystery to Me…

June 28, 2011

… why I can spend so much time and effort digging organic matter into the soil in my veg plot, fretting about nutrient balance and nitrogen deficiency and other things and end up with the same clay-clodden stone-ridden compacted soil as I started with, whereas two and a half years of not very effective weeding of my cobbles seems to have resulted in about an inch of wonderfully crumbly loam generated apparently out of thin air, albeit with the addition of much moss, rain, fallen leaves, weeds and undoubtedly swallow poo.

This summer’s project could roughly be summed up as ‘find the cobbles’ with a side order of ‘where’s the gravel drive gone?’ while we’re at it. While, logically, it would undoubtedly have been less work to have kept on top of the weeding before it got to this stage, I find that psychologically it’s actually easier to let something like this get completely out of hand and then turn restoring it back to the bare stone into a project. It’s just more satisfying to see a completely finished bit emerge from the weeds around it than to see a fairly weed free but not perfect expanse of cobbles every day. I know. It was the same when I worked in IT – who ever wanted to do maintenance? So much more fun to chuck it all out and write something shiny and new from scratch.

Ideally, I should now be carefully interplanting the gaps between the stones with a mixture of creeping thyme and chamomile that would keep the worst of the weeds at bay while producing a wonderfully fragrant carpet underfoot rather than letting it all go back to weeds again

I’ll leave it to you to guess which of these alternatives actually happens.

By the way, the little hole in the cobbles above is another mystery to me. I can’t tell if it was a natural formation in the stone or whether something might have caused it to wear a dent in just such a place. Any ideas?