PUTTING OUR  FOOT DOWN

At the Garden Surgery We are committed to providing honest trading, And we are disgusted at the fact that rogues are tarnishing the reputation of good Landscapers. We decided to fight back and do some good and this is the story of how good can come out of bad. And shows how a community can pull together to help a victim of a rogue. We were the driving force behind the project... this page is dedicated to the project.

what we saw when we arrived

THE DREAM  GARDEN

I am sure some of you are aware we are Sleeper wall specialists as well as landscapers, We do get lots of calls from all over the country for sleeper retaining walls, We received a call from Mr and Mrs Charles who live in a little village called Kingsley, near Frodsham in Cheshire. Last year they paid over 10k for a local landscaper to come and retain and terrace a very steep garden, The garden is around about 50 feet from top to bottom, They called in the services of a local landscaping company, They chose a local company as they felt it was the best way of getting a trusted tradesmen. Over the space of a 6 weeks he constructed a network of retaining walls using reclaimed sleepers up the steep hillside, Mr and Mrs Charles were looking forward to a usable garden. 

Sleeper walls leaning dangerously 

SO WHAT WENT WRONG

Over the next 6 months it was noticed the wall was sagging, Over the course of 8 months the entire wall started to slip down the hill... Causing major potential instability problems with the above property.

They contacted the landscaper and asked him to rectify the problem he said it was down to water pushing on the walls, And that he was not responsible..

He then stated that if they wanted the wall stabilising that's another £1,500 which was outrageous.
Mr and Mrs Charles then contacted trading standards. The landscaper was given reasonable time to rectify any problems presented.

 

Can you believe this garden has had a £10k garden makeover

THE INITIAL SURVEY REPORT

We were contacted by Mr and Mrs Charles due to our extensive experience in sleeper walls, They really wanted to know what it would cost to put right? After an extensive survey of the site which including test holes around the existing posts, We also looked at the quality of the products used. It was concluded by The Garden surgery the failings on the wall were down to the following points..

+ No concrete used to support the posts

+ Poor quality hardwood sleepers

+ Stacking sleepers up to 6 high adding excess weight and pressure

+ Incorrect fixing of sleepers

+ incorrect backfilling of the walls leaving voids

With this in mind we compiled a totally free report so that The customer could use in a legal sense if required.

Safety works begin by installing timber supports to key points and removing the unsafe section

THE CONCLUSION & WAY FORWARD

We made the conclusion that the entire wall has to be taken down and rebuilt with costs of over £9,500 including materials and labour, However it was clear that that amount of money would be a struggle for most people let alone pensioners. But it was advised in the meantime stabilisation works were essential to ensure we have no further subsidence of the wall. So it was agreed that we would carry out the stabilisation work. the work involved using timber to brace each section of the weaker parts of the wall, The lower section of the wall had to be removed completely as it was too bad to repair. During the dismantling process it was found that no concrete was used and it was evident the posts had been just hammered in...the sleepers were joined by the odd nail hammered in at random, The situation was worse than first thought.

The quality of construction is clear in this picture

PUTTING THINGS RIGHT 

From the moment the customer contacted us we were deeply shocked about this project and the sheer scale of it. We set out figuring out how we can make this project right again. It was clear that the entire existing wall structures needed to be removed and disposed of. So I went to the drawing board and re-planned the project using multi level terraces and nice wide steps and a selection of planting and seating areas. The project was then quoted and a price was produced which was around £9,000 mark, We decided to provide 20% off our labour too help things along. At the same time we compiled a extensive report on the failings of the project so our customer can use to proceed to court if needed. We knew that it was unfair for these lovely people to pay that amount of money to have the wall reconstructed but the time scale to save that money was unrealistic and the wall could of collapsed during the next winter, It is just unfair ! So We decided to do something about it. 

Huge gaping holes caused by subsidence

UK LANDSCAPERS  PULLING TOGETHER TO HELP

At the time I was a member of the landscape Juice network a UK based landscaping/gardening website which provides a hub for all UK landscape trades who believe in quality workmanship and doing a good job, The website also features a forum which is a great place for like minded tradesmen/women.This was a great place to start my appeal to get this project moving. My intention was to release this story to the network. Which frankly shocked at lot of landscapers and many where asking the question who could do such a thing. 

 A few weeks later I decided to see if we can can take the customers materials quote and see what generosity in the landscaping trade is about, I set about emailing my customers story to as many builders merchants, skip hire and tool hire companies as I could over 40 different companies asking for help..OUT OF 40 PEOPLE EMAILED ONE REPLIED WITH A REJECTION..THE REST IGNORED US. So undeterred I created a new thread on the landscape juice site and asked for help from our fellow tradesman.

I also contacted my local builders merchant whom I use for my own projects and they were happy to offer large discounts on this special project. The guys from landscape juice also made some amazing offers and offered some great donations which I will list below. Over the following 3 weeks we have raised enough money to make this project a little less heavy on our customers pocket. which I am sure they are really happy about.

Sleepers were removed so the weight was managed better

Rotten sleepers were the quality this landscaper insisted on.

STARTING THE BUILD PHASE ONE

Phase one of the project took around 4 weeks to complete, It was started 3 weeks before Christmas as It was clear this garden would not last the winter and would completely subside. So it was all systems go..

And this winter was very brutal it stopped work due to frozen ground and frozen material too, However We had a break over Christmas and returned and we were able to give the final push and get it completed, Getting the material up the the terraces was punishing and everything was done my hand.

Site cleared, over 100 sleepers delivered, let the build commence.

First terrace & steps under construction, Demolition under-way on the rest of the site

First terrace completed and infilled, Terrace two`s foundations are being created.

 The second terrace with a built in rest bench is under construction.

PURE ENGINEERING TASK

The Build was treated like a engineering project, Some posts in the wall system were to a depth of 3 feet due to sandy ground conditions.

We used over 120 sleepers and moved over 30 tonne of material up the site by hand, no access for wheel barrows. we eventually reached the top with just 6 inches from the original level, We also buried a time capsule behind the top wall which contains information and photos of the project and documents relating to the project.

 

The snow came came but with terrace two complete, work progresses on the main steps.

Step section well under construction, Access  becomes difficult

Work on Terrace four under-way, Getting difficult getting material to the top of the garden.

The final Terrace under construction to meet the top.

THE COMPLETION PHASE ONE

With the first phase of the project complete We Can now hand it over to Mr & Mrs and Charles and they are so pleased with the results.

They have a nice new contemporary garden with plenty of areas for plants, Little places to sit and enjoy the garden, They have steps that lead down the garden that are safe and wide to use, They have a level lawn to enjoy.. This garden will look super in the summer and provide years of enjoyment for both of them and there family too. Its been a pleasure creating this amazing garden and we are not just the customers landscapers, We are there friends.

The completed first phase

Completed steps filled with plum slate

Main steps to top of terrace

 

A brand new level lawn is welcome addition to the garden.

BESPOKE FENCING  (PHASE TWO)

With the main build project now complete, We now needed to look at the safety aspect of the garden, The customer really liked the look of the rustic ranch fencing, The sort with the natural bark look, But after quoting the area up it was running into thousands, So it was decided that the garden surgery would custom make a ranch fence, A tall order you may ask but it would be cheaper ! We have never actually constructed one before but we are willing to give anything a try,  I am very pleased with the outcome! More importantly the customer love it too. lots of thinking and angles, one mitre saw blew up ! The only trouble is When it comes to timber I like to get everything perfect but with rustic fencing it has to look rustic, I struggled with that element. But the terraces and steps have ample handrails, It also enhances the work we have already done. 

The Bespoke ranch fencing creates an attractive addition 

Ranch fencing and Handrails

Fence adds definition to the sleeper terraces

Great addition to the lawn edge

WHAT ABOUT  THE ROGUE

When I took on this project it has not always been about the build, It was also about making the landscaper responsible and accountable for his actions, His name is David Hodkinson, I have never met anyone so full of excuses, He runs a business called

www.gentlemengardeners.co.uk 

He also runs a local garden centre 

www.actonbridgenursery.co.uk/

finding him was easy as he ran the local garden centre,Initially we were met with the threat of a baseball bat . however he eventually gave me an explanation which is not viable. I do not believe he initially set out to rip this customer off..I just think he was out of his depth on the project and resulted in doing his best, His after-care service and his way he dealt with the customers complaints does indeed make him a rogue trader. Personally in my opinion he lives in the next village He could at any point  helped or donated money at any time,

Since going public with this story a host of disgruntled customers have come forward with examples of his trademark shoddy workmanship, We later went and put right work he had done on a neighbours garden aswell.

This is David Hodkinson

THE NEXT CHAPTER (PHASE THREE)

After the completion of phase two a year had passed by with the bottom of the garden looking like a bomb site. The customers family donated the money to complete the next phase of the project, The plan was to create another 3 sleeper terrace below the existing wall. We opted for cost saving sliced sleepers,We also created a selection of boxes which will be homes to various fruit trees, the terrace was then filled with soil and bark for future planting.

we then created another terrace below the one above.We used the existing pile of reclaimed sleepers from the original bodge job, Most of the old sleepers were sold on for cash to plough into this project. But the ones we kept we constructed a 4 sleeper high wall which actually looked very rustic, this wall is the last remaining feature from original job. this terrace included a random layout of natural stone which was saved from the original project, a half moon planting bed and plum slate another large section of the garden is complete.

2 new terraces now completed from the waste ground below.

A great area for fruit trees, all sleepers have now been stained

The two new terraces provide plenty more planting space.

The recycled paving make a great random effect.

THE FINAL FRONTIER (PHASE FOUR)

Another year has gone and we are back for the final phase and again money was donated from the family for birthdays and Christmas, The very bottom of the garden was just left as a uneven bit of waste ground, We got a digger in and levelled the garden and created a more gentle gradient, We erected a small 2-3 sleeper wall with a  angle to create another planting terrace, We had acquired a large selection of shrubs over the year so we were happy to donate these to the garden. We also donated around 600 natural stone cobbles and these were good for creating the shape around the garden, They also generated a couple of circular plant beds too, The area was filled with plum slate to complete, Since then the customer has added many plants and shrubs, Some have been donated by the village gardening club. I am very happy with the garden and very proud of what we have achieved.

A UNEXPECTED FIND

While completing this final phase we have to dig out some mighty tree stumps we dug and found an old Stone gatepost from the original cottages that were on the site also a rather well worn stone door threshold, These were made into Features in the garden,  The most interesting find was about 4 feet below and it was the remains of a old Roman track-way or cart-way, perfectly worn and preserved, the original stones were used within the garden.

The cobble curves of the final phase are well under-way.

You can gauge the scale of this project from this picture

You can clearly see the two stone articles,Now a proud feature in the garden.

The final phase completed, Bring on the plants.

MATERIALS RECYCLED

As you can imagine over a 100 old reclaimed sleepers from the old job take up quite a lot of room, We were lucky to find a buyer for the sleepers from a guy Three doors up the street, The owner of the cottage wanted to to create a collection of raised vegetable beds up the side of a steep hillside. So he brought the lot, He asked a local landscaper to move them from our garden to his, The sleepers were heavy, Very heavy.. The chap who brought the sleepers wanted the landscapers to carry out the vegetable bed project but he was so impressed with our sleeper walls he asked us to quote the project for him, He also admitted he was not impressed with the lack of effort from the other landscapers.  We knew if we took this project on it would be hard and grueling, The sleepers are heavy and difficult to cut, Not to mention taking them up 40 steps top the site. We got the project and started the build We constructed 5 terraces built into the soft sandy soil, The job was hard but the results are amazing. The design and sleepers blend really well into the hillside.It may of been hard but it really shows what we can do when set a challenge.

This is the hillside the customer wanted terracing for vegetable beds.

A punishing digging schedule! and immensely heavy sleepers.

The project a few months after completion

A YEAR HAS PASSED

A year has passed since we completed the last phase, The garden looks amazing, It has been planted so well, It is just like a mystical journey when you walk to the bottom of the garden. The sleepers have been stained and everything just flows together, The garden just looks like it hangs on the hillside, I really feel that this is the most amazing project we have ever created. And we are firm friends with the customer and exchange Christmas presents, I am really quite fond of them. I really do hope that they open the garden up to the public this year because it deserves to be shown off. Below you can see a video interview with the customer about the project. I hope you have enjoyed the story.

The garden in 2012 looking very well planted

The tree`s are really starting to mature.

The planting on the terraces really help to soften the sleepers

 

A view over the entire project.

Finally the project looks like its always been there,

TAKE ONE FINAL LOOK AROUND

Take one last look around this project, It has been little over two years ago since we completed this amazing garden. Lets See how it has matured over the years, It is my pleasure to give you a guided tour in the video and tell you a bit more about it.

A FINAL WORD

Lets see what Charles and Sylvia think of the garden, Also they speak about the whole experience.and also See what they have to say to all the people behind the project.