Thankfully, it went through Planning Committee without a murmur and minus controversy. That was on Thursday and the builders moved in on Monday. Progress was rapid, as you will see from the photographs below. The first week, Builder 1, the ground clearer, worked like a thing possessed, tearing stones and roots out of the earth and flinging them to one side, one after another. One of our resident robins always appears whenever we are in the garden, in the hope that we will dig out worms and centipedes for him to gobble. He gamely hopped around the building site, dodging the rocks that the frantic builder was hurling in his general direction. The frenzied builder finally had to concede defeat and let the digger have a go. The robin carelessly pecked around the digger as it tore into the earth to make a ditch for the foundations. Thankfully, the robin survived to sing another day, but we are thinking of buying him a high-viz jacket as the one he has obviously isn’t working. His song is lovely and we would hate to lose him.
By Wednesday, the lumberjack turned up and within no time at all, the sycamore tree that had been growing out of the wall was gone. I’m glad to say that I missed it happening. We had a sycamore chopped down at my childhood home. Then I had another sacrificed at No.7. Now this one. I have nothing against sycamores. The one near the gin terrace is very pretty with tails of pink and green flowers hanging down. The arboriculturalist from the Council came to inspect our trees as I thought two of the four at the front were dead. (He said we could chop down the Leylandii at the back. They are two massive and impressive trees. This man is not much of a tree lover, if you ask me.) He said that sycamores get sticky not because of the sap but because greenfly suck the sap and then poo. The stickiness is the poo, apparently. The things you learn. The other trees at the front are Robinia Pseudoacacia and not dead at all. Just waiting. Well, one of them is half dead, at the top, but sprouting from the bottom. I know the feeling.
It's fair to say that the collapse of the wall wasn't entirely the sycamore's fault. In fact, it was more to do with the massive ivy roots that were growing within the wall. The stonework is actually pretty solid, robust, the work of craftsmen. But it could only withstand those ever advancing and expanding roots for so long.
The second week, Builder 2, the breezeblock man, arrived and by Day Four, we had a serious wall. But this is the retaining wall that holds back the churchyard. A gap is to be left and then another stone wall created in front of it, the gap then being filled with rubble. So, the next stage is the arrival of the stonemason and much slower progress apparently, as he artfully recreates our wall. Tuesday will also see the arrival of the conservation officer and her mortar fetish. The archway has three sample mortars from which she will select the most appropriate. We wait with baited breath.