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My Sheddie

My Sheddie: Ali Cameron The Monty

Backstory to The Monty – our new summerhouse.

The first thoughts behind this started a few years ago when I was cutting our large hedge that separates us from next-door’s garden. It is some 8-10 feet high and needs full stepladder height for its annual hackback. On this occasion, as I reached the bottom of our garden, I paused and looked round to admire our view of the vale spread out beneath our vantage point. I noticed that the 2 metres extra height improved the view by far more than that slight increase in altitude might seem to have offered.

Park that thought in the memory bank. Spool forward several years to the wet weather of February 2008.

“What is that puddle doing on our shed roof?” I asked Avril.

At the bottom of the garden on the other side to the vantage point, sat a generic medium-sized green garden shed. Its chipboard roof had been melted by rainwater leaking through the worn felt. The puddle was replicated within.

Immediate repairs were not recommended as a period of dry weather was an unlikely forecast. On the advise of experts (=mates), temporary repairs were made using a plastic tarpaulin stretched over the whole roof to protect the garden machinery and tools within.

With time for thought I sat at this computer and sketched a simple viewing platform to allow our vista to be enjoyed easily by at least the two of us and two guests. To carry such a load safely, it would need sturdy posts serious concreted into the slope at the bottom of the garden. Call in the professionals. Two weeks later they delivered their estimate; way outside our budget to replace the dead shed. However the summerhouse project was growing as ambition exceeded competence. And designs on a computer rarely wobble. An enquiry to West Dorset Council determined that no planning consent was needed if the height was less than 4 metres. With base set into the slope, it is.

Step forward two good friends Brian and Dave. Brian Holmes has built many a house and has a reputation for helping others of our ken. I accepted his kind offer to oversee the placing and concreting of the 20 odd wooden posts needed to carry the platform – now plus a small summerhouse that our local shed company could offer and erect on the platform. They would also supply a small shed whose walls would enclose the posts, no roof would be needed as the summerhouse floor would do that job. Dave Corneloues, the other friend, would mix and cement our friendship – and also help with the placing of the posts

A few designs and a spreadsheet on the computer showed how we could do the double deck structure and come in almost on budget. Reluctantly, and a little suspiciously, Avril gave her consent. So back to the computer for project organisation – and isn’t wood expensive these days!

But another Brian also well versed in construction came forward with a recommendation for a local – well Honiton -based sawmill which was a lot cheaper than the usual main building suppliers locally. Now the budgets fitted, the summerhouse and sheds were ordered, as was the hire of a minidigger to level the floor and dig the holes for the uprights.

But we’ll pause a moment to set the scene. Our garden starts at the road that runs roughly along the ridge of the hills that separate Marshwood Vale from the Ax valley and, co-incidentally, Dorset from Devon. So the roughly rectangular garden increasingly slopes down to the east. At the bottom, an open fence divides off a field, often fallow but then occupied by growing bullocks. In the left hand corner as seen from the house, at the junction of that hedge and the back fence, a scrubby patch used for bonfires would become the new structure with part of the fence replaced by the posts.

Before we could start, the bullocks weighed in; literally. Smelling Avril’s vegetables set in raised beds a yard from the fence was too much temptation; they leaned over the old fence to reach the sweet smelling peas. Unable to stretch quite far enough they stepped up onto the lower rung and then the middle rung of the fence and reached beans, onions and, at last, the peas.

But, like the cattle’s attitude to our onions, the 30-year old fence posts did not like the 5-6 large bullocks leaning on it and gave way. Normally this would have been a disaster, but three of the seven fence-posts were to have been replaced by the much higher platform posts and the digger had already been ordered. Not only that but Tony, the field’s but not the cattle’s owner, allowed us vehicle access through his farmyard to the site, as well as temporary storage of our wood next to where it was needed.

So the digger arrived – a day and a half late – but that time was usefully taken up in marking the ground. With the highly experienced Brian at the controls the site was rapidly levelled with the blade and the hydraulic auger fitted. The simple act of drilling down became more dangerous as the drill hit large buried stones and kicked back, all but overturning the digger save for Brian’s quick reactions. But just over 24 hours later the holes were dug and the still-intact digger on its trailer back to Bridport.

Next morning the skills gap was established as Dave made the concrete on the front drive, Brian measured, propped and poured around the posts, and I barrowed the cement down the garden.

By Andrew Wilcox

I love sheds

Founder & judge of Shed of the year - Wilco writes mainly about sheds.

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