End the feuding to save the Lancaster; paying tribute to the canalside gardeners
‘Over the years – and the canals – we’ve come up with a few categories. The most obvious is what we’ve christened the bungalow garden’
Every time I see a jar of one of Loyd Grosmann’s sauces on a supermarket shelf I can’t help but recall his lugubrious mid-Atlantic accent as he peered into celebrity homes on TV’s
Through the Keyhole and got a glimpse of the different lifestyles they enjoyed.
Tug Harry lets us enjoy our own view throughout the keyholes of the nation’s homes and fantasise about the people who lives in them.
The keyholes I’m talking about are the canal and riverside gardens we pass by.
I’m no gardener but I’m fascinated by other people’s gardens. They are so, so different: pass a street full of back gardens and you’ll see that scarcely two are similar. There’s everything from crisp, military precision to unloved ramshackle to something that’s clearly the product of mind-expanding drugs.
Over the years – and the canals – we’ve come up with a few categories. The most obvious is what we’ve christened the bungalow garden. It doesn’t have to be appended to a bungalow but it usually is.
The defining characteristic is that the lawn, of which there is usually a lot, is mown shorter than a US marine’s buzz-cut, fed with as many nutrients as a weightlifter takes steroids and kept free of weeds by enormous quantities of Verdone Extra, until the soil is as barren as Fukushima’s exclusion zone. No plant lives in this garden unless it has a permit. Perhaps a few statuesque shrubs, trimmed into disciplined shapes; maybe a straight line or two of geraniums. That’s it.
This sort of garden usually views the canal merely as somewhere to throw grass clippings; the chairs in the uPVC conservatory rarely face the water.
Puzzlingly, a surprising minority of gardens do turn this Nelson-like blind eye to the cut. “We bought a house by the canal but don’t want people to see us so we’ve planted 10ft leylandii.” Er, but now you can’t see the canal yourselves? Hmm.
The majority, though, embrace their waterway with various types of canalside decking that range from the dangerously perilous to the exotic.
A lot of this last category were clearly devotees of
Ground Force to judge by the curious abstract lumps of stone and arty gravel and wood on which sits expensive-looking outdoor furniture.
The smallest waterfronts often have the most elaborate set-ups, I find.
Most are somewhere between the extremes; ingenious concoctions of one, two and even three levels standing on sometimes dubious posts or, in the case of one I recall, a clever foundation of used tyres.
Not every canalside is conducive to gardening – some householders deserve medals for creating gardens on vertiginous slopes that look barely accessible except with mountaineering ropes.
Most of all, I love the truly eccentric back gardens. The canalside gnome collection near Tamworth, always a favourite of our young grand-daughter; the roll-top bath with a side cut out to become a seat, the life-size gorilla and alligator guarding a deck on the Macclesfield. The man who has made a pretend Gatso to encourage speeding boaters to slow down.
But I don’t appreciate the ones who allow their weeping willows to grow huge and untrimmed until their branches fill the cut.
Most of all, I just enjoy the care and attention that so many canalside home owners have lavished on their gardens – some of their finest work only to be seen at its best, I think, by passing boaters such as ourselves.
A heartfelt thanks very much to all of you.
What a garden – good effort...