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Mud pies

Alison Stewart

Alison Stewart

November 7, 2011

It’s raining again – or should that be ‘still’. Scotland had the wettest spring on record this year and the wettest August for 60 years. Argyll was the wettest place in Scotland, and I bet our peninsula was the wettest place in Argyll.
You’d think that a garden on the side of a hill, with rock not far below the surface, should be well-drained. The water should find a few channels and flow happily down them to drain into the sea. Right?
Wrong. The soil, far from being free-draining, holds water like a sponge. And new springs bubble up through fissures in the rock, so you can suddenly find that a previously dry area has become a swamp almost overnight.
A few weeks ago, after days on end of torrential rain, the steps from the east lawn up to the hillside walk had turned into a waterfall. I managed to divert some of the water by clearing a smelly sludge of mud and rotting leaves from the rill that runs beside the path and down one side of the steps, but the ground at the bottom of the steps was still a bog.

Aftermath of the new bit of drainage

It seemed a good place for Hamish McD and his crew to start the programme of renovation work scheduled for the autumn and winter. The first step was to dig out a hideous octagonal concrete and brick ‘feature’ that turned out to be disguising the buried remains of an old building (perhaps a summer house? I think we’ve got an old photo of the garden from years ago that shows something like that). Then they dug down to expose the open end of the drain that we’d had put in as part of the big garden drainage project three years ago, and added a spur to link up with it and collect the water from the hillside more effectively.
It’s too soon yet to be sure that we’ve solved the problem – so far it looks like the Somme in 1916 – but I’m hopeful. I can confidently report that sod’s law is still in operation though: some part of the digging and pipe-laying apparently involved flinging spadefuls of excess soil/mud across the path and onto the bank on the other side: right on top of the four Cyclamen hederifolium I had carefully transplanted there a week earlier. Aarrrghhh!!!

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