Archive for the ‘ Life ’ Category

Helping others is enlightening

Posted Thursday, 30 January, 2014 at 12:26 am

As a child I gained a great deal of enjoyment from scouting.  The opportunity to learn and explore the outdoors with emphasis on developing yourself as an individual and as a team player.  These memories were important when towards the end of 2008 I choose to volunteer one evening to make a difference.  Since then I have become a scout leader, undertaken training and provided scouts with opportunities to go scuba diving, hill walking, climbing mountains, camping and becoming individuals who have tested themselves and seen that they can do it.

Scouting provides a great opportunity for me to experience the outdoors and being outside whether just walking or camping  helps you look at nature and learn from it.  Understanding the environment and observing where plants grow, how certain plants look together and equally how landscapes have been changed by mans intervention.  I tell scouts under my instruction to talk less and listen more.  Why? Because they will learn more, but secondly it makes them use their eyes and question internally problems before jumping to an ill conceived conclusion.  Designing garden requires problem solving, looking for ways to interpret the site and full fill the clients brief to that site.  Having designed gardens for many years I have learnt their are always many responses that would work. That the first idea is not always the best and that in order to provide a scheme that works well listening to the client is the number one rule.

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It’s a small world

Posted Wednesday, 4 January, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Landscaping is generally a very friendly profession and I usually find other designers and contractors are extremely free with ideas, advice and support.  Recently I have had feed back from Stuart Marler and have repeated his example by giving some advice to Rose Lennard.  With over twenty five years experience I have learnt that given away ideas can be an extremely positive experience and should be encouraged.  Whilst at Notcutts Landscapes I would always enjoy passing my knowledge on and in return gained ideas back.  It was as a result of our team work at Notcutts that Matt Nichol and myself choose to embark upon our own landscape company called Broadview Garden Design.  Having traded for 5 years we went our own ways with Matt moving away from the Midlands heading to Manchester.  This lead me to go solo starting External Designs.  The work I am producing continues to develop an interest in delivering gardens that are practical for the clients to enjoy whilst encouraging them to be bolder.  the results I hope you can see in the portfolio images.

A relatively recent member to the Linked in community I have found the same degree of friendship within this social medium.  Having placed posted some comments upon the various forums I received a message from an old neighbour who recognised my name from over 41 years ago.  A credit to his memory as well as the power of this social medium.  The most interesting point is Richard Sales my old neighbour also shares my interest in landscaping.  Running a successful landscape supply company called Landscapeplus.  If you are a professional landscaper or someone looking for landscape materials I strongly suggest you check out the site and give Richard and his team a call when you next need lights and irrigation equipment.  To check out his site the following link will take you to his home page.  Enjoy.





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The joys of exploring a wood

Posted Monday, 26 December, 2011 at 9:31 am

As a child I have fond memories playing with friends from Danbury in the local wood.  This was an amazing play space filled with mature trees, streams, badger setts and rabbit holes that provided hours of fun as we all sort to find new areas to explore.  Groups of children would meet and play forty forty a game that required hiding in the wood and trying to run back to a base before the seeker.  The wood was mainly mature beech trees which provided a dense canopy with very little growth beneath the canopy.  A small stream ran through the wood and this provided hours of fun.  Building dams and generally find out how muddy I could get before my Mum would complain.  Whether it was her nature but I do not ever recall reaching a point where she ever complained about the state of my appearnce as I entered the house.  It was just a case of stripping at the door and making a very quick dash through the house.

I really value these memories and totally believe that we need to allow children to regain some of the pleasures of exploring a wood.  Now here is where it can get difficult.   Often country parks can be very controlled environments where access is restricted and children just do no have the ability or the approval to go out and just play.  As a local scout leader I really enjoy seeing young people working and playing in a wood.  Seeing the pleasure they get from learning how to make fires and cook on them.  As they play and undertake such activities they learn how a wood works.  This is a rare experience and the troop I lead in Barnt Green are extremely priviledged to be able to enjoy this facility.

This weekend I have been visiting family in Somerset and took up the very kind invitation from Louise who runs the woodland Play Centre.  Using a wood in Somerset Louise provides children the opportunities to play and explore a wood.  To see children liberated from the TV and all the other trappings and learning to play, run and take part in activities with other children is very special.  My Children have attended two days with Louise and anyone who would like to experience the activities she runs should check out her web site.


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Hyde Hall- The seed to my horticultural career?

Posted Wednesday, 9 November, 2011 at 11:12 pm

border at Hyde hallI have some fond memories of growing up in Essex and the time spent with mymother. She was a very keen gardener and as a family we would take trips to visit and walk about the Hyde Hall garden andother places of interest.

The garden at Hyde Hall was local and provided an opportunity for us to roam in a safe environment whilst allowing my parents the chance to enjoy the gardens at Hyde Hall.  This garden had initially been developed by Dr and Mrs Robinson who moved to the site in 1955.  They developed this exposed and dry site on Essex clay, creating herbaceous borders, dell and formal pool.  As children both my

sister and I would always be drawn to the formal pool in front of the house.  Sticking our fingers in the water we would attract huge carp that would rise to the surface and suck at our fingers.  From there we would go exploring in the dell following the narrow paths that meandered through this garden.  Now as an adult and with an interest in design and horticulture I now see the garden as my mother would and gain great pleasure from seeing my own children tempting the fish as I did.

Recent injections of capital from the Royal Horticultural Society has seen dramatic changes to the site.  The dell has been transformed with a modern gabion walls retaining the banks.  The whole garden has come together and with a dry drought garden the site provides educational inspiration to visitors.

During a recent visit my son found a wasp spider, a striking spider with as the name suggests bands of yellow and black over its body.  This spider was found in the meadow deep with the tall grass and it made me realize how important it is to encourage children to explore and develop a passion for exploring their environment.  Providing opportunities for self-learning and allowing them to question why something works, why this plant happens to tolerate drought and why this one will not.

Whether my visits with my family will instill future aspirations on my children to enter horticulture I do not know, but if nothing else to bank memories and learn to question must surely be precious skills for the future.

Further details for Hyde Hall can be fond on the following link.


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My Korthal Griffon-Alfie

Posted Wednesday, 2 November, 2011 at 8:21 pm

alfie the korthal griffon

Garden design work can be a lonely profession so having company can be good.

Whilst working within the studio during the day I have my dog Alfie to keep me company, not that he does a great deal.  Alfie is a Korthal Griffon sometimes known as a wire haired pointing griffon.  A French dog breed they are mainly used as a gun dog, although Alfie has never really shown much interest in retrieving anything other than shoes.  For more information about this breed I suggest you look at and Now six years old (a fortieth birthday present) he has settled down and lies by my work station usually fast asleep.

Korthals demand a great deal of exercise and I always aim to give him over the day 2 hours of exercise.  This means getting up at 6.30 am every morning which can be difficult especially when it is dark and cold.  Walking at this unearthly hour does have some pleasures, most notably the company of other early morning dog walkers and witnessing some extremely wonderful sun rises.  Where I walk in the morning the mist often collects and it can create some most attractive sights with clear air below the mist so you can walk with your head in the mist and yet bending down you can see quite clearly.

The discipline of getting out and about means you become far more aware of the environment witnessing the changing seasons and noticing the emerging buds and bulbs.   Also you have the opportunity to catch some great wild life with the occassional roe deer, fox and of course rabbits that scatter as soon as Alfie bounds into the meadows.  Then after a brisk walk its back home breakfast and back to the design work.






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Snowdon October 2011

Posted at 8:31 am

As a scout leader I am keen on promoting and developing young people.  Allowing them to experience

opportunities to test and challenge themselves.  In October I took three scouts to North Wales for a weekend of walking.  We scaled Snowdon following the Rhyd-Dhu Path for our ascent and then taking the Snowdon Ranger Path for the descent.  The weather was fantastic, ideal walking conditions with blue skies and only a gentle wind.

Starting out the scouts strode out and throughout the ascent set themselves personnel challenges pushing themselves on.  At each stop on the route to the summit they could see how far they had progressed.  At last the summit appeared and the final walk along the Bwich Main ridge to take us to the summit and the new Cafe.

A stop for food and a drink and then the descent initially following the track of the Snowdon Mountain Train.  Flying in the thermals a glider flew overhead like a large man made buzzard.  The descent went well and when we finally arrived at the car park we all reflected upon a great experience whilst rubbing tired feet!

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