Moving tips. What to leave for your buyer?

When you’re moving house, its obviously a very stressful time and it can be hard to plan, especially if you don’t have a firm moving date. For myself it did seem a lot of my time was spent chasing solicitors, estate agents, buyers, sellers, banks etc. But selling my first house, I did want to make sure I left it in as good condition for my buyer as possible. So here are some pointers of how you may make things as nice as possible for your buyer.

  1. Collect up all the instruction leaflets for anything that you leave. If you have the instructions for any white goods, fireplaces, boilers, showers or anything else like that, collect them together and put in a file. You wont need them once you move, and if you put them in a file all together, they are less likely to get packed up by mistake.
  2. If you have any paint left from decorating, gather together and label which room the paint is for. It’s a good idea to label the paint as you use it, as you may end up using similar shades and forget which is which. Also any spare tiles, flooring or other decorating items may be useful for the new person to patch up any repairs. Put them all together in either an insulated shed or an inbuilt cupboard, so they are handy without looking messy.
  3. If you have unwanted items such as furniture, rugs or kitchen goods, begin to find new homes for them a month or so before moving date. It may be that the person buying would like them, so offer them first choice, if not try freecycle, ebay or a charity shop. Once you clear them, it frees up space for packing.
  4. Collect all your keys, those left with friends, relatives, estate agents and former flatmates. Also any gate keys, garage keys and window keys. Do label them. At the flat I was left with a bundle of keys that no one knew what they were for, as well as a similar bundle here.
  5. Make sure any inbuilt cupboards are thoroughly cleaned out and smelling fresh. (not too bleachy) the new person, likely wont have the energy to fully clean them, but will likely want to unpack.
  6. Leave them any spare light bulbs for fixed lighting as not worth packing and may not work in your new place.
  7. Leave them a way of forwarding your post to you, preferably leave them some printed labels which say “please forward to” and your new address printed on them.
  8. I also left them some written instructions and I did spend a bit of time on these, but I know my buyer found useful. These are the sorts of things I included:
  • Details of how to work the boiler and what times it will come on and off.
  • How to get hot water for the shower.
  • A list of buses and where they go to and details of nearest train and tube.
  • recommendation of local take aways and restaurants as they’ll be unlikely to want to cook for the first few days.
  • Details of what to do with rubbish and recycling, and if appropriate collection days.
  • Any relevant emergency numbers, such as the freeholder, plumber, gas engineer, local hospital.
  • And details of the house/flats quirks that may help the new person, such as problems with air bubbles in the water system, windows that open in an odd way etc.
  • Details of fuse box, water stop cocks, and anything else which may be useful
  • Details of what you have left and where it is.
  • Details of any phone, gas, water, electric supplies and where the meters are.
  • A contact number for yourself, in case they have an emergency.
  • A nice welcome to the house and a new home card!

If everyone does the same, it could help moving day be slightly less stressful. If the house/flat is ready to move into as soon as you arrive, it does make things so much nicer.

 

 

New look staircase for under £20.

 

Having just moved into our first house, the first challenge was to remove the smell of the pets from the previous owner. (she’d had several cats and dogs amongst other animals) so on the second day in my mum and I ripped up the carpet staircase. It was thread bear and held a lot of the smell, and was very much past it’s best. Believe me this picture makes it look good.

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We were left with a tatty staircase, with lots of nails, sharp bits, discoloured paint and unloved wood.

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My boyfriend then carefully helped us removed some of the nails and pins that had held the carpet down, we removed anything that might spike us when going up and down the stairs.

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So then we were left with a tatty staircase with lots of marks left in it from the underlay and the nails and also old paint on it as well as lots of scuffs. The banisters however were like new. The easiest solution would be to recover the stairs with carpet but I didn’t fancy that aside from looking a bit old fashioned and hard to change its expensive to lay carpet on stairs and you’ll likely be stuck with what you choose for at least a decade or so. And most stair carpets tend to be beige and bland.

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So I came up with the idea of using wrapping paper, I found some online that I liked and ordered it. It was important to get something that wouldn’t fall apart as soon as it was covered in wallpaper paste, but also to find something that wasn’t too stiff so I could put it neatly into position and possibly go round corners. Also with wrapping paper and perhaps wallpaper you can be pick something a bit more unique to you, it won’t break the bank and you can get creative with it. I decided to keep the white painted boarder that the staircase already had, but to freshen it up with a coat of paint- which had to match the paint on the banisters. I was to put the wrapping paper on the vertical and leave the horizontal as wood, as obviously the horizontal is where you walk, so it suffers the most wear and tear.

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Before embarking on doing the staircase I decided to paint the hallway, as I didn’t want to drip paint on them later. The previous owner had used satin paint, like she had everywhere else in the house. Satin paint has its uses, but is best used on a nicer flat modern wall. On an imperfect wall satin tends to shine and show up any blemished and imperfections. Matt paint is much more forgiving. Also she’d chosen a pale lemon yellow and terracotta which just isn’t my taste at all. Hallways are hard to paint as they are so high- its impossible to reach to the top without a proper ladder and platform. So I used an extra long handled roller to reach up to the high points. Using white paint to match the ceiling meant we didn’t have to worry too much about getting the edges neat at the top, as the colour matched you couldn’t tell. I also strapped a brush to a stick to get a few corners that the roller couldn’t reach into. You should have someone else to help you do a hallway as it can be a bit dangerous.

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We then painted the bottom half of the wall in a dark olive green colour. Having this contrast of colours helps make the ceiling feel higher. The dark green also gave it a nice antiquey feel.

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The actual staircase took a lot of preparation. Firstly I used pliers to remove any of the nails and pins that we had missed the first time round, believe me there was a lot more on closer inspection. I then used a sander to remove the scuffs etc. For this step it’s important to wear a mask, I breathed in a lot of dust doing this even with a mask, so do make sure you protect yourself and anything around that might get covered too. Old paint can contain lead, which can be deadly, so do be careful. Make sure to always use the sander in the direction of the grain of the wood and pay particular attention to any areas you intend to leave as wood. Oh and have a hoover handy to catch all that dust, because there will be a lot of dust!

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Once the sanding is done, you need to fill any holes, I used a basic wood filler and my finger to fill in the holes and imperfections, but I didn’t use anything on the bit that is to remain wooden. Once the filler had dried I lightly sanded it by hand and then wiped over the full staircase with a damp cloth to remove any dust. I also used a cloth with a bit of bleach, just in case there was any stains or dirt.

Yuck- messy!

Yuck- messy!

I then put a protective layer of varnish on the wooden area. I used nice light brush strokes. This layer is to make it easier to clean if any paint or dirt gets onto it. As only the middle of each step had varnish it was still possible to walk up and down the stairs- which is obviously important!

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The next day I used white gloss to paint the sides of the stairs. Each step I prepared by using masking tape on any bit that needed a neat edge and again I did a quick wipe with a slightly damp cloth to remove any dirt that was still lurking. I made sure to blend the paint into the other paint  on the banisters, luckily its very similar so I don’t need to repaint those. I worked my way from the top to the bottom, so I wouldn’t smudge the bits I just painted. And I made sure to not stand on the painted bits of the stairs until it was fully dried, the paint I used was luckily quick drying and was touch dry within 2 hours and recoatable within 4. Keeping the masking tape in place I did the second coat. And left it for another 4 hours.

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This brings me to the wraping paper, I found this paper online. You could use wallpaper, wrapping paper, decoupaged flowers, old maps, anything you want. You could also paint them, stencil them or make your own design. Make sure you have plenty to cover the stairs. If the paper is thin, it will make it tricky, luckily mine was nice and thick as wrapping paper goes. I then measured up the stairs to decide on the area I wanted to use the paper on. I had a wooden stick, but not a long ruler. So I wrote the measurements I wanted onto the wooden stick, which had a nice straight edge. I drew out and cut the first piece and put in place to see if it worked. Luckily it did, but if not you can adjust it as required. I cut out one for each step and a few spare.

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By now it was the next day and the paint was fully dry and I removed the masking tape. I mixed up some wallpaper paste to a fairly thick paste. I found a bit of old cardboard to use as a pasting table. I pasted the back of the wrapping paper and offered it up to the back of the stair. Once it was on, I pushed it around gently, til it was in the right place. I then with a sponge, pushed from the center to the edges to remove any air bubbles.

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Once I was happy with the first, it was easy to apply the rest and then I left them to dry. It didn’t take more than about 30 mins to apply them all.

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My mum came up with the suggestion of adding a black boarder, which I liked. This proved to be a bit tricky, as I first tried with black marker pens, but they kept running out of ink and drying up- even new ones didn’t seem happy. I tried with paint, couldn’t make it straight enough. Finally I remembered I hard some dark grey sticky stuff, so I cut this up into thin slices and put it on. And would you believe it- it wasn’t that sticky and barely stuck. So I used glue in the end. I carefully glued the trim to each step and cut it down to size. I then neatened any mistakes or knocks and drips up and varnished the wrapping paper and the top of the stairs. I did about 4 coats in total, as obviously its an area that gets used a lot.

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I’m very happy with the result and obviously its a lot cheaper than a new carpet and looks so much more individual. It was all fairly basic to do and easy enough to change if you got bored of it. The white does tend to show the dust a little, but all it takes is a quick once over with a dustpan and brush and the occasional clean with moist sponge. It’s a very easy project to do, but will take a few days, due to the paint and varnish drying times. All in all, I’m really happy with the result.  The wrapping paper was £5, the white gloss £10, the varnish and other bits I had already.I’ll leave you with the before and after.

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Something for nothing

I’ve been  brought up to be frugal with my money and to hunt down bargains. And with so much talk about the environment these days, its good to make use of things that would otherwise go to waste if you can, and if these things happen to be free, all the better!

I’m sure most people are aware of freecycle and freegle and other such websites. But sometimes the best place to get free stuff is less technological. Freecycle and freegle can mean you have to do a lot of travelling to get to the free stuff, and sometimes that isn’t practical. But at times you can get some amazing stuff off them. And also to pass on your unwanted items to a new home.

One of my best finds was a greenhouse, free in my local area, it was so local, we were able to carry it home, through 2 alleways and over a busy road, but much easier and cheaper than hiring a van. It was advertised in the local newsagents window.

I’ve also got free things by asking, by letting people know what I’m looking for. By my mum chasing recycling lorries down the street. (for 4 boxes of brand new tiles) Often things are left by bins, as people leave them out in case someone wants them, I’ve had a bookshelf and a bedside table this way, as well as some paintings. In some areas there is often furniture left on the street, for people to take. One friend got a working dishwasher like this. There’s no shame in taking it, but its a big shame if it goes to waste!

Recently we got some free wood chip, because we asked the tree surgeons who were working next door. We’ve also got some cardboard boxes from shops, as we asked a shop assitant to save them for us.

If the item are on someone’s property or not obviously dumped, it’s best to ask permission first. My mum was once dangling precariously in a skip, when a voice shouted “Oy what do you think you’re doing” She nearly jumped into the skip with fright, turns out it was the Dad of one of my friends. So obviously he didn’t mind, but its polite to ask, and saves any embarrassment- if they hadn’t actually intended it to be taken.

I once got some gardening tools, which were left outside someones house, with a note “please help yourself”, don’t mind if I do I thought.

One other great place I know is scrapstore, my mum volunteers in one near where she lives and there is also one fairly local to me. They aren’t actually connected, but have a similar principle and there is various similar places around. They are basically a charity that takes waste materials that can be used by schools and craft people, to save it from going to landfill.  Scrapstore collects them from various places and puts them in a shop. They are either given away free to members or sold cheaply. There is all sorts of stuff in it, some useful and some bizarre, but always worth a look. And I’ve got various tins of paint and scaps of fabric free, so great for doing up your house cheaply. And any left over paint/ wallpaper other bits will be gratefully received.

And charity shops often have second hand furniture for very good prices. Some places have other stuff in the back if you ask them, or they may be able to let you know if something you’re after turns up.

And don’t forget the things you have, maybe they can be refashioned, repainted, redesigned into something new. And getting things in this way, means your house wont look identical to everyone else’s house, you’ll have something much more unique and much more you!

Cheap kitchen revamp.

There are a lot of blogs out there that tell you how to do this, so I will try to keep this post brief. My kitchen is still a long way from finished, but does look very different to how it was on moving day. So initially after painting the 3 bedrooms, the upstairs loo and the under the stairs cupboard in less than a month (blog to come) I decided to paint the kitchen walls. I thought it would take me half a day most.

What was wrong with the walls you ask, nothing really, but they were yellow meringue pie yellow- in a satin finish. I want to make it clear I really dislike a satin finish on a wall, and every single wall in this house was painted in a satin finish. The problem with satin being that it draws attention to any cracks or imperfections in the walls, a matt finish seems to diffuse it and smooth it over and just has a more satisfactory feel.

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So anyway I went to my scrapstore, who I will mention in a future blog, and look through their selection of paint. I wanted a plain colour, so I could quickly do 2 coats of paint in the small area of walls I have in the kitchen, and that would do, until I get round to doing the full kitchen.

So anyway one of the tins of paint didn’t show what colour it was, but it was matt, I ended up having to ask the woman who was working there, and she spent time opening the tin for me. Only problem was it was yellow. But it was matt finish, so I thought what the hell- lets do it.

And it did look better. And I was ready to pack in the painting for a while and get the house back to normal. But then the boyfriend said he didn’t like the tiles. And really I thought, I’m not that keen on the cupboards.

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Obviously they are perfectly serviceable, but slightly dated and not what we would have picked ourselves.

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We’re not the tidiest of people anyway, but the busy tiles makes everything look even more cluttered. I’d spent a lot of time updating the kitchen at the old place, so was a shame to take a step back. The kitchen tap is new btw, my Dad replaced the old one due to a leak.

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So I ordered a tin of tile paint, this is a thick, smelly paint, that you can paint over the tiles with. I ordered a tin in “muted mushroom” online.

For the cupboards, inspired by various blogs I decided to give chalk paint a go. You can get premixed chalk paint or a powder form that you mix with water. You can also mix your own up from the ingredients, but that sounds more tricky. The powdered paint arrived the next day and I got my mix on.

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You have to mix the paint well, to make sure there is no lumps. I think I got it a bit thin, which did mean I needed to do 3 coats of paint. Once mixed up I painted the first cupboard.

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I liked it, it went on easily, I hadn’t sanded, just a good wipe down. You can obviously take the doors off to paint them, but this was during a wet English winter, I didn’t have space to have them drying inside and well- I’m lazy.

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Soon the cupboards were done. I’m not sure at this point if the tiles look worse or better. Either way it was time to paint them!

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So I started to paint the tiles, but then I realised the “muted mushroom” looked pink. Next to the yellow walls, and earthy green cupboards, the combination was a bit odd. But I decided it was best to finish it off anyway.

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In some ways we liked it, it has a slightly kitch retro look, but it wasn’t really us. So I ordered some plain white tile paint. Also I decided I should wax the cupboards, to help them last longer.

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So the door to the right is waxed, it made them look slighly darker, actually more like the colour we were expecting. And it looks a lot more finished somehow.

So the cupboards were good, but the tiles were still pink and walls still yellow. So in the end I bought another pack of chalk paint and painted the walls slightly off white.

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The white paint looked so much nicer than the yellow. I’ve been really pleased with my first experience of chalk paint. And I will have to be a little more careful when choosing colours now. Once the tiles were painted too, it was a big improvement. The whole revamp cost around £50. Obviously it meant we couldn’t really use the kitchen for a week or so. Picture of finished room to follow.

The monster under the stairs.

In a dark dark house, on a dark dark street, lived something that was very un-neat. When we moved into the house, the under the cupboard stairs quickly became a dumping ground for bags, clutter, random junk and stuff. There was barely any space to put our coats, let alone shoes. We started to store our shoes in the utility room, which wasn’t very practical, as that’s at the back of the house. So quickly our hallway became a dumping ground, for coats, shoes, boots and any other stuff that wouldn’t fit into the cupboard. I’m afraid I don’t have any photos of it, at its worst. But once I tidied some of the clutter out, and ripped up the sick/wee coloured carpet tiles. I ventured in with my camera.

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So it’s okay, its a cupboard, normal people don’t go in cupboards. No one really cares about them. But at this point I’d just painted 3 rooms upstairs in 3 weeks. (blog to be written up) and was firmly in the painting mindset. I had some leftover wallpaper and some paint that I’d gotten free. Get some ideas on how to get free stuff here: Something for nothing.

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So firstly I cleared out the rest of the stuff, luckily my boyfriend was away for the weekend, else he would of thought I’d gone mad. I then hoovered the floor and cleaned down the walls. I did a couple of repairs to the wall, including botching up a hole that had been filled with newspaper. I simply filled it in some more and glued a thick piece of card over it. As this would be under wallpaper, I knew there was no point going crazy making it neat.

I painted 3 of the walls in blue paint, nice bright blue. The ceiling/back of the stairs in white- so it didn’t feel too dark. The last wall I wallpapered in some paper leftover from the office. I did have to patch this in a bit, using ends of rolls, as the space was bigger than I thought.

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All in all it didn’t take long to do, and everytime I go in there, it feels so much nicer, I actually want to put things in there. My biggest tip for this job is- wear a hat- it’s really hard to paint the “ceiling” in such a cramped space, without getting paint all over you. But try and paint the bits you are most likely to touch- last, so you can avoid getting so much on you. I did do 2 coats in here, and the smell can be bad, so make sure you have windows and doors open nearby, to let the smell out.

 

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Finishing touches include a new vinyl plank floor, we had some left over from another project, so one extra pack was enough to complete the job, I bought the cheapest own brand ones I could get. I painted the shelf to match the wall. I moved the utility room shoe rack into the cupboard, splitting it into 2 sections, so it fitted under the stairs Also added a basket under the shelf and some hooks on the door, for when we are too lazy to use a coat hanger. My Dad also wired in a proper light.

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The boyfriend likes it too, and usually puts his coat away. So we’re not afraid of the cupboard under the stairs anymore!

The under the stairs cupboard is a great place for being a bit experimental, as not many people see it, so you could test out your wallpapering skills or a stronger paint colour than normal. Obviously a small space can be harder to work in and you’ll find yourself contorting into funny positions. But just to get the cupboard organised enough so we can properly store our coats and shoes is great, and the fact it looks a lot nicer is a bonus!

 

 

Hello and welcome!

garden 2

This is my first test post, so sorry if I ramble, I just wanted to give a quick flavour of what my blog is about. The aim of this blog is to write a bit about doing up my first house to make it more homely and a big emphasis will be on the garden and growing our own. Where possible I will be telling you how to do low budget diy in the house and garden. We’re also interested in green living and cutting the affect we have on the environment.

So whose is we? Well I’m Kathy and he’s Simon, we’ve been a couple for around 4 years and we’re both in our 30’s. I’m from up Norf and he’s an actual Londoner. When we first met I was living in my 2 bed flat in Barnet, it was a lovely flat but had no garden. He was in Finsbury Park and moved in after about a year. When I first met Simon he volunteered in a permaculture group on Tottenham Marshes.

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Here we made friends and worked hard to make some raised terraced beds on slope next to a canal. We gardened in a way that would reduce the affect on the environment. We came every sunday and worked until it got dark.

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But just as it got going, it became apparent that the land wouldn’t be ours for much longer. Around this time, as Simon had moved in by then, I visited my local allotments. They’d just had a break in, and somehow my enthusiasm cheered them up and I was offered half a plot there and then.

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And like anyone new to a plot we dug in and got going. Soon we’d made our first bed, then the second, and then a compost heap and then we rescued the raspberries from the bindweed and couch grass.

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And with the help of a few friends, the allotment was feeling ship shape. The trips to Tottenham Marshes got fewer and farther between. Until it became apparent that it just wasn’t going to happen. And being a half an hour drive away, as opposed to the allotment which was a 20 min walk, the choice was obvious.

And after a year on the allotment, the plot looked great, but half a plot started to feel small. So we took on another plot as well, but this wasn’t just any plot, it was a giant one. Over 3 times the size of the current one. We could cope right?

Well we could sort of, we began pulling weeds and mulching and put up a poly tunnel. And then we went back to look at the first plot, which we’d kinda forgotten about. It was knee high in weeds. So we pulled them up. We redid the paths with woodchip and then went back to the large plot. But then that one was full of weeds, but not just any weeds- it was mares tail. It seemed like the more we dug the more came up. We didn’t want to use chemicals, mulching seemed to have little affect. So all we could do was dig it up, even though we wanted to be no dig.

But around this time, I decided we should move, as the flat felt like my place, and I wanted somewhere to feel like ours. So began preparing the house to sell and looking at a new place for us. And again the allotment got overgrown as we were so busy.

We’ve now been in the house for almost 7 months, so some of the posts will be to catch up with what we’ve done already and some will be written as I go along. The allotment has now been given up and we have started over yet again on a new growing space, our garden. And I’ve had new rooms to enjoy decorating.

So join us, as we learn on the way, sharing our fails as well as our wins. Trying to learn as we go as well as learning from my parents, books and anyone else who seems wise.

My parents are part of a generation were people were more handy, and thought nothing of wiring a plug, fixing a tap or putting up a shelf. I myself struggle with these very basic DIY tasks, so come on my journey and I shall pass on what I learn on the way, sharing my fails as well as my wins. Trying to learn as I go as well as learning from my parents, books and anyone else who seems wise.

So far we  have been in the place 6 months and a lot has changed in that time. Gone are the yellow walls in all but a couple of the rooms. Gone is the smelly stair carpet, the pub style fireplace has gone too. The pink tiled bathroom is still there, but wont be forever. I have pictures for a lot of these, so will write up retrospective blogs for these.

In the garden we have divided  the veg growing space from the more ornamental place, overlapping them at points. We’ve trimmed back some of the very overgrown shrubs and started to battle some of the nettle and dock leaves. We have a few broadbeans and garlic growing. We have had 3 of the worse trees removed and put in some fruit trees. The garden is a big job, so expect a lot of updates on this.

Thanks for reading!