The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Gravel Drive

gravelOur cottage is set back about fifty feet from the road. Before Danny arrived, grass stretched from the house to the gate. I planted daffodils and in the spring these were preceded by pools of bright blue wild crocus. It was, as a friend described, an idyllic scene. Straight out of Thomas Hardy.

The grass was fine for a weekend cottage but when we moved here permanently, the daily toll of tyre tracks scored deep welts in the grass. In the winter, the muddy path to the door was slippery and hazardous. I ignored this but D wanted a solution. These bleats were unacknowledged until one evening he kicked off his muddy shoes and announced firmly that something had to be done.

The next morning I paced out the area. If I take giant steps they are just under a yard. I dialled the local builder’s merchants and ordered enough gravel to cover the grassy patch. Initially they said that we needed 20 tons. Danny looked worried and explained that he just wanted to sprinkle a couple of barrow loads of gravel into the dips. But I had the bit between my teeth. It was either grass or gravel. He had to choose. Actually, there was no choice. The guy from the builder’s merchants rang back to say that he’d made a mistake. We only needed 10 tons. My card had been debited and it would be delivered in 2 days.

I imagined that the lorry would arrive and move slowly over the grass depositing gravel like a Tonka Truck from childhood days. Danny had more experience with aggregates and rang our neighbour Tony. They agreed that gravel couldn’t be laid over grass beause it would grow through in time. The turf had to be removed.

The next day, shovels in hand, the two men set to work. I was away that day and returned to find two exhausted men and an enormous pile of turf. There was a layer of gravel under the turf so it must have been heavy work.

I was out again the next day. It was dark when I got back and reversed into the driveway. Missing was the gorgeous crunch of tyres on thick gravel. As I opened the car door it hit something hard and scrunchy. I leapt out to investigate with my mini key ring torch. The small spotlight illuminated gravel. I swung the torch high into the air. It was a mountain.

When I pushed open the front door, D was pouring himself a stiffener.
“Did you avoid the gravel?”
“No.”
“It’s probably a bit too much.”
I didn’t care.
He passed me a drink, “Don’t worry. Tony will be here tomorrow and we’ll shift it, easily.”

Day 3 09:00 Tony arrived with a big shovel, a sturdy affair with a well worn edge. I joined in too and I must admit the entire experience was awful. I couldn’t push the barrow loads of gravel that they flicked to and fro with no effort. I felt totally useless. Every now and then they’d half fill a barrow and ask me to shift it to a particular spot. They were kind but I felt a wuss.

Finally the sun went down, to my delight. Tony returned home. Danny and I crossed the road to view the broad sweep of the driveway. It looked wonderful. He went to get the my jalopy and reversed through the gate. Within a few feet it ground to a halt. The gravel was far too deep. It was like driving on the beach.


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1 Comment

  1. Pat White

    Fiona….where did you go? We miss you.

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