In her latest post, which I read this morning, my blogging friend, Pauline King, reminded me of my flat-share with my friend Giles in Claverton Street i 1973.

This was a basement flat in a Pimlico terrace. The enclosed back yard was a small area of concrete. There was no real sunlight. Nothing grew there. The elderly woman next door, however, enjoyed a wonderful ferny garden in what appeared to be rich soil. One day I asked her how she had soil when we had concrete. ‘Oh, I’ve got concrete underneath,’ she said. ‘I put the earth on top’. ‘Where did you get it?’, I responded. ‘From Battersea Park’. She replied. ‘How did you get it here?’ was my next question. ‘In my handbag’, was the answer.


This wonderful woman had trekked backwards and forwards – it must have been for years – carting bags of soil trowelled up from this London Park situated on the other side of the River Thames. The times superimposed onto Google’s map probably relate to trains from Waterloo. This heroine walked across Battersea Bridge.

Our own efforts at shifting soil today paled into insignificance when compared with that neighbour’s feat. Nevertheless I can offer those up for consideration.

Jackie working on Weeping Birch bed

Jackie continued her work on opening up the Weeping Birch Bed; revealing some hidden plants; resetting others; and infilling soil from the excess on the borders of the back drive.

Gravel path

I dug out the soil from the area worked over yesterday; moved that round to the front of the house; collected several barrow loads of gravel from the pile on the back drive; and spread it over the revealed surface, thus widening the path. The transported earth needs spreading, and the left hand side of the path needs edging with stone. Maybe tomorrow.

On this glorious day the diaphonous wings of small furry bees glinted from many flowers, such as

Bee on verbena bonarensis

verbena bonarensis

Bee on cosmos

and cosmos;

Butterfly Small White on verbena bonarensis

and Small White butterflies, fluttered, flashing, everywhere.

View across weeping birch bed

When we sat drinking fizzy water we looked across the other side of the bed Jackie is renovating. Can you see the Small White in this photograph? (As always, clicking on the image will enlarge)

Mr Pink’s fish and chips had the honour of providing our dinner this evening. We added gherkins, cornichons, or wallies, and pickled onions. I drank more of the Chianti and Jackie drank more fizzy water.


  1. You do work hard and deserve fish and chips. I can only manage a fraction of what you do so it’s just as well my garden is minuscule. Still, I think I’ll have that for lunch today 🙂 I would love to photograph one of my big blue butterflies to share with you but am never quick enough. I am enjoying your fluffy bees – I held one in my palm and stroked its fur once.

      1. That happened on Whidbey Island, Washington USA when I was awarded a six weeks residency at Hedgebrook. We don’t have bumble bees in Australia as far as I know.

  2. What a wonderful story Derrick! Today’s posts seem to be dealing with overcoming obstacles – the moral being ‘there is always a way!’ 🙂 It reminded me of my wonderful aged aunt [the same one that crossed the Strait with me in the tail of a hurricane – you may remember the recent story] had a small but beautiful cottage garden which was planted with the many cuttings that fell into her handbag as she walked through parks or past gardens on the street. She was very poor monetarily, but so rich in imagination and ingenuity. When I, law abiding and embarrassed pointed out to her the sign warning dire consequences for those who picked, plucked or otherwise interfered with the plants she responded that mother nature’s bounty was meant for everyone and it was our duty to ensure the spreading and continuation of all plant life wherever possible. Those poor people, she said, do not understand how nature works. 🙂

    Thank you for the link – that was smile making to see xo

    1. Thank you, Cynthia. There was a pop song when we were young, all about a young man waiting to be let in the house by his girlfriend emptying out her hand bag in search of keys.

  3. I laughed so hard at this story of the handbag and the soil transport! How tenacious! Your bees, as I said yesterday, are so endearing. I know they aren’t cuddly, but they do look so.

  4. Great memory Derrick! If you can’t get to the park, then move the park to you – hang on a minute, this lady did both!…. Amazing!
    Wait another minute, shouldn’t that be a mountain anyway? Ai! 🙂
    Love the photos of the bees and the garden! Wow!
    Bruce’s comment of the white butterfly very apt! 🙂

  5. Quite a feat indeed! I read somewhere that those living on the rocky outcropping that make up the Swedish west coast archipelago would carry buckets of soil from the mainland, one by one, each time they went, to slowly build up arable land on their particular rocky paradise. Your neighbor reminded me of them; absolute, unshakeable determination, and seemingly endless patience.

    Also, wonderful insect photos, Derrick! 🙂

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