Amusing events over the years
A collection of amusing events that happen over a working lifespan.
Unusual moments from the past 50 years.
I’ve been really fortunate during much of my working years.
Meeting famous people,
Visiting simply amazing homes.
Helping Buy & Sell some truly amazing homes
Designing & building some fabulous landscape projects all over the world.
A big thank you.
First though, a really big thank you.
To all my incredible staff during all this time. I could not have done any of it without their help and encouragement.
I was indeed fortunate to employ some highly skilled, extremely talented, great folks.
During these, many years.
The team was rewarded with a huge number of awards for our work. – 17 National Awards, and 3 Chelsea Flower Show Awards.
Here are a few of the prestigious ones that came with extremely unusual moments:
Now in no particular order, more, just how I recollected them are some of those events.
The Tower of London
Here a straightforward design and install for an irrigation system, we were the first Toro residential dealer in London.
The irrigation systems were for the Moat & the Queen’s terrace. (that’s just outside where you queue to go in to see the Crown Jewels).
We were not allowed to cut into any of the building’s fabric, or into the stonework. In addition, we had to find a place to hide an 800-gallon water tank with a pump along with all the switching gear. This had to be accessible for future maintenance.
Once the design was completed. There followed the setting out of the irrigation lines.
These were completed and trenching begun.
A Collection of Bones
We had just started to trench the main lines when suddenly we exposed a collection of bones – human bones.
When this happens it’s extremely wise to contact a few people you might not otherwise know.
In no particular order, they were the facility manager (they have a wonderful name at the Tower for this person – The Keeper of the Keys), the coroner is next, and then the local constabulary.
Although it was very doubtful that this was indeed nefarious unless the bones were very old!
They turned out to be the remains of a priest. Who had been a chaplain and was buried there in the mid 20th century.
Then everyone sort of forgot where he had been laid to rest.
As the area was close to the infamous ‘Block’ we had to wait until everyone had left.
We rather gingerly, and carefully gathered what remains we could together.
There followed a quiet re-consecration service.
A New Power Station by the River Thames.
A tad more mundane. Having just completed a large ‘cut & fill’ project, covering many acres.
The area was the setting out ground for the entire power station project.
All the metalwork for the project was stored on this area during construction for the new power station.
Just as we prepared one area, about 30 acres for seeding.
A military land rover pulled up, out jumped an officer and team from the bomb squad. I kid you not !
They had been alerted by an old lady across the way (about 1/4mile).
She had just recalled (after almost 35 years), that a flight of German bombers, had dropped their loads of bombs.
Just where we were working during the War.
So the ‘sappers’, were obliged to dig around for a few days, messing up our seedbed as you can see. T
hey failed to find anything and left.
Some ten years later, whilst preparing for the new Queen Elizabeth Dartford bridge, 15 or so unexploded bombs were indeed found in the hedgerow not 70ft from where the bomb squad had poked around and we had adjusted the levels by 3ft !!!
Only in the USA… well maybe not!
I was called over to the USA to visit a huge private estate.
Moving truly huge trees
It was to see if we would like to be involved in a project involving large rocks and trees.
A very wealthy gentleman was in a hurry to complete a fully mature landscape – he’d been working on the project for about 10 years, so it probably wasn’t that much of a hurry.
When I arrived he was indeed pushing the landscape construction boundaries.
This tree was about 600 tons in weight. Perched at least 15ft in the air. The “hardwood stacked columns” were due to stay in place.
Then then the ground would be backfilled with soil. Irrigation would extend into the tree to a height of 40ft for a number of years, to assist with establishment.
As we approached, the site manager, who I was traveling with, was asked by the foreman.
If the position of this tree was ‘OK’. He was asked how far off the angle was – you can see the tilting in the hessian covering the rootball.
The reply – “about 6 inches” The site manager then said, “no it had to be closer.”
This one comment made me think that this project was due to be ongoing for a long time, one to avoid.
Here’s a picture of an even bigger tree moving down the road on the same site……
It took about 2 years to prepare each tree for lifting. We actually drove underneath this monster in a Ford F250.
I know what fun……..
Lambeth, South London
Back in the days when unrest descended on London. (A polite euphemism for Riots in about 1980).
We had an unusual project in Lambeth. – An area that had been called ‘The Peoples Democratic Republic of Lambeth – by it’s then ultra left-leaning leader ‘Red Ted’ Knight)
It was to be a children’s play area with a huge wooden stockade,(long gone I suspect).
As you can see from the picture the logs were huge some 16ft tall and at least 10-inch diameter.
All pressure treated so they would last a long time.
A small scuffle
They had just been delivered to the site when there was a particularly vigorous riot.
Cars were turned over and set alight, windows smashed, the police station attacked, that sort of thing.
I was comfortably at home watching it all on television when my insurance broker called me in a panic at 7 am to ask how things were.
Then he told me he forgot to put my logs (those 16ft monsters) on ‘All risk” as I had requested the day before.
It’s funny how you get to hear about these sort of events if you engage the locals.
Later that day I did go and visit the site.
All was perfectly fine, apart from 4 or five burned-out cars in the surrounding streets.
There was the little matter of 15 rapid deployment police vehicles with full riot shields carrying about 10 fully protected policemen surrounding my site.
Speaking to a local he explained that “they would never harm something intended for their children !!”
It could have been a right proper panic as we say!
The hardest part of the project was to figure out how to pick up and place these huge poles.
We had to keep the tops level. A bobcat with a then newly added 4 in 1 bucket worked out just fine.
Mind you, tracking over the soft ground in wet conditions makes a terrible mess.
Destroys the soil structure, slows the progress down and makes a site look pretty dirty – best to try and avoid if possible.
A project requiring some real ingenuity.
Another prestigious project – A large roof garden on top of the Museum of London.
It was tracing the history of London’s plants and gardens from the middle ages to the present day.
As is always the case working in odd places there are a few obstacles to overcome.
In this instance it was access… the access was a smoke vent set halfway up a wall in an underground car park.
The tunnel extended some 27ft, before the main vent went to the garden area.
Our challenge to move over 400 tons of materials through and up to the roof without damaging all the cars around.
Here’s a picture of the roof before… over the years it had become overgrown and very untidy.
We have cleared all the old planting, set out the new layout.
Then we laid the paving, lined the planting beds with a hardwood framing.
In this picture, the soil ameliorate is being added to the flower beds.
Our access is from the scaffold bridge we built from the basement fire access.
I’m the guy with the bald head in the suit in the middle of the folks on the left.
Yup had to wear a suit in the City of London. I drew the line at bowler hats!
The Completed London’s Pride Exhibition
Below is the finished result.
Which was open to the public for 6 months. My company supplying the staff that took folks around the exhibit.
This project covered close to 27,000 sq ft.
( well ok the ladders were removed and the gate swung back into place..)
It was projects like these that honed our problem-solving skills.
Do drop us a line if you would like to ask a question or have a request.. or take a more in depth look at my adventures in landscaping over the years
Today you can chuckle at my expense !!!
Designing & Building award winning landscapes has been a very rewarding, satisfying, fun filled occupation, of course there have been days one prefers to have skipped or passed by, yet more where looking back it was quite amusing now – I’m sure you too have a few you could share with the growing readers too.
So Ann and Chris are making you an offer you cannot refuse? – well perhaps you can !
Here is the challenge. If you have an amusing enough incident and you share it here by way of a comment,
Ann & I will call you ( we will have to keep this to an English conversation for now) , we will give you at least 5 minutes to describe in your own words the Opps! moment, you may also give your business a gentle plug!
Hows that ?
So let’s get the ball rolling with some of those Opps ! or “Out take” moments that have happened to me.
“Hook – Up”
The first that I remember wasn’t actually related to horticulture it was whilst working during a summer recess from college, working as a summer assistant lock keeper,on the River Thames at Mapledurham, which I think is in Oxfordshire, as I recall a quite well known movie was being filmed at the time called “The Eagle has Landed”, just across the reach from the lock.
On this particular day, there was lots of action and noise from the film set, lots of tourist and regular cruisers plying up and down the Thames. The lock is quite large – from memory nearly 200 ft long and about 16ft wide with a 5 ft rise and fall. Because we were busy we were packing in the boats. Anyway, having filled the lock with boats I opened the sluice gates to let the water out and let the lock water level fall around 5 ft, as this happened I was distracted by the filming. the next minute I turned to see all the boats hooked up with no water beneath! … not a good position to be in !
It took some time to undo the resultant mess….
Sticking to water… one night I was making a visit to a potential client on the way home, it was around dusk, the home owner was a banker, they had a lovely home in Chislehurst, Kent. After a brief talk we took a short stroll around the garden as dusk was fading, it was a long time but it was quite dark by the time we headed back to the house.
For some reason, I was talking to the client side by side one moment and the next I was treading muddy water, tearing though a rather decrepit swimming pool cover having missed the dog leg steps on the poolside.
The water soon reached my waste, and my suit took on a rather unusual color and smell..meanwhile the client rushed indoors exclaiming I had fallen into the pool, which brought the whole family out giggling !.. somewhat soaking I drove the last 15 miles home. We ended up completing the project, one of the requirements was to break out the miscreant swimming pool !
On another occasion we were contracted to dredge a small lake and construct a weir. ( a pond is in my definition an area of water in which you can throw a stone over it to land on the other bank. A lake is where the stone falls into the water). So dredging a lake is a task, requiring a variety of big toys… in this case we arranged with the local waterways folks to block ( legitimately) the upper inflow channel, allowing the water in the lower lake to fall around 8-12 ft which would allow the use of a piece of equipment similar to a dragline.
Unfortunately, whilst we knew the plan, the water folks knew the plan and the parks department knew the plan, nobody had told the security guys – who “unblocked’ the upper lake outfall late in the night, thinking some vandal had blocked up the outfalls !
So after about two days of working we returned in the morning, to find the lake full of water , the equipment marooned 50 ft out in the lake,with their tracks buried and the mud slowly engulfing the cab.. some drastic action was needed, a very heavy lift truck was used to winch out the equipment, and we changed our method of removing the silt,to pumping the now slurry into a temporary lagoon to dry out before carting away.
“An up-lifting experience”
The next was a tad more mundane, well it started that way at least. We had just completed a large ‘cut & fill’ project covering many tens of acres on a setting out ground for a new power station, we were preparing one area of about 30 acres for seeding when suddenly the bomb squad pulled up, I kid you not…
Here is an English sapper exploring on the site !
Apparently they had been told that a lady across the way ( about 1/4mile, you can see the block in the distance) had just recalled a flight of German bombers had dropped their loads of bombs in the 2nd world war ,just where we were working some had failed to explode…
so they dug around for a few days, messing up our seed bed and left, when they failed to find any …..
Some ten years later, whilst preparing for the new Queen Elizabeth II, Dartford bridge, the said 15 or so unexploded bombs were indeed found in the hedge row not 70ft from where the bomb squad had poked around !!!
It was a very useful do not ASSUME moment … you know the meaning don’t Assume as it makes an “ASS out of U and ME”
Enjoy the week !
Ann & Chris
A good few years ago we were asked to design and build a roof garden on an office roof.
There are a few extra considerations needed when doing this.
All roofs will have a weight restriction – this includes a snow loading and a people loading
Access is severely restricted unless a tower crane is still on site, when it’s the crane lifting ability and movement.
Wind levels play a part with plants survival, and also with ‘lifting’ light weight materials
Irrigation is essential – as to is adequate drainage and roof waterproofing
Finally ongoing site safety – railings, balconies , restricted access to the parapet.
On this occasion the roof had been completed, we had even received an award for the design and construction.
I have always liked this one..
We were commissioned to Design and Build a roof garden, to comply with a local planning condition.
So we utilised artificial rocks made from GRP – we took moulds of actual rock faces and pieced them together to form a sealed planter – First picture
Then we joined these together added compost and plants …. the result an award winning roof garden..
There was a funny moment when a visiting Japanese manager of the company we were working for, came up to me one evening while I was checking the summer planting one year.
He bowed formally ( the Japanese are so polite), any way after bowing he tapped on the rock and said ” Ah Rock “
I , with a slight smile, bowed and tapped the rock and and said “No Plastic” !!
To which he looked puzzled and then smiled ,then saw the humour in the situation and roared with laughter… we kept the contract for many more years !!