Slippery Slope

The bank 3 Wm


 The Precipitous Bank


Living on the side of a valley has some advantages. It is sheltered for one thing.

We exist in a microclimate of our own and it can be several degrees warmer in the garden than it is at the top of the hill. On many an occasion I’ve climbed the 84 steps to the garage only to go back down again for the jumper that I should have brought with me in the first place.

But then there’s the slope.

To create enough flat ground for a house, however many hundreds of years ago, the builders cut into the side of the hill. The bank at this point is now steep. Very steep. It becomes a sheer vertical drop to the left of where I am standing.

After all the rain of recent days, traversing the slope has not been a particularly clever idea. Regardless of how urgently I need to tackle those weeds. Still, amazing as it may seem for Wimbledon week, the forecast suggests the weather will be dry. And I am resolved to get up on that hill.

It has already claimed victims out of both of us. In my case it was a mere slither down a metre or so of bank. The Under Gardener peered over the top to check that I was OK. “If you’re going down there,” says he “can you get the coffee?”


2017-11-15T14:00:56+00:00June 23rd, 2013|Tags: |


  1. justjilluk June 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm - Reply


    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      It may yet come to that..

  2. Cro Magnon June 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    A ‘zip wire’ would be ideal for coming down. For going up, how about helium filled balloons?

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      As long as I wasn’t left hanging in mid air (weed in hand) like old Boris at the Olympics.
      They would have to be quite large helium balloons..

  3. Em June 23, 2013 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Funicular railway?

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      We were sent the details once of a house that actually had a railway. Not on a hill though. Sadly, far too expensive. It would have been such fun to call up Mike from the bottom of the garden and arrange for the delivery of more compost… Toot Toot!

  4. Rambler June 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Typical bloke, full of concern!

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:37 pm - Reply


  5. BadPenny June 23, 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Block & Tackle ?

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      Plenty of trees to attach it to..

  6. Jo June 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    There’s one thing, you’ll be fit having to climb 84 steps every time you want to go to the garage, especially when you do it twice because you’ve forgotten your jumper. You definitely won’t need a gym membership.

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      This year I’ve lost a lot of my fitness (and put on weight). The ‘extreme’ gardening will do the trick, if the weather really does stay dry. Because it was supposed to be dry this afternoon.. guess what..

  7. Denise June 23, 2013 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Tethered hot air balloon? That way you could have a sit down and a cuppa when needed AND an enormous basket in which to put all those pesky weeds!

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      What if the tether should break? The squirrels, mice, pheasants, deer etc etc might see it as an unmissable opportunity…

  8. frayed at the edge June 23, 2013 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    I was just reading an article in the “I” about the extreme sport of running up stairs …. there is a challenge to run up the Gherkin. Indeed, in some countries, you can earn serious money in running up stairs-type races. So just pretend you are in training and it won’t seem such a bind …..

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      I did think (briefly) about creating a running track. Up the 84 steps, back down the drive, circle round the house and back to the steps again. Never got round to it.. but if there’s money in it..

  9. starproms June 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    You have plenty of vegetation on that bank. Do you have the same on the sheer drop? Something to cling to as you slide down, perhaps. It’s a beautiful view of your garden Jessica.

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      Most of the vegetation is currently weeds.. the sheer drop has a lot of ferns (which I’ll keep) but more brambles (which I won’t). As I can’t dig them out without causing a collapse I’ll have to go against my principles this once and get some of that stuff that you paint on the leaves. Thanks Oma.

  10. Abby June 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    Hell of a garden – you don’t go for the easy option, do you?!

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      This won’t be one I’ll still be doing in my ripe old age. I hope. Although the previous incumbent was 90 when he left..

  11. Simone June 23, 2013 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Could you put a rope handrail down the side to hang on to when walking up or sliding down?!!!

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Sometimes just standing upright is the most difficult thing. I am developing calf muscles as good as a shot-putter’s..

  12. snowbird June 23, 2013 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    Lol….men eh!!! Wow, that sounds a challenge…..rope and tackle job but how individual!xxxx

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      The real challenge is the chicken wire that our predecessor laid down over most of the bank. Weeding = keyhole surgery!

  13. Pats. June 23, 2013 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    That’ll be why he lived to 90 then…

    Our mother lived to be 94; lots of steps in the old farmhouse; she didn’t have a gym membership either.
    Happy weeding.

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      That’s my theory too Pats..

  14. woolythymes June 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    could you strap a little harness on Ptolemy and train him to do a few stairs?

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      I’d like to train him to do a little weeding, but he only seems interested in the flowers..

  15. wherefivevalleysmeet June 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    What a big challenge, but so glad you have great support in the background from the under gardener!!!

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Rosemary and welcome to rusty duck!
      I think I underestimated the challenge, if I am honest. But yes, the Under Gardener is a great support, not least when it’s his turn to make the coffee!

  16. Rosie June 23, 2013 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    My goodness that’s steep, how on earth do you carry coffee up there?:)

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 11:20 pm - Reply

      The path that you see at the bottom of the photo joins up with the drive (which you can’t see) that runs along the top. But usually I make him come down for his coffee!!

  17. Wendy June 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    You will be able to watch Wimbledon and scoff at the players’ so-called fitness. You can match that with those steps! The slope may be deadly, but your garden does look very green and lush after the rain.

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 11:40 pm - Reply

      The greenest and lushest bits will undoubtedly be the weeds. By the next time you see it (I hope) there will be less green but it will look a whole lot tidier!

  18. Marian June 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    That’s some acrobatic way of gardening you’re doing there! But it is a wonderful garden and from what I can see, a beautiful house as well, both house and garden have a fairytale look about them although I can imagine you don’t think of fairytales while climbing that steep slope.

    • Jessica June 23, 2013 at 11:47 pm - Reply

      You’re right, gardening on that slope is about as far away from fairy tales as you can get. It’s also a design nightmare… trying to judge the relative heights and best position for plants when there is a whole new dimension involved. I’m resigned to not getting it right first time, there will be a lot of moving around to be done I am sure.

  19. knitsofacto June 24, 2013 at 12:40 am - Reply

    I’m liking the under-gardener’s style!

    • Jessica June 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      There is usually healthy debate about whose turn it is to do the refreshments run.

  20. ournewlifeinthecountry June 24, 2013 at 8:52 am - Reply

    I think I’d just leave the weeds, after all they are most likely holding most of the soil in place, any excuse I know 🙂 Just pull you hat down low so you don’t see them.

    The one good thing about weeds is that for a while they are flowering and feeding the bees and you simply ‘have to leave them’ and then they all die off in Winter and it looks as though you have ‘weeded ‘ anyway.

    • Jessica June 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      There’s some nasties up there unfortunately, bindweed and ground elder. If they don’t come out they’ll take over 🙁
      But you’re right about keeping the soil in place.. it has to be done gradually and something planted to take their place.

  21. countrysidetales June 24, 2013 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Annoying for gardening perhaps, but look at the positives- it’s perfect for sledging 🙂

    • Jessica June 24, 2013 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      With a water splash at the end (if you were to make it as far as the river)..

  22. Suzanne Dutchess County, NY, USA June 24, 2013 at 11:35 am - Reply

    It is looking lovely. I work at a few places that have a terrain like that. One I always wear the wrong shoes the day I go there. Rubber shoes give no support at all on these slopes meant for goats. I’ve resorted to tennis shoes or ” trackers” I think you call them. We have decided to put a maintenance path that dissects the slope horizontally, that zig zags its way down the slope. It’s the only way we thought might work. I have a tub trug like yours in the photo and have lost it to the lake that’s at the bottom of our slope.
    I hope you find a solution that works for you.

    • Jessica June 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      A maintenance path is a great idea, Suzanne. Gives me better access just for getting closer to the blooms too.

  23. Sharon June 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Didn’t you sprain your ankle gardening a while back ? I think you should maybe consider wear a cycling helmet when you garden because that path looks perilously steep and if you re like me it’s just a matter of time before your on your bottom again! I call it the klutz gene. Glad you’re unscathed and good luck with the weeds.

    • Jessica June 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      I did.. both of us treat the terrain with respect these days! Thanks Sharon.

  24. Sarah June 24, 2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    That looks quite a slope! I hope you aren’t injured in your conquest!
    Sarah x

    • Jessica June 24, 2013 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      First day today… so far so good! Thanks Sarah.

  25. Jeneane June 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    What a fabulous bank you have there. You are obviously a much younger gardener than me!
    Lovely to see your woodpecker chicks too. I got hooked on the TV programme ‘Spring Watch’, when I arrived in England and enjoyed seeing the woodpecker family just as one was feeding on my sister-in-law’s bird table. Heading down to Somerset tomorrow.

    • Jessica June 24, 2013 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Not young enough methinks!
      Woodpeckers have got quite used to visiting bird tables, but it’s still a great thrill to see them. I hope you’re having a great time in England Jeneane!

  26. CherryPie June 25, 2013 at 12:12 am - Reply

    Rather you than me… I have got to be a lazy gardener over the years!

    • Jessica June 25, 2013 at 9:35 am - Reply

      I hope I can replant it densely enough to require little maintenance!

  27. Linda June 25, 2013 at 7:10 am - Reply

    That steep bank must certainly be a challenge! Our Italian house is on the side of a hill and built into it so there are some inclines in the garden, but also terraced, which means gardening is manageable. Living in a hilly area in the UK also has its challenges, but we found a house that is relatively on the flat even though it’s on a hillside too!
    The Under Gardener has an interesting sense of humour!

    • Jessica June 25, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

      Your Italian house sounds lovely Linda. Terracing is a good solution, that I’d like to do here eventually. When we have the budget and the stamina for all that earth shifting!

  28. Bilbowaggins July 3, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Good grief, you’ve said the site is steep, I’ve read most of your older posts but I didn’t realise just HOW steep it is. ‘Ournewlifeinthecountry’ is quite right, the roots are holding a lot of that soil in place and with the sort of deluge rains that seem to be becoming more common you don’t want a mudslide heading towards the house.

    If you started at the bottom and worked up slowly, year by year could you terrace it?

    • Jessica July 3, 2013 at 11:08 am - Reply

      It is steep, but the horizontal distance isn’t that great, so they would be narrow terraces. The photo doesn’t show it very well, but the drive runs between the bank and the tall trees behind. There’s a lot of ivy, which I’m leaving for the moment to bind the soil. The shrubs and small trees I planted out last year have already done a lot to help too.
      I have great plans for terracing other parts of the garden. Whether budget and enthusiasm hold out is another matter!

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