J thinks I sound very poncey (no idea if that’s how you spell it) for calling this the recreation area but we did originally call it the grassy area and that name doesn’t really apply anymore. So this was the area when we moved in.
Now this area was originally a substantial vegetable garden with a bit of general garden space as well. That was of course at a time when everyone had substantial vegetable gardens as they had to grow their own. The area was completely overgrown (can you see a pattern here with the cottage) and the ground was very uneven. So we arranged for the area to be completely stripped back to bare soil and then we seeded it ourselves (wasn’t that fun). It then stayed as just grass for all summer and into winter.
Then come January we began finalising what we wanted the area to look like. So we had the random bits and pieces of hedge and bushes removed from the corner by the apple tree as the tree wasn’t really accessible and it all looked a bit higgeldy piggeldy (again apologies for the total lack of spelling knowledge here). Then the plan was to install six raised beds and a climbing frame for C into an enclosed bark area. This was brutal and pushed both J and I to the limit at times but we’ve created an area we’re really happy with. You can read about it here, here and here.
We have also created a patio as an eating area, our bifolding doors will eventually lead out here. This has a lovely lamppost on it and electricity so I can have my patio heaters here if required. You can read about that here and here.
We also have a patio at the back of the garden for a greenhouse (still to be purchased) and of course we have the craft cabin.
This is my little space for being me. It still needs some finishing touches to the paintwork inside and out but it is the only place where a can put things in their permanent place as the cottage is going to be totally ripped to pieces. The recreation area is something I’m really proud of. J and I have worked together to design an area which really enhances our lifestyle. It’s the area which most people comment on, even our Tesco delivery guy said he could holiday there! For this area there is very little still to be done. A bit of finishing of the border of the bark area and probably topping up the bark. The greenhouse needs purchasing and installing. Longer term we want to put some decking outside the craft cabin and create a nice relaxing area with sofas. Next week I’ll have a look at the changes that have gone on in the field in the past year.
So C’s climbing frame has been fully assembled for a couple of weeks now and I thought it might be a good time to post a review. I’ve mentioned before some of the reasons behind choosing this particular climbing frame; the durability, the age range, the quality, the brand. We bought C the Kingswood 2 tower frame with climbing bridge and swing arm accessories which is made by TP Toys. It was an absolute beast to put together. It wasn’t helped by having to supervise C whilst doing it, nor was it helped by my lack of knowledge or skills with any kind of tools. But even with J being fairly knowledgeable and if we hadn’t had a toddler running about I still think it would have taken two skilled men the best part of a day to put together. The instructions were clear and the parts and screws are well labelled with the instructions clearly showing what tools are required. The whole thing came in about eleven boxes, many of which were such a weight or size that they would require two to move them. Each accessory had its own set of instructions showing how to build it, and then how to attach it to the main frame. Whilst C is still too young to use the climbing bridge it seemed silly to wait until she was old enough to buy it, I’d rather just have the finished product ready and waiting for her to grow into.
Wooden PlayFrame (Kingswood Tower) with Platform, Sandpit & Climbing Wall
Now one thing that isn’t made clear on the website or the introductory pages of the instructions is that it needs concreting to the ground. I can imagine suddenly discovering that you need to concrete it could prove a problem if the area you have sorted for the frame wouldn’t take to concrete, or if you have started building on a time pressure situation. It certainly wasn’t something we had in stock when we started (I don’t imagine many people keep concrete to hand just in case). We did use the frame for a few days without the concrete as it was just too hard to keep C off it and it was very secure. However, she is only two and a half so I imagine if it was to have more weight on it or if children were hanging off it, it would need anchoring to the ground for peace of mind.
The climbing frame has a section underneath which is designed to be a sandpit. However, we felt that that section was too small and so instead, with some spare wood, fashioned a much larger area instead. The sandpit has proved to be one of C’s favourite parts of the climbing frame. An added bonus as we hadn’t really realised it had a sandpit. The sandpit comes with a liner and a cover, both of which can be cut to size. Although the frame comes already pretreated we’ve decided to give it some extra protection in the form of Osmo UV protection oil. We’ve used this before on the oak beams of the porch and really like the protection it offers. It has taken a while to get it totally covered, we’ve ended up having to do small sections at a time, but we’re really happy with the overall effect.
What are the negatives? Well it was a proper challenge to put up and did require a certain basic skills level. It also needed a number of tools which some may not have. Aligning and joining some of the parts together was a challenge and they had to be almost forced at times as they were a very tight fit. And the stickers to label each piece of wood were a right pain to get off, they seem to be stuck on with superglue! Only time will tell how well it will wear but so far it seems to be just what we were after.
Here are the promised photos from yesterday…
The recreation area just before we moved in last summer, it had been over grown and so we had it completely cleared and then seeded the lawn ourselves.
This is next one is before we started the work, on a very wintery day. The lawn seeded nicely and proved a great place to picnic last summer.
This last pictures show the completed recreation area. 6 raised beds, one huge climbing frame and 112 bags of bark. The very bottom hasn’t been edged or barked yet as that will have to wait for the trench to be dug first.
Sometimes you just have to let the professionals step in. The overgrown garden area down the side of the house needs removing and levelling so that a trench can be laid to carry electrics and water to other parts of the garden. So, today we have called in an old school friend of J’s to do that for us. He has previously done some work for us in the field (more on that another time) and we were very happy with the work so he was an obvious choice this time. We had already got a skip sorted for the soil to go in and anything burnable is going on a fire in the field. Whilst J and I could have had a go at doing this work ourselves, it would take us several weeks to do by hand and that just isn’t time that we have. Besides getting the professionals in guarantees a good job, and means we get to see a digger and dumper truck type thing by our front door which is kind of cool. They’ve also removed a hazlewood tree for us behind the raised bed area so we just have an apple tree down that end.
J has continued to be plagued by man flu today and so his progress has been a bit slow but we now have the recreation area completely edged, most of the bark bags emptied and distributed and the swing is in the process of being completed. We have also adjusted the sand pit area slightly below the climbing frame to make it larger and it is now filled and lined. C adores it and has spent a large part of the day happily playing there. No eggs yet from the girls and Henry has been limping a bit, consultation with the poultry seller suggests it could be simply a scratch or a sprain so just to monitor her. Hard to know how to help her in this situation, just make sure she is able to get access to food and water and gets to rest it I suspect. The battery arrived today so the fence around the chicken pen is now electrified which should be an extra preventative measure to keep foxes out hopefully. Henry managed to put herself to bed so hopefully she’ll be looking better in the morning.
J’s dad came over late this afternoon and helped him make and fit the swing arm so all that’s left to do on the climbing frame is the roof (which will require the use of two step ladders to fit) and the slide once the spare part arrives. No pictures yet today but I’ll put some up first thing tomorrow when the light is better. Tomorrow we are aiming to do the lazy beds for our potatoes, finish the bark in the recreation area and start painting the log store.
What a day. We did set our alarm for six am and did actually get up, though it was cold and we were miserable. We did manage to make real progress though and the main body of the climbing frame is now built and the monkey bars are attached. J has started to put the boundary around the recreation area, one side out of the three we are doing now is done. I’ve moved another 30 bags of bark and we’ve started to open up and empty some of the bags of bark. It is really starting to take shape. The one unfortunate downside is that J managed to snap one of the screws in one of the bits of the slide so we’ve had to order a new bit. That means until the new part arrives we can’t add the slide on.
C was so excited when she saw it, yesterday she had seen the picture in the instruction booklet and thought it was a house for the chickens. Today when she saw it all constructed she realised it was for her. She’s mastered the stairs already although at present without the slide there is no way for her to get down. She has been using the slide extender as a slide and loves it. I also managed to paint the bottom of the climbing frame, where the bark will touch to keep it nice and well preserved. Painting the rest will have to be done in stages I feel.
There is still no sign of any eggs from the chickens, although I did find a nest in the pampas grass with two blue eggs in, we think they might be a blackbirds but aren’t sure. The Boss escaped again today, not sure how exactly, but she wandered through to where we were working so J and I had to usher her back in. No idea how she managed to get out, but hopefully once the fencing is electrified that will stop her attempts.
This is where we are at by close of play today.
So Easter Monday was designated as the day to build the climbing frame. Now it worries me slightly that no matter how hard I’ve searched on the internet I can’t find a guideline for how long it will take to build. We searched for quite a while to find a suitable climbing frame. We wanted one which would be accessible for C at two and a half and would also also grow with her, we didn’t want to have to replace it in a few years time. It also mattered to us that it weathered well and still looked good. Quality is always worth prioritising when it comes to something your child will be suspended from the air on! So we ended up settling on the Kingswood 2 Tower with climbing bridge and swing extensions by TP Toys. We chose TP Toys for many reasons, not least as they are sold in both John Lewis and ELC who we feel sell good quality products. When it was delivered last week it was a total beast… eleven boxes in total, most of which were huge and too heavy for one person to lift. Unfortunately this was also the day that was designated to rain, which hampered our progress somewhat. I did manage to move 2 tonnes of bark and do some more pegging down of the liner but J has the start of a cold so it wasn’t fair for him to work outside in the rain and we could hardly keep C outside in the rain. So at the end of the day the climbing frame was 40% built. J’s dad came over and babysat so we could get out for a bit. Our plan was to get up the next day at 6am (having checked the weather was going to be good) and get in a good two hours work done before C wakes up (she’s normally a seven til seven girl but in holidays she often sleeps in until gone eight, half eight if we’re really lucky). It seems horrible to give up the idea of a lie in but needs must as we’re so much more productive without a toddler to supervise. If she doesn’t love it I think I will cry!
This is the area before we started.
So today we started work on the recreational area. Basically we have bought C the mother of all climbing frames and are going to build that next to the raise beds. Then we are planning to put down bark surrounding the climbing frame and raised beds. Why can’t we just keep the grass? Well grass requires mowing. Weekly. And strimming around the edges. And is really awkward to do around a climbing frame. And basically we really want it to look nice and didn’t think we had enough going on already. So we are creating a big rectangle around the raised beds and the climbing frame, using a turf stripper to remove the turf around the edges and placing down a membrane (which needs like a million pegs holding it down). Bark goes on the membrane and then the area is bordered by some half round wooden beams ( which should keep the bark in the right area and also should be easy enough to roll a wheelbarrow over. Sounds fairly simple right? Wrong. So day one most of the day was spent on stripping the turf and moving it to the skip. Then mowing the rest of the grass as short as possible before laying out the membrane. Of course that wouldn’t be too bad if the wind hadn’t picked up and kept blowing the membrane away as we tried to secure it. Added to that it was Easter Sunday so I had to coordinate a roast lamb dinner and apple crumble with a toddler who basically wanted to do the exact opposite of everything I wanted her to do.
Tomorrow J’s going to start building the climbing frame on top of the membrane whilst I attempt to finish off the membrane and continue to move bags of bark. We’re not going to open the bags yet until the border is completed but given that we have 112 ninety litres bags of bark to move, the more we can get in place the better. C spent a good part of today digging up wormy wormys and taking them over to the chickens who are still in their run and finding their feet. The Boss is still taking over somewhat but they don’t seem unhappy….still no eggs yet though but suspect I’m being ambitious hoping for one already.