A Watery Work of Art· Domestic, Planting, Water features
Ashridge Water Garden
“A beautiful and tranquil water garden, set in rural Hertfordshire.”
The brief and design process
This was a very exciting project for me. Here was a large piece of land, beautiful in its own right up in the wooded area of Ashridge in Hertfordshire and my brief was to create a pond. In my minds eye I was plotting and visualising the form it should take. It had to nestle into the wonderful contours of the land and in between trees making sure it would match their stately magnificence.
The image was emerging, and I was seeing a large rustic and natural looking pond with five fountains and four waterfalls. Yes, an abundant amount of water would be cascading through slate rocks. I knew I would have a lot of scope with the lighting too and I wanted to create the perfect nightscape. Sweet!
Decisions made, the pond would be an infinity pond at the house end with a natural Devonshire slate wall to make up the levels.
The build & construction materials
Nothing comes without some problems! During the first excavation, using a mini digger we were hampered by a few water pipes. However, they were carefully dug around and after calling in an outside firm to sort the pipes we did achieve a splendid dig. On with the construction!
Due to the nature of the ground being clay and flint, I used a mortar layer to cover the pond and the flint outcrops. Next, was fitting the 300 gauge geo textile matt for protection and then the liner which was a struggle, but once in place the basic pond formation was taking shape. The PVC pipes were strategically placed to supply the water to all outlets before the concreting took place. To make the pond surface more workable we concreted over the liner with a 75 mm layer. It was all hands to the pumps at this stage, and even so, it took three days to lay all 35 tonnes.
Then the real fun and artistic part of the job started for me. Placing all 55 tonnes of slate rocks! I love Devonshire slate. It has so many attributes; it’s glorious hues that make up its colour; it’s rough shape; and pieces studded with white silica, which just add to the fun. Finding a home for each rock, with up to ¼ tonne a piece was no small task! We of course cheated and use an extendable forklift of gigantic proportions. Our own manual labour was still required to carefully position the rocks into their final spot. For this, bars, rollers and muscle were all used. Slate shingle was then placed to soften the edges and give a more natural feel to the rocky scene. The whole lot was then scrupulously cleaned with a pressure washer. I feelt totally at home with the rocks and the whole feature was built in about three weeks.
The garden planting
So, on to the planting where my idea was to incorporate an architectural feel giving a striking contrast to the rock. I used striped ‘look a like’ bamboo to create the form I wanted. I also placed ornamental rhubarb and blue irises to complete the look. There are two bog gardens at the side of the pond, which are great additions to the scenario, and although not planted quite yet, my vision is for big chunky marginal plants such as gunnera and royal ferns.
There is no point in having a spectacular pond during the day if you are not able to see it at night! I have created some surreal effects by placing lights under the waterfalls and fountains to illuminate the flowing water. Nature plays its part with the surrounding trees reflecting themselves onto the surface of the pond and a tranquil scene of great sublimeness and majesty is revealed.
A shoal of Golden Orf to rush round the extremities will be added this Spring.
I am personally over the moon about the end result and have had some lovely feedback. “I am completely blown away by the beauty and tranquillity of this watery work of art, such grace and harmony”. My thanks go to Jamie, Will, Nathan, Alan and Harry for their encouragement and hard work.