To the back of our garden there is a small hill, an odd bump nestled in the corner of two very high stone walls. The top of the hill spans approximately two square metres and is scaled via a two-metre high steep slope. This little hill is covered in grass, nettles and a few wildflowers and virtually impossible to mow. Also, a small Sycamore tree stands at the top. Happily, each spring, a few Primroses poke through announcing the changing season, but there aren’t enough to declare this mound a gardening success. I can’t believe this hill is a natural occurrence as the ground surrounding it is relatively flat. Jutting out of the ground in the corner, it seems likely it once served as a dumping ground for broken bottles and other rubbish. Or, perhaps it is where a pile of rocks was placed in anticipation of a future project. Nature being what it is, the rocks and bottles have quickly over grown with grass and moss.
Whatever its origin, getting rid of this heap of dirt and rocks, with its tangle of tree roots, would require a good amount of digging and there is no certainty as to the gain from such effort. Applying my personal conservation of mass theory, any rock or bucket of dirt I manage to dig, will need to be relocated somewhere else. I currently have no need to fill holes, or build walls, so for now we’ve left it.
But the idea of transforming this hill nagged. When, our friend Hilary was visiting, she and I sat on two camping chairs atop of the hill. It was lumpy and rocky, but the view was nice and the tree sheltered us from the sun that day. As we sat sipping cocktails, her boys trimmed a few neighbouring tree branches to enhance our view up the valley. It was at this moment the little hill became more than a hill. It had purpose. It had ‘project’ written all over it. It would become Gin and Tonic Hill! A fine place to repose in comfort – and to drink.
You won’t find this location on any OS map. And few will ever know this little mound to be anything so fabulously whimsical. In centuries to come, people will scratch their heads and wonder why on earth this hill was left behind. Archaeologists may stumble upon it and think it perhaps an ancient burial mound. Could my original theory explaining this hill as nothing more than a pile of rocks covered by grass was wrong? Did previous Crockern residents from bygone times perhaps sip their end of the day cocktails here, too?
With a distinct goal now to hand, I set about clearing a few large rocks from the top. Attempting to make a rocky hill “level” is a joke. It can’t be easily done with huge lumps of granite stone hidden beneath the surface like icebergs, and tree roots jutting here and there. “Never say never” I told myself and instead opted for “level enough” as my new goal. Roger encouraged my madness by strimming the top every time we mowed the lawn. Last summer, it became a good little place to sit on a blanket and enjoy the view.
But a few weeks ago, a similar madness took hold of Roger. I found him outside studying our little hill. About an hour later, he was digging and setting large stones into place. Roger was constructing a fantastic, rocky, seven-steps-leading-up-to-the top-of-our-little-hill staircase. Never one to do anything “good enough” Roger put the finishing touches on the project with a touch of inspiration. He secured a bench.
After stepping up the hill, I sit upon my new bench. Roger arrives with G&Ts on offer and joins me. We pause to take in the view across our field toward the river and the valley beyond. The birds are chirping in the tree above. The river is making those relaxing babbling noises that rivers do. We clink our glasses and discuss our ideas for transforming our fields into wildflower meadows.