Those of you that have been following my Manor House escapades will understand the huge task that faces me on a weekend as I try to bring the gardens back to their former glory. With six feet deep borders of nettles, brambles and poison ivy, it’s easy to become disheartened as I quite simply don’t know where to start.

However this weekend I finally made progress, and in doing so inadvertently emerged in the neighbour’s garden.  Strimming through weeds and lopping down dead branches I created a path that led me to the feet of an eighty year old man and his two fluffy dogs.

Needless to say by this time I had become quite immune to the nettle stings, and with hair plastered to my forehead and sticky weed covering every inch I finally met our new landlord. It seems the house we now occupy was his home as a child and he had some wonderful tales to tell.

Taking a break we settled with a cool drink as my own dog Banana took a swim in his pond- pulling out photographs from the fifties I was amazed to see the manicured gardens that surrounded our abode. The borders were laced with low growing plants that complemented every bay window, whilst rambling roses grew up the walls making the black and white picture come alive with colour.

As we chatted he took me to his own patch of land where he told stories of his childhood and that of his own daughters. Apparently the family had created a tunnel through the woodland hedgerow that led them straight to the vicarage in the heart of the village.

Inspired and motivated I thanked him for his company and picked up the loppers and the shears, disappearing into the dense hedging to see if any of the tunnel remained. To my surprise I found a clear well-trodden path through the bush and with a little (ok a lot) of trimming I managed to create a crawl space that did indeed lead us directly to the village vicarage.

With two children and a dog in toe I spent a good three hours clearing the secret passage ready for the kiddies to use it at will with the thoughts of the book “Tom’s Midnight Garden” at the forefront of my mind. There was something quite magical about the task that made me feel as though we were stepping back in time retracing the steps of our eighty year old landlord as a young boy, with nothing but nature surrounding us.

The job complete I collapsed as the children disappeared into the enchanted hedgerow, shouting ecstatically as they realised the vicarage was also the perfect parking spot for the weekend mobile ice cream van.  In today’s technology driven world I don’t mind admitting I was quite proud of myself as the children enjoyed some time out from the Wii and the television creating memories that will stay with them for life.

However as dusk approached and Dr Who beckoned, I took a last look around the garden and realised that my aching arms, bitten ankles and stung wrists had contributed nothing to the aesthetics. Still the dense bush of nettles taunted me, the brambles bore fruit hanging over the dead wood and borders, and the leaves of a decade of autumns made a mess of the entire lawn.

So this weekend I’ll concentrate on the garden we can see, using the old photographs as inspiration. As the history allows me to determine which plants will thrive in the soil removing a lot of the guesswork. I’m now on a mission to recreate the garden of our landlord’s childhood, so every time we step out we take a trip back in time.

This was originally written by Martina Mercer for