Since you all gave some valuable advice, I thought it would be nice to share the finished article with you.
Shortly after I used the weed killer and cultivator, I put down some plastic sheeting over around half the garden and left it for a week.
My back neighbour began trimming his leylandii, which has allowed a lot more light in the garden and as I've only lived there for a year but I'm informed it's the first time he's cut them in at least seven years since the houses were built – nice timing!
We asked 3 local landscape gardeners for quotes to (almost) level the garden, fit railway sleepers along the back and gravel boards to the side before fitting the permeable membrane and decorative aggregate, with a small natural stone patio.
We picked from the Marshalls catalogue and stressed that we weren’t set on Marshalls by any stretch of the imagination, but wanted similar colours to the golden blend which matches very nicely with the first 5 feet of brickwork on my house.
We only got one quote back which was well beyond our budget and as the other landscapers didn’t come back we decided not to proceed at present.
Around a week later I got a call from one of the alternative landscapers, who had just returned from holiday to find one of his bigger jobs had been delayed and had a team without a job. He offered us an extremely competitive price to prepare and gravel the front lawn as well as the above and said he could start in the next few days.
As we were out all of the next day, we returned the next evening following a birthday night out (and a fair few drinks!) to find several tonne bags on the driveway and almost 20 tonnes of hardcore already in the garden! What we didn’t know at this time was that this had been delivered as it is by a large tipper and shovelled and barrowed by hand from the front into the back in one day.
The log on the decking was previously hidden deep into the undergrowth in the garden!
The next day they spent most of the day machining the hardcore down until it was flat while the front lawn was being prepared.
I didn’t see the next steps unfold but I returned to find the permeable membrane and decorative aggregate already down!
The last job was to lay the natural stone patio, is the Western corner of the garden where we get the sun in the evening. This went in in a day and was still wet and a bit sandy when I took this picture. The gravel all needs washed but I wanted to let the patio fully set first and do it all at once.
We are very happy with the job and now intend on installing a clay pizza oven and possible bench area – as my partners good friend is a pottery teacher and makes them by hand. We are thinking about a very modern low maintenance border at the back and will likely be looking or posting on alternative topics for some inspiration as this topic has gone a little off topic!
Darren, the contractor from Tyne and Wear Paving and Landscapes also came out to take some pictures...