Saturday, 5 April 2014

The back garden

Browsing the suburban landscape on Google Earth or Apple Maps I am struck by the amount of green in back gardens.  Where, at one time, there would be tiny pockets of grass, much of the space would have been a mottled green/brown, depending on season, indicating where householders grew vegetables, fruit and flowering plants.  Today, there are extensions, swathes of reasonably low-maintenance grass and, in family homes, the occasional adventure playground and/or pool.

Homes which lost their newness decades ago also have a forgotten history.  New owners or tenants decide on their own utilisation of the back garden space, though elements of what was previously there may remain.  Most of us would guess at how the space began and its first incarnation as what could be described as a garden – replacing whatever the builders left behind.  Unless of course photographs remain!

An intriguing picture arrived recently, passed on to the present owner by the family who had first occupied the house shortly before World War Two.  And because I already have photographs of the back garden further along the same street, Woodland Drive, taken around three or four years later, we can compare the two.
The builders have left, and the rest is up to you!  Photo courtesy JOHN ALLEN

The top picture shows the daunting task facing any new owner, with field weeds – and probably a goodly amount of rubble.  A start has been made with clearance operations and laying out a border.  The low and open fences between the properties are friendly, encouraging neighbours to talk with each other.  They also made the garden feel so much larger, your own garden blending into those of your neighbours.  Today, these seem to have been replaced by six-foot paling fences for privacy.

The houses in the background are in Oakwood Drive, and the undeveloped space between will later become Hazelwood Drive.  The family photographer's viewpoint was the window of the back bedroom.

Gardens brimming with fresh food for the table.
Now compare this with the bottom picture.  Here the middle ground has already been developed, becoming Beechwood Avenue.  The middle of WW2 and the space is full of vegetables, including a large area of potatoes in the foreground.  Again, the low open fences encourage neighbourly chat; and the back bedroom is, once again a viewpoint for the photographer.  Ten years later and the scene would look very different, with the addition of lawns, swings, chicken enclosure, tree house, and the young trees already planted would be fully grown and offering apples and plums in abundance.  Twenty years later and a pond will also have been dug, but the tree house and swings swept away as redundant

.  Fortunately there is a photographic record of most of these changes.

How many of us have photographic record of our own back gardens; how they were and how they are today?

No comments:

Post a comment