The main reason for working on the garden was the damp in our back wall. The previous owners covered the entire garden with decking, which was very low maintenance, except they scrimped on the underlay, and the plastic used underneath was not letting any rain water drain away. This meant not only was the decking itself rotten and falling apart, but the damp proof course in my wall was being breached and just wasn't drying out. If not for the damp I probably would have just left the garden as is for another year or so, and prioritised finishing areas of the house, but I really don't want to go through another winter with damp walls. Unless the heating is on full blast (and ideally the oven too) the whole kitchen feels really clammy and unpleasant in winter, so getting the wall dried out is top of my to do list before the summer is over.
The good news was my dad made pretty swift work of the decking as it was so rotten, and had the entire garden (approx 6m by 5m) up in maybe 4-5 hours with the aid of his trusty power saw and a crowbar. My main job was making coffee and hammering off the rusty nails in the bits of wood, so my mum, who decided a summer dress and sandals was appropriate garden demo clothing, didn't get cut. James scheduled a work meeting in the middle of day 1, so managed to escape for a large proportion of demo day, and was thus relegated to carrying the wood out to the front to be taken to the tip.
The bad news, after all of that, is that underneath all the decking and plastic was not the lovely bare earth for planting I had hoped, but a lovely thick layer of concrete. Yay. I hope that removing the decking will still help the walls retain a bit less water, but unfortunately the concrete goes right up to the wall and means it won't dry out completely. Currently it looks like this:
So a lot cleaner and tidier, with all the random stuff the previous owners left behind carted away (apart from the elephants, which I sort of like...) but not the most attractive concrete yard.
Our options are 1. to get the concrete dug up with jackhammers and a lot of men or 2. to cut a channel in the concrete by the house to allow for drainage and get damp proofing injected into the wall, which involves chipping off all the plaster and re-rendering the outside of the house. double yay.
Ultimately we will probably go for option 2 (cheaper and easier) and tile over the concrete to create a sort of courtyard garden with some big planters and a seating area. I suspect the fencing may need redoing as well, as the back one is buckling under the weight of the huge mass of vines which are growing up between the end of our garden and the start of my neighbours' in a small channel between the fences. We suspect it is a Russian creeper of some sort, it grows ridiculously fast and we are constantly cutting it back. The next tactic is weed killer as it is just impossible, but we want to try and will it off without accidentally contaminating any of my neighbours' gardens. Ideally.
My builder is dropping off some tile and paving catalogues (oh the excitement! It actually is quite exciting to me. I don't know if that is a good thing.) and seems to want to get started asap so it looks like the garden will be where all my money is going for the foreseeable future. I suspect it will be just perfect in time for winter and then we won't end up going in it for six months!