Swamp thing: how to create a garden from a wilderness

PUBLISHED: 15:33 13 October 2020

Thomas and Kunal on their slightly patchy rear lawn, which after a third sowing, and hopefully no more storms will provide the venue for their wedding.
Photo: Amir Shah

Thomas and Kunal on their slightly patchy rear lawn, which after a third sowing, and hopefully no more storms will provide the venue for their wedding. Photo: Amir Shah

© Amir Shah

Kunal Trehan and Thomas Hope are creating the home of their dreams in Sandbach, and started with their, very damp, garden

The driveway is designed to have impact and create a sense of arrival
Photo: Touched InteriorsThe driveway is designed to have impact and create a sense of arrival Photo: Touched Interiors

The first thing guests arriving at Kunal and Thomas’s new home will see is an intriguing glimpse of ancient treetops, set against a wide-open sky, behind a set of ultra-modern gates, tying the age of the land and the newness of the home together in perfect harmony. As you will have come to understand by now, if you have been following their story in Cheshire Life over the last few months, absolutely nothing is left to chance with this build and creating a sense of arrival was high on the to-do list when Kunal and Thomas started their grand design.

“To create the impact we sought the driveway was designed with bespoke black aluminium privacy gates connected to stone pillars,” Kunal says. “We loved the idea of mixing the traditional and modern, which has been extended to the architecture of our build and is reflective of our plot. Once the gates gradually open you are greeted with tall, slimline limestone gabion-walling mixed with composite anthracite panels and then, to add even more glamour, we have lined the 70-metre driveway with Italian cypress trees on both sides, leading to a Mediterranean-inspired front garden. Lighting is key of course, so the home-automation design has allowed for a stunning lighting scheme to bring the driveway to life after dusk.”

The house sits in a two-acre plot and before landscaping could even be considered a mammoth clearing and repair operation was required. There has been a house on this land for many centuries and previous owners were very aware of its tendency to flooding, with rainfall run-off from the land either side of the plot all pouring into the grounds, and had installed an underground drainage system with a culvert leading under the canal that flows romantically along one side of the grounds. Sadly, time and lack of attention did their worst and all had failed.

“I must say that we certainly had vision when we look back at it now,” Kunal says, with feeling. “The grounds were completely overgrown, a wild unkept woodland with every tree, fence and outbuilding wrapped in brambles and vegetation. Indeed, we couldn’t even see large parts of the boundaries when we made the purchase. We had to rely on aerial photography and video.

The gounds of Kunal and Thomas's new home were completely overgrown and prone to severe flooding.
Photo: Touched InteriorsThe gounds of Kunal and Thomas's new home were completely overgrown and prone to severe flooding. Photo: Touched Interiors

“Luckily we’re not ones to hide away from a challenge. It took over three years to complete the necessary land surveys, get the underground historic drainage repaired, new drainage installed and the grounds flat with extensive raising to achieve an eventual flood-free zone. It took a Goliath amount of effort, manpower and 300 lorry-loads of soil to get to the end result. It felt like whenever we would complete one task, a new problem would arise, but we got through it to eventually and were able to seed the grass this year.”

The celebration was short-lived however, as two weeks after the second seeding storms hit and over the next few weeks washed away a lot of the seed from the second drilling.

“We have several patches of luscious green grass,” Thomas laughs, “so we can envision the end result at least. We are planning a third seeding next spring – and hopefully no storms afterwards. Thinking back, I think most people would shy away from it but I trusted Kunal’s vision that the muddy, damp, overgrown forest would become the haven he promised me, although I did remind him of this often over the last three years.”

“Looking past the disarray I could see the potential for a beautiful formal garden and this was the driving force behind our plans,” Kunal explains. “We wanted to preserve the sense of openness and naturalness however, not overwrite it, and to date have planted over 70 trees and extensive hedging. We kept the fruit trees that were already here and form an important part of the history of the land. Our final part of the landscaping will be to plant further architectural and decorative trees as part of the last phase of our driveway landscaping.”

Kunal and Thomas chose a local company, Roebuck Agricultural Services, to complete the work and have been extremely happy with their choice.

“They’ve been absolutely brilliant. They really took the time to understand the brief and worked so hard to achieve the vision. It’s so important to find people that make the effort to see what you see and deliver what you want.”

Discover how Kunal and Thomas have pushed glazing concepts to the limit in last month’s installment.

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