- emptying and removing the old pond from the lower level that took up a lot of room and was an obvious magnet for some sort of Don't Look Now-style kiddy death tragedy;
- levelling the area where the pond used to be and putting some turf over it to make a lawn;
- digging up a couple of huge spiky triffids from the flower-beds on the lower level and providing a nice well-defined edge between lawn and flower-beds by installing some railway sleepers;
- building some steps to provide access from the upper-level patio and main barbecue and wine-consumption area to the lower level;
- rearranging the fence by the barbecue area to provide a bit of extra space to accommodate a giant chimenea;
- replacing the steep stone steps between levels at the side of the house, and levelling off the easy-to-miss extra step by the corner of the conservatory.
Things that were learnt during this process include:
- Draining a pond is a lot easier if you have a length of hose, a drain at a lower level than the pond and some knowledge of the siphon effect. Then you can just get the system set up and flowing and retire to a nearby seat with a couple of tinnies (partly medicinal, to wash away the partial mouthful of pond water you'll almost certainly have got while getting the siphon going) while the magic happens, rather than have to shuttle back and forth with buckets of murky water for the next two hours.
- Those long hex-headed Timberlok screws for fixing railway sleepers together are brilliant.
- If you want to make steps out of railway sleepers, don't want unsightly screws sticking out of the middle, but haven't got some convenient wooden side rails to fix them to, one thing you can do is: build a brick/rubble base for them to sit on with two lengths of plastic pipe embedded in it (making sure the pipes are free of cement internally), wait for the cement to dry, drill two Timberloks halfway into the underside of the sleeper, pour some runny cement into the pipes and then sit the sleeper on the base so that the Timberloks sit in the pipes. Once that's dried you'll be able to get an elephant down there without it shifting about. Obviously careful measurement to synchronise siting of pipes and Timberloks is essential.