Northern Rock

Northern rock: Hard work and good timing have transformed a Cumbrian

It was kind of David and Gail Sheals to spend so much time showing me round their Cumbrian garden. Outside their back door stood a mountain of cardboard boxes, packed with 300 small pots of Ilex crenata. The dreaded blight had killed all the box hedging in a part of the Sheals's wonderfully intricate garden and they hope that the little ilex, much used for topiary in Japan, will prove to be a suitable replacement. If I'd been them, I would have been dropping hints about the best route to the motorway, so I could start planting. But no. They even offered coffee.

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