Terracing the hillside

The house is built on rock, on the side of a steep hill covered in wildflowers and a tangle of thorns. We fell in love with its wildness. Our first months here, we sat on the terrace and looked out across the valley. In front of us were fig trees and walnut trees and a mass of ‘unidentifiable green’. Our predecessors too had fallen in love with its wildness, this is how it looked when they moved here [below] in 2005 before they renovated the house and built the terrace.

[photo: Nigel & Ginny Cobb, Europa Alpacas]

[photo: Nigel & Ginny Cobb, Europa Alpacas]

We didn’t expect that wildness to issue us with a challenge, and to issue it so quickly. During our first winter in the house there was above-average rainfall. It wasn’t just the frequency of the rain but the quantity, and the force with which it fell. We noticed the topsoil on the hillside below our terrace was washing away.

After much deliberation, we bit the bullet and asked our local builder for his advice. His answer was the one we feared but knew we must tackle: terrace the hillside before another bad winter threatened the stability of our fence and terrace.

After clearing the vegetation, the first task was to sink the foundations for the three retaining walls [below]. Re-bars were sunk into the trenches, forms built around them then concrete poured in.sinking the foundations 29-3-11 (2)Once the walls were in, a huge quantity of soil was needed to fill in and level-up [below]. looking behind the walls, before soil 29-3-11 (2)Soon after the soil was filled in, we started planting [below]. terraces growing 14-5-12A year later, everything was growing well [below]. terraces growing2 26-3-12 (2)agrowing well beside the new steps 14-5-12 (2)After painting, one of the last tasks was to clear the bottom level [below]: Pablo planted some poplar whips, we added a combination of pinus trees, oleanders and rosemary. Stepping stones lead from the bottom of the terrace steps to the top of the orchard steps. footpath on bottom terrace 27-8-13 (2)Looking down now from above, [below] the growth in two years has been phenomenal. looking down at terraces from above 27-8-13 (2)5 to remember
la piedra – the rock
una maraña – a tangle
las espinas – the thorns
indefinible – unidentifiable
el desafío – the challenge

2 thoughts on “Terracing the hillside

  1. steven1111

    What an amazing and huge job you’ve done here. We have similar slippage problems here in Seattle and every year it seems another fancy house on the bluffs slides into the water because of poor foundations on steep slopes. I”m glad you’ve saved your home so well. Your plantings look grand! I even recognize them… I hope life goes well for you all in your newly upgraded digs…
    All the best to you and thanks for visiting me,


    1. sandradan1 Post author

      Thx Steve, yes we’re pleased with the finished effect. Looking forward to this spring and seeing the new growth. The house was always safe as it’s built on rock, but the fence was iffy. Better safe than sorry! SD



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