Sunday, November 15, 2009


It was a lovely, mild afternoon so I went for a walk on Wandsworth Common today. To get to the common, you go down the street at the end of our road, turn right and then down a footpath that leads along the back of the very grand Victorian mansions that back on to the common itself.
These are imposing red-brick properties, costing millions, and bristling with turrets and twiddly bits. It's more or less impossible to walk past a row of prime London real-estate without seeing some sort of "improvement" going on, even during the credit crunch, so I wasn't too surprised when I saw the back gate to one of these houses was open, and a couple of men were laying a new lawn in the large garden.
I'd nearly walked past when, having given it a moment's thought, it struck me that it was an odd time of year to lay turf. I looked again and noticed that there were some offcuts of turf lying by the back gate. I took a third look and realised that the "turf" had what looked like a rubber backing.
Maybe they were laying a bit of fake turf in a very shady area, I thought. Maybe they were constructing a place to hide the rubbish bins and were using fake turf to disguise it. I carried on with my walk.
On the way back, I noticed the men were laying paving slabs as stepping stones through the lawn. I could see one of them mark out the area where a slab was going. Then he took a sharp knife and cut out a neat rectangle, throwing it on the discarded offcuts of artificial grass.
"I'm sorry to bother you," I said, "but are you laying fake turf?" He looked at me as if I was mad. "Yes," he said. "Over the whole garden?" I queried. "Yes, of course," he said, rolling his eyes at his mate, who shrugged in a kind of "there's always one" sort of way.
What happens when it rains? Is the rubber backing permeable? And how do you sweep up leaves? (With a blower, I'll bet.) Or do you have artificial trees as well? And doesn't it come as a huge disappointment to blackbirds and robins? And what happens if anyone drops a cigarette on it? Does anyone else think I'm mad to think this is a bonkers idea?