Black Country couple shell out to create garden grotto

It looks like a piece of art straight from Gaudi's Barcelona – but this design is taking pride of place in a garden in the Black Country.

Black Country couple shell out to create garden grotto

In a carefully designed array of sea shells, this stunning grotto is the result of five years of work.

And visitors will be able to see the artwork first hand when Anne and Brian Bailey open their garden in Wolverhampton next weekend.

It is just one of the amazing projects the couple have taken on in the past five years ready to welcome more than 100 people.

Mr Bailey, aged 62, said: "We've been building the shell grotto for a few years now.

"When we first opened our garden up four years ago, we had two walls done. We got the shells from trips to the seaside, and our friends would always bring a couple of buckets back. Some of the rarer shells we bought off the internet. My wife did the design. We laid the design out on the dinner table before we put it on the walls.

"We have been to Barcelona but the design has had inspiration from the Green Man and some of the other grottos we have visited around the country."

Packed full of meandering paths, quirky projects and rare plants, the grotto is not the garden's only gem.

The garden, at their home in Waterdale, Compton, also features one of the sheds nominated for Shed of the Year, a gothic retreat built by Brian.

As well as the shed, Brian has also created a water feature.

The old air raid shelter has been transformed into a colourful array of shells for visitors to marvel at as they walk around the colourful garden.

Mrs Bailey, aged 65, said: "Each year we give ourselves a project to work on.

"This year Brian has re-laid the patio and put in a water feature, but we have also created a shell grotto which is round the back of the shed.

"When we moved here in 1990 it was pretty much just large conifers and grass, and now there is hardly any grass. It gets quite 'jungly' at times.

"Our neighbours call it the Tardis Garden because it is quite small but there is so many things in here."

Last year, Brian built the gothic retreat which has made it to the final of Shed of the Year.

Mr Bailey said: "Building the summerhouse through the worst of the winter weather was hard going, but it was worth it to have such a peaceful place to sit and enjoy the garden."

The shed was created built onto the front of an old air raid shelter during the winter of 2012/13 and features a mural and ornate wooden furniture.

It was inspired by a visit to Castle Coch in South Wales, and a view from the window allows visitors to admire the 'ruin' that Brian built the previous year. In his competition entry, Brian said: "It is built onto the front of an old underground air raid shelter, which we have developed into a grotto with shell mosaics on the walls and ceiling.

"It is designed to provide an atmospheric retreat of black and white timber on a stone base, with stained glass windows, reclaimed church furniture and hangings and flower stencilled walls."

They will open up their garden to the public on June 8 and July 20 this year, where visitors can also have a cup of tea and a cake while they admire the garden.

It is part of the National Garden Scheme, where private gardens are opened up for the public to visit. Mrs Bailey added: "We have been part of the scheme for four years now and we always seem get quite a few visitors, but of course it depends on the weather.

"Last June we had about 140 people visit us. People call it the Tardis garden because there is a lot more things in here than it look.

"There are meandering paths for people to walk along and we like to grow flowers that are a bit different.

"We have lots of roses and peonies that are coming through but we also have a Dragon Lily which is a big, black, sinister looking plant.

"The Dragon Lily is pollinated by flies so I hope that isn't going on when the garden is open because it can smell quite a bit."

She said how popular the garden is all depends on the weather, but they have even taken steps to combat that.

She added: "One year it absolutely poured down – it was terrible."

"So that year we created a glass roof over the patio.

The garden will open 1.30pm to 5.30pm on both days, and entrance costs £3.

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