Coastal Gardens

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Part 1 – Chapter 1

Why live by the sea?

A place by the sea as a main or second home can be many people’s salvation. If the home comes with some land around it, this opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and endless pleasure. People can change their lifestyle beyond measure.

Why choose the coast?
There is real beauty on this planet of ours, but we can’t always see it. Our professional and working lives often dominate and blind us to the natural wonders that are around us. However, if we take time out of our busy lives, we can see that we are surrounded by beautiful landscapes: scenic mountains and deep tree-lined valleys … golden deserts and jungles teeming with wildlife … rolling hills and shimmering lakes … and, of course, our coastal regions.
In many places, the coastline forms the most awe-inspiring of all of earth’s natural phenomena and, incredibly, there are some 461,078 miles (742,000km) of land-based coastlines across the world. It is impossible to even guess at the number of people living in coastal regions – but it is believed that the majority of the world’s population lives within 37 miles (60km) of the sea.
Historically, this may be because the sea offers a source of food and for reasons of economy. In more recent times, however, this mass migration coastwards has also been for the sake of wellbeing and to take advantage of a ‘better’ way of life.
The weather is regarded by most people as being more pleasant by the sea. In truth, it can be very similar to prevailing conditions inland, but skies are generally more open and, with fresh breezes off the sea, bad weather can often clear more quickly and the sun’s strength can be more intense.
A hot summer’s day in an inland city, or in the centre of a large landmass, can be unpleasantly humid and unbearably hot. The land all around reflects and radiates the heat, exacerbating the effect, whilst the spaces between tall buildings can trap hot, dry air. On the coast, a sea breeze blows in, reducing humidity and although surface temperatures may remain as warm as inland, the effects are reduced by the breeze, making the whole experience more pleasant.
The coastal climate also seems to cause an infinite variation of light and colours – it is for this reason that the area around St Ives on the north coast of the English county of Cornwall has become famous the world over for painting.
The sunlight here, if you believe the artists and the tourist offices, is Mediterranean-like. For some unexplained reason, it does actually seem brighter here, with cleaner, crisper air.

Better health
In Victorian England in the late nineteenth century, it was believed that being near to the sea was conducive to better health. A common phrase was to go to the seaside to ‘convalesce’. Following an illness, or surgery, your constitution would, it was believed, be improved greatly by staying for a time by the sea. The belief was not always reliant on visiting a warm place either. For example, the town of Rothesay on the Scottish island of Bute still to this day evokes that Victorian era.
The Victorians put down the healthy, bracing air and distinctive smell of the seaside to ozone, but in fact the smell is not ozone (which would be extremely harmful). Instead, University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK) scientists have found the smell comes from dimethyl sulphide, which in high concentrations can irritate the eyes and lungs. Regardless of this piece of science, the belief has been perpetuated in the years since.
It is also worth pointing out the merits of cleaner coastal air over inland city air, and this really comes down to one word: pollution. Cities such as Pittsburgh – some 292 miles (470km) from the Atlantic Ocean – and Washington DC – some 62 miles (100km) from the same ocean – rank highly in the list of most polluted of US cities.
Of course, it depends on the type of heavy industry that takes place within the city, and perhaps it is unfair to highlight just two cities like this. However, it cannot be coincidence that most of the world’s 10 worst polluted cities (in a report compiled over seven years by the Blacksmith Institute, a team of environmental and health experts) are inland. These include the Russian Federation cities of Dzherzhinsk, some 745 miles (1,200km) from the Caspian Sea; Norilsk, 217 miles (350km) from the Cara Sea; Linfen in China, 434 miles (700km) from the Yellow Sea; and, the most land-locked of all, Mayluu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, 1,118 miles (1,800km) from the Caspian Sea.

A second home
More affluent members of society often choose to own a second home. This can be part of a sound financial strategy, such as a long-term plan for retirement, and it can also provide them with valuable lifestyle options. Here are the four main reasons people buy a second home:

Sound investment
The housing market may go up and down, but in the long run it generally appreciates in value. As cities become more and more crowded, beautiful homes in beautiful settings will become increasingly rare – and valuable.

Rental opportunity
As housing and estate agents say: ‘Pick a home you love and others will love it too.’ When you own a second home, you open up the possibility of renting it out to others, which helps to pay off the mortgage at the same time.

Fun times
Perhaps the best way to use a second property is recreationally. If you love to fish, sail, water-ski or just walk along the shore, a home near the coast will be just the thing. Even when you love your main place of residence inland, being able to get away for a while is a great bonus.

Live by the coast and rent out your inland home
Many have successfully swapped their lives in the city for living by the sea. Technology has made it possible for many of us to work wherever we want, so why not take advantage of it and live where you want to? A move to a less populated area does not have to be prohibitively expensive nor does it have to be for ever. Instead of renting out your holiday home and living in the city, you can do the reverse. Urban homes are easier to rent out no matter what time of year it is, and the sense of wellbeing generated by this strategy is that you can feel like you’re on holiday every day!

Downsizing and retirement
Whether or not you own a second home, purchasing a property in an idyllic spot of your choice enables you to use it for your pleasure during your working life or as an additional income-generator. When it comes to retiring, you have the option of kicking off your shoes and permanently relocating to your second home, or even selling it and upgrading to another home in the same area.
Living by the coast can engender contentment and feelings of good health, and these are exactly the attributes sought by those planning to retire. Children have by now grown up and flown the nest, so this move to the coast frequently goes hand in hand with opting for a smaller property. It is a real lifestyle change for most people and something
that is usually very welcome after years working. It is a chance to wind down.

Entertaining people by the sea is a world apart from entertaining inland. For a start, anyone who has grown up in a place a long way from the sea, and who then subsequently moves close to the sea, will know that their land-locked family and friends do like to come and stay – and often very regularly.
Entertaining may simply involve a meal outdoors or a garden barbecue. A coastal setting – and, even better, one with a view of the sea – will generally have a very different ambience to one inland or in a built-up environment.
Entertaining outdoors also gives you the opportunity to show your visitors your coastal garden – and your coastal gardening prowess.
You will be able to demonstrate just what can be achieved near to the sea … and, if you choose the timing carefully, key plants in the garden will be at their best.

Where to go
Where should you look for your spot near the sea? Those who are planning to buy a second home near the coast, or maybe even move permanently to a place on the coast, need to decide exactly where this should be.
In many cases the decision will be dictated by family connections to the area. It could be where someone came from originally and now they wish to return there to spend their remaining years. Or perhaps the destination may be chosen because it is somewhere that had previously been much enjoyed on holidays.
Occasionally, it has been known for people to choose a location because it offers the right climate, facilities, landscape, transport links and so on … yet they have never been there before, or not for any serious length of time. This may seem a rash move, but usually there will be a unique or dominating attribute that surpasses any other objections to the move. The reputation of the location could just be too enticing!
Coastal properties have appreciated at an average of 7 per cent annually over the past 50 years (according to a US federal study).
A waterfront property is worth from 8 per cent to 45 per cent more than a comparable inland site.
But, let’s face it, these prices can make the decision to move prohibitive to many people, and the supply of ideal places to live on the coast is limited. Unfortunately, unregulated development has marred the beauty of some areas; in others the economy is too closely tied to tourism to be able to support the good life all the year round. Perhaps there’s too much visitor traffic in summer or there are too many storms in winter. There are, however, a few rules to follow to help you make up your mind whether to move coastwards.

Pre-purchase checklist
It is wise to analyse the wording in any sales documents properly. For example, ‘ocean view’ or ‘sea view’ does not necessarily mean the same thing as ‘fronting on to the water’. Some people have purchased what they thought was a dream home near the beach, only to find some weeks later that there are bulldozers are tearing up the ground between them and the sea for the development of a house that really will be ‘fronting on to the water’.

Check for erosion and storm damage
Houses that have never been flooded and those with a sea wall are worth more than unprotected properties. Two other factors affecting property value are the distance of the house from the water and how frequently the beach undergoes a programme of renourishment. If you’re purchasing an older home, have a structural engineer determine how vulnerable it is to storm damage. Then, no matter how old the construction, have your home inspected regularly for signs of corrosion.

New builds
If you have bought a plot of land for building your own property, make sure that you ask local authorities about height limits, setbacks and wind-resistance rules. Learn the environmental laws; for example, you may be restricted in what you can build in areas that contain protected wildlife.
Coastal homes need to withstand the elements, which often means stronger (and more expensive) building materials, as well as specific design elements such as rounded rather than angular corners. Restrictions on sewage systems and septic tanks may dictate the size of the house that you can build. Having to transport heavy machinery and materials to an island or remote waterfront location will add to costs.

Public or private beaches
If you are buying a place partly because of its proximity to the beach, check whether the beach is public or private. If it is a public beach you will be powerless to stop people from setting up umbrellas and lounge chairs, spoiling the outlook for you.

Plan for insurance
It is important that you build sizeable insurance premiums into your budget. Some insurers have stopped insuring properties in coastal areas because of storm losses, so expect to pay more for less coverage. You could also need flood insurance. And be aware that insurers generally won’t compensate you for land lost to beach erosion.

Plan for maintenance
Finally, remember that salt air is tough on homes and gardens, as well as cars, metal, wood, fabrics – in fact, anything left outdoors. If you live within a quarter of a mile of the beach, every time you throw open those French windows salt spray and mildew get inside the home; expect to replace rugs, appliances and even mirrors more often.

A rural setting
Those moving out from large towns or cities will perhaps be looking for a complete change. The coast will, in the main, give them this change. But there is also the ‘rural’ element to bear in mind.
Most coastlines are narrow strips of land that are backed by several miles of countryside. There are almost certainly a few hamlets, villages and towns dotted about, but between them are many square miles of open countryside. This can be the ideal place if you want to ‘get away from it all’ or ‘get closer to nature’. However, remote rural areas do not always offer a daily postal service – or express pick-up if you are running a business. It is important therefore to investigate these essential services before you move. You will also have less access to shops, although good internet access may solve this for you.

Foreign parts
It takes a pioneering sort of spirit to pack up and leave the country of your origin to live and, perhaps, work in another country, but it is happening more and more. Most of the items listed under Pre-purchase checklist (see page 19) will also apply to buying a coastal property abroad, but additional points to consider prior to making a foreign purchase include:

Nothing will make you feel less at home than not being able to communicate. Going on a basic language course can have a very positive effect on your relocation experience. It will make the difference between being understood and feeling frustrated because no one knows what you are talking about.

Check what the healthcare facilities are in the country and locality of the new property. You should also confirm your cover with your medical insurance provider if you have one.

Make sure that all the necessary paperwork has been completed well in advance of your departure date. This will ensure that you do not have any last-minute panics about visas, insurance etc.

Keeping in touch
Leaving your friends and family is often the hardest thing about relocating abroad. Don’t forget to give everyone that you want to keep in touch with your email address and telephone number before you go. Also you should remember to arrange for the redirection of your post after you have left so that
you do not miss anything important.

Coastal cities
Anyone choosing to live in a coastal city, such as Liverpool in the UK, Los Angeles in the USA, Vancouver in Canada, Sydney in Australia, and so on, will not just have to worry about the effects of salt and sand in the air. They will also need to address issues of pollution, as well as microclimates brought about by urban density. A plant that is tolerant of all these coastal and city-based problems, yet is a worthy subject for the garden, is a rare and valuable commodity!
Australia is, not surprisingly when you think about it, the country that boasts most cities on the coast. It is, after all, essentially one massive island, of which just the outer edge is really habitable – the inner, major portion being mainly desert and scrub.
Over 30 of Australia’s key cities such as Adelaide, Wollongong, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Darwin are coastal, which means that more than 90 per cent of Australians live within a short distance of the sea.
Most of the world’s coastal cities started as small shipping ports, and these sites were chosen because of deep-water channels and/or freshwater river estuaries. In many cases these cities are today the cause of much environmental concern, for one of the most challenging issues facing our oceans now is that of increasingly rapid coastal urbanization. With the majority of the world’s population living within 37 miles (60km) of the coastline, and this figure steadily increasing, it is important that environmentalists assess the full implications of this urbanization.
Coastal ecosystems are amongst the most productive on earth, for some 90 per cent of the planet’s living and non-living resources are found within a few hundred kilometres of the coast.
These valuable natural assets are seriously threatened by coastal sprawl and pollution. Climate change means that there are additional coastal threats too, including rising sea levels, and the ever-present danger of extreme events such as tropical storms and tsunamis.
Living in a coastal city brings with it a number of personal, environmental and economic pressures, but, given the space, you can still create the idyllic garden of your dreams


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First published 2009 by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd, Castle Place, 166 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1XU
Text © John Bickerton and Graham Clarke 2009 © in the Work GMC Publications 2009 ISBN: 978-1-86108-636-5 All rights reserved
The right of Graham Clarke and John Bickerton to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, sections 77 and 78. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner. This book is sold subject to the condition that all designs are copyright and are not for commercial reproduction without the permission of the designer and copyright owner. The publishers and authors can accept no legal responsibility for any consequences arising from the application of information, advice or instructions given in this publication.

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