BBC rugby commentator, Eddie Butler created his garden from scratch, on a site that used to be a poultry farm. He explained, “We had to change a lot and do a lot of digging out. The ground is quite hilly and we wanted to create flat areas for the children to use. I think they appreciate it; they spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer.”
Despite enjoying being outdoors, Eddie, who also writes regularly for The Observer, admits to battling with Mother Nature. “The garden is on the lower foothills of a mountain, so just 3” below the surface is base rock and we’ve got the notorious Monmouthshire clay soil as well, so it is a constant battle to get things to grow. I tend to look around the garden at this time of year and think ‘Oh God, I’ve got to wrestle with you again this spring’. We have lots of grass. I have yielded to grass. It’s clever stuff and will grow where nothing else will. I have become a big fan of grass.”
But the solid ground provides an even bigger problem for the ex-Welsh captain, as he explains. “Even the rugby posts we put up for the children are at 45 degrees now after all the storms. It’s hard work to get them to stay upright on this land.”
Eddie has however, found an easy and organic way to clear his 4 acre woodland. “It was really overgrown and needed managing so we bought a couple of pigs to put in there to clear it all. They’ve done a good job. I think the pigs have also helped keep the foxes away from our chickens. We lost a couple of ex-battery hens to the fox before we had the pigs, so we replaced them with these really majestic Orpingtons; they’re posh beyond! We’ve got one battery hen left who churns out eggs by the dozen but the Orpingtons are still thinking about whether to grace us with an egg or not,” he laughs. “They are quite happy just strutting around the place looking important.”
As well as looking after his menagerie, Eddie has also created raised beds to be able to grow his own veg and has made good use of the chicken manure left by the previous farmer. “The soil is quite fertile now, though you have to be careful with poultry manure as it can be quite strong and burn tender plants. We’ve grown brilliant peas and runner beans and I’ve always been able to grow a good parsnip.” he adds proudly. “We have just lifted a couple of Jerusalem Artichokes that had overwintered in the ground and they made brilliant soup, though I can see why the Americans regard them as weeds, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to get rid of them now.”
“Though it’s hard work, I do love my garden,” he continues enthusiastically, “though nothing will ever beat playing rugby. Not even commentating; it’s just not as exciting, though live TV keeps me on my toes.” He confesses.
Eddie will be commentating on England v Italy today (Saturday) and then flies over to Dublin for France v Ireland tomorrow. “I’m missing the Wales game but at least it’ll spare me all that willing them to do well. I can be more objective with other Countries so my knuckles won’t be quite so white around the mic this weekend!”