Keeping busy during the coronavirus crisis

Normally, this slot in our magazine features gardens to visit around the country, but now with everything closed, we all need to focus exclusively on our own gardens.  There is lots of information online about projects you can do in your garden during the lockdown.  Gardeners' World, for example, has an article called "10 Ways to Garden During Self-Isolation" which suggests activities such as sowing seeds, planting up a container display and feeding the birds.

However, this situation reminds me of the story of 76 year-old Stuart Grindle, a retired joiner from Tickhill near Doncaster, who mows his lawn twice a day because he wants the perfect garden.

The self-confessed “gardening geek” claims to spend 30 hours each week mowing the lawn to ensure that the grass remains exactly 5mm long. He also tends the flowerbeds regularly. Stuart’s passion for gardening is such that he estimates having devoted 40,000 hours over the past thirty years to it.

To help create the uniform grass length and perfect stripes, Stuart relies on a 66 year-old mower. The 14-blade 1947 Ransome Certes mower was originally owned by a bowling green keeper, but is now Stuart’s second-most important possession after the garden itself.  His wife, Anne, confirmed: “Stuart loves the lawnmower and he would not part with it for the world.  He says it’s perfect.”

Commenting on his efforts, Stuart said, “The lawn is my pride and joy. Most people probably only get the lawnmower out once a week but I cut my lawn twice a day three times a week. People think it’s astroturf because it’s in such good condition. That’s down to watering it and cutting it often.”

To help maintain the perfectly manicured look of his lawn, Stuart has also taken the unusual step of banning everyone except his wife from even walking on the grass. As a child, his son was banned from playing ball games on the grass, being sent instead to use the local playing fields.

Stuart has, however, in recent years relaxed his lawn rules for one day only, opening his garden to the public for a charity event. “I have to admit it was a pleasure and a pain,” he said about having to watch visitors walking across his treasured turf.  However the event is always a complete success raising thousands of pounds for charitable causes.

I have no doubt that Stuart Grindle, holder of Britain's best lawn title, in lockdown is doing as he always does.