Visibility 2010

This is some of my experience of adapting a small urban garden (previously posted elsewhere).

I started using the garden for naked sunbathing about four years ago, which got me thinking about sight lines. After a few practical tests, I thought it would be fun to create a mathematical model of the garden including the fences, trees and buildings, the sun's altitude and direction, and the positions of all of the neighbours' windows, see note here. The result was the same as I found by trial: that there weren't many places that both got sun and were private. In the early days I used a windbreak as extra screening.

Since then I have let some of the shrubs grow higher, and one or two trees have become more mature. I have found more spots that I can use, and use without having to put up the windbreak, which means I can more easily take advantage of shorter periods of sunshine. I had been considering re-working the model with the new screening, but instead I have stolen Ian's idea to take photographs from critical locations. My original model was used to find lying-down sunbathing positions, assuming that all of me would be less than 0.5 metres from the ground. As I'm now more interested in being able to move around, the critical height is now about the level of the waist, for me one metre. I have therefore taken the pictures from about 1 metre above the ground.

wireframe of

The image above is the wire-frame model of the garden from the original work. The big vertical slab on the right is the back wall of the house, on the north side of the garden. The gabled building is the garage. The rim around the outside is the 6ft (1.8m) fence. The other half of the semi is (not shown) to the right. The letters show the camera locations. A is the back door, B is a flower bed, C is the garage door to the garden and D is the compost bin. These locations cover walking from the door to my favourite sun spot and from the door to the compost bin. I've included B especially as, believing the semi-neighbours to be out, last weekend I dug over that bed while wearing only trainers. All of the following photos can be clicked for a larger version.

view from back door view left from back door

The first image is the view straight out of the back door. In winter five or six windows are visible from here, but by early May they are all hidden. Turning to the left, the second image shows the view towards the other half of the semi, with my favourite sun spot just by the fence. To see me from their upstairs windows they would really have to lean out.

view ne from flower bed view w from flower bed

Here the first image is looking up from the flower bed towards next-door. This is the bathroom window, it is frosted, opens the other way and rarely more than a little. The second image is looking from the bed the other way towards the fence. I've never seen anyone in that direction, but I suppose a tall man could look over the fence. The pyracantha offers a little extra protection, but it always wants to grow out over the lawn and not further along the fence.

view towards bin

This is the view as I come out from behind the screening of the garage when heading towards the bin. The waist-high camera view shows no windows, but there are three visible to me at eye level. The sight lines just about work here though I'd like to add a bit more height.

view from bin

This is least satisfactory view, from the compost bin across to the back of the semi. It's quite an acute angle to the windows, so they'd have to come close to the glass to be able to see round that far, but there's little I can do to screen against windows that close and that high. I only come out here when I'm fairly sure next-door are out, or at least are on their own. Otherwise the bin trip is for after dark.

This is the view south from an upstairs window, showing what is being screened at ground level:

view from upstairs

So overall, I have come some way over the last three years or so, from hiding behind a windbreak to (carefully) digging over a flower bed on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I'd like more, but maybe that just isn't going to be in a 10m by 12m garden on an urban estate.


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