19 April, 2010

Apple Creek and the Elephant’s Eye Light Railway

Once upon a time the Ungardener had a toy train. Somewhere along the way, as he grew up, his mother gave it away. As a child, I never had a teddy-bear. I inherited one from my sister. Grown up, I said to myself - stop whining - you want a teddy-bear - GET a teddy-bear. 

October 2008

We flew from Zurich to London City Airport. Rather a strange experience to circle over London, and land, next to a water-skier. On the cabin-trolley in the plane was a pilot-bear. Remember the Red Baron in the Peanuts cartoons. World War Flying Ace, little leather pilot’s jacket, with sheepskin lining. Goggles to protect his eyes. Leather helmet, with two ears sticking out. And a white silk scarf to trail in the jet-stream. Pilot Bear still sits in our living-room next to a hand-crafted wooden aeroplane, once made for a very Young Ungardener.

November 2008

And in London, we bought the Ungardener two Mamod steam trains. Which lurked in their boxes, waiting to travel the world. A few circuits in Zurich, just to see if they worked. Then Cape Town. Finally in this garden, he had the time and space to build the Elephant’s Eye Light Railway at Apple Creek. (Sadly the steam engines are awaiting further attention.)  

December 2009 

Apple Creek is one of our two swales, our rain garden. We have two 500 litre tanks to capture half of the rainwater from the roof (the other half is shared between the pond and the Spanish reed bed). When the tanks are full, the overflow goes to the pond and Apple Creek. Creek, swale, whatever, it is a hollow to capture the rain, and allow it to soak in, and do some good. Soften summer’s baked clay and soak down to the thirsty roots. Instead of flowing away, to neighbours, storm-water drains, rivers, and the sea.

Yesterday evening with Addoful Plumbago and Spekboom

You know how you start a new bit of garden. Dotting the pots around. Shall we have that there? And now it is so green, and overgrown - that I look at these pictures. And wonder if that IS still there, under the bulrushes and the reeds? I did see a few arum leaves, so will have to make sure they have a space to come thru.

Again yesterday evening. Hunt the bulrush. Pelargoniums from left to right, citrus, white and mint

This Apple Creek bed is very pleasing to look at. Gives the eye somewhere to rest. Simple green, just a few plants, repeated. The scattered flowers are mostly white, pelargoniums and Plumbago. A little gentle sky blue Plumbago, also easy on the eye. And delicate, fragile, little soft pink flowers on the citrus pelargonium. The Ungardener does top up the swale occasionally in summer, so the reeds have their roots in the damp ooze of a bog garden. Another place for the four o’clock clicking reed frogs to travel thru. 

Last October

Apple Creek because we inherited four apple trees. One died, we still have 3, and a handful of apples coming.

 Photos by Jurg and Diana, words by Diana of  Elephant's Eye 


  1. Well, I love both Teddy Bears and Trains. I think the child in us never truly grows up.

  2. Dear Diana, I followed the 'Creek' idea but was wondering right until the end where the 'Apple' came from. Now, all is clear.

    I loved the 'light railway',and it reminded me of model towns that exist throughout Britain where everything is scaled down as an exact replica. Such things always bring out the Alice in Wonderland in me and, I suspect, many others.

  3. Oh, I love your railway garden...Apple Creek, as you call it. Beautiful, and I imagine very peaceful to watch. It is amazing how everything has grown up in such a short time.

  4. I love posts with a story ... your story of the teddy bear, train and creek is lovely, Diana. We have a swale. It catches storm water before it can flow down into our basement. It is a nice feature with a bridge going over it. Our swale has no name though... mmm.

  5. Uh oh...don't let my husband see your railway garden, you'll give him ideas! It does look lovely though, and I love the Plumbago too!

  6. Hi Diana, wonderful post, your light railway is such a lovely addition to the garden, and seems to fit *just right*. Lovely blossoms on your apple tree. :)

  7. The Light Railway looks like fun and is quite the amazing construction. There is always something fascinating about miniature worlds that sparks our imaginations.

  8. The whimsy of such a place made me smile, and I love that the Ungardener had the clever idea to turn this practical landscape feature for saving precious water into a way to feature a precious childhood passion that still lingers today.

    The best part is that you bought yourself a teddy bear instead of whining. I sympathize as I wasn't allowed to have any stuffed animals because of my asthma growing up (they are expert dust-catchers), and my sis had a bed full of them, as tho to taunt me -- but I simply cherished my one cloth doll, Elizabeth, all the more. :)

  9. The railroad is very cool. Great pics and post. jim

  10. I had a teddy bear I still remember receiving for Christmas at age four. I would sit him on my knees and tell him bedtime stories and in return he would perform acrobatic flips. I kept him for many years, but when I went off to college, somehow he disappeared. Even at that age I missed my teddy! Some years later I found a stuffed Christmas ornament which was an exact replica, miniaturized, of my teddy! So I have him on my tree every year. I am still a child at heart. I loved your post and very much admire your railway!

  11. Diana, wonderful post! Your train garden, Apple Creek, is wonderful. I have a train...er, my husband has a train...that we bring out at Christmas to chug around the tree. Very traditional, I know, but it's fun! I like the outdoor aspect of yours!

  12. There's something about a train. Especially a small one. Anyone been on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch train. Eye to eye with the sheep in the fields?


Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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