Anyone for Tennis ?

In a previous article I mentioned many houses in Lot-et-Garonne can come with large parcels of land attached, acres of lawn maybe some people’s idea of bliss however this amount of open space allied to the climate here lends itself to many other uses and/or features that can be enjoyed throughout most of the year.

Because this is Wimbledon season and also my favourite pastime I will begin with what needs to be considered when building a Tennis Court.


There are a number of factors to think about,

Space required

A tennis court measures nearly 24 metres in length by almost 11 metres in width. Add to that the extra space you need for fencing and space around the court and it becomes clear that you cannot just cram a decent playing court into ‘just enough’ space.  33.5mX16.2m would be an ideal size.

Although there is no perfect orientation for a tennis court, a true-north/south orientation will minimise the problem of players directly facing the sun, in warmer weather they will mainly be used in the morning and evening.

Next the type of playing surface. There are three main choices:

  • Concrete
  • Clay
  • Synthetic turf

If you choose concrete, it’s not enough to have a concrete slab laid. Tennis courts require special treatment, so you will need to find a company that specialises in tennis court construction. Clay is the cheapest option, but it requires a great deal of maintenance. If you want a synthetic turf court, you will need to do your homework, because there are variations even in synthetic turfs designed for tennis courts.

Cost of a court.
The cost of a tennis court depends on a variety of factors besides the materials used. Some other cost factors may include:

  • The services of an engineer or specialist
  • A retaining wall.
  • Lighting /Water
  • Seating area

In general, a tennis court costs about the same amount as a full-sized in ground swimming pool. You can pay less, but if you skimp on costs, the court will not last. The slab must be professionally laid so that subsidence doesn’t cause cracks to appear and portions of the court to sink. The extra cost of an engineer and the laying of the slab to their specifications is worth it in the long run. A well-constructed tennis court can add value to your home, whilst a poorly constructed one will end up being an expensive eyesore and detract from the value of your home.
Using a specialist company you should budget for between €30/40k

Pétanque/Boules Piste

For International competition and National Championships the minimum dimensions of a single lane is 15M x 4M with a dead boule line a metre from any barriers so for one full size lane in your garden you will need an area 17m x 6m if the playing area is surrounded by a brick wall or timber sleeper. However if you don’t intend having International matches in your garden you can make them any size that suits !


Pétanque may be played on any surface but grass  is not recommended, gravel or hard earth is the favoured surface

To construct a pétanque terrain that is satisfactory to play on in all seasons it is first necessary to select a reasonably well-drained area.

The topsoil should be removed to a depth of 6-8 inches (150 – 200 mm) and a layer of hard-core, brick rubble, stone etc. laid in the bottom.  This should be compacted down to approx 100mm thick with a vibrating compactor.  The area can now be filled with crushed quarry stone 13mm down to dust all in.  A heavy roller or vibrating compactor over this will provide a hard firm surface. However, if played on at this stage the large stones will come to the surface. The area will need subsequent rolling and watering to settle the stones down.

A solid surround of some sort is usual to a playing area to prevent boules that are out of play rolling considerable distances or causing injury. A wide variety of items are used for this purpose but old railway sleepers or planks are best, don’t use large stones as they will damage the Boules which can reach them at quite a pace on occasion. The edging should be about 100/150mm above the playing area.

Once the material has been very well compacted a thin layer of quarry dust 6mm to dust should be spread over the area and rolled.

The overall surface desired is not dead level flat or smooth you are not playing Crown Green Bowls, part off the skill of Pétanque is judging and reacting to how the other players Boules have faired as well as your own and learning how that particular piste plays.

Price will obviously vary depending on whether you get a local building contractor to do the work or do it yourself, vibrating compactors are easy enough to hire.

You may also want to locate a couple of rustic benches or seats around the piste.

I love playing Pétanque, after watching some of the more senior members of the village play when I first lived here I thought – well that can’t be difficult, immediately underestimating the skill and years of practice of those players which they then proceeded to demonstrate to me…..

Garden Pond/Water Feature Pond

It is essential that a pond is sited correctly, it is very difficult to put things right later on. Choose an open, sunny site that is not exposed to the prevailing wind. Avoid areas that are in deep shade or near overhanging deciduous trees. If you are sinking the pond into the ground, make sure the site you choose is free from underground obstacles, such as drainpipes and cables. Choose a position where there is space to plant a border along at least one side of the water feature to provide a natural transition into the rest of the garden.

The bigger the pond the easier it will be to look after, provided it has been sited in the right place. If you want a traditional feature, filled with aquatic plants and fish, a pond with a surface area of around 5m² will be large enough to be self-sustaining. The deepest area should be about 60cm with 15-cm deep shelves running along the edges where shallow-water marginal plants can be grown. It is important to have deep-water areas in a pond to prevent rapid fluctuations in water temperature that can put fish under stress.
If you want something smaller, then be prepared to maintain your pond regularly or forget about stocking it with fish. Plant-only pools can look very attractive and still be home to a wealth of wildlife. Indeed, if you want a wildlife pond, it is important not to add fish to the water because they will eat many of the creatures you are trying to encourage.

If you have decided to use a flexible liner for your pond you will need to work out which size of liner to buy. The easiest way to do this is to use the following formula 2 x maximum depth of pond + maximum length of pond = length of liner required

2 x maximum depth of pond + maximum width of pond = width of liner required

So, for a pond that is 4x3m with a maximum depth of 50cm you would require a liner that is at least 5m by 4m

Which type of liner ?

There are basically two types of liner: flexible and rigid. Flexible liners are available in various materials including PVC, butyl rubber, LDPE and polythene; while rigid liners are either fibreglass or rigid plastic.

Flexible liners

Polythene is the cheapest option, but will last just a few years and is easy to puncture. The rest are all stronger and will last three or four times as long. Butyl rubber is the best, lasting up to 20 years, but it is the most expensive.

A neighbour and friend John has just finished his ‘Cabin’ by the water feature in his garden complete with the essential beer fridge, tea and coffee-making equipment and comfortable seats. Watching the animal life in and around this water feature is absorbing, enjoyable and relaxing.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

The Potager has been around in France for hundreds of years, best described as a formal area for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers. The most popular way for people nowadays is to construct wooden squares about 2m x2m or rectangles to make the maintenance easier, but shapes for the beds themselves can be varied – square, rectangular, triangular, L-shaped or even cross-shaped, the possibilities for the patterns within are limitless. Formal, geometric, and symmetrical designs help to create a sense of order, try not to make the design too complicated – simple is best, particularly in a small space.

Paths  between the beds can be made of just about any material, gravel, brick and bark all look good and are fairly low-maintenance. Plant supports, plant pots, rainwater barrels and composters can all be attractive too, and needn’t cost a fortune. Recycled and hand-made products have a charm all of their own and can be quite ‘shabby chic’.

Provided a little attention is given daily the maintenance of your vegetables is simple and the resultant produce a joy to look at and to eat.

Croquet Lawn


Croquet can be a perfect summer game, relaxing and competitive at the same time. But an uneven playing surface and grass that is too long can bring an element of frustration to croquet, with seemingly perfect shots being sent off-line by hidden rocks and bumps. The diminished enjoyment that results adds up to diminished use of the croquet set, but it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little preparation and effort, you can build a croquet court in your garden that will greatly improve your enjoyment of the game.

Choosing the Right Spot to Build the Court

A standard croquet court is mostly level, though slightly crowned, and manicured like a putting green. You don’t need that. Level is good, but in your garden everyone is playing the same court, so who cares if it slopes off to one side or the other? What’s more important is to find an area where the grass grows well, drainage is good, and there are no tree roots sticking up above ground level. An area that gets a decent amount of shade is also good. Make your court as big or as small as you like–the rules are easily adapted to whatever you have to work with.

Get a Smooth Court Surface

Natural ups and down in your lawn are fine. Learning to read them can give you a home court advantage. Areas where the ground is rocky or uneven won’t work and can cause the ball to hop and change direction unpredictably. Fix these by watering your lawn and dragging an asphalt roller over the surface of the court. Be careful to press the soil smooth but don’t  mat the grass into the dirt , you can achieve the same result with a hand tamper, albeit more slowly.

The roller compresses the soil, which can inhibit your lawn’s root network so use a plug aerator after the court has dried.

Cut it Down

You want the grass on your croquet court to be short–about an inch-and-a-half or whatever the lowest setting on your mower is. After mowing the first time, use a blower to blow the plugs left behind by the aerator off the court. Now you’re ready to put the stakes and wickets in and let the backyard games begin!


Because it is cut so short, the grass on the croquet court needs more water than the rest of your lawn, and you should let it grow longer if you don’t plan on playing croquet for an extended period. When you mow, remove the wickets and stakes. Trying to use a trimmer can damage them and the playing surface. And if you anticipate that your croquet court will be used frequently–more than once a week–consider planting a grass that can cope with hard wear.

Beach Volley Ball


A beach court should be 8-by-16 m.  Make sure you have some extra space around the court in addition to the minimum space you’ll need to play, you will need to think about the borders and the playing surface.

Most gardens have a lawn or grassy area. If you don’t want to fuss a lot with your court construction, you can simply cut the grass extremely short, comb through and get rid of any pebbles or rocks hidden in the grass, and then mark the dimensions of your court.

For Beach volley ball you’ll have to excavate the desired area up to several feet in-depth 0.3 m – 1 m basically creating a giant sandbox. Set up a drainage ditch running toward the lowest point of land, and then lay a perforated drainage pipe across the middle of the court. The pipe, laid with the perforated side facing down and the closed end at the highest point of the excavation zone, should zigzag across the court and empty out into the drainage ditch.

A bottom layer of gravel (covered with landscape fabric) and enough proper sand—meaning sand particles that don’t cloud or dust-up easily.

Drainage is the most important factor to avoid your court becoming a giant mud/sand wrestling pitch after heavy rain

More extreme enhancements

Helicopter landing pad


For celebrities and those busy international business people for whom time is money what better way to save time than to have your own Helicopter Landing Pad. Although a pad is not necessary to land a Helicopter, (paramount is accessibility and safety), you can now join the Beckham’s of the world and install one for around €15k.

Personal Underground Shelters

You can’t take it with you – but for people determined to hang on to it for as long as possible why not consider your very own Underground Emergency Shelter?.

I list a website for a company in America which ships worldwide These start at a few 10’s of thousands of euro’s or of course you could find a specialist company in Europe.

One such company is Vivos who have just created the ultimate shelter system in Germany. The shelter comprises of a luxurious array of swimming pools, theatres, gyms, restaurants, custom apartments and its own helicopter service. It can apparently withstand a nuclear blast, chemical agents, earthquakes & tsunamis – virtually any other disaster or attack.

Residency there will cost about the same as the GNP of a medium-sized African country.

Comments are always welcomed  here or via my website at

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