My Old Wheelbarrow

I am ridiculously fond of some inanimate objects.  Too fond probably.  Long association with a non-sentient – some may say soulless – thing can forge an intimate bond and I am sometimes stupidly upset by its loss.

Affection for my childhood collection of Biggles books needs no explanation – obviously – but take The Priory’s marvellous old Hayter mower for instance.

Beloved Hayter


When thieves did just that a while ago, it felt like a grievous personal blow.  Over several years during long hours of shared toil, that stoic, reliable, lovely machine and I forged a deep relationship.  Or at least I did with it.  If the thieves also took several Stihl petrol tools, I felt no hurt at their loss.

Old Secateurs

And there’s the ten-year-old pair of secateurs given to me as a birthday present, which I use most days and remarkably haven’t yet lost.  They no longer have their handle covers nor bottom clip and you wouldn’t look at them twice at a car-boot sale.  But I keep them sharp and they fit my hand.  They are my go-to secateurs.  I shall be angry on the day that I do lose them.

Bonsai scissors

Not my special pair.  As you know, I lost those.

There were the mislaid bonsai scissors that I always carried in a trouser pocket, and which playfully stabbed me in the leg whenever I crouched down (till I impaled their pointy ends in a cork).

Bonsai scissors are an underrated tool … and you first heard that here.  I use them for cutting twine, slicing open plastic sacks, poking out weeds from potted plants, deadheading dahlias as well as little hard-to-reach flowers, snipping tiny alpines and despatching weasel-sized slugs. They’re also good for doing the bonsai.  I have two or three pairs but the ones I lost, another birthday gift, were special.  Isn’t that always the way?

And then there is the old wheelbarrow.  My beloved old wheelbarrow.

The Old Wheelbarrow (2)

Like the Hayter, but precious few other tools, the wheelbarrow was waiting for me at The Priory when I started work in July 2008.

The Old Wheelbarrow (5)

It was old even then and battered; and I haven’t treated it gently.

I’ve had them all in my barrow.

The Old Wheelbarrow (4)

Not just non-compostable plants or fallen branches and felled trees carted off to the bonfire;

The Old Wheelbarrow (7)

Ensete maurelii

not just big, tender plants ferried to

The Old Wheelbarrow (6)

Colocasia esculenta

and from the greenhouses; nor trays of seedlings and sacks of bulbs for planting.

The Old Wheelbarrow (12)

But more endless trips to the leaf mould bins than you have hairs on your chin.

The Old Wheelbarrow (8)

And then, a year or two later, wheeling back the delicious end result.

The Old Wheelbarrow (9)

I’ve pushed hundreds of barrowloads of compost

Chopping Firewood

and hundreds more of logs.

The Old Wheelbarrow (3)

Experimenting with seed carpet – and the jagged ‘V’

If the front lip of the barrow’s pan wasn’t split into a jagged ‘V’ at our first acquaintance, it soon was.  The ‘V’ couldn’t be better for catching and slicing open my finger.  I did so twice before I decided I didn’t want to do so again and stopped.

I’ve filled the barrow with cut turf, soil, manure, rubble, bricks and huge, heavy paving slabs.  I’ve slowly, carefully shifted large potted plants from here to there and back again.

The Old Wheelbarrow (10)

Making a raised bed

Over the years, and like all of us, the state of the barrow deteriorated.  I repaired several punctures until the axle bolt seized fast and refused to loosen.  No longer able to remove the inner tube, I endured a slow puncture for a couple of years. Thankfully, it was slow enough that I only needed to pump it up once a week.

The Old Wheelbarrow (11)

Filling a raised bed

The pan parted company with the frame but I lashed it back in to place with wire.  The wheelbarrow slowly, bit by bit, declined.

The Old Wheelbarrow (1)

And then at last, after years of sitting on wet grass and mud, the frame legs corroded through.  One day, as I pushed it back from the compost bins, the barrow lurched suddenly – the pan skewing one way and the wheel the other.  I groaned.  After almost ten years, we had arrived at the end together.

The New Wheelbarrow

I have a new wheelbarrow now.  And it is good.  I like it.  It’s reliable.  It doesn’t seek to cut my finger, it’s not held together by bits of wire and it has no slow puncture.  It has comfortable handles rather than shiny hand-polished, naked ones.  It was pretty cheap too at about thirty quid and sports handsome Hues of Sauron.  But I don’t yet love it.

It’s not my old wheelbarrow.

43 thoughts on “My Old Wheelbarrow

  1. As I read, I thought someone had taken your secateurs as well; that would be a body blow. Fancy taking a mower though, people who steal really perplex me. I still have a few of my dad’s old tools – gardening and diy – but an overenthusiastic helper chucked out my grandad’s rustic garden scissors when clearing the house/garage for sale (they looked “old”) and was mortified at the upset caused. Hope your tools (and wheelbarrow) are in your keeping for a good while now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Caro, and I do keep my secateurs close by (though they took a battering yesterday removing ancient ivy off an old flint wall). The thieves were opportunists and probably flogged my tools and mower at a car-boot. Security has been tightened up now! D


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  3. The new wheelbarrow sounds like it has good, long-term relationship potential. It will never be the old one—you’ll never replace the old one—but if you let it be its own quirky thing, it may still find a new place in your heart in time. Let it woo you, Dave. Let it woo you. xS

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a great post! I think we as gardeners fall in love with tools and equipment that we used regularly, so regularly they become part of us and the way we work and these relationships take time to build and it’s always sad when it finishes suddenly

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Just lovely. Thank you for making me feel “normal”.
    PS I hope you’ve upcycled than barrow into a beautiful planter and filled it with dahlias or something similarly cheery?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I shouldn’t worry Clare, feeling normal is terribly overrated. I’m not sure my old barrow, as much as I love it, is pretty enough to make a planter out of. It was a fine machine but beauty wasn’t one of its attributes. D


  6. Enjoy your posts, and your photos of green – here in Boston, things are still pretty gray.
    Parting from your (t)rusty friend reminds me of fighting my tendency toward sentimentalism and anthropomorphism. In part, because they’re really long words, and a pain to spell, and in part, because it’s good to keep trying to be more rational, logical, efficient, etc. But it’s a losing battle. Especially with tools and implements. I hate to get rid of any tool that I’ve used for a while, as if we’ve established some sort of connection. I read that young animals like ducklings can “imprint” on whoever, or whatever, they first see, when they emerge from the egg, even if it’s an inanimate object. I guess if they saw a wheelbarrow as soon as they hatched, they’d follow it around like a parent. A bit awkward at family gatherings. And I think we tend to imprint a bit on objects, over time, but apparently that’s not sentimentality, it’s Science, so we’re ok then, right? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sentimentalism and anthropomorphism are two very imressive words to include in any sentence, Robert – I salute you (and your spelling).

      My old terrier was placed in a wheelbarrow when she was a puppy, so you might think she adored wheelbarrows but she detested them with a passion. She would happily spend hours trying to reach the wheel of any and all in order to pull them to pieces. Perhaps if she had been younger at first acquaintance, she woud have adored them as family.

      I hope Boston is a little less grey today. It’s one of only a couple of American cities I’ve visited and liked it a lot. D

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I cried when “Uncle Earl” died. He was a 50 year old gas Mighty Max shredder I got from my best friend who inherited it from his Uncle Earl who ran a small greenhouse until in his nineties. I was shredding leaves when it ran out of gas. We could never get it to run again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Red secateurs are a godsend – so much more difficult to lose. My partner sticks bright fluorescent orange tape on many of his tools (and keys). I don’t – and lose stuff. D


      • Do you know, I’d never thought of that, but you’re right, they show up when I toss them on the lawn. If I can’t find them I sometimes steal my partner’s – we have matching secateurs – he looks after his, so they are always sharp and clean, whereas mine are distinctly gunky!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I can so identify with this post. We have an old wheelbarrow that has a metal wheel. It was a construction wheelbarrow before my husband latched onto it. I have used it for 25 years. In it’s retirement it became a fairy garden that can be moved from here to there…very carefullly. I loved that old metal wheel. It didn’t ever go flat with a load on it. The new wheelbarrow is useful but it is bucky now and then. The wheel has fallen off… Not the quality of the old one nor do I feel as attached to the new one. I doubt I ever will with it being so sulky with that wheel that flattens and it is so wriggly. Sigh…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Non-puncturing wheels are great – especially as we have so many bits of hawthorn and blackthorn lying about at The Priory after hedge-cutting. These were always the cause of puncture for my old wheelbarrow. Always, however carefully I raked up. D


  9. Really enjoyed this. You tell a compelling tale illustrated with perfect photos. I guard my tools with the eye of a mad mother bear so any loss would grieve me also. Thanks for the good read!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I did a deal with my French neighbour – we gave him our barrow for his log carrying, to swap for his ancient one. It was lovely and warn, green layers of paint rusting and I had to have it! We had a wheel barrow for building with two wheels, bit battered by comfy to use, long handles and we also had one of those sharp dinks in the front. We missed it. So we bought neighbour a new one and took our trusty construction one back – so all happy now. The ancient one is waiting to either be filled with flowers or just be propped up somewhere because its just a lovely gardeny object. Not sure yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What, Judi? Yours had a sharp dink too? And there was me thinking it was only me. I hope your fingers are intact. Glad you got your barrow back and that all parties are satisfied. Sadly, I don’t think my old dear barrow is pretty enough to make a lovely garden-y object. D

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I do feel your pain with the loss of that trusty wheelbarrow. I have a small little one, different look than yours, that has been used in my garden/yards for over 35 years – from the old house to this new house in 1985. Those metals “rests” like yours were becoming worn and I took “liquid nails” and packed into the worn piped rests and so far, so good. It is my go to tool everytime when I need to haul things around. And then there is my very old, very faithful “Little Wonder” gasoline edger that must be over 40 years old now. My late husband bought it, used it constantly keeping the edge of our beds nice and neat. Now I use it and each time I crank it, I say a small prayer “please crank, don’t make me pull and pull on that rope.” Usually it does. I am one to hang on to the things that have been with me the longest, too. Enjoyed your blog and lovely pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Carolyn,

      and I’m pleased you like my post.

      35 years makes the relationship I had with my barrow seem like a fleeting encounter. Your tip of using liquid nails is enlightened (& I’m annoyed I didn’t think of it). I love that your edger is still going strong but if it is of any consolation, I mutter a similar prayer every time I start up my 10-year-old Stihl brushcutter. Sometimes it starts, sometimes it won’t until I’ve left it alone for an hour (whilst we both sulk).

      Long Live Faithful Little Wonder,


      Liked by 1 person

    • Odd though that it isn’t ubiquitous and doesn’t simply come from regular contact. I’ve had a replacement for the Hayter mower for over two years. And we share some happy memories but I wouldn’t mind in the least if I never saw it again.

      Liked by 1 person

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