Father-of-two, 53, spends 10 years transforming his back garden into Japanese-inspired paradise

A father of two has spent 10 years and £8,000 transforming his desolate back garden into a stunning Japanese-inspired paradise set over multiple tiers. 

Martin Fitton, 53, has ploughed on through all weather conditions to build and maintain his multi-tiered garden in Bristol.   

The tranquil space has been carefully filled with Japanese-inspired features, plants and flowers – in time for the summer.

Family photos from the 1990s show the remarkable transformation the garden has undergone from a plain patch of grass and mud used by his then young children – Rhys, 28, and Vanessa, 25.

Mr Fitton said: ‘When I first looked into the Japanese style, I learned there’s a lot more you can do in terms of creativity – so not just a shed, lawn and flowers.

‘I could add to it forever whereas with an English one I feel like you can just put flowers in and that’s sort of it.’

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Family photos from the 1990s show the remarkable transformation Martin Fitton’s garden has undergone over the past 10 years

Mr Fitton, 53, has ploughed on through all weather conditions to build and maintain his multi-tiered garden in Bristol

Mr Fitton, 53, has ploughed on through all weather conditions to build and maintain his multi-tiered garden in Bristol

Mr Fitton, 53, has ploughed on through all weather conditions to build and maintain his multi-tiered garden in Bristol

The tranquil space has been carefully filled with Japanese-inspired features, plants and flowers - in time for the summer

The tranquil space has been carefully filled with Japanese-inspired features, plants and flowers - in time for the summer

The tranquil space has been carefully filled with Japanese-inspired features, plants and flowers – in time for the summer

Mr Fitton has constructed a tea house, complete with a bridge going over a scenic pond, along with a contained zen garden at the back of the tier, and to the left is a courtyard with a bamboo partition

Mr Fitton has constructed a tea house, complete with a bridge going over a scenic pond, along with a contained zen garden at the back of the tier, and to the left is a courtyard with a bamboo partition

Mr Fitton has constructed a tea house, complete with a bridge going over a scenic pond, along with a contained zen garden at the back of the tier, and to the left is a courtyard with a bamboo partition

Mr Fitton (pictured) said: 'When I first looked into the Japanese style, I learned there's a lot more you can do in terms of creativity - so not just a shed, lawn and flowers'

Mr Fitton (pictured) said: 'When I first looked into the Japanese style, I learned there's a lot more you can do in terms of creativity - so not just a shed, lawn and flowers'

Mr Fitton (pictured) said: ‘When I first looked into the Japanese style, I learned there’s a lot more you can do in terms of creativity – so not just a shed, lawn and flowers’

He began the hard work of designing and building all of the garden and its features himself in 2009. 

He added: ‘When you walk up the steps, you can stop and get this great view, I’ve had people come in and see the garden for the first time – they always stop and just go ”wow”.

‘Looking back now I do think, my god, I’ve done all of that? You can forget how much has been done in that time with the amount of work that goes into it.

‘But it puts a smile on my face whenever I walk through the garden and look at it all, seeing what I’ve created and knowing I’ve done it all myself – it makes all that hard work really worth it.’

The old children’s climbing frame was among the first of his projects, and Mr Fitton eventually altered it into a Japanese-style frame.

He proceeded to install a koi pond in the bottom of the garden, an especially important feature for him, having collected fish for over 25 years after receiving advice on keeping them from his grandfather.

Mr Fitton (pictured with his wife, Cyndie, 52) added: 'When you walk up the steps, you can stop and get this great view, I've had people come in and see the garden for the first time - they always stop and just go ''wow''.'

Mr Fitton (pictured with his wife, Cyndie, 52) added: 'When you walk up the steps, you can stop and get this great view, I've had people come in and see the garden for the first time - they always stop and just go ''wow''.'

Mr Fitton (pictured with his wife, Cyndie, 52) added: ‘When you walk up the steps, you can stop and get this great view, I’ve had people come in and see the garden for the first time – they always stop and just go ”wow”.’

The garden is split across four levels and each one has a slightly different feel to it. Mr Fitton was inspired while on a holiday to Compton Acres in Dorset where he saw the design of a public Japanese garden

The garden is split across four levels and each one has a slightly different feel to it. Mr Fitton was inspired while on a holiday to Compton Acres in Dorset where he saw the design of a public Japanese garden

The garden is split across four levels and each one has a slightly different feel to it. Mr Fitton was inspired while on a holiday to Compton Acres in Dorset where he saw the design of a public Japanese garden

The old children's climber was among the first of his design projects, and Mr Fitton eventually altered it into a Japanese-style frame

The old children's climber was among the first of his design projects, and Mr Fitton eventually altered it into a Japanese-style frame

The old children’s climber was among the first of his design projects, and Mr Fitton eventually altered it into a Japanese-style frame

It took some effort but Mr Fitton adapted the gardens' steep slope, carving out carefully organised tiers - shifting soil between the top and bottom of the garden to eventually create four levels

It took some effort but Mr Fitton adapted the gardens' steep slope, carving out carefully organised tiers - shifting soil between the top and bottom of the garden to eventually create four levels

It took some effort but Mr Fitton adapted the gardens’ steep slope, carving out carefully organised tiers – shifting soil between the top and bottom of the garden to eventually create four levels

This would become home to an amazing array of outbuildings, plants and trees, including acers, pines, cloud trees, bamboo, wisterias, willow and cherry trees

This would become home to an amazing array of outbuildings, plants and trees, including acers, pines, cloud trees, bamboo, wisterias, willow and cherry trees

This would become home to an amazing array of outbuildings, plants and trees, including acers, pines, cloud trees, bamboo, wisterias, willow and cherry trees

Pictured: The front of the Martin and Cyndie's semi-detached home in Bristol where he has created his masterpiece

Pictured: The front of the Martin and Cyndie's semi-detached home in Bristol where he has created his masterpiece

Pictured: The front of the Martin and Cyndie’s semi-detached home in Bristol where he has created his masterpiece 

It took some effort but Mr Fitton adapted the garden’s steep slope, carving out carefully organised tiers – shifting soil between the top and bottom of the garden to eventually create four levels.

This would become home to an amazing array of outbuildings, plants and trees, including acers, pines, cloud trees, bamboo, wisterias, willow and cherry trees.

Mr Fitton said: ‘You look at Japanese stuff and you know right away if it’s right – you have to take the time to look at it and appreciate it.’

He has placed the koi pond on the walk-in level of the garden which then snakes up along a path built along a waterfall to the first level which has a garden area and a lawn above it.   

Further up Mr Fitton has constructed a tea house, complete with a bridge going over a scenic pond, along with a contained zen garden at the back of the tier, and to the left is a courtyard with a bamboo partition.

Mr Fitton (pictured in the zen garden portion of his backyard) said: 'You look at Japanese stuff and you know right away if it's right - you have to take the time to look at it and appreciate it'

Mr Fitton (pictured in the zen garden portion of his backyard) said: 'You look at Japanese stuff and you know right away if it's right - you have to take the time to look at it and appreciate it'

Mr Fitton (pictured in the zen garden portion of his backyard) said: ‘You look at Japanese stuff and you know right away if it’s right – you have to take the time to look at it and appreciate it’

Mr Fitton said one of his most difficult projects was the addition of a Japanese garden room on the second level, the boards in part of the building can be lifted and koi fish placed in water underneath, to keep them warm during the winter

Mr Fitton said one of his most difficult projects was the addition of a Japanese garden room on the second level, the boards in part of the building can be lifted and koi fish placed in water underneath, to keep them warm during the winter

Mr Fitton said one of his most difficult projects was the addition of a Japanese garden room on the second level, the boards in part of the building can be lifted and koi fish placed in water underneath, to keep them warm during the winter

One of his most difficult projects was the addition of a Japanese garden room on the second level, the boards in part of the building can be lifted and koi fish placed in water underneath, to keep them warm during the winter.

He was hard at work for months on the structure, beginning construction from September 2018 after being given the nod to go ahead after his wife, Cyndie, 52, who he refers to has ‘his boss’.

Mr Fitton said: ‘That was my biggest project and the hardest, which I believe I started around my wife’s birthday, she told me ”you’re not touching the garden until after my party.”

‘I was putting down slabs, decking and bricklaying. I built a breeze block wall to contain the water and above it is the wooden structure which keeps the koi warm during the winter.’ 

He estimates he has spent thousands on materials, potentially between £6,000 to £8,000 since 2017 after replacing fencing and buildings, which had begun to rot.

He was hard at work for months on the structure, beginning construction from September 2018 after being given the nod to go ahead after his wife, Cyndie, 52, who he refers to has 'his boss'

He was hard at work for months on the structure, beginning construction from September 2018 after being given the nod to go ahead after his wife, Cyndie, 52, who he refers to has 'his boss'

He was hard at work for months on the structure, beginning construction from September 2018 after being given the nod to go ahead after his wife, Cyndie, 52, who he refers to has ‘his boss’

Mr Fitton estimates he has spent thousands on materials, potentially between £6,000 to £8,000 since 2017 after replacing fencing and buildings, which had begun to rot

Mr Fitton estimates he has spent thousands on materials, potentially between £6,000 to £8,000 since 2017 after replacing fencing and buildings, which had begun to rot

Mr Fitton estimates he has spent thousands on materials, potentially between £6,000 to £8,000 since 2017 after replacing fencing and buildings, which had begun to rot

But he has saved substantially, designing and doing the work himself, whilst investing in wood treated with a Japanese technique – shou sugi ban – which is believed to help ensure the material will last for roughly 100 years.

Mr Fitton said: ‘If we’re having lunch she always says let’s go up there, so we can sit up there together, taking in the view of the garden or we might sit down at the table by the pond and watch the fish.’

He added: ‘When I redid my pond and the waterfall, I was out every single day since last November, and I mean every single day in all conditions.

‘I had to break the ice on the pond to get in there and do some cementing.

‘I don’t mind though, I love it out there, it’s my life – being out there in the garden.’ 

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