THIS plain brown house is hiding a stunning secret Japanese paradise garden, complete with a koi pond.
Martin Fitton, 53, has spent the past 10 years working through awful wintery conditions to build and maintain his beautiful multi-tiered garden in Bristol.
The tranquil space has been carefully filled with Far East-inspired features, plants and flowers – in time for the summer.
Family photos taken from the 90s show the remarkable effort he’s gone to, with the garden then mainly taken up by a huge climbing frame for his then young children – Rhys, 28 and Vanessa, 25.
Martin 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.”
Martin began the hard work of designing, and building, all of the garden and its features himself in 2009.
Today the results speak for themselves, with visitors blown away by his work and even Martin himself is often taken aback when seeing how far it has come.
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 climber was among the first of his projects, with Martin eventually altering 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.
It took some effort, but Martin 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.
Martin 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.”
Walking through the garden from the back door, you're first greeted by the sight of the beautiful pond on the walk-in level before snaking up along a path built along a waterfall.
On the first level to the left is a lovely garden area, with a lawn level above it.
Further up, Martin has constructed a stunning tea house, complete with a bridge going over a scenic pond, along with a contained zen garden at the back of the tier, while to the left is a courtyard with a bamboo partition.
One of his most difficult projects was the addition of a Japanese garden room on the second level. Part of the structure can be removed so koi can be placed in water underneath to keep them warm during the winter.
He was hard at work for months on the structure, beginning construction in September 2018 after being given the nod to go ahead by his wife Cyndie, 52.
Martin 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 breezeblock wall to contain the water and above there is the wooden structure which keeps the koi warm during the winter.”
Martin says that Cyndie is 'his boss', and always lends a helping hand with ideas and is supportive of the work.
Martin adds that it's not cheap affair to have a garden like this. He estimates he has spent thousands on materials, potentially between £6,000 to £8,000 since 2017.
But he has saved substantially by designing and doing the work himself, while 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.
It also pays for itself, with Martin, Cyndie and their family thoroloughly enjoying time spent in the garden.
Martin 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.”
It can also be hard work to get the garden into the amazing shape we see today, however, for Martin, it’s a labour of love and wouldn’t trade the time and results for anything else.
He said: “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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