Plain house hides stunning Japanese paradise that took 10 years to complete

From the outside, you’d never guess that this unassuming family home in Bristol hides such an amazing secret in the back.

Wander down the path and you’ll behold an incredible Japanese space, complete with tiers, a koi pond, a waterfall, and a zen garden.

That spectacle is the work of Martin Fitton, who spent the past 10 years working in wintery conditions to build and maintain his creation.

Family photos taken in the 90s show just how much hard graft the dad has put in, as the garden used to be taken up by a massive climbing frame for his then young children, Rhys, now 28, and Vanessa, 25.

Now, it’s a tranquil haven filled with Japanese inspired water features and plants, where Martin and his wife, Cyndie, 52, can relax.

‘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,’ said Martin.

‘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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‘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 project began back in 2009, with Martin getting started with designing and building the work – all by himself.

First, Martin transformed the kids’ climbing frame to make it fit in with the Japanese aesthetic. Next it was time to install a koi bond – something especially important for the dad, who has collected fish for more than 25 years.

Martin went on to carve out four different levels of the garden, which later became home to an array of outbuildings, plants and trees, including acers, pines, cloud trees, bamboo, wisterias, willow and cherry trees.

A path from the house takes you past the pond and waterfall, then up to the garden area.

Further up is a tea house, complete with a bridge over the pond, and a contained zen garden, as well as a courtyard with a bamboo partition.

One of the hardest projects was the addition of a special garden room on the second level. This is a place where Martin can host guests, but also helps his beloved koi – the boards can be lifted and the koi placed in the water underneath, to keep hem warm in winter.

A major undertaking like this doesn’t come cheap, but Martin was able to keep costs down somewhat by doing all the work himself.

He estimates he has spent £6,000 to £8,000 on materials alone.

But for Martin, the years of effort and thousands spent is oh so worth it.

‘If we’re having lunch Cyndie 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,’ Martin 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.’

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