What is the point of a side return?

A typical feature of the terraced Victorian houses in London is the side return. This is the name generally given to the narrow strip of garden running along the side of the building from the kitchen to the main part of the garden. It’s generally narrow and, between you and I, more than a bit of a waste of space. You can see ours marked in green on our ground floor floorplan on the right.

The side return when works began (viewed from the house)

So then, the question has to be how to use it. Because our garden is south-facing, our side return down get some sun but because it’s so narrow, we’re talking a maximum of two hours. So growing fruits is likely to be tricky. Instead I think I’m going to try beans and peas here instead. They’ll just look messy if I try to line them along the main beds in the square part of the garden, so I’ll line them up against the wall. In addition to this, I’ve decided to grow some cat grass for the cats to eat and play on. This would be an ideal place to do so. 

The side return view from the garden

But the main feature of our side return is going to be the herb garden. The idea of being able to step outside the kitchen (or even just to lean out of the window) and harvest whatever fresh herbs I need is a brilliant one. So what is the point of a side return? Well, they’re pretty pointless in my opinion. But with clever planning, you can ensure that you use every last inch of space and as they’re less visible to guests in the garden, it doesn’t matter if you sometimes forget to wind the hose up properly!

The herb garden occupying most of the back of the side return – easy access from the kitchen!



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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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