Even hardworking smallholders need to unwind. Kim Stoddart looks at some great garden furniture

When I was working in an office in Brighton, I was very aware of the importance of taking time away from my computer screen. As I prepared to sell up and move to Wales, I got into the habit of going for walks at lunchtime and taking my team out for meetings in the park or on the beach so we could get as much fresh air as possible during the working day. I couldn’t wait to move to our smallholding and dedicate more of my time to learning a range of skills in the great outdoors.

Skipping to the present day, and now into our eighth year of countryside living, I realised recently that the reality hasn’t been quite as I’d envisaged. Yes, I do spend a healthy portion of my time outside, but it’s mainly when I’m racing from one task or activity to the next. Having young children is, of course, another factor, yet we decided that this year we’re going to make time to actively stop, stare at and enjoy what we’ve built up over the years. This is where a decent set of garden furniture comes into play.

As well as affording you with a nice place to sit, a good quality dining set, bench or deckchair or two acts as a reminder that it’s good for your own health and wellbeing to factor in opportunities to relax. You may have a ‘to do’ list as long as your arm, but this is often all the more reason to step away and come back feeling refreshed and recharged to deal more effectively with the tasks at hand.

Social isolation can be a major issue amongst smallholders, and farmers, as we often live a long distance from neighbours, let alone friends and family. So an outside dining set is also the perfect opportunity to start inviting people round more.

You don’t need a primped and polished garden to host a range of garden furniture; any outside spot with an attractive view can make a desirable place to reflect. Although the majority of our outdoors furniture is in the garden and by the back of the house, one of our fields affords a great spot for catching the evening sun, so it would be a crying shame not to take advantage with a few deckchairs when the opportunity arises. It’s also a perfect opportunity to sit and stare at our animals as the sun goes down, reflecting on the day and plans for the smallholding future.

Over the years I’ve learnt that working around the elements, rather than sticking rigidly to a predetermined list of actions (Tuesday, do gardening course marketing etc) makes for a much more enjoyable (and indeed sensible) way to go about things. It can be hard to make the transition from city living targets and schedules to a ‘make hay while the sun shines’ approach, but it’s empowering and good for the soul when you can find a balance that works for you.

What to choose

I’ve bought a fair few benches recently, which are scattered about the garden. They provide a frill-free but reliable option for my gardening courses and also family use at the weekends. In addition to this, there are the deckchairs. It could be because I’m from Brighton and have grown up with this retro form of foldaway seaside seating, but they are incredibly comfy and don’t take up a lot of space. Plus they are lightweight and can so easily be moved about to wherever they are required.

Garden furniture comes in many different shapes, sizes and designs, from the high-street to the smaller scale hand-designed. It’s also perfectly feasible to have a go at making some yourself from garden pallets or if you have your own supply of wood.

A few options

Benches, seats and tables

Boston hardwood garden companion seat by Liz Frances

A hardy-looking chair companion seat and table set which has been made from FSC certified hardwood and comes pre-treated with teak oil to preserve longevity and provide a resistance to damage from fungus and moisture decay.

It is available for £119.99 through www.primrose.co.uk

Wye picnic table

Another hardy outdoor option, this 1.8-metre picnic bench is built for resilience, coming with a 15-year warranty against insect attack and fungal decay.

It can be purchased from Mole Valley Farmers in store for £124.99.

Peru wooden garden bench

Made from eucalyptus, this ornate bench is easy to assemble and accompanying cushions are also available to buy separately to go with it in cream and raspberry.

The bench itself costs £82.36 from www.homebase.co.uk.

Taunton hardwood pop-up bench by Liz Frances

Made with FSC certified Shorea hardwood and with protection against damage from insects, fungus and moisture, this maintenance-free bench comes with a pop-up table.

It retails at £149.99 at www.primrose.co.uk.

Dining sets

Classic oval teak six-seat furniture set

A solid, reliable table and chair set from sustainable sources that looks set to last. It comes with six foldable chairs.

Available for £416.66 from Mole Valley Farmers in store.

Kennet reclining four-seater polytex dining set

With its quick and simple construction, this comfortable-looking dining set is also extremely durable and weather resistant. It comes with adjustable seating for maximum comfort, the chairs are easy to store away and the glass table top has an easy wipe-down surface and extra built-in strength.

You can find this for £199.99 by way of online retailer www.primrose.co.uk

Really kicking back

Loungers come in a variety of styles, but for me the good old-fashioned deckchair is hard to beat. Homebase sell a nice range of wooden chairs including a turquoise, FSC certified model which retails at £34.36. Made from eucalyptus wood it is great for relaxing in the sunshine and easy to store away otherwise.


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Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

Getty Images/Ingram Publishing