Bristol dad spends 13 years transforming his barren backyard into incredible Japanese garden

It’s hard to believe it’s in Brislington, not Tokyo

A dad has spent 13 years transforming his barren backyard at his terraced Bristol home into an incredible Japanese garden.

Martin Fitton, 54, fell in love with Japanese gardens after first visiting one on holiday in Dorset back in 2009 and immediately set about creating his own at home.

Martin Fitton from Brislington has spent 13 years transforming his backyard into a tranquil Japanese garden complete with traditional tea house and concrete lanterns

Over the past 13 years, he’s tirelessly renovated his garden by himself - and now has an oasis which looks like it’s been plucked straight from Tokyo.

He’s built his own traditional teahouse, complete with koi pond, added concrete lanterns and pagodas and loves to have a cup of tea on the pavilion with his wife Cyndie, 54.

His garden has gained him a lot of fans, including plenty from Japan who have complimented the dad-of-two’s dedication to tradition.

Tanker driver Martin, who lives in Brislington with ward clerk Cyndie, said: “I am very proud of my garden.

Martin fell in love with Japanese gardens after first visiting one on holiday in Dorset back in 2009 and immediately set about creating his own.

“It’s been very rewarding. I don’t have any help with the garden, I do it all myself, so it’s nice being able to see how it’s all come together.

“I like it all but I recently renewed the top part of my zen garden so that’s probably my favourite part now.

“I like to sit on the pavilion with a cup of tea or a beer with my wife and look over the garden, it feels very peaceful.

“I’ve had Japanese people compliment the garden which is really nice because I didn’t want to offend the Japanese by doing it wrong, so I like that they have approved of it.”

Martin even built his own traditional teahouse, complete with koi pond.

When Martin initially moved into his home in Bristol in 2001, his children, Rhys and Vanessa, were only children so he installed climbing frames and summer houses for them to enjoy.

He visited a Japanese garden for the first time in Compton Acres, Poole, whilst on holiday in Dorset in 2009 and fell in love with the serenity and calm.

The garden comes complete with koi pond.

He said: “I’d never been to a Japanese garden before then. It felt so peaceful and quiet and calm, and I was looking around at it all and thought I could definitely do that myself.

“I love being in the garden and I’ve always enjoyed working with wood so it was both things I was passionate about coming together.

You’d never guess what’s at the back of Martin’s Brislington home.

“My kids were teenagers by this point so weren’t really using the garden like they used to as children, so as soon as I get home, I started on transforming the old summer house into a tea house.

“The tea house is the first thing you see when you enter the garden and it was the first thing I built, so that’s really nice.”

The garden that looks like it’s been plucked straight from Tokyo itself.

Over the next few years, Martin transformed his backyard, adding a zen garden, pavilion and Japanese trellis.

He built himself everything except the the courtyard and concrete lanterns, for which he had expert assistance.

He said: “I’ve done it all myself so it’s really rewarding.

“I work different shifts to my wife, so when I’m home, I don’t just sit around watching TV, I get busy in the garden instead,” he said.

Martin works different shifts to his wife Cyndie, and instead of being sat around watching TV when she’s not home, he says he likes to get busy in the garden instead.

The garden started to rot in 2016 so Martin got busy renewing the space the following year, ripping down each structure and rebuilding them.

He’s tackled each part of the garden one by one and estimates that he’s spent around £8,000 in the past five years on his renovation.

Martin said: “I really wanted to keep the garden traditional and true to Japanese culture so after visiting the garden in Cornwall, I started studying Japanese gardens properly.

“I started with magazines as books as I didn’t really have internet to hand back then, but since the internet has become more available, I’ve looked online for more inspiration.

The incredible garden has attracted fans all around the world, including in Japan.

“I really wanted to make sure that everything was Japanese and that I didn’t get it mixed up with Chinese so it was all true to the culture and not crossing over.

“I’ve made Japanese friends as a result and often send them writing that I’ve found to make sure it translates correctly and to make sure it’s Japanese, not Chinese, as the writing looks so similar.”

As well as delighting new friends online with his garden, Martin’s wife Cyndie and his children, Rhys, now 28, and Vanessa, now 26, also love the space he has created.

Despite his love of Japanese culture, Martin has never been to Japan - but plans to visit for his 60th birthday.

Despite his fascination with Japanese culture, Martin has never made it to the country but the couple plan to go for their joint 60th birthdays.

He said: “The kids have their own places now, but they both say the garden is amazing, they love it as well.

“My wife thinks it’s fantastic and often sits with me on the pavilion to look at it.

“The response to the garden has been overwhelming. I’m really pleased I decided to do it and I hope I’ve created the same peace and calm I felt when visiting my first Japanese garden for other people.”