A friend took us this morning to meet a guy in Randallstown, the plan was to have a walk around his garden, sounds potentially a little uninteresting but man, what a garden and such an interesting creator! There were tree houses, pirate ships, castle towers and cowboy salons. Amongst twisty little woodland paths and over grown ponds hid enormous dinosaurs, elephants, knights and a dragon in a cave. Tiny flying fairies hovered over a dry stone wall well and there were mysterious little doors at the base of trees in what my kids described as ‘The bluebell forest’.

The creator of the garden, Jim has worked for years as a free lance maker and supplier of small one off amusement events and has stacked up over the years a sizable number of left over life size figures and bits of interesting machinery. He began to assemble these in his garden firstly for the amusement of his kids but as often happens, the project became a passion and as the ideas came flowing, Jim kept building. But this is the interesting thing about Jim, if an idea strikes him, he’ll work out a way and he’ll build it. Now Jim opens his garden for free to groups of special needs children and once a year on Christmas eve, with the help of local volunteers, he puts on a bit of a spectacle and opens it to anyone who wants to call. He has also built a fleet of Pirates ships which you can take a ride on along the shore of Lough Neagh.

This summer he’s been building a massive raft to which he has attached a caravan, it looks very bizarre floating down the Bann river as if it’s lost its way to Butlins, but Jim has a plan!, e showed us beautiful drawings of how his caravan will be transformed into an old fashioned paddle powered  river boat complete with a large working water wheel. A few years ago Jim was out with the water search and rescue team attempting to find a person who had got into trouble on the river, they made very slow progress due to mud and later, on returning home Jim decided to build a hovercraft for future difficult searches…and here it is, built from the cab of an old four wheel drive and I don’t know what else!

When I returned home after my visit to Jim’s garden, I looked around my own little piece of paradise strewn with toys, half dead tomato plants and a few straggling flowers, I swept the path and I thought to myself how much better I could do. It was then that the absolutely glorious truth hit me, that I, along with the rest of the world am free to enjoy and admire other peoples creativity. It’s great to be inspired by the energy and passion of others but you can’t have it all, there are only so many hours in the day and while it’s probably better not to waste a whole lot of them watching the box, we all make choices and prioritise how we spend our time. So I take from Jim the fun of exploring his garden with my kids and I hope that I can give others joy in the little things that I chose to spend my time on, even if the stair case does remain un hoovered for yet another day!

You can find out more about Jim and his various projects at http://www.partytimewebsite.com and piratesofloughneagh.com