Our soil is very high in clay and our weather inclined to be wet and in previous years once November set in the grass would be constantly wet and the hen enclosure so muddy I would simply dash out to feed the hens, check for eggs and dash back in again. Typically this situation would last until late February or March. For years we talked about gravelling over half the garden and putting out plants in pots but we always talked ourselves out of it by dwelling on the amount of work required to lift the grass.
In a sudden rush of 'oh what the heck!' at the end of last summer we cut the grass down very low and covered it with black landscaping membrane and dumped two tons of gravel on top. We found 6 lovely cotswold stone paving slabs on 'freecycle' which look great with plant pots on top and found ourselves eating lunch out there on the last sunny day in mid November 2008. It was great! The photo above shows the finished posh bit, the picture is taken from the house looking out. The one below is our Farmyard side, the picture is taken from the end of the garden looking towards the house.