Where we started from and why!

Our bedroom window looked out onto an empty field – too big to incorporate into our garden and too small for traditional agriculture. We talked over many an early morning cup of tea trying to think up ideas as to what it could be used for. Mary-Ann wanted to extend the formal garden, the children wanted an Olympic sized swimming pool and I wanted an Indoor Hockey pitch. But fantasy aside, we knew we wanted to make use of a piece of land 50m x 60m that had not been touched for 15 years.

Then a friend in the Blackdown Hills Transition movement got us to watch Rebecca Hosking’s film on the BBC – A Farm for the Future  and her program inspired us to find out about “forest gardening”.  We went off to Yorkshire and learnt about forest gardening at Old Sleningford Farm and  realising that you didn’t need a forest to do this type of low maintenance, high efficiency, sustainable growing of food, we commited the land and ourselves to the journey. We were especially blessed when some real knowledgeable, practical help arrived in the shape of Lin and between us we thrashed out all the  pros and cons of climate change, peak oil, possible financial collapse, who we were doing this for and why didn’t we just bugger off to New Zealand where it is sunny!

So, clutching Martin Crawford’s wonderful book ‘Creating a Forest Garden’, we made many planting plans, constantly changing our minds, until we ended up with the site looking as it does today – as illustrated in the plan below. Come and have a look at the real thing. You are always welcome at one of the Open Sundays check the blog for details.

forest garden plan

The 1st Twelve months

If we didn’t want to share our harvest with deer and rabbits then we knew we had to start with a fence. So we enclosed an area 50m x 60m with a rabbit and deer proof netting, dug into the ground, in the autumn of 2010. Now we had one lot of wild life kept out, we realised we needed to encourage another sort of wild life in. A pond was next on the list, both for bio diversity and as a retreat for quiet contemplation. This was dug in 2010by a nice man with a digger and then we lined and filled it in the next spring. Having found our soil type to be around PH 6-7 (what a relief, but shame about the flint and clay) we embarked on making the difficult decisions on what to plant and where. Mary-Ann wanted ‘One of everything’ but the plants needed to tick as many forest garden principles as possible; providing a food source, good for wildlife and the environment, nice if they had flowers in spring and berries in the autumn, hardy, good shape next to their neighbour etc. With this in mind and with a small grant from ‘Making It Local’, we purchased plants and trees from nearby suppliers and had Terry Ayers from Dulford Nurseries come and show us all how to do it properly on one of our ‘Open Sundays’, last Nov 2011. Check out the blog for monthly updates and to see what we are doing or better still come and see for yourself at one of the ‘Open Sundays’.