Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust has just taken the tenancy of 2 fields (outlined in red) adjoining the land they own. Cae Gwaelod on the right of the plan (bottom field because it was furthest down the hill from the farmhouse of its original owners) and Cae Herc (lopsided field because of its shape!). The Trust has 2 ancient hay meadows rich in wildflowers and fungi which are never tilled and only grazed briefly in autumn or winter to maintain the species rich sward. That leaves too little grazing land for the amount of hay which has to be cut (leaving the meadows uncut would damage them but once cut the grass has to be used). The plan was to improve the balance by acquiring the use of more grazing fields.
The new field have the old hedgebanks around and between them but the hedges themselves have largely gone and been replaced with stock fencing. Our plan is to fence each side of the banks leaving a generous space to allow the hedges to regenerate naturally where possible and fill in gaps as necessary. Hedges provide shelter for stock, habitat and wildlife corridors. Once established they can be laid to make a self-sustaining stockproof barrier and if some trees within them are allowed to grow on these are a source of firewood. Many a smallholding or small farm has had its house heated by hedgerow!
We had a workday scheduled for last Saturday and intended starting on the fencing but the posts had not arrived. Instead we cleared some fruit trees and bushes from one of the allotments.
DPFT has an area set aside as 4 plots which local people can rent cheaply to supplement their gardens. Until now take up has been low and some of the people who started to cultivate them have given up for various reasons. So Phil used one as a nursery for the apple trees he grafts and for rootstocks for his grafting courses plus some cuttings of blackcurrants and gooseberries. Recently 2 people asked to have a plot so the nursery had to be moved! Some of the trees will be kept by Phil and Michelle, some went to one of the residents of Rhiw Las (more of Rhiw Las in a future post) and some were looking for a home. The solution was to plant them as a hedge between the 2 fields where the bank was bare. This turns a problem into a solution (very permaculture!) and hopefully the hedge will provide lots of lovely fruit in years to come.
Phil set out the bigger trees along the bank, then the smaller ones and finally an infill of bushes. Jono, Allison, Phil, Michelle and I then dug holes and planted supervised by Allison’s little boy. It was a cold day with occasional short, but very sharp, showers of rain and sleet but we got everything in before repairing to Phil and Michelle’s cabin for very welcome tea and cake. Their daughter Eva had made banana and chocolate cupcakes and I had taken Bara Claddu so we were well supplied!
It might seem that working on someone else’s land in cold wet weather is a masochistic thing to do! Actually I learn a lot by doing jobs with the support of other, more knowledgeable and experienced, people and at the same time it is a social occasion with plenty of opportunities to lean on a spade and chat and we have a ‘bring and share’ lunch break if it is a whole day event or tea and cake at the end as we did this time.