If you follow the M4 westward to its very end, then keep on the dual carriageway that continues west to Pembrokeshire until that too runs out of steam, you can head north to where the 3 counties of Dyfed join and mingle. On the map it looks like a blank space but look more closely and you will see that it is threaded through with a maze of roads too small and insignificant to deserve numbers or be coloured in. Tucked away down one of these, at the bottom of a valley, is a very small smallholding called Tynewydd. About 3 acres of steeply sloping hillside run down to the stream. Once upon a time there were two tiny cottages here, 1 Tynewydd and 2 Tynewydd plus a cowshed, built by the neighbouring farm as tied housing. Tynewydd means ‘New House’ in Welsh and in the mid 1800’s they were! Left to go derelict in the mid 20th century when mechanisation reduced the need for human labour on farms, they were bought in the 70’s and renovated as one house by an English incomer with the help of large quantities of cannabis. The results were, shall we say, interesting!
We came here in the early 90’s, jolted into starting on our ‘one day..’ list by my husband’s diagnosis of cancer. We began to sort the house out, terraced the land with the help of the inimitable ‘John Six’ and his massive JCB, built outbuildings, erected greenhouses, planted woodland for coppicing as fuel and began to grow things to eat. Sadly John’s health deteriorated and more and more of the space became neglected. The plot decided to audition for the part of the forest in ‘Sleeping Beauty’! The brambles and self-sown trees crept over more and more of the land we had cultivated.
When John died 7 years ago I gradually began to use gardening as my therapy. There is something very cathartic about hacking through undergrowth! But, like most couples, we had each played to our strengths so there was a lot for me to learn. I joined the SW Wales Permaculture network, took the excellent 6 month woodland skills course offered by Coppicewood College in Cilgerran, read books and magazines, went on short courses and workshops, volunteered, followed blogs, picked brains and learnt from good old fashioned trial and error. After a couple of years I decided that I prefer to use hand tools so, apart from an SDS drill (the concrete used to render the house in the 70’s is very hard) and a battery operated drill/driver, that is what I do.
Last year I finished the Permaculture Design Certificate online course run by Patrick Whitefield Associates and this year hope to start on the Diploma. Having been challenged by Steve Jones of Chapter 39 to think about and plan for 2050 and with the experience of observing and experimenting here for 7 years I feel ready to have a rethink about some aspects of my home, my land and my lifestyle. This blog will, I hope, be part of the process of pulling ideas and thoughts together as well as recording progress – or lack of it!
So welcome to my ‘Work-in-progress’. I am looking forward to the journey and hope that you will keep me company, enjoy this magical place through my words and pictures, and comment on what I do and write. All insights, inspiration, advice, suggestions, cautionary tales and expertise welcome!
And the name of the blog? Well for years people have been telling me that I am weird because I do not fit into any of their stereotypes. My thinking is sane, considered and usually logical (whimsy sometimes allowed) but is rarely ‘inside the box’ and occasionally verges on the ‘Heath Robinson’. As I get older, like the woman who wears purple in Jenny Joseph’s poem, this tendency gets worse (or better depending on your point of view) so to my more conventional friends I am definitely ‘Going Batty in Wales’.