Warland forest garden update

We settled down for winter with the forest garden mown, limed, manured, composted, marked out and mulched. All of the hundred fruit trees, planted last winter, did well over the summer. Then the weather changed. The plastic mulch took off, the boat sailed around the pigsty on its trailer, the rebel flag was in tatters and the bird table got decapitated! Fortunately, only one fruit tree was physically damaged, though not killed, I hope. After our hasty retreat with the balled-up matting, the garden is a mess of builders’ planks that were useless at holding down the plastic and the grass is starting to grow again.

BUT, after a couple of months building my dream woodwork shop, the weather is on the turn and I’ve just received four big boxes of goodies from Martin Crawford. Last year, it was the easy-to-get stuff; this year we are planting some more unusual fruit that we love. Walnuts in the meadow; mulberries, perry pears and autumn olives out the back. Grapes, peaches and nectarines will join the hops to soak up the heat from our mighty wall. We’ve propagated some lavender, local oak and totally foreign eucalyptus for some specialist tasks. Both hives have survived the winter with ample bees and honey.

Monica was successful in obtaining (possibly one of the last) eWGS grants so that we can bridge between the ancient remnant of Warland Wood and the denuded part that Treesponsibility replanted for us. The latter, I discover, is entirely English Oak so the new plantation will be a buffer of those local Sessiles. The grant also allows us to plant alternative firewood on t’Other Bit, e.g. ghost gums, over the road in case our ash gets infected. The Yogi who came to assess Warland Farm was very keen to support our efforts and smoothed the application through.

We’ve adopted the two nearby stretches of the Rochdale Canal and the Trust, we hope, will assist with materials for improving fences below the meadow. If we do the work ourselves, the grant will help pay for perimeter deer fences and a rabbit fence for the fruit areas.

Today, I set out my list of spring tasks. Much of it is still preparatory and, as yet, I have no real design for the under-storeys but, by the time the meadow is ready to be mown again, the woodlands and orchards will be making their presence and potential obvious.

As a grace note for the year, we’re about to get the OK from Calderdale Council to build a new barn, behind the other two. All eco and habitat-holed, it’ll be where the coppice and orchard produce gets brought and processed into (I hope) valuable goods. Perhaps when I can distribute jams, kirches, hurdles and baskets, the locals will start to see the renewed social value of Warland Farm.

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