Am at Naomi’s Forest Garden at the Newton Rigg campus of the University of Cumbria and am inspired! It is a great project and after a few short months already boasts a willow structure in the making for tea breaks, and two hugelculture beds (amazing raised beds that are made up of logs, and covered in mulch and compost so that when the plants have used the compost they can continue to draw up their nutrients from the logs as they biodegrade.
The forest garden started off life as a corner of the arboretum and so students and Naomi have had some trees cut down, some at the perfect height for putting mushroom culture in, and others completely cleared to give the garden its combination of clearings and areas that attract lots of sun as well as shade. The garden also boasts a 6 star insect house full of all those bits and pieces bugs just love to hide in.
Naomi is very excited about the possibilities for the forest garden project; she is getting a lot of support so far, including a visit from DEFRA, for the project, which she hopes to turn into a research project looking at the results of different experiments being trialled across the country and is in the process of setting up a website where budding agro foresters everywhere can swop ideas and offer support to one another. A questionnaire is being developed for members to complete so that a complete picture can begin to be built up of the things being tried through out the country so for example whether fields(like Martin Crawford’s garden in Dartington started out life as some 16 years ago are more productive than vegetation covered plots like Newton Rigg’s, and what the different challenges and benefits are.
Look out for the link to this site and questionnaire on this blog as soon as they become available.
Newton Rigg is a fabulous campus boasting allotments and a tropical polytunnel as well as the arboretum and forest garden, each area with its own charm. Tragically, like so many wonderful spaces and projects, this campus is in danger of being closed down next year through lack of funds so if anyone out there has any bright ideas about how to work collaboratively with an amazing university and do some really great work around permaculture and agro forestry do get in touch with Dr Naomi van der Velden via this blog for now.
The forest garden project is generating great interest amongst students and on our walk into the campus from nearby Penrith we meet two Slovakian students involved in the project and eager to do more.
On our lovely walk along the footpaths between the town and the campus Naomi tells me about Freegle http://www.ilovefreegle.org which sounds like a really exciting website very much like freecycle.
After my tour of the campus I set off on my walk to Morland. It is a lovely walk along empty roads and with gorgeous countryside views all around me and perfect weather. It feels good to be alive and discover this part of Cumbria I had never before known about.
It gets better and better; Morland House where I stay tonight is blissful with its valley setting and fells all around, its green, green fields, and idyllic gardens. I hear from host Di about her plans to set up an eco coop and enjoy picking our dinner from the amazing walled gardens.
I love it here; the Eden Valley feels great in every respect. Come visit and see for yourself!
*See Ben Brangwyn’s comment on Days 65-67 http://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/steph-bradley/2010-06/south-north-days-65-67-june-1st-3rd#comments