Nearly 20 years ago we had the good fortune to move to a 17 acre homestead in rural west Wales.
All my adult life I had had a dream of moving to the countryside to set up a self-sufficient smallholding. John Seymour wrote the bible of self-sufficiency, and I was a follower.
Then at the turn of the century through good fortune, opportunism and a whim and a fancy we were blessed enough to be able to buy our piece of Welsh mountainside.
Although my dream had been long in the making, the act of purchase was short, sharp and wonderful. We arrived in the area on new year’s eve, found a hotel that was being renovated and had a room to spare, viewed the property on 2 January, and bought it on 3 January.
Then fate played its most beautiful hand.
A few weeks after we had moved in I discovered the house had actually been built by my mother’s family in 1799, and was occupied by my ancestors for 150 years until they moved away and it was left derelict in the 1950s. My mother died when I was young so this information came to me via an elderly neighbour who was an old friend of a great aunt.
When we arrived our fields were occupied, and keenly grazed, by our neighbour’s sheep. They manicured the grass quite precisely and the floral diversity was minimal.
That arrangement remained for our first dozen years in residence. Our tightly trimmed fields matched quite anonymously the rest of the landscape up and down the valley, with just a few resolute trees punctuating the view.
Then a chance encounter with a forestry consultant through a website contract set in motion an evolutionary change for our 17 acres of Welsh mountainside.
He presented a plan to plant over 10,000 native trees across our land entirely funded by grants from the government forestry authority.
Sad for the ovine occupants but that offer could not be refused.
Over the next two years 10,000 native trees were planted – oak, ash, wild cherry, hawthorn, beech, alder, guelder rose…
We have filled in the remaining small gaps with over 60 assorted fruit and nut trees.
Along with the existing trees we now have around 11,000 trees across the land ranging from mere youngsters to 250 year old mighty oaks.
Very quickly the landscape began to change. The flora exploded. New animals begun to appear.
After 3 years many of the trees were taller than me. A woodland in waiting begun to appear before our very eyes.
Now six years since the original planting we have the makings of a small forest.
Soon it will need positive management. With bramble sneaking in some areas are becoming inpenetrable.
Some areas are already so dense I get lost in there !
It is a truly wondrous thing.
Besides getting married, raising a family and buying the house, planting this forest-to-be I count as one of the greatest achievements of my life.
That might sound ridiculous.
But this forest will grow and live on long after I am gone.
It has changed the landscape, massively enhanced the ecology, and given the map makers 17 acres to re-colour.
This will be our home for life now.
I’m not going anywhere. Never will I want to. In fact I wish to stay here for eternity.
Bury me here under a big oak tree in a coffin made of willows from by the lake.
Trees live in peace.
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[ all images by pennsif ]