My husband Doug and I live with our son Robin on a 4 acre smallholding in the South East corner of Dartmoor National Park, Devon. We have a house, 4 large glass houses, a few tumbledown out buildings, a couple of acres of mixed native woodland and some ornamental garden.....and lots of brambles. The site was a family plant nursery for around 30 years which ceased trading some time in the 80's. Since then, for various reasons the land and buildings fell into disrepair, and like the sleeping beauty fairy tale, everything became consumed by enormous brambles, and the once resplendent gardens became the stuff of local legend. We stumbled across it quite accidentally and fell in love with the 'lost gardens' and the enormous potential we saw there.
Since we moved in we have been gradually reclaiming both house and land with a view to creating a family home and food garden with dreams of community and educational spaces in the future. We have many exciting ideas for making use of what we have here and sharing it with others, using it to educate and inspire, but time will tell what will grow from this fertile Devon soil.
We are already meeting many of our family's needs from the land, and we are fortunate to be part of a thriving village community where excesses are shared and exchanged. Here's what we're producing so far:
- Annual and perennial veg from our raised beds and forest garden
- Top fruit and soft fruit from our forest garden and fruit cage
- Eggs from our three chickens, Ruby, Betty and Snowy
- Honey and wax from our bees which we house in top bar hives using the 'natural beekeeping' approach
- Electricity from our photo-voltaic panels
- Heating and hot water from our woodland (via woodburners and back-boilers)
- Oyster mushrooms from logs we have inoculated
- Culinary and medicinal herbs
With a space like this, as they say in permaculture, the potential yields are limited only by our imagination!
Here is a journey in pictures of our time here at Tawny Oaks, from bramble jungle to our vision beginning to take shape....
|Doug at Tawny Oaks as we found it in 2010.|
|Approximately 4 acres of bramble!|
|We fought our way in to the house through rambling rose and Boston Ivy.|
|There was a glasshouse under there....two actually.|
|The glass houses in bloom!|
|A wonderful surprise in the springtime!|
|The enormous task of reclaiming the glasshouses was undertaken with some much appreciated help from friends.|
|Once we had cleared some of the rose and bramble we found all sorts of things....raised beds! Very handy!|
|Et voila! One bramble free glasshouse!|
|The view of Haytor from the western boundary of our garden.|
|Two bramble free glass houses!|
|The blackthorn tunnel in our first snowfall.|
|A branch of one of the wonderful old apple trees.|
|Looking down through the orchard from the house, our wedding marquee just visible at the end.|
|The second largest clearing which fills with bluebells followed by bracken.|
|It took some time to create enough soil to fill all of the raised beds we had found.|
|But now we have 6 beds in full production allowing us to meet a large proportion of our veg needs.|
|Polycultures do very well in our new beds and are particularly beautiful.|
|Companion planting is very beneficial.....|
|And also very beautiful!|