I have been incredibly blessed by this 2.3 acres. Divided into 3 fields with stock proof fencing and solid gates. There is a small entrance field with a fallen but productive cats head apple tree and overgrown at the edges with blackthorn and brambles. There are also huge nettle patches from old manure piles. The adjacent field contains 3 poly tunnels, vegetable beds, fan trained cherries and a tree line of birches, hawthorn, hazel and something else I haven't ID'd yet - it is being overgrown with brambles.
The land slopes upwards to the South from these fields into a small meadow with a small orchard of 10 year old fruit trees to the East.
There are 11 ancient apple trees scattered over the site, lasting from the days when the entire valley was orchard. Tree number one ominously fell down during the week onto the table I had been serving mulled cider from the Wassail 5 days previously. I don't think it liked the cider offering or our wassail song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIsXYqkhG1o. It had been dying for a few years though and the roots were rotted through. We planted a Coxes Pippin in it's place.
This week I am working my way round the field margins cutting back brambles and doing gentle tree pruning to open the ground area up ready for underplanting with medicinal and edible ground cover.
I am planning to put in wintergreen, Nepalese raspberries, ground ivy, wild garlic, hedge mustard, crow garlic, wild leeks and golden seal.
There were the most enormous delicious blackberries on a huge bramble growing over about 10 meters and drowning a mystery apple that looks like a strawberry with a delicate scent of cinammon spice and tinged pink stripes through it's flesh. The "experts" at the apple days were unable to ID it so I will send a sample to Brogdale in the Autumn. http://www.brogdale.org/ and cough up the £12 to find out what it is.
Today is day 2 and my hands look like they are covered with a rash of red spots where I have been picked a thousand times by the vengeful brambles. My scalp is sore in a few places from spiking it with thorns while crawling around under branches. My hair is infused with scent of bonfire - I could smell it all night and I'm sure everyone at yoga could smell it too last evening! I had help to prune out a large silver birch trunk to use for Shitake mushrooms and I will tap the others for birch sap come April. http://birchsapwine.com/
Little Owl in an old apple tree.
The aim is to prune and clear gently and sensitively, clearing what is impinging on the fences, maintaining areas for wildlife but with a view to clearing space for more useful permanent growth. The robin at least is grateful for the soil and leaf mould I am churning under foot and I know I will return this morning to see the leaves tossed about by the blackbirds. The little owl retreats up the meadow to a distant perch and looks on disapprovingly.