February 2024: Two and a half acres

Mushka excavating rabbit holes

I didn't think two and a half acres was that big but now standing in the middle of a field of two and a half acres of grass on a howling winter day, it feels huge. Maybe it's because there are a few trees to create interruptions on the horizon which my eyes scan to fall on Blencathra in the West. The valley in front of me seems vast and gratitude rises in me like spring sap, to have been born and brought up here on the fell edge, looking out over the Eden Valley.

2.5 acres. But it’s surely not that big? I think I read Monty Don's garden was two acres and then there's Dave Goulson, author of The Garden Jungle, alongside many other books. He kindly replied to my email writing go with your “mix of food production and biodiversity, which is more or less what I do in my 2 acre garden. Don’t use pesticides, plant a nice range of fruit trees, using local varieties if you can find them, and you won’t go far wrong. Try to create a hay meadow mix between and beneath the trees, including yellow rattle. Use native / local provenance plants/seeds so far as possible. Whatever you do, enjoy it. I’m sure you will end up with lots of wildlife, nature doesn’t need much to thrive.”

So here I stand, at our beginning, my feet upon soft, red earth, humble with the helm wind at my back, a canvas of co-creation with the creatures and plants who will live here. Right now, the rabbits are ruling the roost, which my dog, Mushka, loves excavating their holes til all I see is the tip of her tail.

Some of those first plants are heeled into my garden and a friends allotment. Delivered on an icy day last month. 2,400 trees, whips ready to be planted as hedges, as windbreaks, as shelter, as a corridor for scurriers and timid flyers.

A group of children have already visited, bursting full of ideas. "We have an owl box, let's make wild bee nests, a pond, how about a football pitch, castle and underground bunker..." It's not hard to guess which will be followed up. It felt like my best day ever, having these kids and young adults here in this field, full of imagination, of possibility, of energy, of interest.

And so to plant. The growing season is drawing near. The snowdrops, aconites, and crocuses have raised their heads. It won’t be long before bud burst and there’s that rush of adrenaline, to plant these beauties in the ground. Dog rose, field maple, hawthorn, spindle, crab apple, dog wood, hazel, bird cherry and buckthorn. A poem of past times, waiting to sing their songs.

Elizabeth Woodcock