Welcome to Ael Y Bryn! We have now lived here in West Wales for just over a month and are absolutely loving it. It’s an exciting time creating a whole new no dig garden here and exploring our new location. Here I am making an abundant small homestead, mostly on top of grass, which will provide food year round for my family and be rich with biodiversity for the wild things.
It has, as you can imagine, been an incredibly busy time. All of the packing and planning, and the stress of moving house – waiting for all of the legal things to be sorted, never quite sure when it will all happen. Everything seems to drag on for months and months and then – boom! – suddenly the completion date is a short few weeks away and we’re off to a new country. We have spent months surrounded by boxes, and now there are still boxes everywhere as we gradually unpack.
I also had to pack up everything from the garden that was coming with us: tools, equipment and plants. This meant that as well as a large removal van, the removal firm needed to add a trailer. The first things to be packed were the trees, bushes and plants in pots and trays in the trailer, ready to be planted in their new home.
It was of course a very emotional experience. We had lived in our old home for twenty years, so many memories and good friends there. Once we had exchanged and the removal date was fixed, I was permanently on the verge of tears thinking about leaving – whilst also being excited and looking forward to the new adventure. Very mixed emotions! It was a huge wrench and a leap into the unknown – I had only been here for two short visits in November, my children hadn’t seen it at all, and we knew no one in the local area (I do have friends in West Wales). Fortunately Ruairi (my older son) and I were able to visit here for a quick visit to the garden after exchanging contracts to make arrangements for some tree surgery so he at least could see the location, but strangely we were not able to see in the house until receiving the keys, which is most unusual even in these covid times.
I have been asked a lot why we decided to move, because it is a very big thing to do. Well, sadly Charles decided to end our relationship in May last year. We had been a couple for eight years. We continued to work together in a friendly way, but I felt that the best thing for me was a fresh start somewhere else.
We all love it here: myself and my three young adult children who are all students, attending universities elsewhere, although of course that is all online these days so this is home. It’s amazing really how at home we feel, it’s as if the house and garden are welcoming us. This has been helped enormously by the friendly welcome of neighbours and the extraordinary scenery around us. The house is on a steep narrow lane which leads to the top of a hill, from where one can see for miles and miles to several different mountain ranges. The lane leads on to a Roman road called Sarn Helen and from there to gorgeous walks with forests, moorland, rugged rocks, rivers and streams, ancient monuments and sheep. Lots and lots of sheep!
The coast is a short drive away and we have been having a fantastic time exploring and eating chips on the beach. My sons have even been swimming. The sunshine was glorious but it was rather cold for plunging into the sea, but that did not deter them.
The house is constructed from local stone and stands in just under half an acre. It is lovely, with very thick walls and dark grey Welsh slate floors downstairs. These are brilliant for gardeners – don’t show the mud! And really good wifi, which is necessary for my work. I am not showing many photos of the actual house because it is our family home, to respect everyone’s privacy. The house and garden are no open to the public, although I do plan to do courses here in the future.
There is a smallish front garden which is almost entirely gravel with some plants. Fortunately much of the gravel is on top of mypex so I will be able to remove that and create a more plant-filled environment. The small pond was empty, and now has some native water plants in that I bought online and a small “beach” made from stones so that creatures can escape to safety if they fall in. I am also creating habitats around the pond – when we got here it was the saddest pond in Wales, now it is starting to look a bit more loved.
To the side is a triangular shaped garden with a seat made from old logs, which catches the evening sun. An parking area leads to more gravel, which I will put pots and raised beds on to make that area abundant. The back garden has a small greenhouse (hooray!) and a lawn which will become entirely no dig beds. A gate beside the greenhouse leads to the orchard, with some established fruit trees and bushes. In the orchard I’ve started to make new beds, using different kinds of mulches (one of these has asparagus in), will plant the fruit trees and bushes I brought with me, and in August a polytunnel is arriving. The top part of the orchard will be the family area, where we can eat, camp, have fires and welcome friends.
Sadly one of the first jobs here was removing seven trees which posed a danger to us, a neighbouring property and the electricity power lines. We now have a lot of wood, wood chip and sawdust – plus three 9 ft high trunks which my children have plans for. My plan is to hang hammocks from them!
One of my first visitors here was Huw Richards, who came with his drone to take some “before” shots for me.
I’ve made two no dig beds using peat free compost from Dalefoot in the back garden so far, and have started planting these out – more about that in another post. I’d bought a spring planting garlic because I was expecting to move in early February, so it went in rather late – but as I had it thought I would pop it in and see what happens. I have sown carrots, parsnips and radish, and planted early potatoes here and also in pots. There is lettuce, some brassicas, spinach, spring onions and multi-sown beetroot, many of which were kindly grown for me by Saronne who lives on a smallholding nearby and has a You Tube channel. You can also find here on Instagram as SowGrowandCook. I’ll explain more about making these beds in another post.
Obviously I have just moved and it wasn’t practical to take all of my homemade compost with me – that went to my old neighbour Audrey who used it on her garden. So I had to order some in to get things started, and arranged a delivery from Dalefoot. I did try to get dumpy bags, but this lane truly is very narrow and it just wasn’t possible, so everything came in bags. Not ideal, but it is a one-off, the bags will be used over and over again, and in Wales they can also be recycled. All of the food I will grow will mean less plastic here for years to come, too.
The resources that are here include:
some old compost heaps – badly made and mostly twigs and leaves, so much of that is being re-stacked for composting
sawdust – useful for paths and adding to the compost heaps
wood chip – very fresh, so much of that will be piled up to mature
grass clippings – excited to have this, I didn’t have any grass at my old house because I covered the lawn with a polytunnel!
comfrey and nettles – for composting and liquid feeds
gifts from neighbours – alpaca poo, offers of chicken poo and old sheep fleece
and of course I have set up several compost heaps including one of the hotbins.
The greenhouse is full of seedlings, and I am sowing more today! It is a very exciting time. Things are a bit different this year. The greenhouse is half the size of my old one and I do not have a polytunnel, so I won’t be growing the same number of varieties of warmth loving plants as usual – just a few aubergines, chillies, peppers, melons etc. There is always next year!
So, here we are! Looking forward to making my new Welsh homestead here in Ceredigion.
ps: I am very aware that I am so lucky to have found a nice house with a good sized garden and I really don’t want to come across all “ooo look what I have got”!! This is a very real life situation. I have a large mortgage, like most people, and will be paying it off for years and years. My new life here also includes working to pay the bills and support my family, as well as gardening 🙂