The Sombrun Forest Garden Project began in 2018 with the purchase of the property, but the idea goes a lot further back than that. At the moment, I am in the analysis and early development stage.
Site analysis and assessment involves the site itself, which is mostly an open meadow, researching elements such as mapping, the local environment, topography, geology, hydrology, climate and so on. Early development includes the management of existing pioneer species and the planting of new ones, including nitrogen-fixers, creating basic infrastructure such as pathways and swales, and producing useful herbaceous species such as comfrey, horseradish and borage.
The Project will put into practice many of the principles of agroforestry and permaculture, and the overall aim is to establish a mid-succession forest garden, with comprehensive production of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, climbers, small timber, fruit and perennial vegetables, nuts, fibre, biomass and compost, home medicine etc.
Ideas for the future are also to involve the local community, establishing a seed bank of non-hybrid species and possibly generating some income through a forest garden nursery and sale of excess produce, but that is some way off yet of course.
In terms of livestock, the area available does limit choice, but at some point it would at least be a good idea to include some poultry, and, to follow the example of my good friends in India, maybe the obligatory cow!
The broad areas I’m interested in are agroforestry, forest ecology, forest gardens, nutrition-sensitive farming, permaculture and resilient food systems.
I would like to demonstrate several things: that a forest garden is a viable answer to the current nutritional and lifestyle impasse we find ourselves in; that even a small project such as this is scaleable – that is to say that the same principles can be applied on much larger areas; and also that the multiple ecosystems within the forest garden are only part of the ecosystem of the garden as a whole, which in itself, within the surrounding landscape, is just a part of a much greater entity. It’s a kind of infinite Russian Doll, in which the forest garden plays a crucial role.
Over the coming months I want to firmly establish the Project and make a contribution to understanding how we can set an example for future generations.