We have been busy over the last few weeks chopping  and stacking wood and clearing brambles in preparation for laying the hedge along the western boundary. The days are getting noticably shorter and darker, thankfully there is plenty to keep me busy in the polytunnel workshop when the rain falls.

On Thursday 21st of December we’ll celebrate the shortest day of the year by decorating the Walnut Tree with candles. Please come along and bring warm clothes and nibbles, nightlight candles and jam jars. We’ll get a good fire going, drink some mulled juice, and admire the candles as it gets dark. 3 – 5pm at Velwell Orchard. Let us know if you’re coming and share transport or walk where possible.


In praise of the humble bramble

Poor brambles – they get such bad press! I feel sorry for these amazing plants with all the scorn and hatred directed their way. So I want to say a few words in their favour as in my opinion they’re truly fabulous wonder plants. They grow for fun along hedges and woodland edges and anywhere where there’s enough light and space to spread.
I watched a bramble patch once for 8 years as it grew from a small patch in the middle of a field spreading outwards by tip layering. As it grew the sheep were kept at bay, and the birds came to eat the fruit.  Soon the seeds from their droppings began to grow up inside, well protected from the hungry animals. As the trees grew and less light was available, the brambles died off in the middle of the patch while continuing to expand outwards as a ring of natural barbed wire protecting the newly forming woodland.
Brambles are pioneer plants, they grow and spread quickly, killing off the grass below and depositing leaves and old stems onto the ground, soon creating a thick mulch that rots to a beautiful rich compost. And this is why they establish new woodland far more effectively than a group of humans with spades, stakes, tree guards, saplings and the money to purchase them all.
Their pretty little flowers are wonderful for bees and other insects, their spiky stems provide protection for nesting birds, and their delicious berries soon turn children’s faces purple with glee. Tasty jams, crumbles or smoothies can be made from those that aren’t put straight in the belly but I love to eat them fresh picked into my cereal bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I think brambles provide us with a good example of the ironies of modern living. We invest so much time and effort in fighting them and cursing then when they retaliate with prickles. Then we go down to the supermarket and buy a load of blueberries from half way round the world.