Sorry for the delay with this final piece. I went straight from the course onto full-time child care and a new puppy so I’m writing this with a little space for hindsight. Our last week of level 2 Sustainable horticulture was definitely a memorable one. We started off at Beeson which has a stunning setting not far from Kingsbridge. Kate and I felt under pressure on the way there as Patrick was following us through lots of tiny lanes and it would have been rather embarrassing to have to do any U turns.
Once we got there all stress vanished away as we stood in Liz’s 4 acre field looking out over the sea. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed learning about her alley-cropping and forest garden. It was interesting to see a younger forest garden than Martin Crawford’s and the issues relating to ground cover and weed prevention. I had a good go with a scythe which was fun and not as heavy as I’d imagined. Certainly a very environmentally friendly way to control the weeds. Liz made us a very refreshing nettle diffusion, raw nettles but no sting. I shall have to try it at home!
In the afternoon we were allowed to relax and went to Blackpool sands. It’s such a stunning place. We sunbathed and swam in the extremely cold sea. I discovered that Mark and Chris are pretty adept beach volley ball players and interestingly that my feet are very beach-hardened after so many trips there with the kids. Quite an advantage in the volleyball!
On Wednesday Tina came in to help us master the lawnmower in our assessment. After confusing the exhaust with the air intake I wasn’t too sure I was going to pass but I think we all got there in the end. Friday was our last day and we went with Darren to Landmatters, which is a very interesting permaculture development near Totnes. Charlotte showed us around and gave us a fascinating talk about the land that they own and how they look after it. Some of the houses were simple ‘benders’ and others gorgeous mud roundhouses. I had severe polytunnel envy after seeing the aesthetically pleasing wooden one that they had built. They also had a hand pump on a bore hole which worked brilliantly. I felt so much respect for these people who managed to live a true community lifestyle and support each other with their work and lives. A true low carbon lifestyle that not many of us are willing to lead.
Many of our teachers joined us for a final lunch. We owe so much to them: Darren, Patrick, both the Janes, Jenny, Mo, Mardi and Ian. They have shared their knowledge so willingly and supportively. It’s a different sort of experience being a mature student. It’s a more shared experience of learning and so enjoyable. We have all learnt so much, not just the academic content of the course but also the social benefits of a shared love of nature and growing flowers and food.
I am so sorry to see the end of this course appear at last but so thrilled with what it has given me to take forwards to my next project. I’ve been going on about it all year to my class-mates: I want to set up a woodland centre near Teignmouth. I haven’t got far yet. I have a wood and an amazing friend called Bill who knows everything about forestry. Between us hopefully we can get a forest garden and nursery going and who knows where it could lead. Thank you Bicton and Schumacher for giving me the confidence to realise my dream.