Permaculture – Resistance is Futile

When I bought Valley Wood, one of my first thoughts was that as well as bringing it into production of wood fuel, the woodland could be a destination for camping parties of friends and family.

One of my initial concerns was that the woodland is on a hillside, and the slope is quite steep in places, which doesn’t suit it well to camping. The representative of the company I bought the woodland from explained that level areas can be made with a digger quite easily, so this would be a way to do it.

The first night I spent at the woodland, I camped on the track which bisects the wood, and whilst I could see the stars, it felt very open and I was dying to camp up inside the wood itself. So the following day, I found a place up in the wood where the slope was not so steep, and with a mattock I made a tent-sized level area and pitched my tent.

This was exactly what I wanted, surrounded by trees and deep in the woodland itself.

The next couple of visits I planned where my excavated camping area was going to be, but each visit I found myself becoming more and more fond of the particular trees, rocks, plants and landscape features around my campsite. Paths through the forest seemed to suggest themselves, and became more established the more I trod them. At night I could hear creatures around me, and fell to thinking that a lot of them probably lived underneath a lot of these stones.

I realised that if I was going to get a digger in, I would first have to fell a load of these trees and then the machine would have to rip the landscape up wholesale, including everything living there. Instead of ‘camping in the woods’, I would be right back to ‘camping out in the open’ again.

The more I thought about it, the less the idea appealed to me. But what about a place for people to camp? I realised that the only other way I could do it was the way I had already started on – using my mattock, through sheer manual labour, I would have to painstakingly make camping areas tent by tent anywhere where the landscape looked suitable.

In my first few visits another thing I discovered was that for cutting down large rhododendron plants, the chainsaw I had used to begin with was far heavier and much harder work than a little folding pruning saw my dad had lent me.

What seemed to be emerging was a certain theme – that using hand tools was not only a much gentler, more careful and refined approach to shaping the woodland, but in many ways it was actually easier, or in the case of the digger, cheaper.

Then I realised that this is precisely what Permaculture teaches. In a nutshell. Less reliance on the brute force of powerful mechanisation gives an overall much better, more natural and harmonious result.

So on my last visit, I ‘set to’ and spent a day making a second campsite for another tent near the first, high up in the woods. It was hard work, excellent exercise and as someone who has not historically been particularly physically active or fit, I was impressed at how much I actually managed to achieve working on my own.

It’s going to be a long haul – but I’m much happier now with the method I’ve decided on. It’s almost as if the woodland knows what it wants to be, and I am there to do its bidding, and my reward is that I am a part of its plan.







Valley Wood

Well, like buses, Green Cottage updates sometimes come in threes!

Last but not least this time, a new addition to the Green Cottage “estate” is four acres of mixed woodland in North Wales.

I bought the woodland from, it’s an unmanaged wild woodland which I aim to improve for wildlife (including family and friends ;)) and bring into production of wood fuel and possibly even charcoal and timber.

Achievements so far have been hewing a tent-sized camping area out of the hillside using a grubbing mattock, cutting down a few trees on the upper track to make room for a digger in the autumn, cutting down some rhododendron and making a couple of paths through the upper part of the wood to enable me to get around the wood which at the moment is pretty much impenetrable.

Incredibly hard work, but incredibly good exercise and therapy for the soul. Best thing I’ve ever done!! 🙂











Garden Update 3rd June 2011

Despite a dry start to the year, here in North Manchester we have had a fair bit of rain recently, and the garden is rockin’!!

A gorgeous sunny day today so I thought I would take a few photos to illustrate the state of play. Got some nice frost hardy cabbages on the go this year, they are looking favourites for best crop of 2011!







Grid Tie Inverter

One problem with my off-grid solar PV setup has been that in order to gain the benefit of the solar power, I have had to switch my ring main over from mains power to run on the batteries and solar. And whilst this means I get solar electricity, it also means I am using the batteries which degrades them when really there is no need.

Until recently, grid tie inverters have been prohibitively expensive and available only for voltages of around 72v or higher, being generally unsuitable for my 24v system. But seemingly the gap in the market has been noticed, and I managed to get a ‘plug and play’ 600w 24v grid tie inverter off eBay for just £150.

It won’t get me the Feed in Tariff of course, but it does mean maximum and most efficient utilisation of my solar PV panels and batteries, the latter of course still giving me critical systems backup in the event of grid failure.