DESIGN PLAN PAMS POOLS 2016
I am a 64 year old Doctor & I bought Underton Cottage & 4 acres of land back in 1985 & built the stable block the following year. Subsequently I bought adjoining parcels of land and now the property extends to 50 acres. This consists of the gardens, orchards, meadows, woodland & two large pools, as described below & shown on the maps & photographs.
In 1995, Australian relatives visited & introduced me to Permaculture. They were horrified by my high carbon footprint, which was mainly due to my high oil consumption, & inspired me to gradually adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
I got rid of the oil-fired Rayburn which had provided central-heating, hot water & cooking facilities and have travelled by train instead of by air since 2008. I try to use my car as little as possible but I must confess to driving a horsebox, exploring the countryside on horseback being my chief hobby.
I am not without helpers and am learning from a retired Gardener, with a lifetime’s experience of growing plants of all kinds, who is also extremely knowledgeable about poultry & bees. He & a strong “Man of all work” & I work together one morning a week & other friends help with projects in a flexible barter system.
COTTAGE = ZONE ZERO
This is a black & white listed building of around 1640.
It was in very poor repair when I bought it in 1985 and I tried to make it habitable without losing the period features but must admit that at that time sustainability was not a consideration. It needed complete re-roofing [tiles] , re-wiring & re-plumbing.
More recently ,I have installed secondary glazing in the windows ; insulated the roof- space ; used that excellent material, sempatap, to insulate the interior surface of the sloping external walls upstairs ; installed LED light-fittings & gradually replaced dying electrical appliances with modern low-energy models.
The kitchen has an electric cooker and a wood-burning stove that also heats hot water for my bath-room & kitchen. In summer, the solar panels on the conservatory roof heat this water .
I built this small conservatory onto the south wall of the cottage so that it helps conserve heat in the cottage . It is furnished with a small table & four chairs so that one can sit there or alternatively one can carry the chairs onto the terrace just outside where there is a large table for meals in fine weather . It also houses a productive grapevine [ Black Hamburg ] and usually houses my lemon trees in winter, although if the weather is very harsh I carry them inside the house. In summer the lemons stand on the terrace against the south-facing wall of the conservatory and produce the only citrus fruit I use.
I do have a back-up immersion heater and there is a second tank with an immersion heater to provide hot water for the larger guest bedroom, when in use.
Anyone in the smaller guest bedroom shares my bathroom.
The sitting room also has a wood-burning stove and I have kept the beautiful old open fireplace in the dining room but only light a fire there when entertaining guests.
I do have electrical radiators in almost all the rooms but seldom turn them on.
I n 1996 I bought the wooded hillside above the cottage, where the spring which had historically provided the water supply to the property is sited. I installed a storage tank just below the spring & piped the water down the hill to supply the needs of the property, apart from the cottage. The slope provides adequate though not ideal water pressure.
I have a septic tank which originally took all the “black water” from the 3 toilets & the “grey water” from both bathrooms & the kitchen. More recently, the grey water from my bathroom was made to drain into a tank fixed to the external wall of the cottage facing the drive & fitted with a tap so that I can use it for watering plants etc.
During a very cold winter, the water in this tank froze & the ice spread backwards into the cottage & blocked the bath & basin outlets, preventing me from using either for days. The water tanks in the roof-space froze at the same time.
I therefore insulated the internal pipework and tanks in the roof & and had a valve fitted so that I can drain the external grey-water tank each autumn .
Rainwater from the south-facing roof drains into a water-butt situated adjacent to the conservatory & herb garden, to be convenient for watering either, and rainwater is also collected from the stable roof, see below.
STABLE BLOCK=ZONE 1
I built the stable block in 1986.
Apart from being used by my horses and pony, the 3 stables are extremely useful for dealing with my sheep [ 22 Hebridean & 9 Shropshire] and their lambs & for rearing chickens & ducklings.
It also comprises 2 adjoining storage areas, each the size of a double garage. One is used to store hay, feed & bedding for the animals. The other is used for general storage with my Kubota tractor the most important item. Above this latter area is a large loft with vermin-proof apple racks.
Water is collected off the north facing roof to a horse-trough in the yard & from the south-facing roof to a water-butt beside the greenhouse
ELECTRICITY -PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS
In 2007 I installed photovoltaic panels on the south-facing roof of the stable block and in 2013 installed some more on the south-facing roof of my newly-built Eco-Cabin. In total, I generate about twice the amount of electricity that I consume.
Incidentally my consumption has declined from an average of 5000 kWh per annum to around 3500 kWh due to the above electricity saving measures, despite my having also got rid of the oil-fired Rayburn.
COLD STORE= ZONE 1
The south wall of the stable block was originally built right against a steep bank.
In 2008, I dug into the bank to build a large breeze-block walled cold store which opens out of the feed storage area described above.
In it I keep 2 small deep-freezers. Because it is a cold environment, they use less electricity than if sited elsewhere while the warm air they produce circulates through the cold store & out into the storage area, so preventing damp in either. One is usually empty & turned off for much of the summer, so saving electricity. I have 2 small freezers rather than one large one to give this flexibility.
I fill them with home-grown fruit & vegetables; with the lamb, chicken & duck that I produce and with presents from friends of Canada goose, pheasant, venison etc .
Cider making & bee-keeping equipment is kept in the cold-store, together with the cider & honey produced and also jams, elderflower cordial and wine [ mainly from France, rather than further afield, to limit food miles]. At present a bat seems to have decided to hang out there as well, rather annoyed whenever I go in there & switch on the light!
The south & west walls of the cold store are built against the solid earth and one metre beyond its east wall a second wall was constructed & the space between filled with soil for insulation.
This area usually grows excellent Spaghetti marrows.
Although I am on heavy clay, half a mile away they are quarrying sand & gravel. The quarry kindly gave me some of their spoil to cover the flat roof of the cold store. This sandy soil has made an ideal bed for carrots, asparagus & similar vegetables which prefer a light & well-drained soil – although I am still picking out large stones!
I shovel horse muck through the door in the adjacent field shelter into two small muck- heaps, built beside these vegetable beds. It can rot down there ready to be used as needed in that area.The horses like to stand in the shelter whenever the weather is either wet or hot & so provide plenty of muck very close to where I want to use it.
GREENHOUSE AREA= ZONES 1 & 2
There is an excellent, sheltered growing area enclosed on two sides by the above eastern wall of the Cold-store and the south-facing wall of the stable.
Against this white-painted stable wall, I built a greenhouse which harbours a very fruitful fan-trained Peregrine Peach & is used to raise seedlings, for forcing early strawberries & potatoes and for the cultivation of tomatoes .
Beside the Greenhouse a Brown Turkey Fig & a Kiwi Solo are trained against the same south-facing stable wall. I get a reasonable crop of figs around September most years & delicious Kiwi fruits ripen between mid-December & mid-January.
Around the corner of the stables, 4 gooseberry bushes are being trained up the east facing wall & usually fruit well [ a Hinomaki Red, a Martlet & 2 Invicta ].
I have also planted a Phoenix grapevine against a pergola here which is starting to crop well.
WOODSTORE= ZONE 1
All the fuel used in the cottage is sourced from my woodland & is stored in the purpose-built woodshed, sited conveniently near to the kitchen door. The shed for the pony carts is adjacent.
HERB GARDEN=ZONE 1
This was laid out in 1986 with a mixture of culinary herbs & mainly cottage garden plants [ details on request]. There are also 3 dwarf apples trees [ Granny Smith, Sunset & Laxton Superb] and a small Bay tree.
It is situated just outside the kitchen door in accordance with Permaculture principles & being thus just south of the cottage is in full sun most of the day.
Originally I planted a wisteria, a climbing rose & 2 clematis against this south facing wall of the cottage and they are so beautiful that I am reluctant to remove them. But in January 2011, I managed to make room for a fan-trained Early Moorpark Apricot because the 2 free-standing apricot trees in FortDucks orchard were not fruiting well. It is cropping well and has encouraged me to plant more elsewhere, see below.
My small cottage garden extends around to the east & north of the cottage and includes very productive Alpine Strawberry areas & a large Quince tree but is otherwise mainly ornamental. It does support wildlife including plenty of toads and I nearly put my bare hand on a grass snake this year, no problem once I was sure it was not an adder!
VEGETABLE GARDEN= ZONE 1
Adjacent to the flower garden & thus still near the kitchen door is the vegetable patch, protected from the wind which can whistle up the valley by native hedges and surrounded by post & rail fencing up which I’m growing fan-trained apricots & quinces. This fencing replaced yew hedging which was visually attractive but which required a lot of maintenance, harboured huge numbers of slugs & snails & deleted the adjoining vegetables of nutrients.
I grow perennials such as Globe artichokes ; Sorrel ; Babbington leeks ; Jerusalem artichokes ; Horseradish; Welsh onions & Rhubarb plus annual summer & winter vegetables.
I keep a diary of all the fruit & vegetables that I grow & can supple details on request.
The Bee Orchard adjoins the vegetable garden & yields plums, greengages, damsons, pears , eating & cooking apples & medlars,
See the large scale map which lists the varieties.
A friend & I currently have a total of 5 hives situated here so that I can check on them daily when I go to feed the poultry. We harvest the honey by taking the laden frames into the cold store where we can extract, filter & bottle it, safe from the justifiably irritated bees.
A friend has taught me how to separate out the beeswax and make furniture polish. I have a lot of antique furniture in this antique cottage & the polish for it was expensive! He used an electric stove but I want to try a solar system next time.
Many years ago, I sowed this orchard with a wildflower mix containing cowslips and these have flourished ever since. After they had set seed each year, we used to have to cut it by hand several times, removing the cut grass each time. This year I tried only mowing it once and then introducing a few Shropshire sheep at intervals to keep the grass short. This appears to have worked very well and, assuming the cowslips come up all right next spring, I intend to do the same next year. We did have to put hurdles around the bee hives to protect them from the sheep and vice versa!
Just beside the wicket gate into the vegetable garden are the two compost heaps, conveniently situated for receiving stuff barrowed from the herb, flower & vegetable gardens.
Fort Ducks is strongly fenced to provide a large enclosure for the ducks & hens, safe from foxes & badgers.
It contains 3 small poultry houses & a pool for the ducks.
There are enough duck &/or hen eggs for my needs & for much of the year there is a surplus to give to friends & neighbours.
It is mainly planted with cob-nuts while other trees include cherries; a mulberry ; a new pear tree and an apricot— see large scale map for the varieties. Like the bee orchard, grazing with Shropshire sheep seems to be saving me a lot of work cutting the grass.
If grey squirrels were not shot & trapped, I would get no cob-nuts [or walnuts from the cider orchard, see below].
One fruit cage contains dwarf cherry trees ; blackcurrants; red & white currants and strawberries. The birds eat most of the cultivated cherries grown outside the fruit cage but I usually get Morello cherries for cooking and plenty of small but tasty wild cherries from the woodland. The dwarf cherries are not doing well, probably they don’t like the necessary hard pruning, so I may well remove them
The other fruit cage contains autumn raspberries and more strawberries .
It was a good idea to site the fruit cages inside the poultry enclosure as the ducks eat the slugs & so I do not have a problem with the slugs eating the strawberries.
I do have a slug problem in the vegetable garden – perhaps this also should have been sited in Fort Ducks!
In spring 2012 I purchased a 0.6 acre meadow which I divided with a fence to form Bess Field & the Allotment Orchard.
As can be seen from the sector map, Bess Field lies on the steep hillside to the west of the cottage. One of my kitchen windows looks straight out on it & for years I have enjoyed the light effects in the late afternoons & evenings, particularly in winter, as I worked at the kitchen sink. If I had planted trees there, my view would have been spoilt & the effect would have been claustrophobic.
The Allotment Orchard is lower down the hillside & slightly further north & planting trees there will not have this effect. Indeed, I wanted trees to screen me from the bungalow next door. But I could not plant woodland , partly because there are some overhead power-lines & partly because my neighbours in the bungalow naturally did not want high trees directly to the south of them, obscuring their sunlight. So a small Orchard seemed to be the answer, see large scale map for Species & Varieties.
Below the orchard is a rectangular Allotment roughly 20metres by 8metres which is being cultivated by a friend in exchange for his help with fencing, chain-sawing & similar tasks I cannot do. He also has an incubator & hatches out chicks & ducklings for me to rear in the stables. I have to keep them there until they are big enough to survive in Fort Ducks without being eaten by rooks or crows. Previously my hens & ducks hatched out their own eggs but they were rather unreliable about it & I used to have to buy ducklings & ex-battery hens periodically.
Just below that he has built me a large muck pile. This is to hold the overflow of horse-muck from the stables which is not put directly onto the gardens. I bed my horses on shredded cardboard. It is easier to handle than straw or wood-shavings & much better for the gardens. Contrary to popular belief, I find there is seldom any need for it to be “well-rotted” first: I put it on as a mulch in the autumn & dig it in, if necessary, in late winter or early spring after the frosts have broken it down [ I would not use it in the flower beds].
I always plant my Pumpkin seedlings directly into the main muck pile in early summer as the rising warmth of the rotting muck & its moisture retaining properties mean that they yield good crops with minimal, if any, attention.
The muck pile is also conveniently sited for friends who want some of the well-rotted product after the pumpkins have been harvested.
Between the muck pile & Underton Lane [ the public road ], I have planted Tayberries & Japanese Wineberries and a Merryweather Damson. There was also room to plant one big old-fashioned pear tree & I have put in a Catillac on Pyrus Communis rootstock. I’ve also planted a line of hazel & similar small native trees to screen me from the Leylandii hedge cultivated by my otherwise delightful neighbours in the bungalow.
Beside the top pool is the Cider Orchard with cider, cooking & crab apples ; perry pears ; walnuts ; quinces & plums – see large scale plan for varieties.
I produce small quantities of apple juice & cider using an electrically-powered Centrifugal mill crusher & a hand-operated Vigo cylinder press. I would like to expand production with the aid of working parties.
I also have an electrical pasteuriser for the apple juice. This can also be used as a tea-urn or to mull cider or wine, which is useful for refreshing the working parties!
In 2013/2014 I built a multi-purpose Eco-Cabin with a balcony here using larch from my woodland, turned into planks on site. There are PV panels on the roof & LED lighting, electric sockets & WiFi inside. There is a wood-burning stove for heating & basic cooking and an adjoining sink & toilet. It can be used to hold meetings or parties or as a cafe/bar for Open days.
There is ample parking space here for cars & bikes; room for a BBQ & a bonfire; and I have enough chairs, tables, crockery, cutlery & glasses etc for large gatherings. Indeed, two friends got married here in July with 160 guests!
Friends often camp above the bottom pool or even on the island [ great for “Swallows & Amazons” fans!].
FIELDS = ZONE 4
There are 8 small fields grazed by my old retired mare, two riding horses, the pony & the sheep.
The horses are my major indulgence, although they do provide me with an ample supply of useful manure. They are usually in the Horse Field, which has the field shelter described above. I try & keep them out as much as possible as it is obviously more work to keep them in the stables. However if I think the weather is such that they would prefer to come in, there is a wicket gate leading from their field to the stable yard, which I can open to give them the choice.
I acquired the pony in February 2015 and am having great fun driving him in a cart and have just got a little tipper-trailer so that he can learn to haul loads – a more environmentally friendly alternative to using the tractor.Friends children ride him and he a very tidy little grazer of the green lane and the cider orchard.
The sheep do an excellent job of keeping the pasture in good condition and I try & move them around to maximise the wild-flower biodiversity.
For the first time in 2015, I made hay in three of the fields. This was expensive & provided far more than I could use but not of good enough quality to be easily sold. I’m now concentrating on developing wild-flower hay meadows out of two of these field using conservation methods, including the introduction of “green hay” & yellow rattle from good local sites. This should result in lower quantities [ an advantage!] of higher quality hay plus the restoration of a beautiful and seriously threatened habitat – 97% of the old wild-flower hay meadows in the UK have been lost. The harvest in 2016 was very promising.
The two Pools were excavated by the previous owner of the land in the early 90’s, the top one for course fishing & the bottom one for trout.
I have designated this area , together with the woodland, as a wildlife reserve & manage it with the primary aim of maximising the biodiversity, see below for details.
I have allowed a fisherman to stock the bottom pool with trout in return for the occasional one for me to eat and they also catch me some of the perch that introduced themselves.
A few years ago, I found American Crayfish in both pools. This is ecologically extremely undesirable & “it is ones duty to eat them to extinction”. So I got a crayfish license & 3 traps. The traps work on the lobster-pot principle & are best baited with dead squirrel, magpie or similar. I submerge them near the rocks of the bottom lake for 24 hours & then remove any crayfish caught & put the still-baited traps back a second & third time. I put the crayfish in a holding pen in clean water for 24 hours to cleanse them before killing them & enjoying delicious meals.
This results in large quantities of crayfish shells which I crush by putting them in a tough plastic bag & then stamping on it. The resultant fishy grit is extremely popular with my chickens & is very good for them.
This seems to me a good example of a Permaculture solution to an ecological problem!
Piles of crayfish shells on the edge of the bottom lake suggested that otter were also doing their duty and the Wildlife Trust managed to film one in 2015.
WOODLAND= ZONE 5
The woodland & pools combined covered about 33 acres.
While I manage the wood primarily for the benefit of wildlife, it is a source of fuel for my log-burners ; blackberries ; sloes for gin ; rowanberries for jelly ; elder flowers for cordial ; wild cherries ; inedible chestnuts [ I keep hoping !] & dubiously edible fungi.
I have compiled mammal, bird, butterfly, dragonfly & wildflower species lists, helped by members of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust [ SWT ] & various friends.
There is a problem with rampant bramble & bracken encroaching, particularly along the sides of the numerous paths through the wood & the woodland glades. We mow these areas using my tractor & flail-topper but this is obviously undesirable in that it uses fossil fuel &, in any case, much of the ground is too steep & uneven for even my sturdy 4 wheel-drive tractor.
In the past, I tried grazing with my Hebridean sheep but they immediately started ring-barking my beloved trees. Currently I borrow non-native sheep from a local farmer, who pays me for the grazing in potatoes [ mine always get blight as there is a lot in this area due to large scale non-organic production]. This has been successful beyond my wildest hopes. Far fewer trees get damaged & the sheep barge through many of the bramble & bracken thickets knocking them back considerably as well as eating the grass along the paths & in the glades: the tractor is not needed nearly so much. Shropshire sheep are supposed to do even less damage to trees than other breeds & are beginning to be used in commercial fruit orchards, instead of the appalling use of herbicides to produce bare earth under the trees. I purchased 5 Shropshire ewes to test this and they have performed so well that I bought a ram and am starting to breed up a larger herd.
A Forestry Commission Grant enabled me to commission a professional Management Plan for the woodland, following which I got a 3 year Bird Biodiversity Grant to carry it out, coppicing & thinning trees to provide suitable habitat for the 10 threatened species of wild birds specifically targeted in the West Midlands.
I’m looking for a charcoal burner to use the rampant alder for charcoal, which they could keep or sell. Wet or dry wood-workers would also be welcome . So would someone to chop up logs for their & my fires.
NEW LAND : Zone 4
In December 2014, I purchased a further 5 acres across the lane from my existing land. This was divided into three small fields by wire fences. I’m establishing a wild-flower hay-meadow on one of them [ see above], one is grazed by horses & sheep and the third has become “the Lavender field” because two friends are cultivating lavender on most of it. In one corner I have built a hay-barn, screened from the road by a copse of 24 silver birch. To hide the wire fence & for the benefit of the wildlife, I’ve planted a screen of mostly hazel with some field & dog roses, viburnum lantana & opulis, buckthorn & alder buckthorn and native honeysuckle – one plant per meter, this being cheaper to establish & maintain than a conventional hedge.
I am retired & plan to spend the rest of my active life in developing Pam’s Pools as a Wildlife Reserve and to maximise self-sufficiency in food & energy production while minimising waste.
In addition to the projects mentioned above –
 GROWING FOOD
I would like to try growing some of the more unusual food plants, mainly perennials, that I have read about, mainly in Permaculture publications, or heard about on radio programmes like Gardeners Question Time.
And I would like to try other alternatives to buying seeds [often F1 hybrids] each year. So far “Trail of Tears” beans & Yacon from the Real Seed Company has been a great success.
I would like to try producing more of my own fertilisers instead of buying Maxicrop and Blood, Bone & Fish – probably neither of which are environmentally friendly.I am establishing Comfrey under some of the fruit trees & use horse muck both solid & dissolved in water as a liquid feed.
 ANIMAL FEEDS
Try and find more environmentally sustainable & locally produced feeds for the animals.
The dog & cat both have commercial dried biscuit & the cat also has tinned food because he loves it so much, none of this is produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
My dog loves raw squirrel & rabbit but the cat will have none of this.
The horses & sheep obviously mainly eat grass and now my own hay but they do have some hard feed of dubious origins although I keep this to a minimum by low density stocking.
The poultry have lots of kitchen & garden scraps, much of it donated by kindly neighbours in exchange for occasional eggs, but they do have mixed corn or layers pellets as well & neither is produced from local or organic sources. Alternatives need to be sought.
Fleeces from my sheep are sold by the wool-marketing board. There is virtually no profit from Hebridean fleeces but I hope to do better with the Shropshire ones.
A kind friend gave me a lovely heath-rug for the dining-room, made on a peg loom from the wool of two of my Hebrideans, but she did complain that the fleeces were very dirty & of poor quality. She also crocheted me two beautiful waistcoats from some of the wool that I had washed, carded & spun professionally.
Felt making or wool insulation are other possibilities but time constraints prevent me from doing any of these activities myself although I am happy to give the wool free to anyone else who wants to try .
I hope to become a better cook, using home- grown and locally sourced ingredients, and to file my recipes so they are easily available to me & anyone interested.
I want to extend my network of friends & helpers and also hope as many people as possible will visit this beautiful place & share ideas with me & my friends.
Becoming a Permaculture Land Centre helps with this and I started having WWOOFers in 2014 , which has been a great success.
I was a founder-member of the Shropshire & Edges Permaculture Network [SEPNET] and am now the secretary. SEPNET has grown to 60 members. We meet regularly at different Permaculture sites , including here, where we had the inaugural meeting in May 2013 & two “Permie Partys” since, in the new Eco-Cabin. We have also had SEPNET fruit-tree pruning & apple juicing events here.
I am a Life Member of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust [SWT] and the local branch has held numerous events here including tours of the site, moth-trapping, bird-ringing, bat-detecting & fungus forays, with refreshments being served in the Eco-Cabin.
I think it important to reach out to people who are not yet committed to sustainability & conservation to try to interest them in Permaculture &/or the SWT and I am trying to approach the local community to this end.
I am already self-sufficient in fruit; vegetables; meat & eggs; fish and honey and have a surplus to share.
My wood provides the fuel which heats my cottage & could produce other products, again to be shared with friends.
There is always more to do & I am planning how to progress, with the help of friends old & new.