As part of the Planning Application after we bought Mucknell farm to be the site of the new monastery the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust conducted an environmental assessment survey. The site was described as an ‘agricultural desert’ with the comment that anything we did would be an improvement. The land had not been farmed for some time and the remaining farm buildings were surrounded by demolition spoil. We were taking on about 40 acres of land, roughly four times larger than our monastery at Burford.
Despite the difficulties of the site we drew up a plan to establish a combination of meadow and woodland habitats along with water features linked to our sustainable drainage system. As well as providing a peaceful and interesting environment for our guests we also wanted to provide raw materials which we could use for land management.
We planted over 9000 trees as part of a scheme to re-establish the ancient Forest of Feckenham using a special mix of native species. In the southwest of the site we planted a mixed Hazel and Sweet Chestnut coppice to provide fencing materials and fuel. We are pollarding willows planted along the north boundary stream which have many uses in the kitchen garden and for fencing.
Only one of the original ponds survived but we added three large swales as part the bio-digestion system for purification of the effluent. These have become a very interesting wetland habitat over the last ten years.
Our kitchen garden is the source of much of our fruit and vegetables. We are not quite self-sufficient, but the developing “no-dig” approach in our raised beds, together with the large greenhouse, provide us with staples (e.g potatoes, carrots and ionions) for about three quarters of the year. The freezers are rarely without rhubarb, squash or pumpkin and there are always fresh vegetable options throughout the winter, even if leeks, kale or Swiss chard are not to everyone’s taste… During the summer months there is soft fruit, beans, tomatoes, courgettes and peppers aplenty.
We enjoy as much of the cabbage crop as we can salvage from caterpillars, but as we avoid using sprays and artifical fertilizers a number of our plants succumb to pests. There is also a considerable amount of weeding to be done!
In 2017 we provided a new home for a few colonies of honey bees and have been instructed by one of our friends, Peter, in keeping our own. Above: Br Anthony gets to wear a very fetching outfit.