It was on a sunny day in September when a few of us from the erstwhile Lost Plot walked uphill at Dry Arch to look at the site where the old nursery’s greenhouses once stood. The sun beat down, birds sang, and all around us was rampant growth, smothering whatever had been there before. We were faced with making a renewed effort to restore an overgrown site.
We aren’t strangers to the process, several of us also having worked at Broadlands Orchard with 1100 trees at the beginning when it was heavily overgrown. At the Old Field Station we had expended a lot of energy restoring old trees, and also planting new ones of different varieties. The process of clearing ground in the footprint of the old glasshouse had taken a long time. We’d put up a poly-tunnel and were just making progress with veg growing.
So there we stood, looking at the lovely views and feeling somewhat overwhelmed. But we felt that Dry Arch Co-op might welcome us, and we very much wanted to continue developing our potential. The history of the new site which had been such a productive market garden is really intriguing. The opportunity to help work a great piece of land could not be passed up, however daunting it was to start all over again.
The effort of dismantling and packing up four years’ worth of accumulated tat seemed insurmountable at first. Slowly but surely it was shifted. Everything had been done with donated and recycled goods, useful or otherwise. I shall not dwell on the weeks when cold and mud delayed progress. Or the churning wheels that tried to move stuff to the top plot at Dry Arch in the worst of the wet weather! This is why there are many strange lumps under blue tarps near the marquee, as our salvaged goods were necessarily stored there till later.
We hired a tractor and trailer to bring across most of the compost we had so lovingly nurtured. It’s waiting to be applied to the growing area….just as soon as we remove the endless glass shards. We’re trying to stick to our ‘No Dig’ principles. A large poly-tunnel frame is already in place, and a smaller one will be used for propagation and to have a larger meeting place. A recycled shed now gives shelter from rain squalls and it houses tools etc. Early days!
We hope more and more people will come and help at Dry Arch as spring comes on. There’s coffee, tea and biscuits on offer! We’re sticking to a routine of Wednesdays to establish the new area on the top plot, more often from about 11am or midday onwards, and keep going till as late as we can afford to stay. On Thursdays and Sundays work is spread across the site helping wherever it’s necessary. It feels as if we’re settling in together. So far group efforts have resulted in bramble-bashing, Herby Ridge help, drain-rodding, poly-tunnel erection and general work in the growing areas. Trees are now being moved across into the new orchard area. Projects abound, now that we can look forward to better days. This is Transition. This is how it works.