A sunny day, at last!

It’s been such a long a dreary start to the year, we’ve been in desperate need of some sunshine. After yesterdays rain, I wasn’t holding out much hope for today. But today really has felt like spring!

Today felt really productive and it was wonderful to spend the whole day at the land. We consolidated brush/branch piles, created a covered shelter for some timber and supplies for upcoming projects and finally got a bench set up in the polytunnel for trays of seedlings.

The area pictured above had been piled with tree trimmings and starting-to-rot wood from raised beds that had been in the previous owners polytunnel (which they dismantled and took with them). We put aside any usable planks of wood and moved the brush to another pile – hopefully the robin and wren that we have seen around here will find the new pile. I plan to create some vegetable beds in this area.

In trying to reclaim the polytunnel space for its intended use, today I insisted on organising a bench to grow seeds. This bench was in the old owners polytunnel and has been sat outside for 2 winters now; the top had rotted through but the main structure seems only slightly worse for wear so we decided to reuse it for now. It may only last a year or two, but it’s free and available so we will make use of it! Some additional wood to strengthen the structure and the sides old veg beds cut up to create a usable surface and voila! This made me happier than some pieces of slightly rotten wood screwed together should! Now I don’t have to balance seed trays on a wheelbarrow, I might be able to get some more seeds sown! Thank you, Ashley!

Ashley took down a small sycamore tree that had been partially squashed by another fallen tree and so I made some make-shift deer protection for the fruit trees! We realised that the wire ‘cages’ that we put round the trees when we planted them probably wouldn’t be sufficient if the deer decided that the fresh new growth would make a tasty snack. Until we get the chance to rectify this, I’m hoping that some other branches poking out will deter or distract the deer.

Common Brimstone

Another highlight of the day for me was seeing this butterfly! I disturbed it as I walked through the grass and as it flew away, I was stunned by how vivid, almost neon green/yellow it was. I followed it to take a picture and was even more stunned by the markings that make it look just like a leaf. I’ve identified it as a ‘Common Brimstone’ – although common, I can’t say I’ve ever seen one before! Maybe I wasn’t paying attention until now… My wildlife book suggests that sightings of this butterfly means that winter really is over – about time too!


A wet start to the weekend here in Cornwall (don’t know what else I expected, really!) but we managed a few hours on the land before the rain really set in and Ashley retreated to his ‘workshop’ and I back home to de-mud the dog and get some studying done.

But what we DID manage to get done felt quite exciting! A local tree surgeon (who we have very helpfully become friendly with) donated around 20 tiny oak saplings to us, that had been left over from a project of his, and today we started planting them! We got 8 in before the heavy rain set in, and aim to get the rest in tomorrow.

Squint and you’ll see the sapling! Ashley is very pleased!!

We have a couple of majestic oaks bordering the land, and hopefully by the time they start to die back, these will be almost as magnificent.

Although wet and miserable, the wildlife is started to get in to the swing of spring. Today we saw and heard a greater spotted woodpecker and our resident kingfisher (who was very busy!). We can’t wait for the day that we are in the right place at the right time to sneak a photo of him to share, but just seeing him darting up and down the river is such a treat. Certain plants are brightening up, promising excitement of spring growth.

Opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage in the woodland.

This afternoon, Ashley started a woodland experiment. He had seen a video of someone propagating hazel with cuttings (although they did admit to limit success rates) and wanting more hazel in our woodland and hedges, decided that it would do no harm to give it a try ourselves.

Hazel experiment

He has taken all sorts of different sizes of cuttings, from chunky stems to wispy branch tips. If none take, we will have to try the layering method – although that will be tricky with the locations of our only hazel trees. We have tried planting the hazelnuts that fall in autumn, but the squirrels always seem to find them! Once the tractor is out of the polytunnel, I might actually be able to use that for protection!

A thorny issue

Our woodland is absolutely jam packed full of bramble. We would love to one day own some goats to help keep the bramble at bay, but we currently have neither the time or funds to house, maintain and retain them. So for now, we must manage the brambles ourselves. Although using a strimmer would quickly clear areas, this would of course cut back every other plant and potentially harm animals – overall it just feels quite destructive. We may need to do this to get ahead in some areas, but where possible, we will pull the bramble by hand…..

Last Sunday we got cracking with an area at the back of the woods. There is an established patch of wild garlic (Ramsons) and a lot of Bluebells in the area which is gradually becoming more and more overgrown, so we decided to start there.

How it started – the picture doesn’t really show just how brambly this area was!

This seemed like an achievable goal, aided by the beautiful, uncompacted, loamy soil. We donned our welding gloves (superior thorn protection!) and got started! A mere 5 hours later…..


We actually did so well with this that we moved onto the area to the right of the picture, which borders the river. We can’t wait for the Bluebells to put on a show!

Ramsons and Bluebells in this area near the river, April 2023.


So what to do with our land??? We have all sorts of ideas for chickens, goats, growing veg, and Ashley wants his dream workshop. With limited funds and time, we needed to prioritise if we were going to achieve our goals….. So we bought a 10ft pool….

I mean, it was only £30!!! The land is very secluded and, being at the bottom of a valley, is fairly well sheltered from the wind. A warm summers day, sat in the pool, really does feel like a holiday! Which is great because we won’t be having one of those for a while!

A shed/workshop was next on the list. Secure, dry storage would help us to achieve other projects – but I didn’t realise that it would cost more than our wedding! To be fair, it is a big shed….

Ash has installed a small woodburner, however the flue isn’t really big enough and the draw isn’t good enough so it’s hard to get a decent fire going. The winter has allowed some damp to get in and mould to grow, so we have a small diesel heater installed which Ash has used a Raspeberry Pi to send remote signals so that he can control it from his phone, even when we are at home, 8 miles away! Next winter, we aim to have a larger woodburner in so that we don’t have to keep using diesel to heat it, although we’ve found that the little heater is so economical we may have to reconsider!

(The photo’s all show Ash digging and doing, but we both worked very hard on it in the baking sun! Our reward each time was to go and jump in the pool to cool off afterwards!)

Claire’s polytunnel…?

I was VERY keen to get the polytunnel, that Mum had so kindly bought for us, in place before winter. After finishing the main parts of the shed, we made a start on clearing the space (I’ve forgotten how many wheelbarrows full of soil I shifted), then marking out where the tunnel would go. A spell of good weather was forecast and we had a plan of action, so of course I rolled my ankle very badly and broke my foot… But thanks to some amazing friends, neighbours, Dads and an incredible effort from Ashley, we (they) got the polytunnel finished over the next couple of weeks.

Isn’t she a beauty?! 14’ x 30’ – loads of space for growing veggies! I can’t wait to get some year round growing started, however I do have to wait a little longer as Ashley had an urgent need for for it….

The tractor needed a home for the winter! Having bought it in the summer, we knew that it had been stored outside for many years and was in need of some TLC. Ashley plans to build a lean-to shelter on one side of the shed as cover for the tractor next winter. We’ve replaced some hoses on it, removed the old, rotten seat and had it serviced. We now need a new seat and some welding to repair/replace what should be a foot rest (but is just a rusty hole) and we are good to go!

It’s starting to look and feel more like ‘ours’ now

Next on the list is some improvements to the drainage at the entrance to the land and a trackway/hardstanding to be able to drive our car and the tractor on during the winter months.