Week 1 : Turning up, potatoes, views and epic downhills

It’s almost been a week since we took on the tenancy of the land that is going to become Green Fuse Garden . After a Spring and Summer spent imagining how things might be, slowly coming up with plans and then forcing those ideas into a business plan it was good to finally be standing on a particular piece of terra firma.

It’s an acre. In the grand scheme of things not that large a piece of land. In the 1881 census my paternal ancestors were farming 280 acres. In agricultural terms today that’s fairly modest but I don’t think I’d really comprehended the scale of that until I took charge of an acre of my own.

I’ve got no ambitions for hundreds of acres. My only goal at present is to get the land I’m tenanting as ready for Spring sowing as I can. It’s dense with thistles and docks, and the soil beneath your feet moves as you walk. When you turn a fork full of earth for the first time you understand why. Potatoes. Hundreds of them. Probably thousands of them.

I’m digging beds of around 1.5m x 3m with a large enough path around them to wheel a wheelbarrow and gain access to the flowers. Every one of those beds is bringing up several dozen potatoes. I bought some hessian sacks which I’m filling. There’s going to be far more than we’re ever going to need so I was wondering about approaching local food banks to ask if they could make use of them.

My original plan was to visit the site three or at most four times this week but as it happened I was there five. I think that was always likely to happen.

I cycle to the site up the long, winding lane from our village as it climbs up Hingston Down. It’s hard going, even on an electric bike on full power. At the top I can turn off the motor and freewheel downhill weaving my way through the villages to the final stretch where I have to pedal to the site. I do the same in reverse on my way home. At the highest point and on a clear day I can see Plymouth and the Hamoaze, the estuarine stretch of the Tamar as it’s joined by the Tavy and together they meet the Lynher. Beyond that and just about visible is the Rame. The water is silver under the the rolling clouds that blow across at this time of year, dispensing sharp fat rain drops for a short while before heading off into Devon with a blue sky in their wake.

After crossing the A390 I pass the donkey sanctuary where the residents in the pasture on the opposite side of the road look up when they hear me whirring past.

The site itself slopes gently downhill and is bordered by hedgerows of beech, hazel and thorns. On my own plot there’s a little copse of willow and a few hazels hanging on in there. I’ll add to their numbers and I should have a ready made supply of plant supports in time. Kit Hill sits just off centre above the hedgerow, the tower at the summit often covered in mist and rain.

It would have been easy to be overawed by the state of the plot and the scale of the job in hand. I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t been feeling that last Sunday when we dropped off tools and made our first proper visit. But after Monday and certainly after Tuesday most of those mild anxieties had pretty much gone.

All you have to do is keep turning up.

There’s something to be said for this. Forget about what lies ahead just keep digging. Focus on the 1.5m x 3m patch of earth beneath your feet and forget the rest. If I keep doing that I know that by sowing time in late March/April the majority of the site is likely to be cleared and ready to go.

This period will be physically demanding and the pace at which I progress probably depends more on the weather than anything else. Second to that comes staying fit, healthy and motivated. What comes next is probably the real work. Sowing and nurturing around 75 different types of flower and ensuring they set seed and have long enough to ripen.

I’ve met the other plot holders on our field. Everyone is friendly and committed to what they’re doing and there’s a sense of people working independently but with a shared sense of mutual endeavour.

At the end of week one I slept liked a baby. It now all feels a lot more tangible than it did a couple of weeks ago. Green Fuse Garden is a place on the map.

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