I wandered down to the woods and imagined I could do some landscaping with the turf – parts of the woods are often boggy or have standing water in the winter as the water table rises. In January of this year I created a new path through the woods and raised the level of the ground along the path to ensure it was above the water table. It has opened up the middle of the woods and my intention is to keep developing this area.
Drawing on this experience I thought I might try to increase the level of the woodland floor at the start of my new path by creating a small grassy mound or “knoll” into which I could plant native bluebells and other wildflowers. The area was overgrown wiith brambles and nettles and in early September I made a start by clearing them and then dumping the upturned sods of earth on top of the existing woodland floor to a height of about 60-70cm. As the mound grew I began to shape it and add turf to the top. I am not sure whether the grass will grow in the shade so it is all a hopeful experiment. In this way I was able to knit two different regenerative nature projects together – a new wildflower strip and woodland grassy bluebell knoll. It has taken me the best part of 2 months working a few hours on most dry days to complete the project, but today I dug the last piece of turf and laid it on the now complete knoll.
When working on projects like this I am acutely aware of how the environment and the materials I am working with shapes my actions. For example, the shape and dimensions of the knoll only revealed themselves as I constructed it. The shape was influenced by the existing contours but not constrained by them. It is also clear to me that new dimensions to the project emerge as it unfolds. For example half way through building the knoll I started working on the edges to the woodland path and for a few days this became my main priority. Similarly, I conducted an early experiment in transplanting sedges at the edge of the knoll and going forwards I will increase the topography by deepening the drainage depressions and building up the banks and then transplanting the sedges in the depressions. In this way I will help the sedges displace the brambles and nettle infestation. Wood Sedge is an important plant for wildlife, as it provides cover and food for many species. The foliage is eaten by deer, rabbits, and other small mammals, while the seeds are a food source for birds and small mammals. In addition, Wood Sedge is a host plant for the larvae of some butterfly species
It’s required a lot of effort but I have made good use of the turf (reused and conserved the resource within the area) and elevated the land so that it sits above the wet season water table. I’m also hopeful that it will help control the infestation of brambles in this area. I have enjoyed the feeing of doing something significant to reshape my environment in a way that I know should improve both its aesthetic appeal and plant biodiversity of this area, which should help insect pollinators to flourish. I also know that in years to come, when I am no longer here, other people and living things, will appreciate and enjoy the results of my labour.