Produce Show September 2021

Vase of Cut Flowers


Liz Lord

Wakelyns Inspiration 24th May 2021

The experimental farm, occupying over 50 acres, was established in the 1970's and pioneered the planting of rows of protective trees with crops in strips between. Running north south the trees were planted in pairs, one side copiced the other polarded and provided protection from wind bourne diseases.

On May 24th eighteen of us paid our long delayed second WG visit to Wakelyns Agroforestry. Much has been developed at the farm since our last visit when Prof Martin Woolfe, who founded the farm as a series of experiments in agroforestry, showed us round shortly before his death. This time we were shown round by his son – day job environmental lawyer with Matrix Chambers. We also benefitted directly from one of the small enterprises in their ‘enterprise stacking’: Henrietta Inman’s food was lovely – using lots of Wakelyns grains – and several of us admired her ingenious Portuguese bread oven. There are more than fifty strips of arable, with different widths and separated by different kinds of trees – some hazel and willow for coppicing for the farm’s wood burning energy generation, some native trees, some fruit – producing such abundance that birds are welcome to share. Wildlife flourishes in this diverse setting with so much shelter and food – it keeps crop pests at low levels and the belts of trees prevent air borne pathogens spreading from one strip to another. Wakelyns has specialised in the development of a population of rust resistant wheat: commercial wheat is a clone – every plant in a field identical – but with a population there will always be some which do better in adverse conditions or resist pests. The genetics of YQ wheat at stable so yield and taste and storage qualities etc are reasonably predictable, but not set, so evolution can take place in that step-dance that hosts and predators are so good at. Interesting is that Wakelyns wheat grown by farmers in different places has evolved to be locally specific. We talked at length to one of the ‘stacked enterprises’: a nascent Community Supported Agricuture scheme, aiming to grow for 30 families, with their practical input, and saw evidence of others: wood craft and pottery. We were all entranced by the newly refurbished pond, restored to the 1960s profile, when it was last dredged. It is in origin a Victorian pond with one end shallowly shelved so that carts could rest there overnight allowing their wooden wheels to expand back into the metal rims. The pond used to be connected to a ditch draining from the adjacent ‘conventional’ farmer’s land but on the recommendation of SWT an earth ramp has been build between the two and the farmer’s ditch diverted back onto his land. His ditch was murky and full of nasty algae fed by the nitrate and phosphate run-off from his fields (no chemical fertilisers on Wakelyns ever – only leaf fall from the trees and proper rotation) whereas the new pond was filling with clear clean water. We ended with a lovely lunch, very sociable – and Colin’s plea for us to watch out for his Tilley hat, which started its journey on the roof of the car, on our way home – and indeed Mariah picked it up at Dallinghoo!

Copyright 2021 GW