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We bought a Quarry – July 2022

Last October we successfully completed the purchase of a nine acre plot of land on the Devon/Cornwall border that included an ancient slate quarry with a lake. This is our story documenting the trials and tribulations of building a new sub-tropical garden.

Ten months down the line since we took on this ambitious project we are just beginning to understand the task ahead. We always planned to give the project a full year before we made any dramatic changes to the landscape with a view to observing the wildlife and flora and fauna on the site. We wanted to be certain that any changes we make does not upset the eco system here that has been undisturbed for 130 years. So far where it has been necessary to fell a few Elder trees the wood has been used for a dead hedge along the western border of the quarry and for bordering an internal pathway.

Ideas are constantly evolving as we move through the seasons and we have a number of awesome Hawthorn trees, many over 150 years old. The Hawthorn Tree is known as the Fairy Tree so Karen suggested we create a fairy trail. This has involved creating a narrow pathway following the position of the most impressive Hawthorns and has created a new hobby for both of us. Karen picked up a book on the history of fairies from Glastonbury which has given us an understanding of how not to upset these gentle creatures of the night and I have taken up art and have been busy creating signs but I am not very good at it, at 61 my hands are a little shaky. I told you we were Mad!

Work has begun on putting a fence around the Quarry which is over 2.5 acres with the main gates going up this week. This will give us a further degree of frost protection in the most exposed areas and therefore give us further scope for planting plants of borderline hardiness. This is a big and expensive project but it will be done in stages as and when we can afford it.

Mains water was finally connected on 5th July if we need it but to be honest at the moment everything is being watered from the lake. The lake water contains valuable nutrition that includes stuff like duckweed and the plants are loving it.

Another setback has been the need for mains electric to power a waterfall on the north side of the rockface but our neighbour has agreed to contribute towards this so he can have a supply to his stable block ambitions, the problem at the moment is that we cannot get Great Western Power to give us a quote even though we were told after their site visit this would be with us by 25th June. It seems they have gone into hibernation. very frustrating!

Outside of the quarry our wild flower meadow has gone a bit wrong. After sowing 3/4 acre back in March a very dry April set back germination and when the rains finally came in June we were taken over by creeping thistle, brambles and Ragwort and because of my reluctance to us any herbicides I am letting nature be this year and will have another go next spring. At least the weeds have given us an impressive display from the resident moths and butterflies but a costly mis-calculation.

Currently as we begin August we have the impressive frog exodos underway with thousands of them leaving the lake on their annual pilgrimage only to be eaten by everything, birds liazrds and all the creatures of the night . It is estimated that less than 2% survive to adulthood.

Finally as part of our journey I am reading everything from filed guides to rewilding successes and can strongly recommend a book called ‘Rewild Yourself’ by Simon Barnes if anyone wanted to try this at home. Very educational for young children and amusing for adults.

All in all though we are on target and have set an ambitious opening date for Easter 2025 subject to planning etc.

Love to All.

Andy & Karen

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We bought a Quarry (May 2022)

May is most definitely my favourite month , everything bursts into life.

The quarry is home to many ancient Hawthorn trees that produced an incredible display of Mayflowers for just a seven day period this month alongside Elderflowers and playing host to dozens of flying insects. The ground and pathways are alive with Red Campion and Foxgloves all doing their thing and dozens of ancient ferns on the banks,

This month has been a planting extravaganza for us including eleven types of ornamental and edible gingers along the banks of the lake that will grow to look like a dense reedbed with the difference being an impressive display of tall flowers of red white and orange in the Autumn.

Our nursery took a stand at this years Rare plant fair at Tregrehan Gardens in St.Austell where we also went on a spending spree buying up very rare varieties of gingers, bamboos and Gunnera. ( still managed to make a small profit on the day). We created two more circular beds planted up with Tree ferns and Palms and a number of unusual Agapanthus for mid summer colour. These rare breeds will ultimately attract the purists and plant collectors to the garden.

Now to the saga of the Terrapins.

We thought after many weeks we just had one sole survivor from the past century that has been seen sunbathing on a log sticking out of the water but were horrified to see two yesterday about the size of a dustbin lid and we are still working out how to catch and relocate them before we can introduce fish and vegetation into the lake. Pretty tricky I can assure you, they are fast and very strong.

The wildflower field is struggling due partly to the very dry April and is now only just showing signs of life and in the meantime we have been invaded by wild thistles of the invasive kind and unfortunately if we want the meadow to succeed we will need to resort to using a systemic herbicide called ‘ Graze on 90’ which at least does not damage the other grasses etc but this will be a last resort.

Lots of birds nesting onsite at the moment including Mistle Thrush, Treecreeper and finally that annoying Chiffchaff who finally found a mate. We also have a wildcat on site that were introduced to the surrounding area in 2020 about double the size of an average Ginger with pointed ears and very fast. Doing my homework on these animals at the moment but believe they are no threat to humans and feed on rabbits which would be helpful.

Mains water is now connected after many months and we are waiting for Great Western Power to connect electricity so we can power a large waterfall on the lake and add a supply to a possible log house in the future.

All in all no great disasters and after eight months we are on target with our long term plans. I would like to thank God for the heavy heavy rain that fell on Saturday morning, it was just a great shame we were camping with a dodgy tent. ( Never Again?)

Finally we are getting the blog re-vamped this month to include photos and an opportunity to follow our story. I hope you will support us for the greater good of nature and the environment. Thank you.

Andrew Pearson ( June 2022)

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We bought a Quarry – April 2022

Hi,

Last September my wife and I bought a nine acre plot of land on the Devon/Cornwall border that included an ancient slate quarry. This is our a story about our plans to create a major public attraction and Palm Farm.

April showers ( or lack of them!)

At the end of March we topped and cultivated an area of grassland around 3/4 of an acre and sowed around 40 native species of wildflower and grasses and watched in horror as the driest April on record in these parts took shape. It finally rained in abundance yesterday (May2nd) and we can only hope that its not too late and they start to germinate.

April was part of our first spring on the site and we watched as the darling buds began to emerge form their long dormancy and swathes of red campion and wild violets started popping up everywhere. Foliage is starting to appear on the 310 British Oaks all freshly coppiced. Gorgeous!

The birds are singing continuously and we have a rather irritating Chiffchaff that obviously can’t find a mate repeating the same tune from dusk to dawn. Its like the Grasshopper that sang all summer, no life at all. (Thank you Bridget Jones).

We also thought that March had seen the end of any possible terrapins in the lake until Tom noticed what looked like a dustbin lid coming up to the surface of the water and to our shock and amazement it was a huge turtle. My earlier trap was designed to catch little ones about the size of my hand. I suddenly starting thinking about those annoying Pizza ads a few years back and the Ninjas. Anyway we have to catch and relocate them as they eat all the vegetation and even ducklings and we need to add Lilies and numerous oxygenating plants to support fish and encourage more wildlife. So I built another trap based on an American design on You Tube which consisted of a 1m square of gutter piping connected together and two ramps of ply tied to the sides and a central net on which you place some dog food to attract them into the net. ( Chappies was the favoured brand). All I can say is this was a Titanic failure as I had used the wrong silicone and it went down at the bough. Lucking I had tied it with some string and was able to salvage it from the depths. All good fun!

This is the best time of year and we are swooning in the sheer beauty and tranquillity of this time warp. Our day starts at 6.00a.m with 15 minutes of Tai Chi listening to the birdsong and that sets us up for several hours of hard labour. April has seen the foundation of our mains water supply and our extensive planting scheme continues with vigour. the internal pathway of the quarry is now three quarters of the way around and plans are to install a new internal metal rail to meet health and safety requirements. We are then planning to fence the outside of quarry alongside the dead hedging in place with a gated entrance and exit. This will be our biggest expense alongside the road structure around the woodland and quarry.

Longer term we are now looking at a sculpture garden highlighting the history of the 18th/19th century slate mining and a woodland trail with seating areas and an education centre, subject to planning etc. The quarry itself and its environment suggests a log house or similar eco building with a cafeteria and seating areas. A plant sales area on another area of the plot would compliment the adjacent Palm Farm. All big and beautiful ideas but many hurdles before we can realise the dream.

Finally this month if anyone is passing by this summer and would like to view please don’t hesitate to pm me.

Bye for now.

Andrew & Karen

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We bought a Quarry (Feb 2022)

Six months ago my wife and I purchased a nine acre plot of land on the Devon/Cornwall border that included an ancient slate quarry. This is our story of how we plan to build the UK’s first Palm Tree Farm and Botanical Garden.

February 2022 was a month governed by the weather, we expected plunging temperatures and possibly snow being close to Dartmoor but what we got was excessive rainfall and two of the most powerful storms in recent history.

On a positive note the temperatures remained above freezing for the whole month and the mercury only got as low a 4C in the quarry meaning all our plants so far are looking pretty healthy. The water table rose by 18 inches in February on the lake but not enough to raise any concerns , we did however lose a couple of trees including one of our beloved hawthorns so this has now been cut up and used to line the internal pathway and should ultimately create a habitat for lots of invertebrates.

Despite the weather we have managed to complete 50% of the pathway allowing us to navigate the most tricky parts of the ravine and have laid around a dozen slate slabs to make it safe passage.

It was always our intention to spend the first six months observing what we have got so as not to make too many rash decisions that we will regret at a later date but as the site evolves and shares its secrets we are thinking this would would make an ideal botanical garden or sculpture garden subject to all the difficult planning consents so with that in the back of our minds we are now thinking differently about what to plant and where. The dank nature of the quarry lends itself to tree ferns and shade loving plants such as Hellebores but we also like the idea of commissioning local sculptors to exhibit their work to perhaps celebrate the history of the quarry and using local stone. Just ideas at the moment.

As of March 1st we are still battling with West Devon Council over permission to erect the two poly tunnels despite ticking every imaginable box regarding the environment etc. Decision now expected on 10th March.

This month we start to sow the wildflower meadow over a one acre south facing field we have topped which hope fully will produce a colourful mix of native flowers for our pollinators. Other projects are to create a memorial garden for our daughter with a bench and small garden planted in her memory. Her name was Becky so we are thinking of a bed of Rudbeckia plants. Very colourful ,like her personality ,and doing their thing during August/September. Also she was very fond of nature including hedgehogs so we are looking to make safe the whole site and introducing a new family to the project.

Finally the trees are beginning to sprout and soon we will be able to see which are alive and which are not. The 310 Oaks have been coppiced so should start to take better shape this summer. Photos to follow soon.

Many thanks and bye for now.

Andy & Karen

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We bought a Quarry (Feb 2022)

Back in September 2021 we purchased nine acres of land on the Devon/Cornwall border that included an ancient slate quarry with a view to creating the UK’s first ever Palm Farm alongside a re-wilding project and this is our story .

January 2022 was a very productive month due mostly to the favourable dry weather and mild temperatures. We began the month by hiring in some big machinery to top and plough a field of around 3/4 of an acre with a view to sowing a wild flower meadow at the beginning of March. The next stage is to rotavate the soil to ensure there are no brambles or weeds remaining. we have planted a second hedge line alongside the driveway ( around 50 meters) with a new plants called Pseudopanex ‘Moa’s Toes’ whose leaves resemble the feet of a dinosaur. This has never been tried before but I had a surplus of plants I grew from plugs last year and if it works it will look spectacular.

Budget is always of concern so we have been looking for ways to achieve what we want with as little expenditure as possible so we looked at the natural resource we have in the quarry and started to extract the slate from a small area on the north-east side and use this slate to create a pathway around the quarry. The slate tiles are abundant and the clay that and smaller pieces of slate that encompasses them we are using as a hardcore base for the pathways. Where we have needed to feel some of the trees in the quarry for access we have cut up and used as an edging and to support a weed suppressant membrane. For the steeper inclines we had to buy in a few ready made slate stepping stones.

In the Quarry we have also started planting in earnest with Palms, Restios and some very rare Borinda Bamboos ( native to Malaysia) which have blue culms. Its starting to take shape.

Also in January we had an area cleared in the South east corner of the land to accommodate the two poly tunnels and a growing area for the plants but we are still battling with the authorities regarding planning consent which has been frustrating.

Work has continued on the dead hedge which now covers around a third of the surface area of the Quarry and planting of Jasmine, Honeysuckle and Clematis will begin this month to cover the dead wood and provide shelter for nesting birds and nectar for our pollinators. All nest boxes are in position so roll on the spring.

Now we have cleared the pond of any pollution, nasty viruses, Terrapins etc we are looking at how to oxygenate the water to support fish and we have a large cliff face that lends itself to a waterfall so we are currently considering pumping the water around five meters high but not sure what costs are involved but ultimately this water will serve the nursery stock so perhaps a worthwhile excercise. All in all we are still very positive and ideas are evolving all the time.

Spring is just six weeks away.

Kindest regards,

Andrew Pearson

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We bought a quarry (Jan 2022)

Happy new year to you all.

December was a bit of a frustrating month while we battle to get our planning permission over the line. The case officer appointed to our application has to now adhere to a number of new measures to make sure that our plans satisfy a number of environmental issues like ‘are we using recyclable plastic on our polytunnels’ and will be be using recycled wood to build our office/shed? They obviously don’t recognise the fact that the whole purpose of the plans is to grow plants to encourage wildlife etc but there you go. We have now agreed to use solar panels on the shed and irrigation direct from the quarry. its a long slow process. Finally we have been asked to move the planting area for Palms nearer to our main entrance to reduce traffic driving down there, again they are not considering that having a base here saves 100 driving miles for clients in Cornwall to visit rather than coming up to our nursery in Exeter.

On a positive note we have had a local chap build us a Barn Owl Box to the exact specifications required and we hope as a longer term plan to encourage them to nest with us. We know we have them in the area particularly heading over towards Holsworthy just north of us. The box will be mounted on a large oak on the edge of the quarry and visible from quite a distance. Not sure how our resident roosting Tawny Owl will tolerate them but they do have different feeding habits with the Tawny hunting at night in woodlands and the Barny preferring to hunt voles in broad daylight.

Alongside the Owls we have set up bird boxes targeting specific species including Blue tits, Spotted Flycatchers, Woodpeckers and hopefully a Nuthatch.

Work has continued on our dead hedge with over 40 meters completed and already Wrens and Blackcaps have been popping in and out.

Early January we have the bulldozers coming in to clear an area of rough grassland (around 3/4 acre) which will be the foundation for a new wildflower meadow. A selection of native annual and perennial wildflowers will be sown early March and should produce a spectacular display by mid-summer and we have started work on the necessary pathways required to navigate the site.

Inside the quarry we continue to assess the water quality to see if we can accommodate fish stocks successfully so we have needed to set Crayfish traps and traps to catch any rogue Terrapins that might have been rehoused here. Good news is we have seen a Kingfisher. All being well we will introduce around 200 Common Carp by mid spring.

All in all we start this new year quietly optimistic and wait with eager anticipation for what might arrive here in the spring.

Andrew, Karen and Tom Pearson

Palmtraders UK

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UK’s first Palm Farm – Opening Summer 2022

Work is very truly underway at a nine acre site we have purchased on the Devon/Cornwall border where we plan to start planting 20,000 young Palms of 20 different varieties over the next five years creating Britain’s first ever Palm Tree Farm. This perfect location adjacent to the A30 will act as a sub-station to our nursery in Exeter. Updates to follow in the new year.

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Protea Little Prince -Offer

From 13th December to 14th February we are offering these very special plants for just £19.95 plus £5.00 p&p. The perfect gift for Xmas or Valentines Day they are currently in bud and looking superb.

These plants are surprisingly hardy given the correct planting medium of 50% ericaceous compost and 50% grit or horticultural sand and perform equally as well in pots or in the ground given full sun if possible.

This is a rare opportunity to buy a beautiful plant from the Western Cape that are not often offered for sale in the UK.

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We Bought a Quarry (1 Dec 2021)

Hello and welcome to our December blog.

November was a voyage of discovery with this new project. We needed to take a good look at the Quarry and the surrounding 9 acres and get a feel for the place before making any rash decisons that we might later regret.

Its been an interesting month where we first discovered that the Quarry has its own micro climate which opens up all kinds of planting possibilities. The temperature inside the ravine is 2c warmer than the surface but only half way down the slope in an area known as the thermal belt. Below this to the level of the water in the lake it is actually 1c cooler due to something that occurs in winter causing a radiational freeze. All news to me but very helpful with our planned ‘planting for wildlife scheme’.

The area is home to a great number of bird species including the Spotted Flycatcher a bird that has decreased in numbers by 90% since the 70’s so priority number one is to help support them. Fortunately they like nest boxes so these will be provided before the spring. Wildlife cameras have been set up now to record what’s going on a t night. we know we have a resident Tawny Owl.

With regards to the Palm Tree Farm progress was made with our planning application to site two substantial Poly tunnels and an office building in a flat area to the south of the plot so work will start this week. To do this we regrettably need to fell a number of immature Blackthorn trees but these won’t be wasted as we plan to use the branches to help build a dead hedge around part of the quarry to encourage birds like finches and Dunnocks to nest and the trunks will be cut and used as bug hotels at ground level. The siting of the tunnels will enable us to grow many of the plants needed for the re-wilding project

Longer term we have discovered that the quarry was last mined in 1890 for slate and there is an abundance of large slate stones lying around that could be used to build a wildlife observation centre subject to planning etc. The water has now been tested and cleared of any noxious contamination so the next step is to introduce more vegetation into the lake. (Currently doing my homework on this subject). We have also planted around 150 hedging plants as a windbreak but watching our resident Roe Deer very carefully in case they fancy a nibble.

All in all this has been a positive month with no major setbacks and very little expense. This week we will start on the new dead hedge created by positioning two parallel lines of fence stakes a meter apart and filling the channel with all the cuttings we make around the site particularly from the 120 Oaks we have on site and numerous mature Hawthorns. Also we will start planning the pathways using loose slate as a from of hardcore and composted bark chip and clearing two areas of brambles and bracken for wildflower meadows. All exciting stuff.

That’s it for now and have a wonderful Xmas and I will update in the new year.

regards,

Andrew

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“We Bought a Quarry”

(The Story of the Uk’s first Palm Tree Farm)

November 2021, and welcome to our new blog.

Recently we purchased a nine acre plot of land near the Devon/Cornwall border to build Britain’s first Palm Tree Farm and this is our story documenting the trials and tribulations on creating a project of this size from scratch. The plan is to publish monthly updates highlighting the successes an failures of our new adventure.

After 26 years of running a nursery in Exeter we decided after Brexit that we needed a long term future plan and finally managed to secure at auction a very rough neglected plot right on the A30 that included an ancient slate quarry that now accommodates a large fresh water pond. ( perfect for irrigation was our thinking) and here was our first challenge.

We needed to begin first by testing the water for Ph, ammonia and nitrates and secondly by determining weather any contamination had taken place after the quarry was abandoned over 70 years ago. The title deed suggested there were disused water tanks under the water with lead piping leading to a water valve. There seems very little signs of life in the water except a family of Mallards that reside deep in the undergrowth so I guess that shows signs of promise.

Our thoughts at this point was to gradually add vegetation to oxygenate the water and ultimately to stock fish which would be perfect for wildlife. the surroundings of the quarry are extremely overgrown and reminds us of ‘Devils bayou’ the very creepy scene at the beginning of Disney’s ‘The Rescuers’, so that is our nickname.

The quarry is a natural wildlife haven for birds including a roosting Tawney Owl by day and there are many mature hawthorn trees covered with berries that we need to protect.

Moving on to the long term objective!

We have many Roe Deer, thousands of rabbits, and there are foxes, badgers and probably many other critters yet to be discovered I am sure.

The first thing we needed to do was apply for planning permission to erect two Poly tunnels and this can take up to two months but in the meantime we are making some temporary pathways until the permission is granted and have measured two growing areas where we plan to plant 20,000 young Palm Trees over the next three years. We are also putting up a new gateway of 12 feet width and planning stock fencing to keep the rabbits and Deer from eating the young plants.

That’s about it for this month we will document our progress at the beginning of each month.

many thanks,

Andrew Pearson

Palmtraders UK