Country diary: The joy of growing something from nothing | Anita Roy

Wellington, Somerset: Our local Transition Town group is turning a scrubby field into a forest garden – and the word is spreading

Community planting day is here – and it’s not looking promising. I’m part of a local environmental group called Transition Town Wellington, and one of our most exciting projects is the creation of a new forest garden on the edge of our town. After much planning, fundraising and organising, we’re here at Fox’s field: four wheelbarrows, one trolley, six people, a load of stakes, five spades and about 40 bare-root trees and plants to get in the ground.

The only trouble is, the rain is hammering down. Leafless ash trees stand stark against a woeful sky, the whole world is steeped in sog. On the far hill, clouds have eaten the tip of Wellington’s monument down to the knuckle, and all the streams are raging with chocolate-coloured water. No one’s going to come out in this.

Transition Town Wellington volunteers at work on Fox’s Field forest garden, Tonedale.
‘Each sodden spadeful comes up with a sucking noise and the holes immediately fill with brown liquid.’ Photograph: Aisling Magill

A couple and their dog join us, and together we squelch, slip and slide our way through the mud. Squish. Plash. Schklurp. Glub. Every step is pure onomatopoetry. The rain eases and then stops. The clouds break up, soft and easy as blotting paper. There’s even a glimpse of blue sky. More people arrive, children too, with spades and smiles. Brightness spreads.

We split into teams and get to work. Each sodden spadeful comes up with a sucking noise and the holes immediately fill with brown liquid. The water table is so high it’s pretty much at ground level. A robin zeroes in on an unearthed worm, ignoring us clumping humans.

Last year, Fox’s field was an unremarkable patch of clumpy grass and nettles. By the time our children are our age, it’ll be a glorious, jungly orchard. They’ll be able to walk through it picking quince and plums, mojo berries, Worcester berries, cranberries and cherries. Allspice, sea buckthorn and saltbush. The light will be dappled as it falls through the spacious canopy of leaves to a ground layer of comfrey and clover, wild garlic and mint, sage and myrtle, the whole place alive with insects and birds.

Plink! Plop. It starts to rain again, and the dream dissolves. But I look around me and see something even better: something real, something growing. More than 25 people have shown up.

• Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary


Anita Roy

The GuardianTramp

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