As spring arrives at the start of our second season at Le Val Borel, we’ve been thinking about ways in which we can improve the woodland areas. We have 7 acres of land, most of it near our guest house, with another woodland and grassland area on the other side of the road. Our landscape includes the remains of buildings including a house, animal sheds, old bread oven and a pigeonnier as well as three ponds.
We share our landscape with a range of animals wild and ‘domestic’ including our donkey and goat, two ‘barn’ cats and eleven wild ducks; red squirrels, occasional dear and probably some badgers and foxes – and the occasional sanglier (wild boar). During the day our woodland is alive with the sounds of birds including woodpeckers, great tits, bullfinches, pigeons. robins, goldfinches, blackbirds, magpies & jays. We also see birds of prey, herons & at night can hear owls.
During our first year, we spent time enjoying our new landscape, watching excitedly as we saw new flowers, buds and wildlife around the land. We enjoyed the ever-changing display of wild flowers including snowdrops, bluebells, primroses, wild orchids, ox-eye daisies, dandelions, celandines and many many more.
We avoided being too drastic with our pruning and lawn mowing so
we could see what grew where, what worked well in different areas and areas that might need a bit of improvement. We at the time also had three ‘roaming’ goats who
happily ate whatever they could find!
Sadly,we are now down to just one goat, who despite our best efforts continues to enjoy munching and roaming his way around our woodland. He was here before us, so for now, we are mindful of what we plant and where, in case Raja developes a taste for it. However, we’ve begun to plant spring bulbs and other wild flowers so hopefully next year we’ll have more spring flowers around the woodland. In total we’ve planted 200 new snowdrops, 50 new bluebells, wild garlic and lily of the valley. We’ve also begun splitting existing bulbs to try and encourage them to spread next year.
Our woodland gardens are there for our guests to enjoy, whether it is a gentle stroll, brisk walk or just an opportunity to sit and enjoy our sights and sounds and whilst it already beautiful just as it is, we want it to be a place where people are happy to spend time and relax in nature.
Earlier in the spring we began taming an area of woodland that had been planted with willow trees; an area that can be very wet at certain times of the year when the rainfall is high and our ponds need somewhere to overflow. Some of the willows had fallen, others had become a little ‘unruly’; so the decent wood will become logs for our woodburners in the following winters once it is seasoned; some of the willow cuttings will be encouraged to grow elsewhere and may be cajoled into willow dens or hedges; time will tell how successful we are at this.
Alongside the willow walkway and adjacent to our barn we have now created a small fire pit and outdoor cooking area with seating for guests who might want to sit and enjoy the woodland in the evenings.
Just along from the outdoor cooking area, we are in the process of creating a stone labyrinth, re-using stone from the remains of our buildings. Our labyrinth is not a maze; it has one route to the centre and the same route out. More on the labyrinth as it becomes closer to completion……