I have so much to tell you about what’s happening at No.27 – it’s really coming to life now with wildlife and colour.
But first, now that I am not entirely speechless and the feeling of giddiness has slightly calmed, I thought it’s the perfect time to tell you about my visit to see the wonderful and inspiring no dig experts Stephanie Hafferty and Charles Dowding in Somerset last weekend.
I am going to try do it justice in words, but this could be tricky.
The adventures started on Friday, when I set off to my Airbnb in Bruton after a day in the office, choosing a cheap and cheerful single room in a ladies bungalow, 10 minutes walk from the town centre. Nothing crazy special but I knew the weekend was definitely going to be, so went with what I knew would suffice as a place to crash. A very comfortable and homely one too I can now say.
Bags dumped and a good proper cup of tea later, I headed in to town to meet Steph for happy hour cocktails and pizza at a wonderful place called At the Chapel. It’s certainly worth a visit if you are down that way! The wood fired pizzas were so yummy that I went back Saturday evening on my own.
We had such a wonderful time, well I know I certainly did, catching up properly and discussing all aspects of GYO, future plans and the jungle that is social media. I was very fortunate to meet some of Steph’s wonderful friends too, who are all in very creative jobs, so were fascinating to chat to in between delicious sips of my Moscow Mule.
Busy plans ahead for Saturday meant we headed back at a sensible hour, Steph had a workshop to teach and lots of delicious salad to prep, whilst I had gardens to visit.
Stourhead National Trust in particular, and now my favourite NT garden so far!
Even on the grey and damp day that I went, it was a stunning vision. So many different paths, tunnels and even caves to wander through around the lake before heading up for a tour at the house.
Lunch and of course, coffee and cake later, I visited the vegetable gardens. It’s not just me that is so far behind, it’s clear this weather has been playing havoc with everyone. But there were still a few different plants starting off their growing season, including broad beans, globe artichoke, asparagus and elephant garlic.
I will share more pics in a separate blog very soon – for now I want to make sure I tell you everything about the blooming fantastic main event.
The day arrived – Sunday, an incredible day I will never forget and will forever treasure. I think it’s accurate to say that I went between a mixture of calmness and complete happy shock every 5 minutes. Steph and Charles have to be two of the most down to earth, generous and inspiring people I have ever met. I instantly felt like I could truly be myself which really says something for me.
10am and the day started, when I met Steph at her work place, Hauser & Wirth Somerset. I can’t imagine that working here feels like actual work as the kitchen garden Steph and the owners have created is truly stunning. Although I guess, once the weeding and watering begins on top of juggling her own garden, supporting Charles and writing award-winning books, it may be does feel like a job. But what a fantastic and dreamy one to have!
After the best latte I have ever had – made by her son who works in the bar, Steph gave me a tour of the growing space that feeds the restaurant. All raised beds due to a number of reasons and with what I hope she doesn’t mind me saying, no real structure/plan. I say this in an absolutely positive sense, as it makes it look realistic and achievable for others but at the same time…stunning.
After asking 500 questions, which roughly increased to 5000 by the time the day ended, (Sorry Steph!) we went indoors to have a look around the current art exhibition called The Land We Live In – The Left We Left Behind. A presentation curated by Adam Sutherland, which in their words ‘explores the contradictory nature of society’s relationship to the rural’.
I must say that I am not an expert when it comes to art, I either love a piece or don’t – it’s that simple, but it was great to have a look around and see the range of perceptions portrayed in both the modern pieces and those dated in the 1500s. Most importantly, we had a right good giggle which although I’m not sure that it is meant to be the intention, it meant that we had a wonderful and smiley time.
We then had a dash visit around the main garden, designed by the internationally-reclaimed landscape designer, Piet Oudolf. As I say, we made this quick as we knew we probably had a hungry Charles wondering where we had got to and I know what I am like if I am hungry. It’s not good!
On to Steph’s home we hurriedly went, which for me was the most precious time out of the whole day. A rare chance to see inside her own home and garden that is never normally seen. These few moments I am keeping to myself as I felt incredibly honoured. What I will say though, is that I definitely had office and polytunnel envy. You may not get this, but to see someone else’s creative zone when you are creative yourself, is truly fascinating and special. I must admit to asking Steph if there is a set structure to her seed collection. Is that sad? Maybe, but to me, highly important and fun.
Lunchtime arrived and was escaping us so from here we jumped in Steph’s car and headed to the famous no dig empire that is Homeacres, Charles’ home and garden. I felt extremely lucky, nervous and ever so slightly giddy. Ok that’s, an understatement – inside and probably outside I was jumping up and down.
First thing we did was obviously have lunch, the most delicious mix of homemade salads and bread, accompanied by a local beer. Coffee, a homemade rhubarb muffin and some precious conversation later we headed back outside to really see the garden, greenhouse and polytunnel – and maybe ask way too many questions. But hey, I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity I wanted to make the most of, learning as much as I can, so I asked everything I could possibly think of.
I have always been fascinated by the concept of no dig, more than keen to try the methods on my own plot, but also had too many questions causing hesitation and holding me back.
As Charles said, no question is a stupid question, although I apologised probably too many times for saying my questions were silly. They were basic, but important none the less and hopefully ones that you have had in your mind too and wanted to ask.
After finding out all the answers and seeing the comparison beds Charles has created, for me – no dig is a no brainer! It’s simple, straight forward and produces incredible results – with less weeds too!
I hope the advice Charles gave me in our video, answers any questions you also have and inspires you to think about how you want to work your plot or garden. Just click on the thumbnail below.
Lastly, I want to say the biggest thank you to both Steph and Charles for giving me their incredibly precious time. It was Charles’ first day off after 9 days of travelling, presenting and teaching classes at Homeacres! I learnt so much about GYO, the industry, life and how it is truly important to focus on being yourself.
My time in Somerset was the perfect mini-break I needed and got me driving home feeling like the happiest and luckiest lady alive! Fully charged to drive my Life at No.27 dream to reality.