Orchard abundance amongst the sand dunes at Towans Forest Garden

Raymond & Sylvia Yarwood were aware of what needed to be done to regreen Cornwall way before many of us. Towans Forest Garden is situated on one of Cornwall’s largest sand dune systems in Hayle, in no small way a challenging place to grow fruiting trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. The garden is tested to the limits with the exposed strong and salty winds from the Atlantic, huge depths of sand underneath with very little topsoil and the prevalence of rabbits and snails – but that hasn’t stopped them!

The forest garden was started way back in 1982, taking inspiration from people such as Robert Hart, one of the pioneers of forest gardening. There is such a huge amount of knowledge in this garden and in Raymond and Sylvia who have managed and developed the site over the years. Not only the planting and growing, but the continuous harvesting, processing and use of the food that grows in the garden, whether it’s apple and autumn olive crumbles, juice and fruit leathers from sea buckthorn berries, or salads using an array of greens including sea radish, bladder campion, wild fennel and small leaved lime.

The template that has been created here is a fantastic inspiration for us all as we try to replicate the idea that we can rewild, re-populate with fruit trees and shrubs, and other tree, shrub and perennial crops in our own gardens – whatever the size – and community spaces using the forest garden & orchard approach. This focus on creating food forests for all will help us to create sustainable spaces and work towards access to food for everyone regardless of income. The approach will also ultimately help improve biodiversity and homes for wildlife.

The wisdom that this is the way forward from years previous is here seen quoted from the Towans Forest Garden website:

We have a significant area of dunes here in West Cornwall that could be restored by settling young people into forest gardens…there would be a degree of self sufficiency with suitable surpluses to develop new products.. With the popularity among employers of offering limited work contracts the original investment in these small farms would help to provide participants with a sense of future and also if extended to former mining waste areas of which we have many throughout Cornwall we should have the added advantage of re-greening the County.

Restoring the coastal forest, written by Raymond Yarwood Restoring the Coastal Forest (towansforestgarden.co.uk) accessed on 11.4.2022

I’ve been particularly interested in the various other top fruit that have been thriving here including Crataegus varieties such as schradiana and arnoldiana, to the many sea buckthorns, and the abundance of Eleaegnus species. Having such diversity of fruits, nuts and other plants and their products in our orchards will help maintain them as sustainable, resilient spaces. We need to experiment with growing new fruits, older fruits, fruits from different climates, all of this helps set us up for increased resilience but also, as Raymond says above, provides people with a sense of the future and a ‘degree of self sufficiency with suitable surpluses to develop new products’. What a great prospect!

Do check out the website for further information about this fantastic forest garden:

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