For the past 20 years we have been the custodian of a smallholding of approx 3.15 hectares (7.8 acres) that is near the county borders of Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, the leafy shires of the UK.
The holding has always been put down to pasture, however the Ridge and Furrow landscaping indicates a great deal of mediaeval cultivation.
The holding is on the north facing side of an undulating escapement that is underlain by Lias clay, that overlooks a wide shallow valley. We have a full 180 deg panoramic view with a horizon of 5 miles. The production of a good crop of top fruit is going to be very limited, and is going to be a struggle. This is not going to be an excuse for not giving any species or variety a go. It will be a natural selection of the hardiest.
When the winter sets in, any sunlight is in short supply. So the winters can be long, before any spring thaw. Equally when the summer heat gets going the surface layer of the soil becomes like concrete.
Previously we have focused mainly on intensive haymaking and on the breeding of Wiltshire Horn sheep, a rare breed. However due to a recent Foot and Mouth diease outbreak and the downturn in viable sheep production etc, an alternative was sought.
The soil analysis (Jan 1998) was pH 6.2, Phosphate index 3 and Potash index 2. The Ph indicates that the soil is slightly acidic, with a Ph of 7 being neutral. Due to the holding being located within a nitrate vunerable area, this can limit the use of any fertilzers. Due to rain run off sending water and all the chemicals into the streams. This is not a bad thing from the water purity and wild plant point of view, and is in line with my general aims.