Tag Archives: climate change

Swales In Lincolnshire

Back in August I hosted a get together of friends that I made on my Permaculture Design Course. We have been meeting regularly, taking it in turns to host it, and using it as an opportunity to throw a lot of bodies into a task that would have taken the host ages to finish. Despite it always appearing as if most people are just chatting, it always amazes me how much we get done. After most of them had left on the Sunday, those of us remaining used a Bunyip (water level) to mark out three lines of bamboo poles on contour, so that I could construct some swales.

Swales are the opposite of drainage ditches, dug level, along the contour of a slope. Instead of taking water away quickly, the swales capture water, and allow it to percolate down into the soil, where it is available to plants. Reducing runoff and evaporation. One of the potential effects of climate change is an increase in rainfall during our Winter, with less during the Summer, with the Summer rain falling in larger downbursts. Here in Lincolnshire we have pretty dry Summers, and I wanted to make sure that the  trees that I’m planting will have enough water to sustain them, which will then help to sustain me.

I hired a mini digger for a weekend, and dug three swales, and have since transplanted some of the perennials from my vegetable beds onto them. This is OK, but after I dug them, I had another read of some of the books in my Permaculture library, and I should have propagated the plants for the swale bank before digging it. Oh well, nobody gets it right all of the time.

This is a picture of one of the swales. Because the bank is on the South side (downhill), and the sun angle is so low, there is shadow in the bottom. If you follow it along, you can see that the swale continues on the other side of the fence, and into the trees.


One of the swales


In the centre of one of the swales I dug a six foot deep hole, with the hope that it would become a pond. We are on a thick clay subsoil, so I was quite optimistic that it would work. One of my Permaculture mates, Leon,  did some dowsing, and one of the potential water sites was next to this swale so I dug down, and found no water. However, I did bust through an old clay field drain, which will feed water into the whole. (In fact it already has, and there is three foot of water in the ‘pond’ now).


I still have to plant up the swale banks, and will probably sow a mixture of annual/perennial bee plants on them, until I decide what to finish them with. I also have to add organic matter into the bottom of the swales, to encourage worms to create more holes, otherwise water will just sit on the clay, and become breeding grounds for mosquitos. I may also add some wood ash, or lime, which should speed up the process. Rather than wheel lots of stuff up into the field, I’m going to mow the grass uphill of the swale with my scythe, and drop the cut grass into the bottom. That way I do two jobs at the same time.


Another Swale

Another Swale

The second picture shows another swale, which has Welsh Onions, Chives, mallow, Poached Egg plants, and Wild Rocket planted on the bank.

Having completed the job, I was also struck by how easy it would be to deepen the swales into an aquaculture system. the long narrow shape of the ponds created would maximise the effect of edge, one of the principles of Permaculture. As most of the food for a system like this comes in from the land, the increased edge would make the thing more productive. Whilst I don’t eat meat, or fish, others do, and it would allow me to grow some edible aquatic plants too.

Increasing the water surface would also allow me to increase the Winter light levels for some plants, using reflected sunlight, perhaps with a backdrop of stone/rock, although that would mean hauling it up into the field. The downside of all of this water is that it will probably lead to an increase in dragonflies, and they eat bees:-( Still, maybe if I have enough fish, they will keep the dragonfly larvae under control. As I spend more time near the water, I think about more ways to expand the ‘waterscape’, hopefully to increase the sustainability of the Smallholding.

Here is a picture of my pond. To give you an idea of scale, the top of the chicken hutch in the background is about head height. The swale extends beyond the pond, but is not connected to it yet. I’m waiting to decide whether I need to bridge the swale there, leave it as it is, or join them up and walk around. The water level is continuing to rise. I added some shallow ditches leading forward and back from the pond, to increase the amount of edge, and shallow water, and these are starting to fill. There is a pond in the next field, and we used to get lots of frogs, and toads in the field, so I’m hoping that the numbers will increase, especially as I’m planning to move the chickens out in the Spring.

My Pond

My small pond





My pond again

Pond from the North

The second image of the pond is taken from the North (uphill) bank, and shows the shallow arms of the pond filling up with water. To the left (East) the other part of the swale runs into the pond. I’m guessing that in the Winter and Spring, this will provide a long stretch of shallow water linked to the pond.

If you want to see an amazing system of water capture, storage, and use, I can recommend the DVD ‘permakultur’ by Sepp Holzer. Although it is in German, with subtitles, it shows what can be done with a bit of forethought.

Take care


Sustainable Transport

Well, I’ve finally got rid of my van. I figured that whilst there were many good reasons to keep it, the reasons for letting it go were more compelling.

Most of my traveling is fairly local, and we have a decent bus service, roughly one an hour. So many of my journeys could be done using public transport. I have a bicycle, but it’s pretty hilly here, and I’m not as fit as I used to be. Nevertheless, I gave my van away to the Doris Banham Charity, who rescue dogs. They have a shop in Horncastle, and I was moved by the work that they do.

Their website is here


The home page shows my van, which has been sign written.

The site shows a number of dogs looking for homes, and as our greyhounds pass on, I’m tempted to rehome a Staffie. I’m not sure that my wife will approve, but that’s something to look at later.

I’m Fifty later this year, so my mother, when she discovered that I was giving my van away, offered to buy me an electric bicycle for my birthday. I accepted, and here it is.

bElectric BicycleThe battery is where the water bottle would be. So far I’ve been reasonably pleased with it. The motor needs some pedaling assistance whilst climbing the steepest hills, but it’s easier than pedal power alone. I’ve been using it quite regularly. It’s very cheap to operate. I charge it at night, when we get a cheaper tariff, and we use 100% renewable electricity, from Good Energy. My rough calculation reckons that I’m saving £50 per month, without taking into account what I would have spent on diesel. As I get a bit fitter, I may start to use my normal bike more frequently. My wife has just bought a normal bicycle, so I’m probably going to have to keep her company on some riding from now on.

Where will I find the time?

All of the best


Transition Training 2

Hi All

Sorry about the lack of originality in the title, but it’s late, has been a long weekend, and if BBC iplayer had been working well, I would have been watching the Rugby.

I spent this weekend in Lincoln, doing the official Transition Town Training, provided by the Transition Town Network. The training was organised by Transition Lincoln, and was conducted by two trainers from Mid Wales. 22 of us attended, the majority of whom were from Lincolnshire, but with 2 from Ireland, and Brazil, joining us.

For those of you who know nothing about The Transition Town movement, the following links will provide the best sources of Information.

The Transition Town Wiki  http://transitiontowns.org/TransitionNetwork/TransitionInitiativeis probably the most comprehensive source of information about the movement.

It also lists all of the initiatives that are going on around the world.

Global Public media http://globalpublicmedia.com/ contains lots of articles on Peak Oil, for those of you who are not fully up to speed on the dangers that we face.

There are some great articles published on the oildrum.http://www.theoildrum.com/

In outline, Transition Towns are a ‘bottom up’ response to the threats of Climate Change, and Peak Oil, that realise that we cannot wait for politicians to take action, and recognise that we need to lead them, and not the other way around. We need to find a way to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, and come up with alternatives that are sustainable, physically, mentally, and emotionally. What attracts me the most, is that instead of telling us all that we’re doomed unless we do something, but failing to offer an alternative, Transition Towns challenge us to decide for ourselves what type of world we want to create. It is then up to us to come up with our own plans to make our visions real, at a local level. Please take the time to look into the implications of Peak Oil, and Climate Change, and ask yourself is this the type of world that you want to live in?

I saw this little clip from youtube, and thought that it was amusing. there are plenty of clips about Peak Oil there.


This clip explains what Peak Oil is.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uYmZmWAaxk

Can you tell that I’ve just learnt how to create a video link?

Back to the Training. I found the training more useful than I expected it to be. There was a lot about forming groups, and awareness raising, which was to be expected. There was also quite a lot about ways to conduct meetings, or ‘doings’, in order to get the most out of people. What was really inspiring was sitting in a room with 23 other people who had all decided that they were going to do something to change the way that we’re all heading. Closer to home, there were five of us from my own area, who are now going to look at how we can make Transition Horncastle a reality. Probably the most moving thing was to visualise for myself what I hoped that the world would be like in thirty years time, and discovering that everybody in the room had a similar vision. Perhaps deep down we are all longing for something similar, a sort of collective ideal that we don’t always understand, or express, but which is sitting there dormant, waiting for the opportunity to grow into something beautiful.

Is the world that you live in the one that you dream of?


Transition Training

This weekend I am away in Lincoln doing the official Transition Training. I became involved with Transition Lincoln by accident. I went along to a meeting of the Lincoln Urban PIGS (Pemaculture Interest Group), as I’m involved with Permaculture, and they were in the process of morphing into Transition Lincoln. I decided to get involved, even though I live 26 miles from Lincoln. In reality, I should be involved with Transition Horncastle, but they don’t exist yet. There are four of us from the Horncastle area scheduled to do the training, but only one of the four lives in the town itself. Perhaps we’re a few months away from forming a group, but it is something to aim for. Local solutions for local people. Perhaps my own village will, take up the challenge? Maybe not. The Burghers were outraged when we tried to get some affordable housing built. ” We don’t want poor people in the village” was the mood of the minority, and was actually said to me. The selfish way that we lead our lives has to change.

I intend to lend my support to Age of Stupid, by watching it again on Saturday. Hopefully, enough people will attend to convince the cinemas to show it more widely. Even though the film doesn’t offer any positive message, or solutions, I still think that we will turn things around. I don’t believe that it’s too late to change, and that it is imperative that we do so.

I will reply to any comments next week.

Have a productive weekend.