At about the time of the economic crisis in the UK , Helen became more interested in other aspects of sustainable living, and as she read, started to learn more and more about permaculture. The design system provided by a permaculture approach, meant that the family were able to rapidly learn about how permaculture principles, ethics and tools could support them to create a life which was regenerative for both people and the land they owned. Helen then went on to take a Permaculture Design Course at the Sustainability Centre with Aranya in 2013
In 2014 Helen and her young adult family bought a derelict bungalow on 2.5 acres of land, just down the lane from their original field. Although the family are currently living in a couple of old static caravans on the land, work is underway to build a passive solar house designed by Helen's architect husband, Ian of Perry and Bell Architects.
The land has its challenges; at one of the most exposed parts of Hampshire, the soil fertility is in poor condition, and in recent years boundary hedging has either been eaten by grazing animals or become overgrown. However the small holding also has a very varied topography, with the potential for providing a diverse range of microclimates, for different elements of the overall design.
The design at Hillside is one very much based of Permaculture principles, ethics and tools. Although in its early stages, the following systems and elements are already underway: -
* To establish comfortable temporary accommodation for the family, and get started on the new house design. The house as well as being a producer of energy, has been designed to provide flexible accommodation for potentially 4 generations of family.
Stop Press: November 2015 and the house is only a few weeks from completion! It uses many waste/recycled materials in its construction and is clad in flint collected from the site excavation.
* Improving and regenerating the pasture land on site plus reducing the need for bought in animal feeds. Elements/systems include Mob Grazing goats and chickens, planting fodder crops such as willow, and then also scything large areas of nettles to be used as goat feed.
* Bee Keeping
* Planting hedges on the land contour, with the functions of slope stability, wildlife habitat and shelter.
The family has worked hard at building beneficial relationships with farming neighbours, by sharing and swapping labour and skills. Currently working long days, seven days a week, at Hillside, Helen admits that the smallholding so far is hard work, but good permaculture design of animal and food growing systems should reduce the workload and she feels more excited and positive about the future than she ever has before. Hillside is producing most of the family’s own vegetables as well as having a surplus of honey, eggs, dairy products and meat, to share and exchange with family and friends.
Future plans at Hillside are very much to continue the existing design. The core function of the design there is to create systems, which will work efficiently to provide what those living on the land need. And, in addition, will ensure additional opportunities for the extended family to thrive, whilst making their land and home as abundant in its yields as possible.
All photos by Hillside
Further information and Social Media contacts