The Ffarm has a modest orchard, on the hill immediately to the rear of the cottage.
Originally planted around eight years ago, it is predominantly made up of a variety of eating apple trees, with one Victoria plum; although we’ve recently supplemented it with a quince, a crab apple (for cross-pollination), a peach, a pear, & an apricot. We also have red & white grape vines & brown figs in the hothouse, along with a small olive tree; & blackcurrants, red gooseberries, rhubarb, & the most delicious, plump Autumn Bliss raspberries in the garden. Our fruit diet is further supplemented by wild damsons, hedgerow blaeberries & tantalisingly sweet, tiny wild strawberries along with big fat juicy blackberries in season – not forgetting hedges bursting with wild hazlenuts & sloes (essential for that mainstay winter warmer – Sloe Gin!).
However, in addition to the Orchard, we also have eleven acres of mixed deciduous woodland which shelves from the edge of the fields & down to the meandering Afon Bowi running along the bottom of the valley. Known as the ‘Allt Ddu’, translated from the Welsh the name of the wood is the ‘Black Wood’; which is a true irony as Tony originally hails from Blackwood (although closer to Tredegar). A truly ancient place, boasting a wide variety of species such as oak, ash, sycamore, birch & fir, the woodland dates back to the time before the Mabinogion – a famous collection of Welsh legends, & was said to be the haunt of the Wild Hunt, & led to the Gateway to the Otherworld! Certainly, there is a ruined croglofft cottage, near the leat bridge; this was once known as ‘Ty Rhyd’ or the ‘House at the River Crossing’; it may well have been a toll house for a ford, as the road previously ran down the hill before being diverted across the more gentle slope following construction of the crenellated bridge in the 1800s. There is also reputed to be a Roman kiln somewhere in the wood; although in places it is now so wild I doubt we would ever have a chance of locating it. Ironically most of the area along the river bank, was once water meadow; sadly, those days are long gone. Gone, too, is the old drovers’ river crossing in the west corner of the wood where it borders Bryn Ffynnon’s land; the years, modern metalled roads, & the ever-encroaching scrubland, have all taken their toll.
During the Spring the woodland is a haven for wildlife & for beautiful native flora, with a carpet of shimmering white wood anemone & ramsons (wild garlic) flowers early in the season; followed by a stunning, plentiful display of wild bluebells a few weeks’ later. Their heady scent carries all the way up the hill & into the stableyard; with the snowy blossom bursting on the blackthorn, it makes this a truly enchanting time of year.