A Woodland Spring

There is a very lovely woodland spring near to me, which I had the opportunity to revisit this week. It is shown on maps as “Ben’s Well”, near to “Ben’s Farm”, and lies within “Booth’s Wood”. I have not as yet been able to find out anything about who Ben was – do comment below if you can enlighten me!

Ben's Well as it emerges from the ground.

Ben’s Well as it emerges from the ground with the root bridge in the foreground.
(Click to enlarge.)

The spring is one of several nearby, but the only one that never seems to be muddy. It comes straight out of the muddy bank and flows beautifully pure and clear, making nice drinking. I was reminded on tasting it of some of Victor Schauberger’s work on streams following their natural course through woodland, running all year and never flooding or jamming up if they are not interfered with by man. The temperature stays far more constant with the tree’s shading, and it is very pleasant there even on a hot day.

Root bridge at Ben's Well.

Root bridge at Ben’s Well. (Click to enlarge)

There is, however, an extra feature that attracts me to this stream. Within a few feet of the spring is a path, which at one time had a stone wall built along each side of it. This can be seen higher up in the wood, with the occasional stone gatepost still standing. However where it crosses the stream, the main evidence of the wall is where a tree root has used it to advantage to make a natural bridge. This root has become the crossing point itself. A special place.

Root Bridge and Wood Sorrel

Root Bridge at Ben’s Well, Derbyshire. Wood Sorrel grows on the upstream side.

Bottle Gardening

Trying to grow vegetables on a windswept Derbyshire hillside always feels a bit hit and miss – most plants do very well once they establish themselves and get growing as the soil is good and rich and is rarely too dry – but vegetables being mainly annuals can be somewhat tricky to get to this stage. Setbacks in their growth tend to have rather negative consequences on their cropping!

I have tried waiting to plant things later, but sometimes the growing season then feels too short. Or else I miss the ‘window’ for planting and they never get in the ground. I also have trouble sowing seed indoors due to lack of windowsills and lack of light – I grow lots of things from seed each year, but slower growing flowers or seeds sown in late April or May do better than compact, fast growing, leafy plants sown in winter. So this year I am trying a new, more determined approach: buy in some healthy looking, British grown, brassica plants and lettuces that are at the right stage for planting out, and then give them as much protection as I can. My bottle collection, built up over a few years and normally reserved for sweetcorn, has come out of store early.

Bottle Garden

Bottle Garden

Of course, a windy day immediately followed planting and several bottles flew off. I tried simply putting them back – which lasted all of a few minutes until the wind picked up again. My solution was to make use of my sticky, heavy clay soil – water everything, pile soil around each bottle, water again and effectively ‘glue’ the bottles into place. It has worked before, and I hope will this time! For those wishing to copy this method, water well before attempting to remove the bottles as the first time I tried this a plant came out with the bottle, but minus its roots…