The Good Life

Hadleigh Gardening Association, 19th January 2012

This talk was the first in Hadleigh Old Fire Station, the new venue for Hadleigh Gardening Association's meetings and talks. Peter Webb amused a large audience with his recollections of over 40 years of gardening on an increasing scale of self-sufficiency. 

Photo:Peter Webb and Barry Wootten (HGA Chair)

Peter Webb and Barry Wootten (HGA Chair)


Initially, he and his long-suffering wife, Mary, had dug more and more of the garden of their ordinary house in a town until they had beanpoles where their neighbours had water features. They added one, and then two, large allotments, but the use of an old tractor to avoid digging led to a harrowing confrontation with the allotment association, ending their access to that resource.

Their search for somewhere to grow their own food led them through a phase of being gazumped in several counties until 35 years ago they found a derelict small-holding in Tolleshunt D'Arcy. After clearing 300 tons of rubbish, they could then start growing vegetables, even though the house was almost uninhabitable.

To create an orchard, Peter studied books on trees and ordered a thousand. At 18 pence each they were the usual very diminutive specimens. However, by varying the density of the planting at the suggestion of the RSPB, they have helped to create shade and undergrowth which attracts voles, which in their turn attract Barn Owls. Peter gave us a scale of the time involved, in that the oak saplings he bought will take another 270 years to mature, whereas silver birch and alder are already well-established.

Peter and his wife have kept different sorts of  livestock over the years with varying degrees of success; the story of how they got hold of their initial herd of Jacob Sheep amused everyone. He had some harsh truths to report about the economic facts of life of raising livestock, farming organically and having to fill in as much paperwork for DEFRA whether one has 6 acres or 5,000.

The slide show of the farm, the superb orchard and the kit barn (to build in one weekend, which took two years to complete) rounded off the talk. After tea, Peter handled the question and answer session very professionally. It was an excellent first event in HOFS for the Hadleigh Gardening Association. 

Any errors in this summary are the responsibility of the author.

This page was added by Nick Turner on 04/02/2012.