UK Homestead near Swarkestone on Trent & Mersey Canal


Good morning to you. Very quiet night
here last night. I’ve got a relatively small journey to travel this morning. I
go through one lock and that is Swarkestone Lock. I need to fill up with some
water, empty my bins and then I will go a little tiny bit further, under a bridge
just by Lowes Lane and then just down the lane there is a garden centre, where I’m
meeting some friends for lunch. [Music] So I’m coming up to Swarkestone now. What
do we actually have here? Well, there’s a double lock. There is an area where
there’s lots of people mooring. They’re permanent moorers and then on the left
hand side or port-side, there is a great big skip for bins. So lots of space for
rubbish. There’s no recycling here though I’m sorry to say. There is a water tap –
it’s relatively okay speed wise. As I say, just around the corner there is the
Swarkestone Garden Centre. There is a pub and restaurant right next to Swarkestone
Bridge. There is a Texaco garage down on the main road here as well, which
sells sort of essentials, a bit of food not lots but bread, milk, beans,
bacon that sort of thing. As well as obviously fuel and that’s
about it. It’s great for Three and EE Wi-Fi and I
stayed here not last winter, the winter before on winter mornings. [Music] This garden centre is a little bit of a
hidden gem. It’s on Lowes Lane. You can park your car or your boat really close
to the bridge. Either on the water side or the road side obviously and the
garden centre has nice carvaries on a Sunday and lots of meals during the day. It’s
quite busy. Lots of teas and coffees, breakfasts in the morning and I watched
so many boats just go straight on past and it’s worth just a stop and have a
cup of tea! [Music] Ragley Boat Stop is a good place to
moor up. Wide selection of food, lots and lots of different types of beers and
ales. There are electricity and water points. There’s bollards next to the
mooring. You do need to get a card obviously for the electricity but that
will also activate the water. With Swarkestone Garden Centre just
behind me in that direction, just down the road from this bridge is Merrybower
Homestead. It’s a small holding of just over an acre of land and yesterday I
went to see what they were growing. [Cockerel crowing] To the south of the city of Derby set in
open countryside, is Merrybower Homestead. Owners Duncan and Suzanne purchased one
acre of land behind their house and have split it into four key areas. The
northwest zone houses various fruit berries, vegetables and a raised bed for
salad plants. At the back there’s a large solar array, feeding the sun’s power back
into the electricity grid. Later this year they plan to add a couple of
polly-tunnels here, to grow cut flowers to sell a front of their property. They
want to continue the allotment where they can grow a variety of fresh produce.
{Duncan} You’ve got this, the cerebral appeal that you know where it’s come from,
you know what’s gone in. You know there’s no chemicals that you’ve added to it and
you know how fresh it is but then there’s the very real which is
a bit of a cliche, when people say it tastes better. Well it actually does.
Things like fresh carrots that you’ve grown, I can’t stand carrots but from
here they just taste different. Apples are different. Walnuts, freshly baked
walnuts I had them last year for the first time and there’s no taste
comparison. To eat a packed walnut after having freshly baked walnuts, it’s incredable.
{Suzanne} There is nothing at all like going into the garden and picking your own vegetable or
fruit and putting it straight on the plate and eating it. Strawberries at this
time of year, you don’t need any added sugar, you don’t need ice cream nothing
at all. You just have a plate full of strawberries, dead, dead sweet, absolutely
wonderful and because with growing your own, you have a glut of veg or fruit
all of a sudden and then you just freeze it and then you’ve got that throughout
the winter. The southwest zone is home to a pair of geese. To the east of the site
are the Little and Big Orchards. Here are rows and rows of apple, pear, plum and
cherry trees. We keep chickens underneath the orchard because they take up the bugs, the
coddling moth, caterpillars that kind of thing, winter mouth caterpillars, things that
are dotted around on the ground over winter they scratch the ground up and
kill that thing off. We chose Light Sussex at first
because they’re a good dual-purpose, they’re quite hefty birds so if you
wanted to eat them you could do and as a egg layer, they’re a decent egg layer but we’ve
recently got into Marsh Daisies which is an old Lancashire breed. Rose Comb breed
and they’re on a critical list and we’ve sort of joined a program with the RBST
this year, in the Marsh Daisy group to try and bring them back from the brink of
extinction and they’re a perfect smallholder bird because they’re not as
large as a Sussex, they try get the size up, they’re a decent egg layer. Their eggs
are fantastic but they are gentle and they’re very frugal at eating. They
hardly eat a thing, in terms of layers pallets, so they’re cheap to keep. At some
point you have to make a choice when you’re doing this kind of
thing as to how many chemicals you want to use and in the orchard we don’t use
chemicals so we let nature take its course, hover-flies, ladybirds kill green
fly that kind of thing. So we have some damage, you can see on the trees, but
we don’t panic about it and when it came to coops we did start out with wood and
if you have untreated wood you’ll be lucky to get 3-4 years out of a coop
before it starts falling apart. So you have to treat it with something to
preserve it. The other problem though is that you get red might. There’s a
popular of chicken problem and they suck the blood out of chickens at
nighttime. They live in crevices and we found that by switching to plastic
you’re minimising the amount of crevice that a red might can live in and I would touch wood
but they’re plastic but we haven’t had red might for about six years now. Well we’ve both got long-term health
conditions that aren’t going to go away so we made a very conscious choice for
this lifestyle because we wanted the exercise and you know, we wanted the
physicality of it, but also knowing that your fruits and vegetables don’t
have, they’re grown organically, we don’t use any pesticides, herbicides
whatever else on the patch. So you make a conscious choice to put that
into your body and I think both of us, if ever we slip and we go on to processed
food for necessity, say it’s the winter time we haven’t gotten frozen or
whatever, you do feel sluggish if you’re not eating your own fruit and veg. We’ve
gone to the extent, when we’re not working behind the desk we can
come out here and do the work and often the weather dictates when that happens.
So that’s your balancing point, the weather against your deadlines for
work but the fact that it’s on our doorstep is we can just nip out, do a
half hour do a couple of hours and then get back in and do work, or work
evenings. If we wanted to you could give up work and you could come out here and
do it full-time but then you’d have to make sacrifices in terms of equipment
you could buy, you’d end up probably making more equipment yourself and
making sacrifices there and certain niceties in
life you’d have to give up. Thank you so much
Duncan and Suzanne for allowing me to film their homestead. Now having a
homestead in the United Kingdom is quite rare. I know other places like
Australia and especially in the United States lots of properties have
homesteads but here in the UK, it’s, I suppose land is at a premium,
there aren’t many around and I spotted this one and so I went to go and film
them because I found it really interesting. Now ultimately, my life
long-term goal is to have a very similar property, out in the middle of nowhere.
Have some polly tunnels, grow fruit and vegetables, have some livestock and have
my own homestead, that’s my ultimate long-term goal. Be off-grid obviously,
have lots of solar. Now I’m sort of halfway there. I live on a boat that’s
completely off grid being a continuous cruiser.
I have no shore-line so I’ve got to generate all my own power so I’m getting
there but my ultimate long-term goal is to also have a homestead. That’s why I
found it so interesting, so thank you both of you.
Now another person I need to thank is Giles Davies. He is a top-level Patreon
supporter and it’s so useful and so nice of people to donate and support Molly
and I on Patreon. What I do with that money is I put it into an account and
that is mainly used for maintenance of Alice and for fuel. Obviously moving
20-plus tonnes of steel around the network costs money in fuel, so that’s
where it goes. So thank you to Giles and all of the other people that support me
on Patreon, I’m very, very grateful and obviously I buy Molly a treat every so
often. I’m continuing west and then I’ll I’ll turn at Willington and head down to
Burton and then Fradley Junction and that’s where
I will decide which way to go. So until next time, I’m going to carry on walking
with Molly, it’s a little bit warm today but until next time, I’ll see you later.

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