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Planting Diaries 2 - Nepali Village

One of our most unusual planting sites this season was on a small farm near Talybont on Usk run by Nepali Village UK. This group are converting the farm into a cultural centre to preserve and promote Nepalese culture and heritage. Supported by the Gurkha community, they are aiming to create a space for people to learn more about their language and traditions, as well as a campsite to host summer visitors. The site is in a beautiful valley just below the Talybont Reservoir and with open views of mountains tops and wooded hillsides. This was an exciting opportunity to create new habitat, and increase biodiversity, while keeping the benefits to people very much in mind.  

The aim was to plant hedges and areas of woodland that would enhance the existing ecology and create wildlife corridors by connecting new planting to the wider landscape. The site is surrounded by some great examples of ancient woodland and there are some notable veteran trees on the farm. By looking at tree species that have thrived in the area, it gives us a perfect starting point for new planting. We decided to use a diverse range of native species for the three hedgerows to provide plenty of food for pollinating insects and birds over winter. This included crab apple, hornbeam, hazel, cherry, dog rose, hawthorn and blackthorn.  

For the woodland area on the hill, we decided to try and mirror the wavy-lines found in nature and planted groups of trees with larger species in the centre and smaller, ground-cover species around the edges. For example, we planted oaks and small-leaved lime in the middle, but spindle and dog rose on the boundaries. The Nepali community also asked that we kept space between each group of trees for paths. They hope to encourage visitors to wander through the planted areas and to have statues and other points of cultural interest at key points along the walkways.  

The community is fortunate to have their own natural spring for drinking water and this created some extra planting challenges. We made sure we left a buffer zone around any water courses, and we also found the ground was much wetter as we went uphill. This was due to the number of ephemeral, or temporary, springs which were bubbling up from under the surface. We asked volunteers to plant extra alder and willow in the wettest areas as these species can tolerate waterlogged conditions better than others.  

Alder has been extremely valuable to humans due to its ability to withstand the wet. Historically it has been used to make boats and water pipes and it supports much of the city of Venice. It can also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and improve soil fertility, so it makes a good pioneer species on post-industrial sites such as old mine workings. In terms of supporting wildlife, its catkins provide an early nectar source for bees and the seeds are eaten by birds such as siskin and goldfinch. Therefore, it is a great addition to any woodland especially with wetter winters and more intense rainfall predicted to become the norm.  

We spent two days planting at the site with a great group of Stump volunteers who braved the wet February weather. We were warmly welcomed by Nepali Village and a group of their volunteers joined us to learn about tree planting. They also gave us an amazing curry lunch on both days which was very much appreciated after we planted a record number of trees in challenging conditions. It was a good opportunity to meet people from other cultures and to share ideas in a beautiful setting in the national park. We look forward to helping with some further planting next season and to support the development of the community site.  



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