Introduction to Ceridwen

We awoke bright and early Tuesday morning at the compact, but very productive smallholding not far from Bude, greeted by more grey skies, high winds and lashing rain showers. As we snuggled beneath the covers, dry and warm, we reflected on our good fortune to be at one of the places we’d ranked the very highest on our list of hosts we’d like to WWOOF with, even back when we’d first reviewed the options in Milwaukee. Finally, we were here and looking forward to all that we could learn.

Rob and Diana bought the house and accompanying meadow seventeen years ago naming it after the enchantress from Welsh medieval legend regarded by modern Wiccans as the Celtic goddess of rebirth, transformation and inspiration. Ceridwen. They have worked steadily over time to create a home and self-sufficient smallholding , gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way, not only achieving a high degree of self-sufficiency, but also running a very successful veg box scheme for many years.

Rob is very much an ecologist and spent twenty years working in conservation before purchasing Ceridwen with Diana. He is especially interested in history and passionate about the future of our planet. An avid reader, he enjoys mythology, culture studies, lore, and science alike. Diana is a teacher and a newly qualified medical herbalist. She teaches part time and consults with patients in a special building created at their home. She makes many of her own potions, lotions and treatments and as we can already testify, is a wonderful cook, creating scrumptious things to eat, drink or treat, mostly from what is produced in their own gardens.

The site itself is only two acres but because grains and other crops had been carefully grown here for many years before Rob and Diana’s time, it possesses very rich soil. Rob, over the years, has increased it’s quality and if ever asked what we grows replies “soil”. The home and small meadow was a “chance” find in their search for a place to live, the site’s wonderful potential being carefully crafted, planned and planted using all of Rob and Diana’s skill and experience.

After returning to our traditional porridge breakfast we were soon venturing out on a tour of our home, workplace and learning centre for the next three weeks with Rob leading the way and happy to introduce us to their lovingly created domain. Given the freshness of the day he began by showing us where hazels and alders had been planted not long after they arrived along the hedge lines which were now acting as wind breaks, producing a better environment for their plants (and WWOOFers alike 😉 ).

Next was the introduction to the chickens, ducks and geese whom we shall be looking after during our stay. Ceridwen is home to eight Khaki Campbell ducks, hardy foragers for de-slugging and de-snailing vegetable beds and known for their wonderful egg laying, especially in the winter months when the chickens don’t lay. There are also twelve chickens, eleven hens and one giant rooster. But, he’s not the biggest bird around, oh no. There are two large geese here, Gandolf (the grey) and Galadriel, both in full and beautiful plumage at this time.

We were then shown the forest garden with many trees and new plants being laid along the forest floor, most recently a few more nut trees were planted, mostly hazelnut, for their resilience. A forest garden is a wonderful way to grow crops to protect from harsh weather conditions and a method which Rob believes will have to become more widely practiced as our climate becomes increasing unstable and unpredictable. It is certainly more pleasing on the eye than the large, mostly barren expanses that the majority of our chemical cocktails that passes for food is currently grown in. There is also an orchard with over sixty different varieties of apples, among the other types of fruit grown such as plums and cherries.

We moved on to view two small greenhouses, used for starting off plant seeds and seedlings, and three large polytunnels where many veg and herbs are grown, each with their own large rain collection for watering. Some of the goodness grown in the polytunnels includes, shallots, beans, tomatoes and strawberries. There are also many large vegetable plots containing spinach, chard, kale, beans, leeks, lettuce, wheat, garlic, onions, carrots, etc. The list goes on …

The smallholding is not all about maximising the market garden, based on organic and permaculture principles, (or anything else which makes ecological sense!). This is also Rob and Diana’s home, their dream. Amongst the food and herb production, there are spaces in which to share, or peacefully reflect in the beautiful surroundings with flowers and ornate plants very much part of the landscape.

As our tour concluded the colds we feared we’d awoken with early that morning finally made their presence even more vocal and we were soon placed on rest orders by Rob and Diana for the remainder of Tuesday and all day Wednesday, as well. As the wind whipped against our caravan, we stayed warm, dry, and restful, hoping to soon chase away the illness and again be outside with Rob and Diana, learning as much as we can from these experienced smallholders.

Loving Simplicity