Agroforestry

Wakelyns is now one of the oldest and most diverse agroforestry systems

What is agro-forestry?

Wakelyns is distinguished by the system of alleys and tree lines that have been established over the past 25 years making it one of the oldest and most diverse organic agroforestry sites in the UK.

This is what the Wakelyns fields looked like when Ann and Martin arrived in 1992

Here’s Martin and Maria doing some of the early planting in 1994
Here are those early trees after a few years of happy growing

There is abundant evidence that simple mixtures of crop varieties can provide a way forward from mono-culture towards more natural control of plant disease without external inputs.

Agroforestry is the deliberate integration of trees with other crops on the same land area to gain benefit from the natural interactions within the whole growing system.

Martin Wolfe described the system in this short paper and talked about Wakelyns and agroforestry more generally in this video interview:

And Swedish film maker Maja Lindstrom recorded some lovely detailed radio interviews with Martin, available, here, here and here.

Most recently, James Wong’s BBC World series “Follow the Food” featured Wakelyns – see 13 mins 40 seconds Series 2 Episode 5 (February 2021).

The Landworkers Alliance has recently produced a major report about agroforestry in the UK. It looks at the related issues of carbon and climate because they are so integral to which direction land use takes over the next few decades. It features eight established and working examples of these new forms of agroforestry in the UK, and explores what we can learn from them, including Wakelyns (on page 10, and see also the aerial photographs on pages 4 and 5).

At Wakelyns, we have a total of 56 tree lines, some are 12m apart, some 15m and some 18m.

Tree lines 1-11 are willow on a short rotation (3 year) coppice cycle for use in hedging, weaving and (the rest) chipped for use in our biomass boiler to heat the Wakelyns farmhouse.

Tree lines 12-16 are a mixture of walnut trees, apple trees, plum trees and pear trees.

Tree lines 17-38 (planted in 1994, and so our oldest) are a mix of timber trees, cherries trees, and some apple trees.

Tree lines 39-45 are a mixture of apples, pears, plums, quinces, peaches, apricots, medlars and other food trees.

Tree lines 46-56 are hazels, on a medium rotation (7 year) coppice cycle for coppice cycle for use in hedging, thatching and (the rest) chipped for use in our biomass boiler to heat the Wakelyns farmhouse.

Wakelyns has a long association with the team from the Organic Research Centre some of whom were based at Wakelyns for several years. Together with Martin Wolfe, they undertook groundbreaking research across a range of issues related to organic agroforestry at Wakelyns.

Jo Smith and Sally Westaway from the ORC have put together this fantastic booklet describing some of that work and its conclusions.