Skin care miles

Alongside studying hard to qualify as a botanical skincare formulator I am working on my own range of skincare products.

I no longer use any mass produced skincare products on my skin. The more I’ve learnt about the make up of my skin, and how it absorbs and can be nourished by what is placed on it, the more excited I have become about creating something sourced from botanicals that give my skin the best care as I get older.

Alongside this I am looking at the sourcing of the ingredients. I have a belief that what grows together tends to work together. There are many really amazing beautiful ingredients sourced from all over the globe that contain many compounds that have wonderful benefits for the skin. However it is wonderful to find, when looking in our own gardens, just how many of our local plants also contain the very same amazing array of these beneficial compounds – but all local to us.

Does this mean I could develop a beautiful-feeling product that smells amazing and is effective, all from my garden? The vast majority of the active ingredients can come from plants that grow in the UK, although certain items such as carrier butters tend to come from more exotic climates,

In developing my range of products I am taking its environmental impact and how these ingredients interrelate into consideration. There is no need for me to source exotic oils when our more local oils are so brilliant for our skin. For ingredients that are not native to us I will only use those that we can sourced ethically and sustainably, thus contributing to the livelihoods of another culture in a sustainable way.

Setting these objectives at the start really excites me. Especially when I learn about the fantastic ingredients that I can use and spotlight for their wonderful benefits. My hands are a testament to just how good these ingredients are!

Sea Buckthorn in skin care

sea buckthorn for anti ageing

I wonder if you can relate to each of us in our family having a niggle of some kind with our skin? Eczema was such a big problem for our eldest son, when he was tiny, that he went through a period when the only way he could sleep was having wet wraps over his body when he went to bed (thankfully this is no longer the case!). For me, now I’m getting older, I am aware of my skin ageing. And, with 3 teenagers in the family, problems like acne become acutely embarrassing for them if it flares up.

With all this in mind I wanted to learn a more natural skincare solution that really worked and was kinder to us and the environment than many of the modern treatments.

So I am part way through a professional diploma to become a knowledgeable skincare formulator using all natural ingredients. This knowledge is informing the development of our forest garden. The more I learn the more determined I am that I no longer want to use products on any of our skin using artificial ingredients and it is really exciting to produce specifically formulated skincare products that meet our individual needs, that smell gorgeous, feel fabulous on the skin, and make noticeable improvements. The first of these products will be available later this year.

One of the plants added to our forest garden with this in mind is the sea buckthorn. Sea buckthorn is an ideal choice for any anti-ageing blend and is said to help regenerate skin cells and have skin healing properties. It is also high in essential fatty acid and contains antioxidants. Sea buckthorn is part of the Elaeagnaceae family and has glaucous leaves and beautiful orange-berries.

If you would like to be one of the first to know when we have completed all our development and have natural skincare products available, do join our newsletter!

No Dig Gardening

Our soil is not the easiest. In fact I have to admit I really did not enjoy the original making stage of our garden. We had to get creative in how we gardened just to keep going. When you watch Monty Don slipping his spade into his soil we could only look on in envy. We have a lot of flint and the soil is so shallow that often it has been only the very tip of the spade in the soil before a flint is hit. This is one reason for us to have chosen working with a perennial forest garden rather than a more annual growing system.

For areas where we do want to grow annuals (or simply improve our soil) we have found the best way for us to create borders is using our own unique style of no dig system. We have been doing it this way for a few years and we know it works. It does not give us an instant bed, but it does give us depth and a weed free bed in about a year for relatively low input effort. It also does not require us to buy in any compost or use up any of the precious compost we make.

So how does it vary from the usual no dig system you might ask? We use large heavy duty paper sacks in which animal feed is bought. We turn them inside out so they are easier on the eye; light brown rather than colourful and printed. Then the majority of our weeds are put in these bags as we do our weeding. Once the sacks are full we lay them close together over the unprepared ground of the new border-to-be.

The weight of the contents of the sack holds it securely in place without allowing any light to the weeds and the sack gives the right mix of carbon and nitrogen for it to turn into compost.

For us gardening on the scale we do, this is a very valuable technique. If you garden a smaller ornamental garden it may not be for you!

Note: Do not add brambles docks or nettle roots to the sack, or any other really invasive perennial weeds.

Nelly and Scrag

I love the natural beauty of the English countryside. At a time like this when everything is so different I find stopping to enjoy the natural world even more essential. Alone time just to walk and meditate and to see nature continuing as normal.

I share this time with my dog Nelly. She is the perfect companion, always there, but sensing when to interact and when to go with the flow.

What I was not expecting this morning as I set off for my walk was a second companion. Nelly’s best friend – Scrag (I know, unusual name!)

I started down our lane with both pets following. I was expecting Scrag would go half way down the lane, wave us off and head back to a comfortable chair to sleep. But no. He continued. Across the road, up the bridleway, along a field. It was at this point he started to look a little nervous. Not sure what to do. I think he wanted to turn for home, but did not want to do the journey alone. Let’s face it cats don’t want to be shown up! After a few tentative mews and a pleading gaze I decided I would spare his pride and return home with him.

Not the walk I wanted, but I would not be without my loving companions. An essential part of our life. I can always walk again…

Calendula Tea

Calendula has to be one of the most popular medicinal herbs used today. It is in many ointments and creams for treating everything from minor grazes to fungal infections.

We grow it year round in our polytunnel and it is rarely out of flower. Its cheerful bright orange or yellow flowers lift the spirits!

Not only is it useful for skin conditions but it is also good for internal use. This simple tea recipe is one I make using fresh flowers picked and used immediately. It is good for digestive disorders or sore throats (or simply because you like herbal tea!)

Once the tea is made any left can be kept be refrigerated for a few days.

Teenagers may appreciate it if they are prone to acne. Simply pour a little onto a flannel and use some each night to wash your face.

It is also used in our family to treat athlete’s foot by adding it to a foot bath.

How to make:

Place 4 or 5 calendula flowers into a jug and pour hot water over them. Place a lid over the top to avoid losing volatile oils in the steam.

Leave to steep for 8 to 10 minutes until a suitable temperature.

Pour into a cup and drink.

Cutting Flowers

We grow a lot of flowers for cutting. From early spring onwards we aim to have fresh flowers for all our guests in their accommodation. We like them to be bright and vibrant – a little joyous bouquet to lift the spirits of our guests as they arrive after a long journey.

This year we had only just started to add colourful bouquets to the shepherd’s hut when the government shutdown was announced.
The garden does not stop though. Even with half the world in lockdown, nature continues. Currently our tulips are a riot of colour. They last for only a few weeks and we never pick them all but we love their loud declaration that spring has sprung.

To keep up the succession in our cutting borders we are sowing for the months to come. Carnations, nigella, cornflowers, calendula have all been sown this morning.

It is this sort of methodical action that keeps us moving to a rhythm at this time without the usual people to interact with face to face.

We are so lucky to have the space to move and a long list of jobs that just take time; no resources, just time! Time is usually so precious and currently we have all the time in the world to tackle those long lists of jobs.
Now I’m off to pick some tulips for our own home, to have the joy of those vibrant colours on the dining table for later.

Wild Garlic Pesto

With lockdown continuing we are always on the look out for new inventive ways to reduce our visits to the shops. We are incredibly lucky to have the space around us that allows us to forage from the land without leaving the farm.
Today I visited our woodland to take advantage of one of my favourite foods to forage – wild garlic. It grows in abundance along the edge of our woodland. It is not a plant I would want in my garden – too invasive and, well, too garlicy!
With today’s harvest I made a pesto. It was not following a standard recipe as I wanted to use only items from my own store cupboard and so adapted it to fit what was there. You can do the same. I have marked items that are easy to vary.

150g wild garlic leaves
60g Cheddar (if you do have parmesan this would be the traditional cheese)
1 tbsp lemon + 1tbsp lime
50g nuts – I used a mixture of cashews and peanuts but traditionally this would be pine nuts
130ml olive oil

Roughly chop the wild garlic leaves.
Place all ingredients except the oil in the blender and blitz.
Slowly incorporate the oil whilst stirring, until you are happy with the consistency. Taste and season to your own liking.
We sealed the pesto in a kilner jar for use for lunches. It will last in the fridge for two weeks (but never does in our house!).

Enhancing Natural Immunity with Echinacea Purpurea

Times like these make us all look at the world through fresh eyes.  As the news unfolds daily with the latest worries over the Coronavirus, more and more I find myself appreciating watching nature unfold this spring and observing our animals going about their daily activities with their usual bounce. 

With a fresh focus I’ve been drawn back towards a project we started just 12 months ago.

We wanted to contribute to the protection of a species of plants by taking on the collation of a national collection.  It is our way of doing our bit for the natural world.  As members of Plant Heritage we looked at what plant species would both fit into our forest garden and is not currently being looked after by anyone else. 

Immediately Echinacea Purpurea jumped out.  It is a stunning daisy type flower (not just purple) that we have always loved; it is grown both for its beautiful flowers that we love but also its reputation for health benefits.

This has now come into sharp focus.  I expect like many of you we keep Echinacea as part of our medicine cupboard, and at the first sign of a bug coming we take it.  It has more than an anecdotal reputation as being successful in fighting off colds and flu-like symptoms.

Echinacea works by stimulating the immune system by increasing immune cells in the blood, especially the part of your immune system that reacts to any infections, before it has had a chance to create antibodies specific to the threat. By doing this it reduces the severity of illness and gives the body more chance to create its own antibodies to a viral infection.

Echinacea has been shown to help with coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, through a cell membrane mediated mechanism. 

So can it be effective with this latest strain of coronavirus?

There has been a paper from a laboratory in Switzerland that has pointed to a promising trial. 

There have also been some past studies that have shown Echinacea purpurea to be successful against more common coronaviruses that have not spread from animals using some of the phytochemicals from Echinacea.
Please note that I do not come from a medical background and, although there may be some research that looks promising, I have also seen warnings that while there are reports that Echinacea might be good help towards the defence  against Covid-19, there are some people who should not take it.  This includes  people who take other medication without their doctor’s approval, those with existing auto-immune diseases and also those who have already contracted Covid-19 as it could overwork the immune system. 
When looking for an Echinacea product, make sure it is from Echinacea purpurea root.  There are other varieties of Echinacea but purpurea is considered the best source.

Glamping at Dorset Forest Garden

For romantic escapes Dorset Forest Garden Glamping brings together stunning far reaching views, beautiful vintage style canvas or tin accommodation with peace and quiet.  Set in 20 acres, we have just four gorgeous self-catering glamping accommodations nestled in the heart of Dorset’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close by to The Jurassic Coast.  Each has its own private ensuite facilities.

Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and with so little light pollution – you can soak up starry night skies from your own private hot tub.

Although some guests never leave the forest garden, you’ll find much of interest in the vicinity.  There are many local places to eat and drink (several award winning spots right on the doorstep ).

Beautiful West Dorset is such a diverse county.  Rolling countryside, dramatic cliffs, sweeping beaches, idyllic villages (right out of a Thomas Hardy’s novel), and bustling towns (Beaminster and Bridport are a must visit!). We are just 8 miles from West Bay on the Jurassic Coast (aka ITV fictional town Broadchurch).

There is a network of bridleways and footpaths straight from our entrance – making days out walking really easy and accessible.

Ducks in the Forest Garden

We have a lot of grass in the Forest Garden during this early phase and have taken on some little helpers to help to keep this in check.  They are loving their new home – especially the bathing facilities!

Watch this video of our new additions (The large Muscovy is named Mr Incredible due to his super hero mask)


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