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Welcome to Sunnybank
Linda and I are incredibly blessed to live here at Sunnybank in Powys. The house itself was originally a small Welsh slate cottage built, we think, around the turn of the 18th century. It's been added to over the years but still retains its charm and sense of oneness with nature as it nestles on the hillside overlooking the timeless valleys and mountains of Radnorshire and surrounded by ancient broad leaf and coniferous forest.
Wild About Sunnybank
We're now into our third year here at Sunnybank with the first two years being a maelstrom of DIY, landscaping and rewilding with a view to increasing biodiversity through native tree planting, felling diseased trees to open up the forest canopy and adding more plants for our under-pressure pollinators. One of the key approaches underpinning biodiversity is the concept of small changes; just as a species can be wiped out by what may appear to be a slight alteration to their environment that same species can be helped by a few incremental changes in their favour. We created numerous bug hotels in and around the forest floor, added bat boxes, nest boxes and hedgehog houses, cleared overgrown ponds and planted more insect-friendly flora along with ditching any and all pesticides, chemicals and of course the deadly slug pellet that's wiping out our wildlife in huge numbers.
Felled trees are allowed to rot down whilst new hedges and native species are being planted to provide food, shelter and a more natural aesthetic to their surroundings. Red valerian, lavender, buddleia and a host of other flowering nectar plants including late flowering ivy have also been planted to provide the crucial first level of any biodiversity project - insects - with a good head start. As their numbers and variety increase so does the next level in the biodiversity hierarchy and so on up to the apex mammals and birds. In just three years we've seen an exponential growth across this hierarchy with over 45 species of birds visiting us including raptors, migrants and rarities like the marsh tit, flycatchers and brambling. Foxes, badgers, bats and even a polecat have been seen on the trail cams dotted around the grounds and we think it's just a matter of time before we start to see pine martens.
Projects and photography
So what are our future plans here at Sunnybank? Well, we're totally committed to the concept of rewilding, increasing biodiversity and creating a holistic, balanced and vibrant environment capable of sustaining our existing species whilst offering the potential for further improvements. We also live here and there's not a morning when we don't look across the forest at the mountains and distant Bannau Brycheiniog (The Brecon Beacons) and be in awe of the light, beauty and serenity we see before us. That said we're also very aware of the fragility of the place we are custodians of which, in turn, is a microcosm of our natural world beyond here and the precarious position we find our planet in.
Britain, I'm ashamed to say, is one of the least biodiverse countries in the world. That has to change and quickly if we're not to lose some of our most iconic species forever. Tackling something so fundamentally complicated as this on a global or countrywide scale seems unsurmountable. The vastness of the task ahead can overwhelm even the most committed of us and there's a danger of 'climate fatigue' fueled by what seems to be a tsunami of bad news, conflict, natural disasters and mediocre government policies that don't have our natural world front and centre. We start to question the effectiveness of what it is we are doing and if there's actually any point in doing it...
We recognized the enormity of the task and made the decision to scale it down and make it more manageable and achievable for ourselves through a number of projects here at Sunnybank. Projects were designed to also create photography opportunities whenever it was ethically and environmentally possible and to be cost effective, replicable and easy to create to encourage others to give them a go:
The m² project
Frogs, fronds and ponds
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