Grizedale Arts

Lawson Park Paddy Fields

2006 until 0000

The Paddy Fields at the front end of Lawson Park were created as a site for Grizedale's ongoing trials with experimental farming methods, inventive land use, and creative approaches to ecology. In 2006 a group of farmers from the Japanese village of Toge visited the site as part of the Seven Samurai cultural exchange project, to remodel the slope into terraced fields. The project was applied as a test to ascertain whether it was possible to achieve productive workable soil without the use of artificial additives and fertilisers. The two acre area which is now the paddies was completely barren, unworkable soil, able to sustain only bracken and grass, and has spent the intervening years being cultivated - through entirely organic means, with green manure, mulching and endless weeding. Despite all predictions, they are now fully productive and, although it has been a slow and drawn-out process, they have decent and regular yields of relatively hardy vegetables and soft fruit crops including strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, lettuce etc.

The paddies have become an important resource for group outings to Lawson Park, allowing the wide cross-section of people who visit the site the simple opportunity to work the land - an activity that has become disturbingly absent from town and city living. In a very direct way this can be seen as an implementation of Ruskin's long held belief that everyone should be able to use a plot of land to sustain themselves, and that people should work both with their hands as well as their minds in order to maintain a healthy character. In practice, the experience of working on the paddies among such picturesque scenery can be liberating for many visitors, and on occasion the chance to find out how chips grow in the wild can be enlightening.

In line with the Lawson Park model, the paddies are constantly evolving as a project, altered with the changing seasons, each new plant trial, and the person who works them. The addition of a poly tunnel has greatly improved the diversity of plants able to be grown, and a turf roof shed-come-shack has significantly reduced the number of tools the wind runs away with, as well as providing a possible base camp for dissident factions with an interest in sheds.