Eating home grown salad, shelling peas on the patio, having my own home grown radish patch and best of all digging for potatoes are memories from our suburban family garden that I will cherish. Sadly from the age of 10 as a family entering the 80’s, the rat race era, my parents decided to cut down the apple and pear trees, fill in the vegetable patch and plant flowerbeds with Sweet Williams, pansies and other colourful, but, inedible plants. Almost overnight our fruit and vegetables started coming from the local supermarket and not our garden. I distinctly remember thinking when I grow up I am going to grow all my own vegetables and will have my own fruit trees to pick juicy apples from.
As a child I was fortunate to have an incredible grandfather, Grumpy Nigel, an explorer, botanist and a very grand man. As the eldest grandchild, eager to spend time with him, we spent many a happy weekend exploring the marshy fields near the River Thames and tiptoeing through bluebell adorned woodlands, in search of rare and native UK plants. This early passion for all things natural came from him, a man full of knowledge and eagerness to share, by day an office man of great power but with me a man who just loved being outside in the English countryside teaching me the names of each plant we came across.
Following in his footsteps my passion for being immersed in nature turned into a career. First studying Marine Biology I spent five years living in the countryside, on the Isle of Man and the Falkland Islands, and developing a career in fisheries.
I had a wonderful year in the Falkland Islands working on Japanese and Spanish, solely male, squid and Red Cod fishing boats. However as much as I loved being out a sea, watching thousands of birds follow the nets and searching for glimpses of soaring Wandering Albatrosses I was concerned I might grow a moustache and was also start to lose all social skills. I decided, at the age of 25, to jack it all in and have a bit of a career change.
Luckily this came at the same time as the new craze to build science centres for the millennium and I spent a number of happy years working for @Bristol and Think Tank. This was a really happy period in my life but I was desperate to get back to the natural world and fortunately for the last 13 years I have been doing exactly that, working all over the world, saving wetlands, developing nature reserves, interpretation trails and visitors centres.
Whilst studying for my final year in Marine Biology, on the Isle of Man, I also discovered a love for foraging and making tasty dishes from Wild Garlic, seaweed, blackberries and elderberries. This passion has grown, always a love for cooking and there really is nothing better than cooking from either what you have grown or foraged; wild garlic pesto used in cheesy scones to wilted in butter with a Sunday roast, to fanciful trial and errors with elderflower champagne, rosehip syrup and plum ketchup.
All the above over the years adds up to a desire to live the good life, make tasty dishes from our own produce, live in the countryside with a bit of land for our vegetables and of course have a few chickens for eggs. With little experience but plenty of enthusiasm we were lucky to find each other and with a shared passion also find The Secret Acre.
PS: Thank you to all our friends and family who have supported us physically and emotionally!