The main building of Drala Jong is surrounded by rolling open countryside, rivers, farmland and woodlands. Drala Jong’s lands contain open meadows, some ponds and woods, which all require some care, maintenance and cultivation.
Some of the woods are part of an ancient forest, it is planned that the conifer plantations that replaced much of the ancient woodland will be thoughtfully restored with native species, The changes to be made will be natural changes that are for the benefit of the trees and wildlife. This does not mean the work will be easy or speedy — but it does mean that changes will create a beautiful, diverse and sustainable eco system. Stream beds will be dug to allow the water to run down hill without soil erosion and flooding turning the hillside into a mudslide. There will be pools throughout the course of the stream to keep the trees and shrubs irrigated and to encourage a greater diverisity of plants and wildlife. Paths need to be made and undergrowth thinned to allow natural regeneration to occur, hopefully from seeds left by the ancient woodland.
A large amount of trees will be planted. In fact there will be three tree planting projects at Drala Jong requiring the planting of hundreds of trees.
- The creation of Silvopasture to increase biodiversity, productivity through stock grazing and wood products whilst decreasing soil erosion and water run off.
- The creation of two hedges. One to create a forest edge to the plantings of a previous occupier. This will have the same benefits as the silvopasture project and encourage more wildlife into the woodland.
The larger field dividing hedge will have similar benefits whilst creating both a windbreak and wildlife corridor, whilst dividing the two fields.
- The third project is about reclaiming the ancient woodland. Currently only about a third of the forest is composed of natural broadleaf woodland. Ash dieback disease and Larch phytophspora are prevalent creating a need for different replacement species.
We will also be slowly felling the non-native conifers over the next 20 years or so. Whilst some natural regeneration will occur, replacement trees will needed to be planted.
What has happened so far
In spite of the Covid19 pandemic we have already started to work on planting the field dividing hedge. More than 800 trees have been planted aided by some generous donations and a grant from the Woodland Trust for which we are extremely grateful.
Plans have been drawn up for the Silvopasture project and we hope to start planting towards the end of this year, 2021. Further plans are also afoot to create a larger vegetable garden from which to feed retreatants and visitors home grown produce.
The reclamation of the ancient woodland is ongoing and will continue to be so over this decade. Since we came into ownership of Drala Jong there have been signs of red Deer and Badgers returning. This spring there has been a delightful profusion of snowdrops and bluebells are springing up in spaces vacated by conifer and bramble.
In April 2021 the restrictions due to the pandemic were slightly lifted and our lineage holders Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen could visit Drala Jong. They helped with the planting, offering this wonderful encouragement for the project: ‘We see this initial tree planting as a major piece of work accomplished on the land – the external shrine room. So vital to the heart of the place.’
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