Talk: 9th October > “The oldest forest garden in Britain

Global challenges are threatening life at a fast rate and there isn’t much time for us to take effective action towards adaptation and regeneration. More than ever, as permaculture designers, we need to accelerate succession, both in nature and in our global community. I believe one way of doing this is to study mature permaculture projects and learn directly from the pioneers. Like in many ancient cultures, where younger generations, with less experience, learned directly from the community elders, to effectively continue their actions and perpetuate their wisdom and traditions.

If we, younger generations of permaculture designers, learn directly from the challenges and successes of the pioneers, we are more likely to succeed. With this in mind, in 2015-2016 I embarked on a 15 months journey around Australia and the US to research the projects of the pioneers in depth. I was eager to understand how there were designed (their full design cycle), what made them whole systems (their unique network of connections) and how the permaculture ethics and principles were applied both on the land and in everyday life. I also wanted to explore practical strategies and techniques for different climates, but as these are usually site specific, I was more interested in understanding the thinking behind the doing. Looking for patterns of success under the umbrella of the 3 permaculture ethics I found success indicators that were transversal to all the projects. These were design principles, attitudinal principles and other principles that we can apply to our designs to create resilient systems.

Let’s keep them in mind!?


Graham Bell lives and works in the Scottish Borders. Together with his wife he has created a Forest Garden which is approaching its twenty-fifth anniversary and provides a great deal of food, fuel and company (wildlife). Their children Ruby and Sandy (now in their twenties) have also been great contributors to developing our house and garden as an energy efficient home place.

He has written two books on Permaculture, “The Permaculture Way” and the “Permaculture Garden” which thousands of people have enjoyed as easy introductions to what Permaculture means in a Northern temperate climate and the society that goes with it.

He has taught Permaculture on four continents. After many years engaging with business and politicians in my work to get these essential principles understood and used by people who govern and direct the world’s economies he has returned (2012) to teaching courses and restarted a North Hardy Plant Nursery specifically designed to support Forest Gardeners.

They welcome invitations to teach elsewhere, and visitors here by arrangement. Full details can be found on his website.


The Permaculture Way – Chelsea Green Publishing (2. September 2011)

The Permaculture Garden –  Chelsea Green Publishing; 2. Edition (5. November 2008)

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