We had heard various rumours about PFAF before we arrived there. It had been a destination lingering in the future, somewhere we seemed bound to go.
PFAF, or Plants for a Future, is a project that aims to promote, by example and education, the incredible variety and availability of edible and useful plants that can be grown in Britain.
This was born some 20 years ago, when a few people clubbed together to buy a potato field. The week the transaction went through, the whole area flooded, and all the topsoil, and the spuds, washed down the valley into the stream.
So they had a field, with no soil, that was whipped by vicious winds, and notoriously unproductive. It has been used to grow potatoes for as long as anyone remembered.
They set to work, with the added difficulties of not being allowed to build on the land, or live there for more than 3 weeks per year.
As soon as the hedges started to grow, other plants could settle. And they did so, in tremendously fertile droves. PFAF is today a growing encyclopaedia of the edible plants of Britain and the world. There is very little they do not grown and know.
When we arrived there, we had both been walking separately for a week, for a little space. Will had met with National Trust rangers in a coastal village, with whom he stayed for an evening, prior to a solo busk in the morning. The ranger knew everyone from PFAF, and made the phone calls necessary. Now Will knew the valley, the red phone box, and the time, from which liaison could be achieved.
In the morning he busked, which was difficult but intensely good for him. And in the afternoon, he got to that red phone box, and made arrangements.
Ed, meantime, was walking as fast as he could toward PFAF, without knowing why nor where he was headed. He took the phone call from Will, and made carried right on.
An hour of being walked around the site with one of its caretakers, Will was saturated with varieties of hawthorn, mallow, and all the rest. Then Ed appeared, exuding fatigue. We completed the tour, were offered a floor to surreptitiously sleep upon. A brief catch-up, and we were asleep.
We stayed for two days with PFAF, helping clear brambles, tidying up old messes. We spent good time with Addy, one of the founders of the project. She taught us stretches to strengthen our limbs, lent us books to read, and generally flowed with solid plant knowledge.
PFAF is an unbelievable resource. It is so nearly the perfect project. What it needs… is people, good willing volunteers to go spend time, to learn and work, in their beautiful Cornish garden-forest. This place is the true Eden of Kernow, with no glamorous glass domes nor wide car-parks. It is the future, and if you are heading West, you should give them a call and go help out.
Also, the knowledge-base they have accumulated at PFAF has been built into a website, and is freely shared. We strongly suggest you go look, here.