The Paddies



Descriptive Summary:

A 2-acre deer-fenced SW-facing field, landscaped in early 2007 with the rice farmers of the Japanese village of Toge, visiting Lawson Park as part of the Seven Samurai project. The villagers laid out a series of scalloped, terraced 'paddies' down the sloping field, with raised earth banks in between which seem to conserve moisture, warmth and nutrients in this initially very impoverished soil.

Over the last years we have organically grown many vegetable crops here and noticed that though more exposed and with poorer soil than our Kitchen Garden, crops here seem to suffer from less disease and are healthier, if smaller specimens. Soil improvement has been slow, mainly as we have done this organically and sustainably with small amounts of bracken, garden compost, various green manures and some rotted animal manure from a friend's farm.

We have about two thirds of the field in production currently, but have problems with couch-grass and brambles in some areas. Many volunteers and interns have helped us with the Paddies over the years, to whom we are eternally grateful! 

In 2015 (after a dishearteningly cold and wet season) we decided to move more of the area into fruit production, and have now planted a terrace of Westmorland damson trees, various plums and more gooseberries there. A central area is retained for growing bulky vegetables such as potatoes, peas, broadbeans and leeks.

A selection of plants:

Strawberries 'Mara de Bois', 'Red Gauntlet', 'Rhapsody', 'Rosey'
Gooseberry 'Hinnonmaki Yellow' 
Blackcurrant 'Wellington' 
Redcurrant 'Red Lake'  
Whitecurrant 'Versailles'  
Cherry plum 
Blueberries (various varieties) 
Raspberry 'Autumn Bliss', 'Tulameen', 'Glen Rosa', 'Julia'
Potatoes (various varieties trialled, our fave is 'Red Duke of York') 


Led by Adam Sutherland with Toge (Japan) villagers & Karen Guthrie & many interns and volunteers

About the designers/maker/s:

Adam Sutherland has lived at Lawson Park since 2000. Having grown up on various farms and remote sites he is more at home in fields than in gardens. Japanese paddies are intensively farmed, producing the same crop every year, therefore it made sense that Japanese farmers have a deep knowledge of soil management and also of dealing with the steep, small enclosures that are common in hill farms in both the UK and Japan.
Karen Guthrie finds the Paddies rather overwhelming but is slowly overcoming her fear. 




The concept for the Paddies came from our understanding of field systems in mountainous regions of Japan. Toge is a high-altitude rice-farming village in North West Japan, producing some of the best Japanese rice in the world. Our relationship began with a residency in the village in 2006, at the invitation of the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, after which some of the villagers were invited to Lawson Park to help us with our land development and to undertake other local projects such as the one-day Japanese cafe in nearby Coniston. 
A pair of cherries - one English and one Japanese -  are planted in the Paddies to mark the bond between us.

Raison d'etre:

Our small Kitchen Garden nearer to the house is not large enough to produce the volume of fruit and vegetables we have come to expect, and the Paddies are big enough space to bring on plants for bulking up, or experimentally, in ways which wouldn't fit anywhere else  ...It's also a truly spectacular site!

Adaptions / renovations

Bryan & Laura Davies kindly donated several hundred native hedging plants in 2008 for the Paddies, to carbon-offset the travel undertaken for their project The Wonderful North. We are now continuing planting the peripheries with shelter shrubs and trees for long-term wind protection. In winter 2011 a Coniston volunteer group planted a small 'orchard' of cherry plums (prunus cerasifera) at the East boundary where the forestry plantation ends. We have also kept pigs for short periods on the lower slopes but found that they tended to damage the young hedge plants.

A local farmer advised us to plant green manure white clover to improve fertility, which we are doing on various plots within the Paddies. Less successful green manures have included lupins and rye grass.

In winter 15/16, we planted many of the smaller paddies with stone fruit - including damson 'Westmorland', plums 'Ouilllin's Gage' and 'Marjorie's Seedling'.

  • Amongst the strawberries
  • A green-fingered intern
  • Harvesting blueberries