A Carmarthenshire couple are experimenting with growing nuts on their land.

Martyn Williams and Alison Harwood have planted walnut and sweet chestnut trees on a one-hectare south facing slope overlooking the River Towy.

They have chosen varieties that are a good match for conditions at Old Castle Farm, Llangain.

Nuts are being grown commercially more than ever in the UK as the climate heats, making products more economically viable, but what is less understood is how well suited this enterprise is to weather conditions in west Wales, or the free-draining and slightly acidic loam soils at Old Castle Farm.

To examine this, Martyn and Alison have been awarded funding from the Farming Connect ‘Try Out Fund,’ an initiative that makes provides funding to individuals and groups of farmers and growers to experiment with ideas and bring them to life. 

They have planted 20 walnut trees and 20 sweet chestnut trees, varieties selected for growth characteristics matched to the latitude in this region.

 Establishment is now being monitored and, to give the trees the best chance to thrive, the area around them is being kept weed-free to prevent competition for nutrients and moisture.

 The plan is to explore the use of alternative mulches, such as wool, even shells from a local beach, to balance the soil temperature and retain moisture.

Nut trees are helpful for providing biodiversity on farms but compared to other European regions, Wales has a very small economy in food production from trees.

 Climate change coupled with proposed changes to the Welsh government farming policy means that alternative types of food production need to be investigated.

Martyn is grateful to Farming Connect and the Try Out Fund for helping to bring the project at Old Castle Farm to life.

“It has given us a bit of a free rein, taking the pressure off trialling an enterprise that might or might not be viable.’’

It is likely to be five years before the trees produce any quantity of nuts, if indeed they do, but Martyn says planting trees is as much a legacy for future generations as the pleasure they bring to the current one.

“I love planting trees, they could be around for hundreds of years, long after we have gone. I get that farmers need to produce food to feed us but this will be our legacy.’’