Our Head of Flood Risk, Alex Bearne, will be stepping down in favour of hard labour, fresh air and bird song

We have exciting news to share…

Alex Bearne will be stepping down as Head of Flood Risk & Hydrology to start a personal agriwilding project with his partner, Katie, on land they have recently acquired in Dartmoor.

Whilst his role will change, Alex will absolutely remain a key part of the Calibro team – helping to deliver projects and keeping the reigns tight while we search for his replacement. We couldn’t be more pleased to support Alex and Katie in their journey (even in some small way) by adapting our structure to suit.

Of the news, Managing Director, Stuart Choak said:

“I look on with envy at the plans that Alex and Katie are putting into place. They are immensely exciting, and Alex has always shown his passion for people, places and wildlife. They are an inspirational couple, and I am really pleased to have been able to work with Alex to provide the work/life balance he was looking for.

Although Alex will remain an important part of our business, I would just like to take the opportunity to thank him for his hard work setting the cultural and technical foundations for the team, which was only established two years ago, at the very start of the pandemic.”

How will we go on, you ask?

Though we will miss having Alex at the helm, our commitment to our Flood Risk & Hydrology team is stronger than ever. We are continually inspired by their expertise and passion for their work. And the recent addition of Patrick Goodey, who led the Bristol City Council’s flood risk team, demonstrates the breadth of experience the team now offers.

A word from Alex: swapping spreadsheets for the shovel

Katie and I have been talking about becoming stewards of some land for over a decade. It seems strange to say we ‘own’ it. By improving biodiversity, growing enough food to share with others, and fostering a communal connection to the land, we hope to develop a deep relationship with it – almost a partnership.

It will essentially be a Permaculture project which is based on three principles:

  • Earth Care
  • People Care
  • Fair Share

Permaculture is essentially a design philosophy that involves observing and replicating natural systems to create self-sustaining cycles.

We’ll be guided by the land – taking a year for observation before any big undertakings. What plants and wildlife reside there or pass through? How does sun, soil, wind exposure and moisture vary through the seasons? Ultimately, we want to work with nature – not fight against it.

The term ‘Agriwilding’ was coined by Rebecca Hoskins and Tim Horton. Their principles really resonated with us, and we hope to follow them. This will involve elements of agriculture, rewilding and research.

A question we get asked a lot is – where do you start?

And the simplest answer is: ‘Bees and Trees’.

The site is exposed to cold northerly winds off Dartmoor as well as the prevailing winds from the southwest. To push that wind over our land, we intend to plant natural boundaries which will also enhance biodiversity and provide a plentiful supply of nectar for bee foraging. (Katie is studying to be a master beekeeper, and I’m a dab hand at brewing, so we hope to produce mead one day!)

Our field adjoins some ancient oak woodland that we’d like to protect and expand, so we’ll be planting native broadleaf there. We’ll leave a portion of it to grow wild, but we expect to manage some of it as short rotation coppice (actually a vital and declining habitat) to produce materials.

We expect to dedicate the lowest, most sheltered field to food production. Most likely a mixture of forest garden (a designed woodland edge ecosystem where each niche is occupied by selected species), some traditional orchard with room for grazing (a land use that has almost disappeared from Dartmoor National Park), lots of soft fruits and some space for annual vegetables.

We also intend to establish a wildflower meadow (another treat for the bees, as well as an excuse to use a scythe for me). And throughout the land we’ll create ponds and other wild areas.

For the time being, we’ll have our neighbour’s animals graze where necessary, but a few years down the line we’ll probably have our own livestock. My research shows that the ideal agricultural system would mimic a healthy ecosystem, which means diverse polycultures – including animals!

I guess my days as a vegetarian are numbered.

I’ll leave you with a much-cited quote from Bill Mollison – one of the founders of the permaculture movement.

“You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency!”