I purchased Bracken House, Selston after being fortunate to win a share of the jackpot on the National Lottery. I bought the house in September 2008 and we moved in on October 22nd 2008. It was the first house we looked at - 'we' being my wife Sandra and me, Alan. Prior to the win, we lived in a mid-terraced house on Garden Road, Eastwood with our two sons Jamie and Luke. So, it was a big move from a small garden to the six acres we now own.
This web site, however, is not about us, and not about what we get up to in our private lives, it's about what goes on around Bracken House. The weather, the wildlife and the forna are all featured in this online documentary about our small part of the county of Nottinghamshire. Using my digital camera and my own words, I hope to present a record of our efforts to improve this little piece of England.
Where is Selston Common?
Selston Common is situated at the end of Portland Road, at its junction with Annesley Lane. As well as Bracken House and its Grasslands, Millington Springs Nursing Home is also situated on the Common. Behind the nursing home is an area of public open space, known as 'The Hills', which does not have any facilities on it and is great for walking the dog or just taking in the fresh air.
This Google satellite image shows the extent of the Grasslands. The large building half way along Portland Road is the nursing home. Bracken House is just below the home, opposite Sherwood Way. When this image was taken in April 2007, Bracken House was still under going building work and a lot of the buildings around the house have been demolished. The footpaths on the open space behind the nursing home can clearly be seen.
A small stream runs through the land and its path can be traced by the line of bushes and trees at the Annesley Lane end of the land. A man made pond can also be found in the hollow near to the stream.
The whole of Selston Common Grasslands has been designated as a site of importance for nature conservation (SINC) and as such, needs to be protected. It is my aim to maintain the land in its natural state, restricting any building work to the area in the immediate vicinity of the house.
What about Bracken House?
The house, and the land, are 485 feet above sea level and look out over the Erewash Valley to Jacksdale, Westwood, Ironville, Codnor, Ripley and beyond. The house itself is protected from the cold northerly winds by tall hedgerows and bracken, from which the house gets its name. There is an abundance of bird life in the hedgerows, including blue tits, long tailed tits, blackbirds, thrushes, sparrows, pigeons and magpies. We have also witnessed sparrowhawks, kestrels and herons, which regularly visit the large pond near the house to feast on frogs and toads. The pond also attracts mallards and moorhens, a pair of which successfully raised seven chicks in 2015. The land has the luxury of full sun all day, and we often have spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
There are five stables to the rear of the property, making this a perfect home for horses, ponies or donkeys. We have two shetland ponies, Billy and Tommy, which enjoy the grazing in the meadows, along with my niece's aged pony Tony, who is spending his retirement here. Previous owners have kept chickens on the land and we have a chicken coop which is a welcome addition.
In 2010, the gardens surrounding the house were landscaped and a wildflower meadow, orchard, pond and raised vegetable beds were created. A paddock was also built around the stables and a new drive laid. The three fields surrounding the house can now be sympathetically maintained to protect any rare species.
With six acres to play with, we have the luxury of being able to do more or less what we want on the land. Without any time constraints, the development of Bracken House and the Grasslands can be a long term project to be undertaken at leisure.
More about the town of Selston
Selston is a hilltop town and civil parish in the District of Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, England. Selston was mentioned in the Doomsday survey of 1097. It is a large ex-colliery and industrialised village, which used to be home to textile factories and light engineering works. Its raised position over the Erewash Valley ensures good views over the surrounding countryside.
At the time of the 2001 census it had a population of 12,208. Selston is bounded by Underwood to the South, Annesley to the East, and the Derbyshire border to the West. The parish of Selston is the biggest in the country and includes Jacksdale, Underwood and Westwood.
St Helen's Church dates back to 1150 AD although the exterior of the church was altered by restoration and enlargement in 1899. An older Saxon church is thought to have occupied the site, and there is a monolith in the church yard, which may have been of ceremonial importance for pre-Christian pagans. St. Helen's Church is home to the alabaster monument to William Willoughby and his wife Elizabeth.
In the church yard is the resting place and headstone in memory of the King of Gypsies, Dan Boswell. The font in the church is a Norman font, and was taken during the Reformation and was returned to the Bull and Butcher public house and was then used as a garden ornament, before being returned to the church at the beginning of the last century.
The Horse and Jockey pub is one of the oldest public houses in the country, established in 1664. It has the reputation of being the oldest pub in the parish and the 13th oldest in the country.
The last trace of the Holland Family, responsible for the building of Matthew Holland School in Selston, was removed when David Holland, great grandson of Matthew, sold his greengrocer's shop. It was demolished in 2005.