Sanctuary Stewards: David & Lena Welker
We acquired the land that was to become Wildcroft Hollow Botanical Sanctuary in June of 2004. We had both been wishing and dreaming such a place for years. I was looking for a place to take care of, a place where I could build my home for myself, and the woman I love, a place where we would belong. Lena was looking for the same things ~ a garden, a cabin, and, I think, a man who could help her build those things. Shortly after closing on the land, we were married there. Wildcroft Hollow comprises 71 acres of Appalachian cove forest on the eastern side of Buffalo Ridge in Amherst, VA. After buying the land we made a deal with each other, and with the land itself, that we would spend a year only working on smaller projects and find out what the land needed, or wanted us to do. It has turned out to be a year well spent. We have identified every plant we have come across and have made lists of all of the plant life to be found in the hollow. We have kept lists of all of the fauna as well. To be sure, we have missed quite a few, and have yet to work on keying out many of the grasses, mosses, caterpillars, and a myriad of others. This will be a labor we will be working on for many years to come.
Wildcroft Hollow is indeed a magical place. We have six of the plants listed on the UpS “at risk” list that are indigenous here and nine on the “to watch” list. With so much biodiversity, our idea was to create a place where people could come to see these plants in their natural habitat, and so the idea of a “sanctuary” was born. We decided that we would “take over” about 3 acres of the property to create a cabin and gardens for ourselves, leaving the rest in its natural state except for adding small woodland gardens of native plants or deliberately selecting for a particular native species by pruning, or “weeding” or leaving it the hell alone. Wildcroft Hollow is presently open to groups by appointment. School groups, garden clubs, plant societies, and students of herbalism are all welcome. We have been working on clearing trails that crisscross the property and visit interesting plant biomes. We have more than five different springs, which create wet meadows. Dry hilltops, secluded hollows, lots of shade and some sunny areas are also places to visit.
We plan to offer guided tours. I have run a small outdoor school for about 10 years now. Blue Heron Outdoor School offers classes in Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants, Plant Identification, Cordage and Basketry, Tracking, Primitive Tool making, Fire making, Primitive Shelters and others. Wildcroft Hollow will be the base of those operations. Since Lena and I are in the middle of building our cabin and toolshed, we have taken some time off from teaching in order to get a roof over our heads. Once our building projects are under a bit more control we will start teaching again, sharing the beauty and bounty of this land.