23 Mar 2010

Plantation House Ecotourism Site – A Brief History and March 2010 Update

In early 1987, my father Japheth L. Walton, Cert. Hons., began farming the land on which the Plantation House Ecotourism Site is now located. Prior to this the site was a maiden plum forest with 4 mango trees (2 Cayman Long and 2 Cayman Round). There was also a massive bee-hive in one of the Cayman Round mango trees. This hive was burnt by back-hoe driver and my school mate, Leonard Yates, because each time he started the machine to dig a cistern hole the bees would swarm him. Luckily the bees moved to another of the mango trees and remain there until this day. They have become a vital part of the success of many of my fruit crops, most notably passion fruit, as they help with pollination.

Daddy tended traditional ground provisions including cassava, yam, sweet potatoes, pumpkin (calabaza), and banana suckers. He also planted the very first fruit trees on the site, including the “Grandpa Nell” Naseberry (sapodilla) and “Cayman Brac Soursop” which both remain productive to this day. My father suffered many setbacks, including the destruction of his crops by roaming cattle, wild parrots and most notably, drought, as there was no irrigation system on the site during the earlier years and he had to hand-water all of his crops.

The main house was completed in 1992 and my family moved in during June of that year, Daddy and Mummy having moved back to Cayman Brac a couple years earlier. After more than 3 years of de-stumping the land and trucking in top soil I started to develop a fruit, nut and spice collection in 1995 and some of the trees still standing on the site are from those earlier years. Over the years several hurricanes inflicted some damage on the vegetation but Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 devastated most of the trees from my early collection, some of which are not replaceable due to the current heightened restrictions on legal plant importation into the Cayman Islands.

During the re-development of the house and orchard after Ivan I added a plant nursery to hold the excess trees left over from the re-planting of the site.  This also gave me another opportunity to re-plan the site and to move and re-plant trees in natural groupings based on their families and geographic origins.

Vegetable production began in earnest in August 2007 with the opening of the weekly farmers/artisans market at “The Market at The Grounds” and with heightened interest from restaurants in locally-grown produce. The shade-house area was once a Futsal field and the various stonewalls were built during 2008-2009 by Lloyd Beckford. My grandfather Linell Walton (Grandpa Nell) was a stonemason and I developed a love for his dry-packed walls from a very young age. The ponds, reflection pool, waterfall and stream were developed during 2007-2009 to help create a diverse environment to attract wildlife, to rear tilapia, and to provide a platform to support a planned hydro-phonics project. 

The second floor porches on the main house (previously unused rooftops), the back terraces, gazebo, decks and outdoor kitchen (in addition to a Caboose built in 1995) were added during 2008-09 to provide additional seating and new entertaining areas.  The Garden and Coffee Shop and additional restrooms will be completed by November 2010 by converting a part of the house.  These will form part of the opening of Phase 2 in November 2011 along with the completed waterfall, stream and pond and its attached hydro-phonics planting area.

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