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Regenerative Landscape Design: Conceptual Design for an 80 Hectare Site

Paul Alfrey from theBalkan Ecology Project takes land management to the next level by producing nutritious affordable food, dignified jobs and enhanced biodiversity.

This spring I was asked to develop a conceptual design for Catherine Zanev and Adjmal Dulloo for a fantastic piece of land on the north side of the Balkan mountains. My goal was to analyse the site and identify the potential of the land for future regenerative development.

I’ve been working with Catherine and Adjmal since 2013 on various sites across Bulgaria, and last year we completed the design of a 5-hectare polyculture orchard (Suhi Dol) that is now coming to life with the help of project manager Petar Mateev and the team.

Suhi Dol - Illustration of the design at maturity - the silvopasture stage. Image by
Suhi Dol – Illustration of the design at maturity – the silvopasture stage.
Image by
Suhi Dol - Todorovo - Photos taken of the first tree  plantings from this spring - the silvoarable stage.
Suhi Dol – Todorovo – Photos taken of the first tree
plantings from this spring – the silvoarable stage.

Catherine and Adjmal, along with other pioneer landowners within the regenerative movement, are working towards taking land management to the next level, producing nutritious affordable food, dignified jobs and enhanced biodiversity.

Bostan Bair - A view from one of the three hills on the site.  An 80 ha neglected plum orchard.
Bostan Bair – A view from one of the three hills on the site. An 80 ha neglected plum orchard.

Breakdown of how the conceptual design was developed

We started by ordering a digital terrain model (DTM) of the Bostan Bair site, supplied by Geodetect BG. I sent the DTM to Georgi Pavlov who extracted slope, aspect, elevation, water flow and topography data and exported these to layers onto google earth. This gave us a great visual overview of the land.

Following a visit to the site in February 2016 and further analysis of the DTM, we identified the site potential for water harvesting, located optimal locations for reservoirs/ponds and water tanks, and access routes across the landscape, all largely determined by the topography of the land.

This provided us with a landscape divided into a number of separate plots and each plot was further analysed and identified to be suitable for various cultivation practices.

The site showing access and water bodies.
The site showing access and water bodies.

The land was further divided into broad zones based on geographical features as illustrated below.


Regenerative Landscape Design - Bostan Bair.
Regenerative Landscape Design – Bostan Bair.

Broad site zones and potential design solutions within those zones

Below you can find each zone along with a list of some cultivation practices that are most suitable for use within them.




The wetland/semi-wetland zones are areas on the site where water naturally accumulates and are prone to periodical flooding. These areas are well suited to growing biomass for use in the market gardens and orchards, rearing fowl and growing wetland tree crops such as Salix spp. and Cornus sanguinea for basketry material, and growing semi-aquatic crops such as rice and watercress. The lowest points can be easily converted into wildlife ponds and can provide excellent beneficial habitat to support other cultures around the site.




The area has good access to the main road, receives high levels of light, is on a mild gradient and has relatively low irrigation energy requirements. The site is suitable for raised bed vegetable and herb production, grain/ fodder/hay production, rotational grazing, soft fruit production and a plant/crop nursery.

Undulating Highland



The undulating hillsides are well suited to a range of agroforestry practices including:

  • Silvopasture wherein high-value orchard polycultures are grown with animal grazing in between rows.
  • Silvoarable systems of orchard polycultures with cereals/fodder/biomass grown in between.

The dry and steeper areas in this region are dedicated to drought tolerant timber species under grazed by a succession of animals, and the wet low lying areas are dedicated to flood tolerant biomass and fodder trees. The northern hill has wonderful views lending itself well to accommodation for tenants, tourism or an education/visitor centre.

Steep land



This land is difficult to access and work on due to steep gradients. The steepest areas of the site can be planted with trees, shrubs and herbs that will provide a succession of nectar and pollen to bees and other pollinating invertebrates. This area is already naturally succeeding to woodland.

On the less steep hillsides, a variety of coppice trees can be planted. The coppice can provide material for the market garden and for fencing material across the site.



The boundaries of the site are already well established. The riparian buffer along the river side is in good condition and should be maintained as it is. The tracks on the northern boundary require some modifications in order to shed water and avoid runnels.

We’re looking forward to the future development of the site. This season the cleared areas of the site were used to grow Einkorn, an ancient form of wheat, and produced better than expected yields of this grain. This autumn we’ll be sowing a winter cover of Rye and Vetch in order to build fertility and soil organic matter. Planting of an organic cherry orchard is also planned on the site this fall.

Images by Georgi Pavlov –

More articles from Paul Alfrey and the Balkan Ecology Project

This article originally appears on the Balkan Ecology Project website, here.

Paul Alfrey

Hi I'm Paul, Originally from the UK I moved over to Bulgaria with my family 12 years ago and set up the Balkan Ecology Project. Prior to that, I worked as a freelance Arborist in the UK for 15 years. Balkan Ecology Project is a family project run by myself, Sophie and our two boys Dylan and Archie, and supported by the amazing volunteers we have hosted here over the years. We aim to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity and work to achieve this by: - Researching, designing and implementing systems on the ground - Providing working examples of our designs at our sites open for the public to visit - Providing quality education and training to aspiring growers and landscapers - Providing consultancy and design for landowners and farmers across Europe - Practicing an open source policy, whereby we disseminate our results freely and share all aspects of our work - Growing, selling and promoting the use of plants and plant communities that have high ecological and nutritional value Our activities currently include: Biological Plant Nursery, Educational Courses, Local Land Stewardship, Polyculture Research, Market Gardening​, and Consultancy and Design.


  1. Thanks for sharing this project – is like to see more how others go about designing productive properties and the process , type of drawings/ 3D models used to describe and explain the transition.
    Usually you can design 50+ years of work, as realising each interdependent link creates 2 more,
    Chow gary Dorn, permaculture designer-

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