After working as a long-term volunteer for The Centre for Alternative Technology, Paul Barney started up Dyfi Landscapes in an attempt to create work in the Machynlleth area. He had been inspired by courses in Permaculture as well as his own research at Aberystwyth University looking at organic farming systems. The gardens at CAT had also been an inspiration. Dyfi Landscapes initially took on any work that was offered but soon found niches in garden design and forestry. A good deal of time was spent tree planting and dry-stone walling. A garden in Abercegir, (5 miles outside Machynlleth) offered him his first large design. The garden was very exposed to winds from the sea, so the planting design was aimed primarily at providing shelter. Fast growing nurse species like Alnus cordata and Alnus incana were used to be thinned out later. Opportunities for edible planting were frequent and included an orchard and nut avenue. Amelanchiers proved to thrive in the exposed position, providing spring blossom, edible berries and autumn colour. The garden still thrives today. Another garden in Pennal at Coppins, provided Paul with a chance to integrate water and architecture into his schemes. The pond proving very successful here, fed by diverting a natural stream through the garden rather than being lost in a culverted drainage ditch.
Paul's desire to design got him a sponsored place at Sheffield University to undertake a Masters degree in Landscape design. He kept Dyfi Landscapes going through his training as well as teaching plant identification to his fellow students. The two years at Sheffield enabled Paul develop a number areas including his knowledge in edible landscaping and also ecological sewage treatment systems.
All this time lying in Berkshire had been a Victorian Walled Garden, now overgrown and derelict. The garden had been last cultivated in 1984 when organic vegetables had been grown here, with the aid of a small polytunnel. Following the completion of his Masters degree, Paul returned to Berkshire to set up his new landscape design practice and aimed to develop a new nursery specialising in edible plants. The design practice took off and for the first few years Paul was too busy to develop the nursery but gradually after some planning hiccups, the first polytunnels were erected and hard standing was laid down.