There is something in the air at Trill. Setting up my inaugural Wild Words retreat, I sat down to write a little incantation to the benevolent spirit I feel here:


Time drips from the trees here,

There are wellies that grow on walls,

Acorns burrowed out of sight.

The air is thick with history, and woodsmoke.

Trees that seeded

before my father's balls had even dropped,

now incandescent and aflame,

winging their way into the bird-filled imperium.


May I listen and learn here.

Let the rain refill my well,

The fire warm my stony hearth,

The food add a bass note that reverberates

at frequencies beyond the ear.


So it begins. Again and again,

we begin again.


The words came quite easily, almost unbidden. And that's how it was all weekend. Words just tumbled out of the participants, some mots juste, some just words, but all worth attending to.


I can't take any credit for this. I've always felt the best writing is as much to do with letting go of the ego in order to let the world speak through you. And there's certainly something about Trill that disarms the ego.


I say that because it feels like a wholly open, unassuming, inclusive place to me. As a working farm, it has all the requisite rugged, livestock-rearing, manure-spreading qualities you could hope for. But everywhere you look, there are little reminders that this is not farm-as-machine, it's farm-as-social microcosm.


The young wwoofers, for example, who bring an air of youthful idealism and energy to the place. Or the chef Chris, who is as likely to tell you about his plans to teach natural cookery skills to the unemployed and under-privileged as what his latest culinary concoction might be. His food, by the way, is a brilliant introduction to Trill - at once utterly earthy and unpretentious, yet full of delicate touches and imaginative combinations.


That mix of mundanity and magic - earth and heaven - is quintessential Trill. The day my course began, there was a group from Schumacher College visiting. We shared generous plates of Chris's beetroot and lentil salad, with roasted Jerusalem artichoke and borlotti beans, and talked about their hopes and fears for the future. Their sense of possibility and purposeful pragmatism was palpable. These young people are not going to be caught napping by the unexpected. I suspect they might very well take it by surprise themselves.


All of these qualities make Trill the ideal place to host a writing retreat. Certainly it seemed to bring out the best in all of us. We all wrote, listened and thought hard. Everyone gave most generously to each other, sharing insight and encouragement, and a lot of laughter. And by the end of it, two participants had crystallised ideas for books that I sincerely hope they go on to write. If they do, I have a strong suspicion they'll possess that Trill fusion of mundanity and magic, the everyday and the eternal.