Leaving Trill Farm

1 Oct 2020 | 0 comments

Dear friends,

I'm leaving Trill Farm in a couple of weeks’ time, although really, I'm taking Trill Farm with me.

There is perhaps a philosophical dilemma about whether you truly leave things behind or whether you take with you what you have created. I think I tend to go with the latter. I think the world is of our own making.

My working life started off in school teaching. An act of fate led me to work for six years in a progressive 'free' school. The philosophy of the school was to encourage the children to learn through their own interests. The skill of the teacher was to provide the opportunities and the means for them to do this. The school was run by the children, the parents and the teachers. It was an exciting place to implement ideals and lay foundations for the future.

Fundamental to this type of education was helping the children to understand and appreciate their responsibility for their own actions. I'm talking about this now because as I am packing up to leave Trill Farm, four decades later, I feel that there is a thread from working at the school, setting up Neal's Yard Remedies and most recently Trill Farm. I wanted Trill Farm to become a model, using the farm's resources to produce food. Good food, to me, is essential for good health. And good health leads to sense of wellbeing.

I don't know if leaving Trill Farm will, in hindsight, be the biggest mistake I've made. But for the last 18 months, I have tried very hard to handle my diminishing energy (post-heart surgery) and the loss of my partner, Godfrey. With those personal difficulties in the background, I have struggled to take Trill Farm into another new phase of its life. 

Trill Farm has been an exploration into doing things differently. An adventure into farming, community and education. It has been an experiment in weaving those three areas together. 

By the end of my first 18 months here, I recognised that I did not have the skills, energy or knowledge to do it all myself. Trill Farm became a brilliant opportunity to bring together idealists, creatives and activists in the world of farming, food and education.

Ash and Kate were the first people that I invited in, to take over the small vegetable growing enterprise that I had set up as Trill Farm Garden. Jake Hancock and his wife Chrissy then arrived to take over my herd of Red Devons and develop the organic conservation farming, which more recently has been taken over by Harry Boglione.

Daphne Lambert and I created the Trill Farm kitchen. This was designed to be a teaching kitchen that was able to bring together all the foods that were produced on the farm by the different people based here. Daphne moved on to run her charity, the Green Cuisine Trust and I invited Chris Onions to use the space to establish the Old Dairy Kitchen. Ash, Kate, Chris and Anna will all continue to live and run their businesses at Trill Farm.

I want to create products responsibly, ethically, and sustainably, but not just for people who are privileged enough to spend enough money to buy them. These products should be available to anybody who chooses quality above a mass produced industrial product that embodies hidden costs. But we need help to learn what to value.

By electing governments that do not prioritise the true welfare and wellbeing of their voters, a small artisanal project like Trill Farm taking responsibility for its people, products and the environment, cannot possibly compete with the global industrialised manufacturers that then get distributed by operations like Tesco and Amazon.

Somehow, we need to shift our values. And we can. We can value the small, responsible manufacturers. I'm looking forward to writing about this over the coming year, because I find it so fascinating that there is this core dilemma. We all, since the Covid experience, are understanding so much more about what is of value in our lives. 

Despite spending the last 18 months looking for partners to take on Trill Farm as a joint project, with core values around education, society and agriculture, I don't think I was able to come up with the right model. Although what I take away from Trill Farm, is the knowledge that it can work, if you get the model right, and of course with the right people.

Living at Trill Farm has been an extraordinary adventure into ideas and community and over the past 14 years, I have met brilliant people who have been truly supportive and inspiring. This is really a big thank you to all of you, but is also an invitation to join us for the next chapter. 

Tamsin and Lara, who have been with me on this journey from the beginning, and I, are going to take the name, energy and ideas of Trill Farm. We have lots of exciting ideas for the future and the land that we are retaining at Trinity Beacon, around our core values of nature, health and education. We'll be developing these ideas over the winter, with your help, and we look forward to keeping in touch.

If you are not already signed up to our mailing list, you can do so here.

Best wishes,

Creative Writing Retreat - now also offered online

2 Aug 2020 | 0 comments The past few months in and coming out of lockdown have had an impact on all of our lives, ambitions, and plans for the future. For some, time, space and stillness have been a relief and an opportunity to step back, reflect and create. For others, life has become more difficult to navigate, with no opportunity to rest whilst facing stressful uncertainty.
 
There are lots of questions that hover over the near and distant future in terms of travel, social connection and how communities interact. But we all need resilience, community and playfulness to cope in the long term. 

Making space for creativity at home
We know that developing creative practice and time in nature can be a valuable way to process thoughts, feelings and experiences, if we can find the time and space to nurture and reflect.
 
As a creative solution to some of these uncertainties, and to make sure that no one misses out, we have developed a new online version of our Creative Writing Retreat to run alongside the usual course running 14th-18th October, for £350.

What will the online retreat include?
The escape from normal life, time to wander the fields and woodlands and opportunity to take nourishment from the landscape, community and gentleness at the farm are a huge part of our retreats, but travel may not be an option for some by the autumn.
 
If you join our online course we are offering tips to help you to create your own retreat sanctuary at home, sending out goodie bags and reading lists to bring a little of Trill Farm's magic into your space. The online course will also include audio and visual recordings of nature walks on the farm to take inspiration from and sink into, particularly if you do not have access to a garden or wild space.
 
You will be invited to join daily workshops and readings with Sarah, Wyl and the other retreat participants via Zoom, and you will be asked to put time aside in the afternoons for your writing, walking and reading, together with a one to one mentor slot with both tutors to support and help develop your writing and practice.

Can I still join in person?
We are still taking bookings for all places. If, nearer the time, you find that you would like to join us in person, there will be the opportunity to upgrade your ticket. The places remain limited whichever way you choose to join us, as we have found that small learning groups work best for the retreat, so any ticket option guarantees you one of the eight places.
 
About the tutors:
 
Sarah Acton - Retreat Leader
Sarah is a landscape writer, poet, and creative facilitator who works with individuals and organisations throughout Devon and Dorset as Black Ven Poetry. Sarah is frequently commissioned by the Jurassic Coast Trust, Dorset AONB, Stepping into Nature, Alzheimer’s Memory Cafes, schools, museums and libraries to lead and develop social engagement projects connecting creativity and nature through poetry and writing/creative practice. Sarah’s writing has been widely published in magazines and in two poetry pamphlets.

Wyl Menmuir - Guest Tutor
Wyl is a novelist, editor and literary consultant based in Cornwall. His first novel, The Many, was nominated for the Man-Booker Prize and was an Observer Best Fiction of the Year pick. His short fiction has appeared in Best British Short Stories, Elementum Journal, Pipeline and has been published by Nightjar Press and National Trust. He has written for Radio 4’s Open Book, The Guardian and The Observer, and is a regular contributor to the journal Elementum.

Grey Long Eared Bats - Back from the Brink

1 Aug 2020 | 0 comments

 

Last week, Craig Dunton from the Bat Conservation Trust returned to Trill Farm for the annual survey of Grey Long Eared Bats. There are estimated to be only 1000 of these special bats left in the UK, and only 8 known maternity roosts. The Manor Barn at Trill Farm is one of them, providing a safe home for the bats and their young to roost and surrounded by wildflower meadows and hedgerows for them to hunt for insects in.

 

Grey Long Eared Bats are one of 20 British species being saved from extinction by the Heritage Lottery funded, nationwide and multi-organisational, Back from the Brink project. Last year, the project came to film the annual survey, and captured what we think is the first footage of Grey Long Eared Bats in the UK.

 

Take a look at the video and learn more about the bats and the Back from the Brink project below.

 

 

With thanks for Craig Dunton and the Bat Conservation Trust for their support with bat conservation at Trill Farm, Neil Aldridge for his excellent photography, and Sophie Pavelle for explaining what makes Trill Farm and the bats so special.

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