Outdoor Heritage & Education

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

The origins of basket making are ancient. Although there is little archaeological evidence due to their organic nature, it would make sense that as soon as early humans started to make structures for shelter, vessels to hold, store, cook and carry with, mats and clothes, that they should utilise the readily available plant life around them.

Early humans would have held incredibly detailed mental maps of all the plants and trees growing in their landscape. Most cultures around the world used songs and art to ensure their families and friends knew where to find food, medicine, building materials and weaving materials. We can imagine families sitting together around a fire, sharing skills and knowledge; a vital element of survival.

In our present lives there are many children and adults who know little of the possibilities of the landscape we are all part of. We often find ourselves seeking short term, false gratifications, which seems to me an unfulfilling way to live our lives.

The more time that goes by and the more baskets, vessels, mats and art that Nick and I make from plant materials, and the more people we teach, certain truths and realisations come to settle in the mind.

Making objects by hand makes people feel good, particularly when they have harvested materials from the land themselves, processed them and turned them into a thing of purpose, beauty or both.

It uplifts the mind and heart, creates feelings of satisfaction and achievement, connects us with our ancestry and enables us to belong to a bigger global community.

We become part of the story of the human race on our planet. We tap into the immense global knowledge of skills and creativity which have brought us to where we are today. Sadly there are skills and knowledge that we were too slow to realise that we had lost, but we are surrounded by wonderful crafts people, artists, historians, archaeologists and anthropologists who have so much to teach us. We should all reach out with our hands and our hearts; honour our planet and our ancestors and take this knowledge forwards into our futures. We are sure to need them.

Mollie and Nick run the Field Farm Project in Hampshire, where they teach woodland crafts, field studies, farm life and horticulture. They are running basket weaving and bow making courses for us this summer and autumn.  

Trill Livestock in the Summer

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

I know I’m writing in the summer, but I’m going to use the opportunity as therapy about the trauma of the recent past. What a relief that the nightmare winter of 2017-18 is now firmly behind us. I think I and many other farmers would not be farming for long if we had too many winters like that in succession.

Our problems started last summer when a young bull we had purchased ran out of steam in the hot weather at the end of June. We purchased a second bull at short notice, “Plan B” we could call him, who turned out to be infertile, which meant we finally borrowed a 3rd bull “Plan C”!

This has meant that after our usual calving period in late March and early April (Plan A’s progeny), we have had to wait until now for Plan C’s progeny as I write at the beginning of June. Going from a very tight calving pattern to a very long one in the course of one season is somewhat frustrating.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the winter’s problems. After failing a TB test in January, two of our cows were taken away and slaughtered by Defra, including our favourite cow, Snowy. The TB also meant that we couldn’t move 45 yearling cattle from Trill to Turnworth Down for their summer grazing in March, leaving Trill heavily overstocked with cattle and running out of silage.

Next came the “Beast from the East” which froze the water supply, meaning that all our cattle had to be turned out to drink from the streams. The heavy clay soils of Trill Farm do not take well to cattle in the winter, and it was wetter than ever this year. I think all these problems have made it probably the worst winter we have witnessed, with some fields still looking muddy and sorry for themselves in March and into April.

As I write, it is green again and dry - I hate to complain, but too dry! There is still a fair bit of rolling and harrowing to do to repair the winter’s damage to some fields, tricky when the ground is baked hard like a rock, as it is now. So it is not all plain sailing and bucolic bliss for once, but as it is often said, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

Turning to more positive thoughts, we are now heading towards the summer solstice when the grassland flowers are at their best. Trill has a mixture of old pastures and more recently planted grasslands. In the best of these we can find a range of grassland herbs and flowers including common spotted orchid, birds foot trefoil (sometimes known as eggs and bacon for its appropriate full-english colours), black knapweed, the tall and recognisable oxeye daisy, black medick, pignut and the wonderfully named corky-fruited water dropwort to name but a few.

Even in our more recently planted pastures, you will find a mix of red and white clovers, plantain and chicory, so budding naturalists should keep their eyes peeled for these and the many invertebrates that enjoy them.

Jake runs his cattle and sheep at Trill to manage and support our wildflower meadows. Through his business, Wessex Conservation Grazing, he also keeps herds on National Trust land. Mariel and Romy are very grateful for his and Neil’s support caring for our small flock of Gotland sheep too!

Midsummer at Trill

6 Jun 2018 | 0 comments

The sun is at its highest in the sky. It’s the time of the greatest amount of light and energy from the sun. Our solar photovoltaic (PV) panels will be operating at their peak with all those extra daylight hours. The showers will be hot for longer in the camp site and the herbs will be growing more than at any other time. The meadows need cutting already -- we are just waiting for the seeds to fall.

Now there is more vitality than at any other time through the year. But life is not simple: we live in a complex universe where simultaneous influences are working together - and that is without factoring-in the impacts we make on our environment. In the summer don’t we also get the maximum amounts of plastic on our beaches, charcoal burnt on our BBQs and fuel used in our cars getting to their holiday destinations?

And what else is going on in the wider universe? At Trill we’ll soon be joined by Jude Currivan who is going to talk about exactly this. It’ll be a rare treat to hear her thoughts on cosmology, what is going on behind the scenes and how we can make a difference. Her talk is on July 27th and on the next day we are having our annual summer party.

So it’s time to celebrate! Please do join us for music, food and the summer stars. Get out the glasses and the pink sparkling rose and elderflower spritzers.

We have a brilliant band, Crannog, to enjoy, the meadows to relax in, delicious BBQ Trill lamb and Ash and Kate’s veggies.

The community of businesses here at Trill will be celebrating our beautiful farm joined by our friends and families - and hopefully you too. And please do stay the night. If there’s no room in the guest house, the camp site will be open for small groups for the one night. An amazing under the stars experience with an after party camp fire. Join us!

- Romy