A Country Estate’s Adventures in Permaculture
If Stonehenge is the heart chakra of the Earth, and the Midlands the UK’s logistical crossroads, then Stanford Hall is a likely spot to take a collective journey from head to heart. The river Avon passes right through this estate on its journey to Stonehenge.
This is an estate of many things: of pioneering men, of aviation, of hydroelectricity and thinking, thinking, thinking. So close to the historic site of the enclosure riots, where our ancestors fought for our right to common land, and lost. So entrenched in the history of bloodshed; blood that was spilled so that the land could be taken from the privileged and divided amongst just a few more privileged men. The birth place of what went wrong may well be the place where agriculture began, but here is the historical epicentre of disenchantment for the common man. So what about the dawning of the age of the heart!?
It’s here, amongst the mandala of ancient oak avenues. It’s here, within the ring of whirling wind turbines. It’s here, flying the flag of permaculture; of Earth care, people care and fair share.
There has been a lot of talk of the community supported agriculture – and yes, it’s a big deal! Feeding our next generation with nutrient dense, biodynamic vegetables is worth shouting about. Giving our school children the opportunity to join in with their food production, and to learn about sustainable agriculture is a ground-breaking way of supplying the school canteen. But what of the rest of the estate. There’s 1000 acres of it out there.
Having spoken through the brimming possibilities with Nick and Lucy – the current custodians of the estate – it’s easy to see that their recent immersion in a permaculture design course has sent them home full of ambition, direction and the bolstered sense of responsibility that newfound knowledge imbues.
Being a site of special scientific interest brings restrictions, but for species as rare as those found here, the added level of care seems little bother. With the guidance of Natural England and that of the principles of permaculture, it is clear that the whole estate can offer sustainable output without compromising any living being.
The estate already boasts some of the most sustainable solutions, with Captain Compost gathering the festival food waste before hot composting it to feed next years festival goers. The educational gardens, with their huglekultur, no dig heirloom vegetable trial beds and accelerated composting systems. The vital work of LifeBEAT, introducing inner city youth to the ways of the land and to their inner selves. The pioneering water powered electrical generator that’s being developed right here on the estate. All of this going on and you can be sure it’s well protected for its wildlife inhabitants too.
On a recent walk through the woodlands Nick spoke of charcoal production, coppicing, tiny homes, agroforestry, habitat improvement, and new spaces for leisure. They’re pipe dreams, but having seen what’s already been achieved we know the pipe flows strong. You can’t help but get the feeling that with the right people passing through there’s a whole lot more the estate is destined to become.
Ultimately it’s our connection to the land that determines our sanity and wellbeing. We are born of this soil; I don’t mean that in some biblical sense, or some historical sense. I mean that right now, in present time, the very fabric of your body is evolved up through the life forms of the soil. As is so in physicality, the same goes energetically and emotionally. Biodynamics is the invitation to heal soil, body and soul. We may try to distance ourselves from the obvious but unfathomably complex truth of our creation, yet we and the soil are inseparable. When we feel lost and far from home, it is this truth of the soil that we long for, it is this journey that an invitation back to the land offers.
Here, that offering is clear. The facilities are built; a chain of yurts strung like pearls along the river’s edge. The curvy compost loos with views, and hot showers for all. There’s the Stables cafe and a dining room fit to feed an army. The estate even boasts a caravan site with power, water and a shop full of supplies. Here the journey may begin for all who wish to take it.
A snowflake has been ambling down the slope here for some years. Now I hear the creaking pressure of a sizeable snowball. And as it rolls, it picks up another curious soul. A man at a crossroads, a student looking for a better way, a women with a kindling idea, a guy left disenchanted and looking for connection. I hope to see them all passing through, leaving their mark, with a 1000 acres of sanity in their hearts.
Find out more at www.StanfordHallCSA.co.uk