A visit to West Town Farm, near Exeter – where I am hoping to make work next summer. It is an organic farm, and hosts a flourishing environmentally-conscious arts organisation: ‘Organic Arts’ which attracts people from miles around to come and participate in joyful creative activity.
It was wet, windy and cold when we set out to walk around the farm. We walked at a leisurely pace – through green hills and red wet, mud. The scent of animals by the farm buildings soon gave way to cold air in the nostrils, cold hands, cold ears and wind roaring.
We walked the old sunken railway line – steep red banks, covered with badger and rabbit holes – thick foliage, and dense woodland almost meeting overhead, on either side. It was dark, mysterious, sheltered. There were remains of other people’s activity – a spooky suspended sculpture – half spider, half chandelier hung from the arch of the old stone bridge; a huge boulder almost blocking our way, covered with myriad different types of moss, fungi and ferns. This had been brought there by an artist to carve – but on seeing the rich ecology living on the rock, he could not bring himself to make a start.
Across some wide open fields, through some sheltered places with light tree cover, and out across further steeply-sloping green fields. Those cows surely have two legs shorter than the others – otherwise, how do they stand up straight?
The dry rustling of the last autumn leaves and the feel of wet mud and grass underfoot.
Coming up from the disused quarry, we left the shelter of the trees and suddenly got the full blast again of the wind. Trees thrashed wildly; there was a heavy rain shower – then a rainbow, as we came out on to another green field, sloping downwards into the valley. Down into the flat valley and the racing brook – noting on the way the geological dividing line between rich fertile red clay on top of the grey culm shale.
On the other side of the valley we climbed up into the steep-sided woodland. Some of the woodland is being left unmanaged to provide habitat for the large and diverse bird population.
There was a feeling of camaraderie as we settled down for lunch back at the farm. A feeling that comes about through eating together out of doors with the faint sweet scent of hay and animals all around: eating hot home-made soup and chunks of bread, whilst the rain and wind ravaged overhead. Never mind that the leaky roof occasionally let water pour down into one’s cup of tea. That just made it more, somehow, real. And as we dispersed as if by an unspoken signal, I knew I was unlikely to meet many of these people ever again.