West Town Farm is host to Organic Arts, an organisation that attracts artists and community groups for miles around to come and work and learn together.
I last visited one wet and wintry day back in November. (You will find the post here.) On Sunday, I walked once again around the farm with a small group of artists, this time led by Andy, whose family has run the farm for generations.
It was the height of Spring – not a breath of wind – a soft blue sky and a few fleecy clouds – a myriad shades of fresh green all around, birds shouting, and everything bursting into leaf and blossom.This is the way to really know a place. It is lovely to wander alone and absorb: to develop one’s own awareness and point of view – but to be taken around by someone whose life is intimately bound up with the place, and who can point out details of history, landscape and wildlife, and the way they all affect each other – this is wonderful!
We wandered up the disused sunken rail track, rich with plants and trees and signs of animal life – badger had thrown up great mounds of fine reddish sand around their setts: very useful to us humans for occasional building.
We looked across sunlit green hills and valleys, and noted the spring below us feeding a natural aquifer which led to a reservoir miles away on the horizon. Apparently at one time this reservoir supplied 16 farmsteads in the region.
We paused at the old quarry and the stone outcrop breaking through the red clay– and paused again to see the distinct line in the bank where the red clay turns into the grey Tedburn shillet. There was no hurry.
Groups of cattle followed us hopefully, as we passed through steep sided green fields, and I was quietly thrilled to be able to scratch the back of a bull named Noddy.
I gazed at the sunlight shining into glossy buttercups and celandines, and was dazzled by the array of wildflowers and butterflies everywhere I looked. Trees all around seemed to have suddenly burst into blossom and fresh green leaf – everything was bright and humming.
In the fields near the woods on the other side of the stream, we saw where Andy is in process of re-planting a traditional mixed hedge exactly where his father had been obliged to destroy the original during WW2. And we saw where areas of woodland, also destroyed by others in the past, are being restored and managed for the benefit of wildlife and all of us.
Back at the farm, sitting in the sunshine enjoying Christine’s delicious soup, we felt like millionaires.