A guest post from Liz Cruze:
Everywhere we look it seems there is bad news about the environment and our countryside. As druids who love the land it is easy to despair. But sometimes we find hope.
Last week I was privileged to visit Sheepdrove Organic Farm on the Berkshire Downs near Lambourn. My reason for going was to check it out as the venue for the forthcoming Mount Haemus Lectures on 3rd September. I had been told that it would be in keeping with OBOD values, but I was unprepared for the beauty and imagination with which the place has been created. The eco-friendly green conference centre is made of wood – the lecture hall of oak. It gives off that rich scent that makes you feel nourished. The foyer is decorated with calligraphy, painted on the walls and carved in stone, and has a mural showing the process of organic farming.
After I had carried out the practical aspects of my visit, I sat for a while in one of the meadows and was shortly joined by some young and fit-looking cattle (South Devons and Aberdeen Angus).They strolled in the dappled shade of trees and drank from a tank into which water bubbled noisily. Flying insects darted through the air. It was as if they wove some unseen, diaphanous textile.The cows regarded me with a mixture of caution and curiosity. Wandering back through the physic garden to the car park, I glanced up to see the sky full of swallows.
Sheepdrove, owned by the Kindersley family, has 2,250 acres under organic cultivation. The farm has herbal leys (which you may have heard about if you listen to The Archers on BBC Radio 4), a barn owl conservation project and much else besides. The multitude of swallows, and the insects, made a marked contrast to the intensively farmed landscape where I live.This year I can count the swallows I have seen on the fingers of one hand and the arable fields have soil that is like dust with few insects in evidence. If only more farmers would adopt organic methods: “to work in partnership with nature rather than battling against it” as the Sheepdrove information leaflet has it.
If you have a ticket for The Mt Haemus Gathering this September you will have the delight, not only of hearing the lectures but also of experiencing a place of hope that our future does not have to be one of impoverishing the land. A place that demonstrates the Druidic instinct that our welfare lies in the good of all beings. If you don’t yet have a ticket and would like one, they can be purchased here.