Pause for Effect – Land Girls Review.
Guest Post by Deborah Tarrant:
During the First and Second World Wars women were called upon to take over the men’s duties working the land as well as other practical roles. These women were famously known as the Land Girls. Whilst their roles were born out of need the skills and confidence women built gave them the desire for more and earned them the respect to make this a reality for generations to follow….. So as I set off in the morning I wondered just what my Land Girl experience would entail.
After a short drive outside NW London off the Watford Road, I quickly found myself in the middle of beautiful countryside and all was revealed.
I arrived at Home Farm Glamping to the sight of a spacious bright green meadow with bell tents and yurts spread around the perimeter with a large open barn which I soon learnt was the central base for our community living for the next few days. Set within100 acres, Home Farm is the perfect location to pause and re-energise.
The tents set on raised platforms were clean, bright and airy with real double beds, some with additional day beds, and made up with white linen sheets, duvets and blankets. Unlike your basic camping tents, there were real chests of drawers, baskets for wet shoes by the door, rugs, lanterns, books and a sofa. Everything you’d expect from a hotel room: clean, comfy and classy.
My yurt was so inviting with a useful welcome pack and included a handwritten note welcoming my friend and me with these words on the back of the postcard:
There were hand drawn maps of the sites and surrounding countryside, an itinerary for our stay, a Pause journal to write out thoughts or sketch etc….. and ear plugs. I was wondering why we had them. I didn’t think there were roads close enough to disturb our sleep, I knew there was manual work involved but I wasn’t expecting a pneumatic drill or some such…
Greeted by Aimee, our host, already in her dungarees. We wasted no time getting into the swing of things, discarding our city outfits for our overalls. Not only did this get us into the mood, it brought us together with the others and was also a thoughtful way of not risking damaging any of our clothes. Like ‘Mr Ben’ (for those of you that recall the children’s programme where each time his outfit lead him to a new adventure) we walked in as city girls and walked out of our tents as land girls, ready and eager with anticipation of what we were to do and learn over the next few days.
We meet the rest of the party as they arrived in time for lunch in the barn.
We began with a brief tour of the facilities; the barn, shower cubicles, and the Indian marquee for our yoga and meditation practice. The well-equipped barn where we were to see healthy organic meals prepared, eat, take breaks and snacks, chat around the campfire. Most welcome were the two shower blocks with proper shower rooms, clean, light, well equipped and warm! Everyone had a box of supplies with everything we could need: plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, a torch, candles, matches and also a bottle opener in case we had indulged in BYOB and some marshmallows and sticks to roast on the campfire.
Our first lunch was several delicious salads and a soup made by Patricia from Organic Cookery. She demonstrated how we could make a healthy and useful broth as a base for soups and other dishes out of odds and ends of vegetables. We eat this sitting around the campfire chatting and getting to know our new companions.
The itinerary was clear and everything had been thought of and was well organised. Our days were spent……
- Building and preparing the vegetable garden
- Learning how to make useful objects out of discarded wood pallets including potting benches for the greenhouses and tables for the barn.
- Gathering and chopping the firewood and keeping the campfire burning
- Sewing and embroidering squares for the Land Girls Quilt
- Watching meal preparations
- Wandering, running or roaming freely around the woods, fields and local country parkland
- We also had a jigsaw on the go all the time….
Some of the other activities that would have been available if there had been more hours in the day include: changing tyres on vintage tractors, pottery, creative writing and journaling sessions.
Our first activity was to start to construct the vegetable garden in an area outside the barn. Different tasks were distributed amongst our willing group of ladies. Some of us laid out the raised bed areas, some moved the tons of soil from the trailer back in wheelbarrows to the beds, developing an increasingly more efficient system over time! And some cleaned the glass to put in the greenhouses.
Some of us set about some woodwork! We were shown how to make a potting bench! We broke up wood pallets, sawed the right size planks of wood, drilled holes, and screwed them together. Maybe the only non-authentic bit from the war years was our use of electric hammer screwdrivers, we were pleased about that though. And we learnt very useful skills our DIY.
The half-made bench before we stopped for a rest and a snack – which was more like a lunch.
Homemade hummus and beetroot dips, simple apple slices with the most delicious nut a cacao dip and seed snack balls.
Back to work for the rest of afternoon…. We proudly display our finished article.
After all our hard work we were hungry for our dinner. So after some down time, we gathered around the table for another delicious meal.
All of the food during the 3 days was superb. Supplied by different cooks they catered for all food requirements and preferences with vegan, vegetarian and gluten free provided mainly with options where needed. Despite the healthy and light nature of the food, there were copious amounts so no fear of going hungry. We know what fresh air and manual work does to the appetite. No need to worry there as there was a ready supply of fruit, nuts, dates, figs, biscuits, drinks hot and cold.
After our dusk Yin yoga session, where we stretched out our muscles and relaxed our bodies and minds after the day, we spent the rest of the evening chatting, roasting marshmallows around the fire, when the ghost stories started some disappeared to their tents and others joined the meditation session to prepare us for sleep. Apart from being rather cold, it was a perfect end to an enlightening and rewarding day.
That night I found out why we had been given earplugs…for the wildlife! The owls hooting through the night and the birdsong started early in the morning. It didn’t bother me though, it was soothing hearing the owls and it was lovely to wake naturally to the sun rising and the birds greeting the morning.
Instead of donning our overalls right away we started the day with morning yoga with @jessicaleonardhull. This was a more active session and got us warmed up in spite of the freshness of the morning air and ready for the day.
Jean Luc from Sainlo Events prepared our breakfast with the best granola I have ever tasted served in individual glasses of berries and yoghurt.
Pancakes, including wheat free ones, and a homemade chocolate sauce were divine. This set us up for our morning’s work ahead.
After more work on the land and constructing benches and tables we were proud of our efforts and were rewarded with wonderful lunch hampers with quiches, salads and the most enormous slabs of chocolate brownies I’ve ever seen. Mine lasted another 2 days after taking it home!
The afternoon was spent more quietly and creatively learning how to ‘make do and mend’ as our war time sisters would have done. Helen from Stitch my Style taught us how to quilt. And so began the land girls ‘pause’ quilt …to be completed over the summer with every land girl leaving her mark.
The day concluded with another session of dusk yoga in the Indian marquee, followed by a hearty meal of sweet potato with veggie chilli.
On our last morning, we had a surprise. We were to help Jess, the owner of Home Farm Glamping, fulfil her dream to keep bees.
We had a demonstration on building a bee hive and then we had a go ourselves.
It was relatively simple and so satisfying to see the finished hive and to know we were helping create a little piece of magic…and all that yummy honey in the future.
All too soon it was time for us to pack up our things and enjoy our last meal of sizzling sausages around the fire and say goodbye to our new friends.
During our short time at the farm, we had done so many things and even constructed a complete vegetable garden ready to be planted. In the quieter moments, we had all had a go at the Land Girls jigsaw which got finished just before we left!
Everything about the three days had been wonderful. With time and space to ‘pause’ in a beautiful and uplifting environment, the green fields, blue sky (mainly) the sound of the birds singing, bringing one closer to nature and peace of mind. Taking appreciation of the simple things in life: good nutritious food, quiet and fresh air to breath with mindfulness and yoga practice bringing nutrition to our body and mind, and like-minded people to share and learn together.
It had been a great time and just like the land girls in the 1940s we came together as unskilled strangers but left feeling renewed and filled with confidence with new skills and new friends. I was thrilled to be one of the first Pause Land Girls group and hope there will be many more to come. Pausing as a Land girl means taking time out for you. Pushing your mental, physical and creative agility, and helping you feel like #thisgirlcan and by gum, this girl certainly will!
So if you’d like some time out away from the noise of London and to have some fun being a Land Girl join Pause for Effect, on their next Land Girl Pause, which takes place on the 16th-18th June at Home Farm Glamping. You will enjoy a perfect blend of activities to get involved with, working the farm like a land girl and allowing yourself time to pause, reflect and reconnect.