Sometimes it does you good to get away for a day or two – even when the logistics are not dissimilar to planning a military operation. So, having arranged a veritable army of ‘aunts’ to manage my three children and their increasingly complex commitments in the absence of BOTH their parents for the first time in their lives I was Cotswold bound to spend time at Daylesford Organic. For the uninitiated it is THE farm shop and cafe near Stow on the Wold for all well-heeled Cotswold based celebrities, where the lawns are beautifully manicured, the coffee is good and the greenest of herbs grows magnificently in handmade willow baskets.
Of course, all this loveliness comes at a price but who looks at the label at Daylesford? (Well – me actually. £65 for a few herbs in a basket anyone?) If you are wondering how I can possibly justify such an excursion as work – stop right there! I arrived via the tradesman’s entrance, ambled on down through the farmyard (spotless), past the pigs in the orchard (charming) and on to the organic garden courtesy of Garden Organic’s ‘From Plot to Plate’workshop for teachers.
Built for Chelsea some years ago the garden incorporates fruit trees and wildflower meadow on both sides of the formal garden along with a beautiful timber framed building which is used for workshops. All the raised beds are clad with willow hurdles and the whole garden bordered by a hornbeam hedge. Two small ponds have been incorporated on the south side outside the hedge giving it a moat like appearance. In fact the whole garden has the feel of a medieval monastery, even down to the large refectory table we all sat round.
The day provided a much-needed opportunity for teachers, parents and others who run gardening clubs and activities at school to share ideas and good practice as well as learn some new tricks and reflect on what has and hasn’t worked. After a delicious upmarket soup and sandwich lunch, we walked the 20 acre field with Jez, the Head Gardener at Daylesford. It was a rare opportunity to see an old fashioned market garden in operation. Most growers specialise in one or two crops unlike Daylesford. In schools -where all year round growing of a variety of plants to sell or supply the school kitchens is the aim – seeing this in operation, albeit in a scaled up version was really helpful.
As the teachers poured over Garden Organic’s recipe cards and filled in their planting plans for the year, or cast their eyes to the beams where the names of seasonal fruit and vegetables have been beautifully carved, one of the ladies remarked that such a training session could have been run in a couple of hours at school. Of course she was right and this may well be the option in future if Garden Organic’s funding is cut.
On the other hand I would say there are so many positive benefits to be gained from taking time away from the cut and thrust of life at the chalkface and reflecting on good practice in an inspirational environment that a day at Daylesford is one well spent. You can find out about courses run for teachers by logging onto to Garden Organic’s website and Daylesford run their own courses on a regular basis too.