News from the Quaker Community at Bamford 20th May 2015
Loving greetings to all our f/Friends everywhere.
We have had a lot of changes during the nearly 18 months since we last
sent out our newsletter – sorry about the delay, again, though I suspect
that most of you are getting used to this now!
We have welcomed four new members since the last newsletter – Mark, Anne and Daniel, and Zee-Zee – which now makes a total of nine Community members plus Martina who continues her stay with us as a long-term guest while recuperating. All contribute their particular skills and gifts to the life of the Community, be that on the land or kitchen, running retreats, doing the admin or accounts, managing and doing the on-going maintenance and decorating, or upholding us as a spirit-led Community.
Emma and Gregory presented us with baby Clara, our youngest member, on Boxing Day of 2013. We had a lovely welcoming Meeting for her with her extended family, and it has been a treat to get to know her and to see her developing her own joyful and bouncy personality. We miss them all a lot since they moved to Sheffield in September, though we visit each other when we can, and Emma has joined the Community’s ‘Elderseers’ group.
The latest news of Jasmine and Sasha is that they have found a beautiful new home in Slovenia – we are all looking forward to visiting them there as soon as possible. Rodney visits regularly from Kazakhstan and somehow during his visits always manages to complete a surprisingly large number of the fiddly jobs we never get round to ourselves – invaluable!
Sadly, we have lost one of our long-standing honorary members, Fat Bob the robin. He (she? how do you tell with robins?) was a constant and friendly presence here – attracted by bead-crumbs initially, but just as happy to sit next to us, head on one side, nodding and chatting, whenever we appeared. Feeling he had a right to come in and out of the house at will, despite our best efforts to dissuade him, led to his undoing; he followed one of us un-noticed into the porch one day and was accidently hit by the door as it closed. He is much missed, but in the last few weeks one of his many offspring has taken to visiting us whenever we sit outside and is fast becoming just as much a part of our Community as Fat Bob.
We are, as always, open to enquirers, and warmly invite those wanting to explore membership to come for the last weekend of any month (see ‘Working Saturdays’ below) to get an initial taste of life at the Community and to ply us with as many questions as may arise.
Our best outreach is still word of mouth; those who enthuse to others about their experience here bring in new people. This and the feedback we get directly from visitors, the things that they really value about their time here, is wonderfully encouraging and nurturing for us as a community – thank you.
We have held eight very rewarding reflective retreats since our last newsletter went out, on a variety of themes including Speaking of God, Decluttering, Openings and Leadings, and a Meditation and Mindfulness weekend, which we will be repeating in the autumn (9–11 Oct) as the one in February this year was so oversubscribed.
We have also piloted our first Cycling Weekend and Walking with Friends week, and had several gatherings with activities for children as well as adults – last summer we carried off a Bamford Carnival Week prize for the Yellow-Jerseyed Cyclist scarecrow the children made during the Planting Week to celebrate the Tour de France, which passed close by Bamford, and we hope to be making one for this year’s Carnival again this year.
Derwent Pulse Project
For us as a community this was particularly special. It was a real treat to have an artist in residence here working with us for a whole weekend as part of a big multi-media art project involving different groups from the Quaker Community to Primary Schools to a Bikers Chapter, following the River Derwent from its source high up on the moors here right down to where it joins the River Trent. The finished work will be on show at various venues, and also on line. Well worth a look.
We have had a full house of people here for all these so far (spring, summer and autumn) including the annual Quaker Voluntary Action traditional-meadow-mowing and gardening week, which last year (for once!) was blessed with near perfect weather. There are still spaces on this year’s working weeks (see brochure) and we can highly recommend them – great fun as well as a much appreciated practical way of supporting us as a Community. Booking form attached!
Family members, friends and our dedicated Associate Members have helped with decorating, erecting the polytunnel, and working on the land. In addition, all our portable appliances have been properly tested and you may have noticed that our web-site is now much more user-friendly, thanks to their efforts. For all of this support we are very grateful.
We regularly welcome help from f/Friends on the last Saturday of every month, some of whom like to stay over when they can and join the Hope Valley Meeting for Worship on the Sunday, making it a Work and Worship weekend. It means we can make real progress with the bigger tasks – preparing the ground for new crops, clearing the paths through the woods, decorating the hall area in the Main House, and most recently clearing a very overgrown and bumpy patch of land to create an extra camping area for this year’s Family Summer Camp (see below).
We have since then been doing a Beat-The-Clock job, digging out the extensive maze of butterbur roots (have you ever seen how long these can be?) and adding countless barrow-loads of rotted wood chippings to level the site. We finally finished the raking and grass-seeding at 10pm on Friday, just as it was getting too dark to see, and are keeping our fingers crossed that though very late we are not too late, and that the birds and mice don’t eat quite all the seed…….
Family Summer Camp
This was a very popular innovation last year; 10 families including 15 children camped in the woods and on the grass next to the house, with those unable to camp given rooms in the Main house. In preparation we cleared the whole area by the sheds down on the land, installed running water to an outdoor sink, set up the snooker table in the Studio Shed in case of the odd rainy day, and turned the Spider Shed into a café area – many of our meals were cooked on and eaten around the campfire.
During the Camp we made origami peace cranes and translucent collages with tissue paper in wonderful colours, went for walks, visited a dairy farm and sampled their ice cream (which is probably, as they say, the best in Hope Valley hacked through the undergrowth in the Forest Garden to liberate the fruit trees and bushes, had pony rides round the meadow, went boulder climbing, extended the den in the trees, made Angel Sticks and learnt how to juggle with them, and had an enormous bonfire on our last night together.
We laughed, cried, talked, sang, met old friends and made new ones, and really didn’t want to leave. There are still some spaces for this year, but we’d recommend that you book soon…..
Including family members we had the usual full house for this time of connecting and celebration. We cut a tree from our own land for the hall, which visitors festooned with a mixture of home-made and other decorations.
This year, despite cold, wind and rain, some of the group made it up to the Village Green for the Christmas Eve carol singing and on Christmas Day another group went to the service at the church in Hathersage. Santa paid us his usual visit with a sack full of the random gifts we had each brought, and enlisted the children to distribute them among us – much laughter and swapping ended up with everyone getting something they liked!
One of the greatest benefits of living in this Quaker Community is the flow of people visiting, and everything they bring. We usually have some 60–70 people over the year coming here to stay on individual retreat or respite, for anything from a couple of nights to a couple of weeks, and over the last two years the Sheffield Quaker Men’s Group has held worship and discussion sessions here on the land, using the Spider Shed in case of rain.
We have also provided pit-stop facilities (loos, hot drinks and a place to eat their sandwiches) for a couple of groups walking in the Derbyshire hills – an asylum-seekers group from Doncaster, and a large group of Quakers and others on a sponsored walk.
We have again hosted two weekends for the Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator training, as well as a very worthwhile weekend for 17 City of Sanctuary trustees; both groups will be coming back later this year. It is always a joy to meet such committed and active people, making a real difference out there and ‘mending the world’.
Living, worshipping and working together in the Community is challenging and uplifting at the same time, and can easily become all-consuming; we try to have some outside or just plain fun aspects to our lives as a balance. Barefoot Boogies, Qigong sessions, art sessions, and ‘film night’ on Sunday evenings help us to relax together after a retreat or just to round off the week.
In the local community we are active in the local ‘Am-Dram’ Society and also in the Hope Valley Transition Group, including creating an excellent display on energy-saving on Apple Day in nearby Shatton, and opening the house for the Bamford Eco-Homes Weekend. Several of us acted as stewards at the incredibly successful (5 thousand visitors!) Big Green Festival in Bakewell last July.
Worship and Witness
The Hope Valley Quaker Meeting continues to flourish. We now have some 6–10 regular local attenders, and Friends often visiting from other local Meetings, All say how much they value the depth of the gathered stillness and the spoken ministry.
As well as a stall and Special Interest Group at Yearly Meeting Gathering in Bath, we led the local Women’s World Day of Prayer last year, did a short reading and led silent worship at the Open Air Ecumenical service on the Village Green in July, and have a regular presence at the weekly prayer group in the village and the twice yearly ecumenical study sessions at nearby Bradwell.
We spoke about the Community at Sheffield Central Meeting when they held a collection for us there, and had a warm welcome at Chesterfield Quaker Meeting, with several Friends later coming to our Open Day at the end of August.
Grounds and gardens
Last summer, courtesy of volunteers from the British Naturalist Association, we had a ‘Bio-blitz Survey’ of our woodland – everything from fungi to flowers, mosses to mammals, grasses to galls, and more. We were thrilled to learn that we have the richest bio-diversity habitat they have found in the area – it really pays to keep from making the place too ‘tidy’!
2013 was the 25th anniversary of the start of the Quaker Community here. We took the opportunity to have an appeal for the extra funds needed for several major and multitudinous minor projects to repair, renovate and improve the accommodation, woodland and gardens. The response has been wonderful, with donations large and small coming from individuals and Local Meetings all over the country. These now total just under £10,000, and are still coming in.
It is an amazing place to be, but it has to be said that such a big old building has its drawbacks. With careful budgeting and the help of the monies from the appeal we have been able to finance the most essential repairs to the roofs (almost no more drips and buckets!); increase (double?) our fresh organic produce for retreats in the magnificent new polytunnel; improve the Community kitchen; make a start on the redesign and re-fitting of the Coach House flat, and progress the re-decoration of communal and guest areas. Still more to do, of course (e.g. the unexpected woodworm in the Coach House floor….) – the phrase ‘painting the Forth Bridge’ keeps being made!
All of these improvements benefit those who come here on retreat and respite, as well as those of us who live here; however, for us as a Community perhaps the greatest benefit of each gift we receive lies in the reminder that so many people are thinking of us, holding us in the Light, and supporting us in making this radical experiment a reality.
Valda, Norman, Anne, Linda, Daniel, Deb, Zee-Zee, Mark, Jinny, and Martina