About Tamsin and the building of Bosley Patch

In 2003 when we moved back to the farm I think my family were holding their breath and waiting for the fireworks. Id never been one to sit back quietly and as the eldest and the one that had gone off and had a career I think there was more than a little worry from my siblings that I would return and start to throw my weight about. So I kept quiet, got on with reacquainting myself with the family and town I'd left 10 years earlier and tried to keep a low profile.

Marc and I did however notice that there was a very underused couple of acres tucked away in a wetter corner of the farm. No longer used for by the Henley football club or for  caravan rallies due to the unreliable weather and the high water table it was sitting there, year after year mown periodically, grazed by thousands of rabbits and barely ever looked at.

"would you mind if we just took a corner of the football field" I enquired of my brother? "We'd like to grow a few vegetables". I don't think for a moment either party realised at that time that 14 years later a few vegetables would turn into 7 tunnels, 3 greenhouses, sheds, chicken houses, a pig ark, sheep hut, an orchard, flower garden and a monstrous tree house. I very much doubt whether he would have agreed had he even an inkling of my latent plans.

In March 2004 we broke the land for the first time in 15 or so years and realised just how lucky we were. The years of chicken manure from the commercial rearing operation of my childhood had enriched the already lovely alluvial soil and years of grass and white clover tightly grazed by rabbits has also played its part. We had 1/2 acre of perfect horticultural land. The only drawbacks were a slight panning (a thin compacted layer of anaerobic clay soil) a spit and a half below the surface (a spit is the depth of a spade) and because of this and the subsequent water logging in very wet winters, a higher than desired acidity (as low as 4 in places). Nothing that we've not been able to rectify with breaking the pan using chicorys and some double digging and the careful use of Dolamitic limestone

It was just 1/2 acre but the freshly ploughed expanse seemed enormous and not a little daunting. but ignorance is bliss and if we had known more we probably would have been paralysed by fear and if we had known how much it was going to cost us, even though mostly everything (until this years proper commercial tunnel) was begged borrowed or frankly stolen! Then we almost certainly would have thrown up our hands and walked away!

Building our first Polytunnel

Building our first Polytunnel

In 2004 with me working full time for Daylesford not much was grown, just enough for our extended family and a little excess which Marc sold to a restaurant in Henley.  It was a good start but growing isn't his passion and as the season wore on I spent what little free time I had at the garden plotting and planning what he was going to do next! poor man.  When I resigned in the autumn of 2004 the decision was made that only one of us would work and I was able to really plan the following season over that winter. And I had big plans. I still have big plans but now they are tempered by a big dose of reality and the realisation that however you rail against it two children do slow you down and they don't always let you do exactly what you want!

One of the first things I did was to get hold of an old tractor mounted Howard Rotavator. (top picture on the left)  A wonderful tool for dealing with large areas of recently ploughed land it did a fantastic job in the first two years while I was so short of time, It did have its drawbacks though and we have graduated to a much smaller Howard Gem, with whom I have an annual and passionate affair. The larger machine though effective is a bit of a brute, breaking down soil structure a little too violently and the weight of the tractor on our very light top soil did nothing to help the panned layer, it was also a job that you could only do in one go and using the smaller hand operated Gem means that should you need to run down a row or two in September before it gets too cold and wet you can, without making a big mess.  The Big boy served its purpose and I was as glad to see it go as I had been to see it arrive!

The 2005 season was incredible, the soil in good heart from its long rest, the weather perfect (if a little dry at times for seedling establishment) and everything I put in the ground seemed just to grow and grow (and then the rabbits would eat it all!)  We NEEDED a fence!  But in spite of a sustained rabbit attack we still seemed to have harvestable crops, enough to supply 15 or so weekly veg boxes and had 3 restaurants taking regular orders and then somewhere in all of this mad, fecund abundance Katie was born. It was August and blisteringly hot, I dug the potatoes for the boxes on Friday morning, had Katie at home in the wee small hours of Saturday and was digging potatoes again on Tuesday. I swear that the weeding, digging and bending that I had done for the previous 9 months. real 3rd world peasant farming stuff, was a massive contributor to a speedy and uncomplicated birth and bouncing back to normality so quickly Its not, after all, an illness, despite the best efforts of modern medicine to turn it into one!

By September the garden seemed to have been there forever. Untidy, with no planned rotation and with Katie sleeping in the shade of the runner beans in the huge old pram it all seemed like an exhausting blur! But I look back at that first summer and laugh at my ambition and don't quite believe what I managed to achieve on my own with a 2 year old at my feet and pregnant. OK there were far too many weeds and we had no watering facility at all but it was beautiful and I could already see that William was gong to get the chance to grow up within the rhythm of the year, understanding without ever having to learn, about nurturing, about seasonality, about our responsibility to the planet and to our little piece of it. I saw our first grass snake that late summer and slowly we began to be aware of weasels, toads and kestrels all using the garden for hunting. It was a good start.

The pictures below show the progress over 2 years taking us to 2007,  in fact its been grow grow grow every year since we started! 

In 2008 we moved the fence!  It elicited some chatter around 'will we ever see you again in the summer' from family but resistance was half hearted at best so I carried on regardless!  We added a flower garden, a new veg bed and pigs to the rotation! (see 'Rotation rotation rotation')

And we were still growing, a 60 fruit tree orchard has prevented me growing the vegetable beds any further out but not before I stole another 2  twenty metre beds from the field and brutally cut back the huge bramble hedge on out ditch boundary with the camping site ( See The 'Hedge of Glory')

And then in 2011 having managed for 8 years with two tiny second hand polytunnels I decided that I really needed to finally buy something new, something BIG to be able to extend the season and give me some genuine protected cropping. I did have some help from a fantastic team, some of my brothers ground work team provided expertise i was lacking and friends and children all did their bit digging foundations and helping with the mammoth project of the final covering. Not so final it seemed, as storms have caused the cover to blow off twice in its short life. There are now a number of real experts in Henley when it comes to 'skinning' a polytunnel.

And so it continued. We had a good year, we built what we could, we had a bad year, we shed a tear or three, consolidated and rebuilt, there were wet wet summers, winds that tore off tunnel roofs, and then there was 2014/15 when it rained and rained and then rained a whole lot more, from November until April ..... That year was hard. We didn't get anything in the ground until May and that year the new 'big' polytunnel on its slightly higher ground saved the day once by giving a small salad crop that gave us a trickle of income and it also allowimg me to sow millions of modules which grew away in the sheltered warmth until there was dry enough ground,

And then the sun shone! it was a wonderful year for growing and the amazing resilience of our nurtured ground shone through, yes soil structure was damaged, yes we'd lost a lot of our worms and much of the availabe fertility had been washed away but as the soil warmed in the spring the locked up nutrients got working and we worked the ground when we could. the water had come up from below, not over land so that summer the water table remained high, once the plants got established they didnt meed watering and i only needed to use additional watering to get seeds going in the very hottest weeks of July and August

Old tunnels moved, more reclaimed and in 2016 we put up one last big tunnel, Again with wonderful help from friends, mostly through the increcible support that is Lovibonds Brewery. I built the frame with a volunteer and help from Vagi and my Marc over a month and then on a beautiful spring morning, fortified with beer and goulash cooked over a fire we heaved, hauled and battened on the new cover. There is a wonderful moment when a space is enclosed, the light changes, there is no wind and the sun fills the space with heat, Its magical! 

And so we arrive at summer 2016, a great growing year, probably the best I've had in the last 15 years and there was the market, discovering wonderful new friends through the weekly stall, friendships around the brewery strengthening as we share more time, food and support. Wonderful midsummer evenings in the garden sharing the beauty and bounty and in between a terrifying, body breaking amount of hard work, early mornings, late nights, evenings where i save the white flowers til last as i know they'll be the last i can see in the gathering dusk as I rush to get home to feed family, volunteers and friends.

Usually I share this crazy few evening hours with Sarah, one of our first volunteers who has stuck around despite almost constant abuse from the children and has been my right hand woman for the last 8 or so years, volunteering in return for Sunday supper, the odd beer and a big place in our hearts. I'd be pretty lost without her! 

The business grows slowly in standard accounting terms but the wealth that cannot be measured is immense, I work in a beautiful place I have created, surrounded by people I love (and I count all those pictured above in that) I get to share this food with my community and the joy in that is greater than any salary earned working for 'the man'. I have weasles. grass snakes, newts, buzzards and kites as my companions and a dog I adore. All in all I'm the luckiest woman I know! Rarely now I persuade my children to come and help me and despite their howls of protest they usually end up conceding they've had a good time, I do wish they enjoyed it more, not just for the very useful free labour but because I actually quite like them and don't see them much from May to September! 

And Bread? where does this fit in? I found it almost impossible to get a decent sourdough anywhere locally so I've made bread for us for years, When people started asking me to make them a loaf too I did, and then with the advent of the market stall and the prospect of another winter with no income it seemed a good idea to carry on the market through the winter so that I wasn't forgotten in those dark months, The success took me rather by surprise i confess but now it seems I am a baker too! This spring 2017 I went up to the School of Artisan Food and did an incredible professional bakery course... the results you can taste for  yourselves although I am yet to fathom how I'm going to manage to do both this summer!

 

When I look back at that nearly empty field i do think I must be a little unhinged .. but would I change it? No, Not for anything,

We've come a long way in a few years on a shoestring, made a special and abundant garden feeding body and soul. And are there plans for the future? Of course there are.. and they're not small! 

 

 

The real beginnings for anyone that is either really interested or has time to kill! 

Where and when did it all start, this overwhelming need to garner, cook and preserve good things from my garden, to nurture small green things and to share this abundance with as many people as possible.  I have never given it much thought until now, it has crept up on me rather, while I was weeding perhaps! But it began with a very greedy 8-year-old and a very loved gardening Grannie.

Clock golf and baked potatoes

Growing up in a farming family near Henley-on-Thames (I've not moved far!) We were still eating tea in the evenings at 6 in those days.  A spread of bread, cheese, pickles, jam tarts and wagonwheels from my memory, all good 70's stuff that would be unthinkable today! By 7pm I would have escaped the tidying up and nipped next door for round two, just in time for the Archers and while Grannie sipped her sherry I would dip into the yellow "cheesy biscuit" tin and talk about the school day and the garden. My abiding memory of that time is the smell of baking potatoes (there would be one for me too!) and watching her assemble a plate of buttery garden lettuce leaves, complete with greenfly, sprouted seeds, pickled beetroots, a few tomatoes warm from the frame and a slice of ox tongue.  I'm sure there were many other meals but this is the one that I remember most vividly. We'd sit on the patio looking out over her immaculate little garden eating a feast that 30+ years on I can still taste. So I think it was Grannie, with whom I played endless games of Bridge keno after dinner in winter and hours of clock golf in the fading summer evenings that lit the slow burning fuse that was to become a horticultural blaze in adulthood. Sadly Grannie didn't live to see the garden that we have created here and often I wish she was here to ask this or that question or to walk round the flower garden with me. She did help me though, more than she would ever have imagined. by leaving me her gardening books, among which I found a battered copy of Mr Middleton's week by week guide to vegetables fruit and flowers, what I would have done without that little book in the early days I do not know.

Farming roots

Farming runs in the blood, in my case right back to a patch of ground at the tip of Cornwall circa 1066 unbroken as far as I can see although it may end here as both the children currently find the idea abhorrent! ) Everything I have ever done from the age of 4 has been linked to food or agriculture. Pictures of me "helping" build the pole barn in my red suit aged 5 remind me how involved I was and one of my earliest memories is of feeding cows on cold winter evenings surrounded by the comforting smell of maize silage and the steaming breath of beasts.

I was immensely lucky growing up that in addition to our own poultry rearing operation and beef herd there were a few farmers around us that were happy to take on a teenage girl who wanted to drive tractors and milk cows in the holidays and at weekends, and I did, at every possible moment. They were magical summers, I was young, brown, strong, happy, smelling of dust, cow muck and tractor oil. Moving sheep, bale carting in a burning sun, milking jerseys or following the seeddrill with a press," King of the new york streets" and Tina's "You're the best" on the tractor radio. We will probably say nothing of the rather scrumptious agricultural placement students!   It wasn't really much of a surprise that I ended up at the Royal Agricultural College.

A bit of a hiccup and some time in Gascony

Halfway through my degree one of my retinas fell off, washing my hair over the side of the bath on Christmas eve I stood up with a grey shadow over my eye. By the end of Christmas day I was in Moorfields hospital having major eye surgery and being told that I had a rare and hereditary nasty. A bit of a shock at 21 to be told you'd be blind and in a wheelchair by 40. (for the record I'm not even close to being in this state and I'm 4 years beyond!)  A few weeks later it appeared that I wasn't going to be returning to college that year and I found myself with a totally unplanned gap year. I went to France, to stay with a gloriously mad English family who lived in a ramshackle house on a hill in the Gers. They were surrounded by organic farmland and a menagerie of equally bonkers animals a motley crew of chickens and cockerels that woke me up at dawn every morning, resulting in the need to sleep with a pile of shoes at my bedside to hurl through the door and my hangover. We ate and drank like kings,  climbed cherry trees and bottled the fruit in eau de vie, confit'd just about anything that had once had a pulse even and force-fed geese for foie gras (something I probably would decline to do today)

Theresa introduced me to the organic farming, chambre d'hote owning Baradat family with whom I moved in to be Bonne and all round help. Not so arduous as it happened. I was treated like a family member. taken to concerts, out to incredible Gascon restaurants, to organic cooperative meetings and very much included in meals and market shopping trips, they also had a glorious salt water pool which where I wiled away most afternoons. But it was the food and the immersion in the incredible culture of France that I took with me, market stalls laden with soft fruit, cheeses from the Pyrenees, gateaux basque and other delicious Basque delicacies, incredible fruit and nut breads from le Pain Regain an organic bakery in Auch, Toulouse garlic and saucisson, soft and peppery with a glass of Floc before dinner. North African inspired dishes of couscous and tagines, So much variety and all delicious. I came trundling home in my little red maestro, nearly 2 stone heavier,  laden with good things and a head full of recipes.

I cannot begin to recount all that I learned from Christine about food or from Paul about organic farming and sustainable organic living. Suffice to say that on my return to Cirencester to finish my degree I was a lone and pretty loud organic advocate in a deeply establishment conventional institution. I also had developed a taste for some very non organic Gascon specialities

Muslim butchers and San Fransisco sour dough

Leaving Cirencester in the mid 90's organic food was still very much in the domain of hippy and the wealthy, or most often both and jobs in the sector were thin on the ground. I found myself driving a white van for a small company supplying organic meat and game around London and out of a small West Kensington Halal butcher. It was an interesting experience, 24, female, dealing with Smithfield dealers, negotiating HPC in a van and lugging carcasses about probably wasn't what my parents (or I) had in mind having spent a small fortune educating me.. but it was an education of its own. I learnt how to smoke a hubble bubble in the smoky basement of the shop, learned about Ramadan and tempted by the amazing smells from the subterranean kitchen, ate with the extended family in the evenings.  I even found myself delivering suckling pigs, concealed  in blankets to vast Edgeware appartments waved through to kitchens by kohl eyed ladies dripping in diamonds,  It was certainly a different world from Henley!  Then, on a walk down Walton Street I spied a shop. a jewel of a shop, walls a sunset orange the frontage deep blue, empty bread racks and piles of brightly coloured plates balanced on flowerpots in the window.. Baker and Spice across the window.. my days in the meat business were over! I worked with Karen and Yael for a year as they opened their first shop and the word spread.  I loved every minute of it. colleagues, customers, the village feeling of the shop and so many famous names popping in on a Sunday morning in their dressing gowns and slippers for their croissants. It was a very special place and hid a fabulous secret in the basement. The shop was over the last working gas-fired brick ovens in London and the bread that came out of them, crisp, fragrant and alive with internal crackling and popping was quite delicious. But all good things must come to and end and I had done my time in London, and it just wasn't for me.

Tea rooms and Montgomery cheddar

From London to Broadway in Worcestershire and The Masters Pantry a deli, tea rooms and restaurant in a village swarming with tourists and day trippers from Birmingham. It did too much and none of it very well and was a far cry from the artisan perfection that Yael demanded, but there were consolations. When I wasn't gritting my teeth, serving revolting families who left crumbs everywhere, wet wipes all over the table and scrumpled their filthy napkins up on the empty plate (well empty of everything but the salad).  I had my first vegetable patch, a picture-book cottage with a stable door and honeysuckle and at night a nightingale sang and sang in a spinny on the other side of the hedge, inches from my bedroom window and it would be churlish to forget Kevin's fantastic scones.  However, the Masters panties was not a career and so when the opportunity to move to Bath to work with Ann Marie Down at the Fine Cheese Company came up I jumped at it. What a joy, to be surrounded with true food passion again, selling the finest British and European cheeses. learning about how they were "affinned" and brought to their very best before hitting the busy counter, learning about how different cheeses peaked at certain times of year, their terroir and the back story for each creamery. We sold deli meats, wine, Hobbs House bread (Tom Herbert of Fabulous baker brothers fame) and the fantastic range of biscuits that Ann Marie developed with Ashbourne biscuits, A company that she has now taken over.  But while this was an amazing experience and has stood me in good over the years it wasn't the industry I wanted to be in forever and just down the road in buzzing Bristol was a company that I had my sights on for many years.

Right place right time (and an awful lot of ambition!)

SA Cert or Soil Association Certification Ltd is the commercial arm of the largest organic charity in the UK. established in the 40's by Lady Eve Balfour and other organic luminaries the charity has been lobbying for and promoting organic farming and food ever since. In the late 90s things were changing and the government had announced that they would look at financially supporting farmers in their conversion to organic production methods. The certification arm of the charity provided a verification service, a third-party check that the rigorous organic standards were being maintained and in order to do this they employed a number of inspectors. This dedicated team toured the country carrying out an annual inspection of every single licensed farm and submitted a report. Another team, smaller and much noisier checked the reports and completed compliance notices. Letters requiring farmers and processors to amend practices in order to ensure that they remained within the standards. The office team organised all the admin, helped plan the inspectors schedules and dealt with all the varied requests for "derogations". situations that may not be stipulated within the standards documents or that were open to debate or interpretation.  I spent 5 or more unbelievably happy years as part of, or leading the office team, working with an incredible group of people. A close-knit family of people who didn't just work for an organisation but lived and breathed what they did, who believed that what they were doing really mattered and that in a very small way they were helping change the world. And to be honest I still believe that. Believe that organic farming methods are the answer to many if not all of the worlds challenges, bridging the gap between population growth, competition for land and the need to protect this precious and fragile orb on which we spin.  We worked hard, we played harder, a team of like-minded and deeply committed individuals was built and every day was an adventure, the team was candid, sometime combative, deeply supportive and full of hilarity.

Sometime in 1998I met a wonderful man, someone who I still have massive respect for and deep fondness. He was the son of a biodynamic dairy farmer and a work colleague, Court Farm delivered unpasteurized organic milk to the offices weekly and our morning cup of organic filter coffee was topped with that unctuous almost yellow "cream off the milk"  James arrived as a technical officer and is now 10 years later is still embedded in the organic industry and general all round organic hero!  His family let me borrow an overgrown veg garden that had been used for teaching autistic children. A tangle of weeds and a tatty but perfectly serviceable polyunnel and the most beautiful soil you could imagine. Here, surrounded by streams and apple trees I learnt how to grow vegetables, not just for myself but for a good few friends and neighbours. 20 minutes out of central Bristol it was a blissful bolthole after the confinement of office life. 

I worked hard, had "more front than Sainsburys" (apparently) and due to the organic aid scheme causing the number of farmers converting to rocket, we were suddenly recruiting every week (or so it seemed) and as more and more people were employed I very quickly became an old hand and then manager and finally 5 years later Certification Director for the Agricultural team. Things changed enormously in those 5 years. structures were put in place, bureaucracy went through the roof and the organisation I left to have my family in 2001 was almost unrecognisable.

Africa to Henley and a rash bet

In 2001 I met my husband, well to be precise we became re-acquainted, having attended Cirencester together in the 1990s we had seen each other annually at the Royal Show at Stonleigh where we had smiled politely and I had always thought he was "proper lovely!" This time we found ourselves mostly unattached (Marc rather more that me to be fair) and at a dinner marking the end of the RAC alumni. That was pretty much that! The room disappeared and it seemed imperative that we tell each other EVERYTHING in as little time as possible.
There was one small hitch with this magical beginning. Marc was due to leave 2 weeks later, in early February to take up a managers position at The Driftwood Beach Club, a hotel on the Kenyan coast. A couple of months later I was winding up my life here a planning to join him, selling my Bristol house for double what I bought it for 3 years earlier was a bonus and we were able, by pooling our cash, to buy a house on my parents farm and kit it out for rental. A very good insurance policy it turned out.
Well things didn't quite run to plan and by October I found myself perching on the edge of my parents sofa sheepishly explaining that I was pregnant, and that the father was a man they had met once and that I was moving to Africa to raise a family!  By Christmas it was all change again and with the job looking less than secure and a lot of questions about distance from decent medical care we decided to come home,
Well not quite. We took a slightly more circuitous route. We deserved a little adventure before we returned to "mud island".  So we packed up the landy,  borrowed a map and set off along the red corrugated road that lead out of Malindi and into the Kenyan bush. Hot dusty, rattling along with a blown head gasket (such a noise I can't tell you) across 3 game parks, lava flows, being required to take on armed guards for a portion of the trip due to bandits, leaking petrol cans, HOW did a drawing pin arrive in the rear foot well under the plastic petrol can? It was a wonderful life affirming trip. That closeness to danger and the "you are on your own and living on your wits" feeling that you only really get in a 3rd world country is good for the soul. There were moments of fear, laughter and stunning beauty.  Hundreds of elephants crossing the road in front of us with Kilimangaro in the background, the mad garage in Loitoktok where the man with the welding gun slid under the car with a fag still hanging out of the corner of his mouth.  A young man "coaxing" the door from one pick-up to fit an altogether different brand of car with a lump hammer. The clapping, wailing and whooping pouring from the charismatic church (a tin roofed shack with a cross nailed to the door) next door while a goat looked at us balefully from the porch. Most of the fear surrounded Marc's attempts to stem the drip drip of petrol from the punctured can! I remember it vividly as a wild, dusty, exhausting and exhilarating trip and long to do it again with the children.

And then we were back and it was cold and we were about to move into a caravan, both be unemployed and have a baby. Nothing to be anxious about then!

Baby duly had in baking hot May 2003 a bit early and completely terrifying.. but you do what you do and just get on with it! and Marc had temporary work with a landscaping friend while he searched for a career job. We made a lovely little garden around our caravan, complete with a milk churn for the "posh pikey" look.  We managed on very little, with well water, bottled gas and a lot of our own produce. It was perfect for a time of no fixed income. My lovely family was all around. My two younger siblings and my parents just across the garden.

Then Marc showed me a job in the paper that he thought he would apply for, General manager at Daylesford farm shop in Chipping Norton. (Cotswolds) "Pah I said... you wont get that .. I bet I  would though" ..... "go on then" he said "put your money where your mouth is"   and so I did.. By the end of day one of interviews I'd been called back in to meet Lady Bamford and realised that should I say yes, this  was going to be interesting. I said no..... a week later after much to-ing and fro-ing and far too much money being thrown at me I (against my better judgement but seduced by the flattery of being wanted so much) agreed.

It was certainly a roller coaster. One moment in a private jet popping down to the French Riviera,  lunching in their villa overlooking the mediterranean to be back in Oxfordshire for dinner, the next up in Rocester at the JCB factory for meetings, To London scouting out premises for the new shops and brand development meetings and then to Derbyshire to meet with the abattoir manager who was one of my line reports, It was an amazing, multifaceted job, full of challenges and I was lucky to be surrounded by a team of such talented people, Greg Dawson who has gone on to be head of Dairy and Pastry for Starbucks Northern Europe,  Jo Schneider who developed Daylesford cheddar and other cheeses at the dairy who has gone on to create Stichelton, probably the best Stilton in the world,  Emmanuel Hadjiandreou who now works in Hastings with Judges Bakery,  Chef Paul Collins now running his own private dining company, Ben Raskin, top horticulturist now with the Soil Association  and many others craftsmen or experts in their fields from shop dressing to brand marketing. An extraordinary collection of talent

It wasn't to last for all that long though! The challenge of "managing" Lady Bamford was one too much for me! and the juggling act of business woman and mother of a toddler was not altogether without its stresses.

Marc meanwhile had taken on the role of house-husband and had done a brilliant job of it, loving William and tending the garden, dealing with my exhaustion, Williams chicken pox and entertaining my NCT friends with his different, male perspective on childcare. I think he was just getting into it when everything went topsy-turvy again.

Marc's fathers business is insurance (yawn!) and in 2005 his business partner of 40 years swallowed his false teeth while snorkeling off the Kenyan coast and downed.. Ignominious, shocking (and no you are not allowed to laugh!!) it was a dreadful shock which caused enormous distress both personally and for the business. Marc stepped up and agreed to go and support his father and try to fill the enormous gap that Tom's death had left. Suddenly we had a massive childcare issue which we tried to solve with family and friends. When my work demanded too much and I couldn't find adequate care for William I resigned and came home.

And so there it is. The end of one story and the beginning of a whole new life. I was immensely blessed with good luck, an enormous energy and a huge passion for what I did.  I learnt a colossal amount and have a great sense of pride in what I achieved in those years. I certainly have no hankering to ever return to that world but look back on much of it with a smile, especially my time at the Soil Association which taught me so much about organic farming and introduced me to so many amazing, thoughtful, committed people.