I have not seen the Devon countryside look like it did at the end of this summer since 1978 when I was cooped up in school taking my O-level Exams.
This has been a season of intense heat and frenetic activity at Oxen Park Farm with the On the Hill team hosting children ranging from eight to sixteen, from seven schools - camping, working and playing whilst we simultaneously negotiated a sweet and abundant hay harvest.
Children from London, Brighton, Totnes, Exeter and Aldermaston visited and stayed from one to seven nights. The atmosphere during June and July was positively Mediterranean. Having lived in Andalusia for eleven years it all felt very familiar with the colours of the grassland ranging from white to brown. Often, a hot and sweaty procession was to be seen passing through Lower Ashton on our way to the wonderfully cool river Teign after lunch or at the end of a working day, returning an hour later refreshed.
The newly completed Polytunnel and expanded vegetable growing initiative provided unlimited fresh food for all with many of the participants discovering that they really liked vegetables after all particularly if they had harvested and cooked them themselves.
These camps offer the young people an opportunity to experience life away from the demands and distractions of normal everyday life, the phone, the internet, the intensity of the daily routine. It is a joy to see the children and young people finding time and space to make new fiends in their class, experiencing the pleasures of the dreamy stillness of this beautiful Devon countryside, slowing down and having time just to be themselves.
Yet where the polarity between work and play disappear much was playfully achieved on the farm, as well as keeping the garden work up to date, building tasks were carried out, hay stacked, a lime kiln built, trees planted last winter were watered, and sheep and chickens were diligently cared for.
We are now reviewing, taking stock, booking in programs for next year and exploring funding possibilities, looking forward to another busy season on the hill starting in March.
If you are interested in bringing a group to On The Hill, please do get in touch to explore the many possibilities on offer here.