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Friday – Setting up the barn 

Transforming the barn from a working agricultural space into a festival venue is a big team effort. Before we begin, the ground is cleared of manure from our herd of Belted Galloways. The manure will nourish the soil in our vegetable garden for years to come. Next, it’s all hands on deck: we gather tables and chairs, bunting and lighting, drinks and kitchenware. The team hang up signs, posters and menus throughout the barn while Ursi adds signs with directions along the cycle path. Vehicles are moved out of the yard so that we can arrange picnic benches throughout the space.

Greenery and blossoms are foraged from across the farm, with a flourish of flowers from The Apricot Centre, which are then arranged in milk churns, jam jars and vases. Hanging baskets filled with strawberries and nemophilia flowers dot the buildings. And the icing on the cake? The tractor and trailer pulled up at the back of the barn and set up with cushions for seating.

Meanwhile, the kitchen is a hive of activity with Sima from The Kitchen Table and some of the spring trainees cooking and mixing, chopping and blitzing. Despite a slight hiccup with the food delivery, everything is well underway and smelling delicious. The farm beef is slowly cooking, kilograms of cheese are being grated, and the sweet aroma of fried onion and garlic fills the air. With an abundance of elderflowers blooming, cordial is made to serve to guests tomorrow.

With most of the preparation finished, everyone gathers for a well-deserved drink and some pizza and chips to enjoy in the evening sun.

Saturday – On the day!

With blue skies overhead, we’re all excited for the day ahead. Our team gathers early to get set for the day. Annie, Leona and I head to the vegetable garden to harvest fresh salad for lunch. Meanwhile, Ella dashes into Totnes to direct the bus-goers. The air fills with the smell of freshly brewed coffee as we make the final touches in the barn. Musician Colin Manson arrives to set up for his gig while Vince runs a final sound check and the Eastgate Bookshop team set up their bookstalls. Sima fires up the grill, ready to whip up tasty breakfast rolls for our team as the first punters roll in on Bob the Bus.

As more guests arrive, Sima rolls out the food and we start serving teas and coffees. Derek Gow kicks off the day, discussing the history of wolves and their potential return to Britain. Next up, Sophie Yeo reflects on how the natural world has changed and her experience as a mother. Then, lunch is served! Sima and the team serve up an incredible beef or bean chilli served with rice, slaw and salad. The bar is buzzing with people getting pints of local Salcombe beer and Luscombe cider. Jo, one of the trainees, captures captivating photos throughout the day.

In between sessions, some of our trainees also check up on the farm animals. A mother cow has become separated from her calf, but the trainees are straight on it, opening the gate to encourage mum and baby to reunite.

The day continues with Fiona Mathews and Tim Kendall taking to the stage, creating a lively dynamic about finding wildlife in unsuspecting places. Chantal Lyons completes the line-up with tales of wild boar and the need for respect for our wild animals. As the rain begins to fall, the team readies the gazebo to shelter the back of the barn. Meanwhile, Holly Ebony leads an ethereal singalong in the woodland, and Colin keeps spirits high with fantastic folk tunes with his bandmates, Becky and Will, getting us up dancing. The smell of a barbeque makes my stomach rumble; Sima has pulled out all the stops, grilling burgers, mushrooms and halloumi topped with farm-fresh salad for everyone to enjoy.

The day culminates with a thought-provoking panel discussion with all the authors contemplating everything from regenerative agriculture to finding hope in a changing world. As the event draws to a close, the farm is filled with a sense of inspiration (and relief that everything has gone smoothly!). Whilst everyone heads home, we rearrange the barn in preparation for tomorrow’s biodynamic ceremony, an ode to when the farm was a biodynamic dairy. Afterwards, we enjoy the barn space with a performance and singalong with some of the musicians and a few drinks before hitting the hay after a long but heartening day.

Thank you to everyone who joined the third celebration of literature and nature. We hope it sparked questions, conversations and curiosity.

A big thanks to our friends at Eastgate Bookshop. You can buy all the books from Eastgate Bookshop online or in the bookstore at 62 Fore Street, Totnes, South Devon, TQ9 5RU.

✍ Zoe Montgommery – Apricot Centre & Ambios trainee in Regenerative Land-Based Systems: Food and Farming

If you are feeling inspired by our nature recovery and rewilding work, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Molly, for more information.



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