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3 weeks ago myself and David put the skyscrapers and the vibrant, yet polluted, streets of Manchester behind us. We packed our life, and our cat, into our van and headed for the river Dart. Both of us are connected to this beautiful corner of South Devon from childhood holidays and it feels so right, therefore, to come here together in order to seek knowledge, inspiration and personal growth for our future development.

Going from a 9 to 5, motorway commute to my job as a secondary school Design and Technology teacher to now waking up for farm duties with the sound of birds and the smell of soil in the air, has been a huge relief for my mind, body and spirit. Me and David arrived at Ambios precisely on the Autumn Equinox and have had the honour of seeing autumn sweep over this beautiful landscape. Knowing that we can call Ambios home for 9 months is a great comfort and the nurturing effects of the project and its people have already had transformative effects to our knowledge, perspective and lifestyle.

Both David and I had been brewing up for a life change, just before COVID hit. Like many others, our plans were thwarted and our dream to travel Europe in our van and learn everything we could from Wwoof’ing placements, was put to one side. Instead we used the time to re-train; myself moving from freelancing in the creative events industry into secondary school teaching and David moving from working in a timber yard, to becoming a tree surgeon. The opportunity to re-train has equipped us well for our next steps, as our collective dream is to set up a project linking outdoor education, creative events, woodland management and bushcraft.

I heard about Ambios as a result of the dynasty of Susie Powlesland, Kirkdale Camps, Gipsy Hill Teacher Training College, Chris and Susie Nicholls and eventually Camp Fire, held on the Sharpham estate; an annual family camp set up by the, now grown-up, generation of Kirkdale campers for their children, of which I am one. The ethos held by these teachers and their projects have always been immersive and learner led, with nature at the heart. They taught the values of self-sufficiency, equality and creative learning by connecting their learners with nature in immersive ways, such as week-long residential camps. It is no surprise that Ambios, a project that was nurtured into existence on the Sharpham Estate with Chris and Susie Nicholls as estate managers and role models, has continued the legacy of learner led and nature based immersive residential learning.

Arriving at Ambios has felt, for both of us, that all of our interests, skills and experiences have been leading us to this point. There is no doubt that we are in the right place. The nurturing and inspiring presence of our fellow residential farm dwellers, who are all here for various reasons and time lines, has been hugely influential to our development. Alongside this, the informative guidance and instruction from the Ambios staff has given us structure and opened avenues of knowledge and skills. Learning and working within a community makes sense on many levels; jobs are shared out, learning can take place spontaneously and information can be absorbed by osmosis whilst making food together or through conversations whilst working the garden or by watching a skill as it is demonstrated.

We look forward to what unfolds over the next 8 months.

✍ Ella and David, self funded Ambios 9-month placements

Photos 1-6

  1. David and Ella using apple press
  2. David burning weeds
  3. Ella preparing the tree nursery
  4. Dan, Leona and Ella celebrating Ambios’ apple harvest
  5. David sharpening his axe
  6. Ella checking reptile traps

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