2017 has been really challenging year for us. Kate was in hospital in the Spring, we had an ongoing court case to deal with which cost us a vast amount of money, and on top of that, all the building. Then we decided to get married! This really helped to turn things around for us as we were engulfed in good feeling from many friends and family. Things are now beginning to look up for us and 2018 looks to be an exciting year.

Here’s a little look back, and a little look forward…


Happily married

2017 – A Year To Remember


As soon as Spring arrived and Kate was well enough again we got into the swing of building; digging out the floor and footings, laying the foundation walls and then the cobbing began in earnest. We had the help of the usual volunteers, keeping the garden ticking over, while I spent most of the summer working to build the walls up with a steady stream of WWOOFers and volunteers helping out. It was great to have so much help from such enthusiastic and energetic people. An enormous amount of effort went into it.

We’re really grateful for all the help we’ve had from WWOOFers and volunteers – Thank you!

Experiment in the Garden

I like to try something new each year and this year is was the turn of a South American tuber called Mashua. It’s a member of the nasturtium family and produces white tubers which are harvested after the frost kill off the foliage. I was impressed with the yield but cooking with it is not straight forward. It can be eaten raw, it’s a bit like a hot radish with a fennel taste. I made a coleslaw with oca, red cabbage and mashua which was pretty good. When cooked however, it seems to go rather slimy and tasteless. Kate has managed to create a tasty mash with it combined with potato and swede but it didn’t look too great!

Aikido classses

In November I started a new children’s club in Buckfastleigh which Lola is enjoying along with some of her friends. I’m really loving it too with a great bunch of kids who are full of fun and energy. The adults’ club has expanded a bit too this year and we now have two first dans, two brown belts and a good selection of other colours too. After nearly 7 years we at last have an established club. Also, rather excitingly, Melissa Milne, who has been assisting me at Buckfastleigh club, is starting a club in Totnes sometime in the New Year – watch this space!

Pizza sessions

We now have pizza making down to a fine art. Kate has perfected her gluten-free dough recipe and we’ve got a great system including roles for four people: roller, topper, baker, chopper. If you didn’t make it to one of our pizza sessions last year, make sure it’s a New Year’s Resolution for 2018.

2018 – A Year To Look Forward To

During January and February I’ll be very busy working making gates, laying hedges and repairing dry stone walls, hoping to earn enough money to see us through the summer and pay for building materials that we still need. During this time we’ll continue to hold volunteer mornings on Thursdays from 9am until 12:30pm.

Once spring comes along, apart from the usual sowing and planting, our focus will again turn to building – there is still an incredible amount to do. Hopefully we’ll have plenty of volunteers and WWOOFers to help us.

When the building work is complete, we can turn our thoughts to other projects. I’d like to put up a new polytunnel, build a new workshop, woodshed, outdoor kitchen, and a dedicated space for doing our biodynamic stirrings. I’d also like to build some decent accommodation for WWOOFers to replace the old and shabby caravans. These are projects I’d like to work on over the coming years but this year we have enough to do!

Upcoming Courses

This year I’ll be teaching two courses at Velwell Orchard. On May the 5th it will be a Devon Rural Skills Trust Cob Building Course, and then on May 19th and 20th our Scythe Course. We ran these courses last year and both went very well. Don’t forget that Setsudo Ki Aikido and the Devon Rural Skills Trust both run ongoing courses so please do have a look at their websites. I hope that during 2019 we might again organise a Biodynamic Course, but it won’t happen this year.

A New Intern

Ben came down from London during the summer for a week of WWOOFing. He did so much work we invited him back for another two weeks. Again he worked so hard we invited him back again for another three weeks! Ben is like a cob machine – you feed mud and straw in, and out comes cob! He’s also very practical and can turn his hand to any job. He seemed to enjoy the work to so in the end we realised how great it would be if he’d stay long-term so we’ve offered him a year internship.

Once he’s completed his move from London to Plymouth he’ll be working with us four days a week, helping with the building work, the gardening, and also working on jobs outside of Velwell Orchard. We’ll feed him and give him somewhere to stay, and he’ll have the opportunity to learn new skills including gate making, hedge laying, dry stone walling, scything, etc.

As our first intern, Ben will be a bit of a guinea pig, but if it all goes well, we hope to be able to offer a place for at least one new intern every year.

Raising Money

Velwell Orchard is funded entirely by individual donations so we rely completely on good will to keep the project funded. Apart from the building work, which Kate and I are funding out of our own pocket, we don’t have any large projects planned for this year, but we still need contributions towards seeds, plants and trees, as well as animal feed and other cost such as tools and so on.

Find out how you can support us here.

Thank you!

The One Point

In Aikido, as in the garden and in all aspects of life, balance is of critical importance.  In particular being able to maintain it whilst under pressure is essential. In order to attain balance one must find the centre. The centre of gravity of the human body is somewhere just below the belly button and in Aikido we call this the One Point. This is where we concentrate our energy and with practice it becomes the origin of all our actions.

The One Point is like the black hole that lies in the centre of our galaxy around which all the stars rotate. It’s where, due to extreme gravity, spacetime becomes so curved that matter is crushed into a point known as a singularity. The rules that govern space and time break down inside the black hole. Similarly, the One Point transcends space and time.

If we can centre ourselves in the One Point we call this mind and body coordination. The Japanese word for this state of being is Hara, which literally translated means belly. Hara is a state of being in unity with the whole universe and in Japanese culture it is cultivated through various arts from archery to origami to tea drinking.

Aikido is a fun, dynamic and extremely useful method of understanding and cultivating this state of being. Along the path we learn to throw, pin, immobilise and disarm in a way that protects us as well as our attacker. But these things are not the ultimate purpose of our training.

When we get emotional sometimes our attention is drawn up into our chest and throat and this can cause us to become quite literally unstable. Similarly, if we are extremely worried or too much engaged in thinking, our attention can rise into the head and we become top-heavy and again lose our balance. Often we have no idea how unbalanced we have become until someone gives us a little push and we topple over.

Hara can be achieved by continuous use of the One Point, and then we can eventually experience our emotions and use our minds and bodies while maintaining that vital connection to our centre. This enables us to live life to the fullest and experience vastness of the universe without being completely ruled by bodily desires, unchecked emotions, or negative thought patterns. And it’s very useful when hoeing the vegetables!

We’d like to wish you all a joyful, fruitful and fun 2018.
Lots of love from,
Jeremy, Kate, Lola,
Bagheera, the ducks and chickens and everything else at Velwell Orchard.