Velwell Orchard

Biodynamics, Aikido, and Traditional Rural Skills



Velwell Orchard Update – at long last!

Dear friends and supporters of Velwell Orchard,

Sincere apologies for taking so long to get around to this update! The past year has been so busy… but more of that below. Here’s a little recap of 2020, a rather unusual year… and a little taster of things to come in 2021.

2020 – A massive year of change

In the height of summer

Last year will be remembered by many for the distruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have been very fortunate here at Velwell Orchard to have weathered this storm well and we are emerging from it stronger than ever. We have really missed our regular volunteers, the sounds of children screaming! The satisfied groans of tummies full of pizza! The noisy coffee breaks! The long chats over the weeding!

Jacob came to stay with us in March, at the start of the lockdown, and gradually has taken on more and more responsibility. He is now pretty much running the operations while I have been working full time. Kate and I are really grateful to him for this and also for his work as brother and uncle!

Sasha has also been a massive help to us this year, she has now been working with us for two years and her skills have improved to such an extent that she can easily lay hedges and make gates on her own. She’s also a pretty dab hand at scything and her log stacks have gained worldwide acclaim.

We have not been able to run our usual lively and sociable volunteer days but Jacob has had some regular help from some individuals which has been hugely appreciated. Derek has continued to visit weekly where possible, helping with errands, distributing vegetables, and generally ensuring that we maintain our connection to the local community.

We are so grateful for this support and from the financial support we have received. I am always amazed at how generous folks can be, many people donating money despite hardly every receiving any produce. I’m glad to say that the Velwell Orchard bank account has a healthy balance at present that affords us some security going into the coming year.

2021 – How will it unfold?

At present, Sasha and I continue to work full time and Jacob is running the garden. We have decided not to restart our volunteer days until the restrictions have been fully lifted in the summer. In the meantime, we are looking for one or two people who can offer regular voluntary help in the garden on a friday morning. They will need to be able to commit to regular weekly hours, and be willing to abide by current coronavirus restrictions. If you are interested please let me know or get in touch with Jacob directly.

We hope to restart our weekly volunteer days sometime in the summer, in time for the harvest, apple pressing and general merrymaking. This will hopefully coincide with restarting the Buckfastleigh Aikido Club for adults and, later in September, also for children.

A vision for the future…

Moving forward into 2022 and beyond, we hope to be able to spend more time at Velwell Orchard, purchase a new polytunnel, plant more trees, rebuild the field kitchen and many more things. We want to open the place up to the community again, as a source of biodynamic fruit and vegetables, but also as a place to come and learn and enjoy. I’ve been working this land now for well over 20 years and I firmly beleive we are only just at the beginning of unlocking its potential. We’re looking forward to being able to share this place again with you all soon.

Thanks so much to all of you for your support,


Beetroot seedlings

Biochar Workshop

At Velwell Orchard

On Saturday 19th of December

9am – 4pm

£30 per person

Learn how to make Biochar from hedge brash using our Oregon Kiln. We’ll go through the whole process from lighting to quenching and explain the different methods for activating and using this product. The techniques are applicable from small gardens up to large farms.

You’ll go home with 50 litres of Biochar which you can activate and use on your garden.

5 spaces are available in total and full payment must be made to confirm your place.

You will need to bring your own refreshment and a pair of thick gloves. Welding gloves are good. Avoid wearing anything plastic that could melt from sparks and wear old clothes.

Chestnut Gate charity auction – ends this morning 9:30am!

Dear friends,

I’m selling a gate on eBay to raise money for Old Skills New Ways, an amazing local project educating children in rural skills and nature connection.

Please make a bid and help us raise some money!

Hedge laying courses at Velwell Orchard

This November I’ll be teaching three hedge laying courses at Velwell Orchard. Only 5 spaces available on each course so book now to avoid missing out. You can find details here:

Helpers needed on a Friday

We remain closed to the public until the spring but we are looking for a few helpers to join our small Friday work team here at Velwell Orchard over the coming weeks.

The work involves picking, harvesting, weeding, mulching, tidying and generally keeping the place tidy and proper under the guidance of Jacob.

Helpers must be willing to observe hand washing and distancing protocols.

If you think you can spare a few hours on a regular basis please let us know.

Help needed at Velwell Orchard …

We are looking for a dedicated helper who can lend a hand on a regular basis picking vegetables on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 9:00am until 10:30am for the rest of August and September.

We also need an extra helper to join our existing team on a Friday, from 9am onwards to help gardening jobs.

Both positions are unpaid but you will go home with lots of fruit and vegetables.

Due to the pandemic, Velwell Orchard remains closed to the public for the rest of the year so we are relying on this small team of helpers to keep things ticking along. If you can help please get in touch.

July at Velwell Orchard


The garden is looking great now thanks to our small team of regular helpers. There is a steady stream of vegetables and quite a bit of fruit.

We are looking for one hard-working and enthusiastic volunteer to join our Friday morning gardening team. Please let us know if you are interested.

In terms of volunteer days we have decided not to reopen this year. We need to ensure we are providing a safe environment for our volunteers and the coronavirus pandemic has focussed our minds more on this important aspect of our work. Over the winter we will be assessing the risks and putting measures in place to ensure we can reopen in the spring.


We are accepting visits by arrangement to collect vegetables on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Please contact us if you wish to get some. Vegetables are also available from Derek in Buckfastleigh on Wednesdays.

This week and next week we have a lot of gooseberries, jostaberries and blackcurrants available on a pick your own basis. As with all of our produce it is free although we will of course accept donations towards the running of the project.

Velwell Orchard works rather differently to other farms in how it funds itself. For some years now we have given away all surplus produce for free. We realised that the food we grow is simply to valuable to sell. Instead, the project is funded entirely by donations from individuals. We accept no other funding, and this enables us to retain our freedom and autonomy, whilst our reliance on community members creates a resilient relationship between people and land. We feel incredibly grateful to the people who give their time, energy and money to the project. Thank you all!


My birthday

It’s not easy to have a “happy birthday” when there is so much suffering in the world.

I’m not much of a birthday person but this year I’d like to invite my friends and family to support a cause that is close to my heart.

It’s my friend, Kerry Stripling’s, 19th birthday next week and I’m helping her to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. She has first hand experience of how important this cause is and I’d be really grateful if anyone would consider supporting her aim to raise £500. Small things often make the biggest differences. Please follow the link below to donate. It’s super quick and easy.

Thank you!

May has arrived at Velwell Orchard

A quick message to say Happy May Day/Beltane to all, and to thank you all again for all the generous donations that have been coming in. We’re now in a very healthy financial state going forward.

May – my favourite month! The leaves are all so young and fresh, everything is green, and the sun is bright, without being too intense. The hedgerows are full of flowers and, the bees are busy all over, and the birds are singing their hearts out. The garden is looking fabulous now, the beds are planted and sown, the grass is neatly cut, the soft fruit has been mulched, the logs are stacked, and the tidying up has been done. It’s amazing how quickly Velwell Orchard has been tranformed into a small patch of Heaven here on Earth.

We’re greatly missing our trusty volunteers and looking forward to a time when we can all be together again. Until then, here are a few photos.


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