Looking back over 2015, there have been a range of high and low points at Shallowford, of empty times and full times, of easy progress and painful progress, but praise God we are here where we are, we believe, by God’s grace.
For this report we will look back on progress.
I am reminded, from the gospel, of that day in Simon Peter’s life, when in one short morning his experiences ranged from one extreme of emotion to another. He began weary and fed up that a night’s fishing had been a tiresome catchless project but was willing to participate in the request of Jesus who wanted to stand in his boat and speak to the crowds. He next experienced reluctance and maybe resentment as Jesus persuaded him to drag out his washed and just mended nets and put out again in the deep, soon to be followed by awe and wonder as he witnessed the miracle of the astonishing catch of fish. But deflation immediately followed, as thoughts of guilt at his doubt, of unworthiness in the presence of such a man, and he pleaded with Christ to depart from him, only to find reassurance in the words, ‘There is nothing to fear, from now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.’ And the day ends up with Peter leaving the catch of fish and his boats with others, and following Jesus off the beach to wherever and into whatever paths he would lead. (Luke 5)
2015 saw the strengthening of our Trustee body with David Davies and John Dracup joining our number. John’s clear sightedness and considerable farming expertise have been invaluable over the past few months; David’s strategic thinking concerning fund raising have added to the skills already present in the Trust. There has much been demanded of Trustees in the past twelve months, as big questions concerning finance, planning and farming have faced us, and the Trust is grateful for the part played by all. As is the nature of things, challenges will not go away for 2016, and we will need to strengthen our hands together, as well as considering ways of growing our expertise, our drive and maybe our personnel.
The two biggest projects of the year have related to East Shallowford as a farm and East Shallowford projecting new development. The journey towards a farm solution has led to a partnership with our neighbours, Broadaford, that promises to be productive and supportive in many ways. We are also pleased to report, that after many variables, the plans have been submitted to Dartmoor Planning Authority, and have passed the first approval hurdle at the parish council. 2016 will not only disclose the result of that application, but present the challenge and opportunity to begin to put into place the improvements that fulfil our vision and values, and to meet the needs of visiting groups in the context of this Dartmoor community.
There has been good work done in the past year in the promotion of the work, through the development of the website and newsletters, in community engagement, through the holding of the Shallowford Country Fair and the Nativity and participation in Widecombe Fair with the café and the archery; and also in the encouragement of volunteers, who have invested time, interest and in many cases financial support in East Shallowford. The day by day work of the Trust and being at the frontline of all activities has been ably carried out by Debbie as Shallowford Trust Manager and Serena as assistant, along with the background support of Alastair and the team of occasional and casual volunteers. As an organisation on the ground we are in a better shape to face the future.
East Shallowford as a special place, as providing opportunities, as making a difference in people’s lives, has been demonstrated again and again through visiting groups, in particular from Providence House. For 2016, in addition to the programme of eighteen or so residential visits from Providence, there are planned visits from schools and other groups, as we seek to extend the benefit more widely. The uniqueness of this place, the special contribution that can be made to people’s lives, the core values, ‘the heart of the matter’, these are drivers for the work of the Shallowford Trust going forward. They need to drive the decisions we make, to keep our focus when we deliberate, to keep us honest in our communication.
Doubtless like Simon Peter we will be fed up and we will be elated, we will doubt and we will also be astonished by the wonder of what God can do; but whatever, like Peter, we need to follow, to be bold enough to follow and go. God being our helper we will, together, in 2016.
Chair Shallowford Trust