Work Party – is this possible?

The April Work Party  to East Shallowford Farm aimed to produce luxury chicken accommodation.  One run would have been great but three!!!!

Great reflections from the team of craftsmen that came to help us – Thanks to them all

Phil the Carpenter,Chicken house

Misha the Carpenter,

Glen the Plumber,

Antony the Labourer,

Michael the Cleaner,

Robert the Driver.

They say that in the first five minutes in the countryside you feel the difference. We felt the difference. It wasn’t just the stretching of legs after four and a half hours in the minibus. For a few days London just fell off our backs.

Dartmoor – and all we can see are hills and green and growing.

We arrived around 6.30pm, greeted by Debbie and Al, and Serena, and, of course, Timber. Without ado  we bottle fed a couple of lambs, walked to the pigs restlessly pacing up and down along the fence, waiting their evening meal. Down the lane to the horse and ponies, Penny, Petal and Queenie. Walked among the field of sheep with lambs. There are only four ewes left to lamb.

And we heard our first cuckoo.

We are here, back at Shallowford.

One of the projects for the weekend is to build some new chicken houses; so there was time to check out the materials, discuss with Paul what is required, unload the minibus and make a few plans.

Dinner. There is much camaraderie among this group, and humour was liberally spread around the meal table. Michael at present is very much the comedian. It was a healthy blend of good food and much laughter.

Saturday 18th April.

Dartmoor is sunny.

Our first drink of the morning is a cup of tea. Sat around the dining room table, we wake up, talk about the tasks of the day, listen to a short reading. This morning it was about Thomas, who needed to touch before he could know. We set the day out with a prayer.

The second drink of the day is outside. We drink it in. Like Thomas we want to see and hear and smell and touch. We have a long drink of Spring. We will drink all day, indeed all weekend.

The whine of the skill saw and the pop pop of the nail gun mixes with the chatter of the sparrows building their nest under the eaves, and a woodpecker answering with her own hammer drill. In the yard, Glen and Antony are rigging up a hand washing trough, and very soon there is the sound of rushing water. There is rushing water too as we hear the river sounding its way along the valley, as we walk around the farm from job to job.

Feeding animals, clearing stables, shifting hay bales, and all mingled in with the sound and colour of this Dartmoor spring morning. We pause a moment and gaze beyond the barn to the field above. Alastair comments – just look how green it is! Deep green after the long drabness of

Farmer Paul wants to roll the grass in the top field before leaving it to grow for hay. So up the hill, with a barrow, and up and down to clear the stones. Up here you feel the wind. Up here you see far and forever. Up here even stone clearing was a pleasure.

There is a leak in the shower. Good job Glen is here. Another job for him. The day is long and weary but full of joy and jokes, and thankfully dry and sunny.


In the evening another of Shallowford’s famous dinner parties. To our little gathering were added another seven guests. It is an interesting spectacle seeing Phil the south London carpenter talking at length with Anne the war zone artist. To see Michael rough and ready, Battersea born and bred, playing chess with little Lucy who lives in a village over the valley and with Miffy an accountant. To see Misha from the Ukraine talking as he could with Devon folk.

A good day, and as ever, good food.

Sunday 19th April

There is a lot to do this morning to finish by lunch. But we do it. Three hen houses with runs, built and ready. The hand washing trough in place and ready.

The log shed sorted and cleared up. Vegetable garden weeded and ready for manure then planting. The long horn-cow hat stand fixed in the hall way. (Oops we forgot the handle in the boot room door!).

Sunday lunch.

Dunstone Chapel. It was a good reflective end to the weekend. We thought about faith as a journey from doubt to knowing. The disciples were clearly on the journey. They travelled from ‘they worshipped but some doubted’ to ‘they knew it was the Lord’. We are travelling that same journey. Please God we find that same certainty.

Now for a different journey, but perhaps it is the same journey. Dartmoor behind us to the west, London before us to the east. Motorway. Traffic. Weaving around west London dropping the weary workers home.

London – and all we can see is concrete and grey and time on a leash.



What is your best memory of the weekend to Shallowford?

  • The worst bit was the travelling. The best bit was being with the folk from Shallowford, being accepted, being part of a team.
  • Seeing people in a different light, people you work with in London, coming out of their shells.
  • Best memory? The conversations and the laughter.

Say one thing you learned

  • Thoughtful bits in the Chapel
  • How to adapt to a different working environment and adjust my working mindset
  • To see people who in London are often grumpy full of jokes

What difference has it made to you?

  • Learned a bit about being in a group
  • My faith was re-charged, and my mind re-opened to a bigger world than my small Battersea corner.
  • I think I am closer to Jesus





















Report by Robert Musgrave

21st April 2015.









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