Louma Building our entrance track

Development of Louma – Part 1: Learning the Land

When Louma’s founders discovered Spence Farm, they saw that it was a magical place to be enjoyed by many. Follow the development of Louma to a diverse and sumptuous family retreat.
Louma The main house

Discovering Spence Farm

In 2019, Louis and Emma asked for my help exploring a number of personal and commercial ventures including viticulture, farming, and a family home within 1.5 hours of London. We soon stumbled across Spence Farm: almost 100 acres of pristine pastureland and 30 acres of vineyard, with stables, barns, and a farmhouse, which was run as a bed & breakfast at the time. It certainly wasn’t within the radius, being 2.5 hours from London, but Louis and Emma felt drawn to its spectacular views, situated amongst the rolling hills of West Dorset’s Marshwood Vale. It was the first place they viewed, and saw, immediately, that it could be something brilliant.

The farm was bought in late November 2019, with the goal of using it for rewilding, soil regeneration, farming, and wine. After finding Spence Farm, we began looking further into English wine: an ever-growing industry propelled by the changing climate and increasingly professional production. Louis and Emma began to feel that this could be more than a family home, that Louma ought to be shared, celebrated, and considered from a business perspective.

Bringing Louma to Life

We approached Spence Farm with the vineyard at the forefront of the project. The other aspects of Louma came from Louis’ interest in circumventing deforestation, promoting soil health, and increasing carbon sequestration. Meanwhile Emma, having grown up in Chichester, brought her passion for animals, farming and veg growing- and a way of life that is organic, home-made and intimate. When these two perspectives are combined, the whole of Louma comes together.

 

The house became a personal home while the farm and vineyard were purchased commercially. The sale went through on 24 February 2020, just as the world changed and time paused with the pandemic. Because it was a working vineyard and there were animals on site, I was able to travel to help manage the land. The previous owner, stayed on for 10 months to help and support us in those early days.

During this period, I was spending a lot of time on the land, paying attention, listening, and watching it change throughout the seasons. Days were spent at the pond, just beyond the Main House, reflecting and considering what was wanted and what was being asked of the land. It was at that time, eight months in, Louis, Emma and I sat down and discussed what was to become the farm and retreat. We all felt strongly that the farm was such a magical place, it needed to be shared and enjoyed by many. That’s when Louma was born.

Rewilding this patch of Earth

We knew that we wanted farming to be a core part of Louma’s identity, and this would ultimately guide our Farm-to-Fork ethos. The farm was left to grow organically- not with the intention of becoming certified, but to simply see it returned to its natural state.

We discovered that Louma’s Harvest Field has seven different varieties of grass. Our Soil Health Consultant, Tim, measured the health of the soil over a year and a half and the health of the farm improved greatly, with no ploughing and no interference. Observing the land, the spaces around it, and the available maps, we walked every field numerous times and derived themes from them. Pesticides were cut out. The tenant contracts ended, so the cows left. The land was stripped back to its rawest form, left fallow for almost two years before animals returned with the appointment of Louma’s Head Farmer.

Louis and Emma looked into other projects; Knepp, a 3,500 acre rewilding project and Wakelyns, Suffolk’s organic agroforestry, food and horticulture hub. Committed to understanding and honouring the land, our early team enrolled on many courses to learn about agroforestry, silvopasture, regenerative farming, hedge laying and tree management. Together we celebrated all the different pockets of magic we found and wanted to bring together the very best of all of them.

 

Louma Vineyard, 2021

We put sheep in the vineyard to eat the weeds instead of using glyphosate, installed ponds to attract pollinators and help reintroduce wildlife, laid the hedges instead of flailing them to promote habitats for small mammals, birds and insects. We created areas for animals, wetlands, relaxation, rewilding and children. Over time, these distinct parts of Louma created a place that could hold meaning for anyone and everyone, regardless of any individual’s getaway goals or past relationship with nature. The only thing Louma guests must have in common is the willingness to appreciate the simple things: allowing the earth to speak and bringing it back to the fundamentals of wellness. Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well.

By Gizelle Renee

You can read part 2 of this article, Cultivating Community, on our Louma Journal.

 

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