David Saltmarsh and Adam Hawker building our Woodland Walk amongst the bluebells

Development of Louma – Part 2: Cultivating Community

Follow the journey of Spence Farm, from a 30 acre vineyard, surrounded by pasture to a diverse and sumptuous family retreat, cultivated from a communal love of the land.
Cow Barn exterior


Follow the journey of Spence Farm, from a 30 acre vineyard, surrounded by pasture to a sumptuous family retreat, cultivated from a communal love of the land.

You can read part 1 of this article, ‘Learning the Land’, on our Louma Journal.

 

Embracing Community

Without community, Louma wouldn’t be the magical haven it is today. Louis and Emma wanted to create something that would share the local community’s appreciation for the land at Spence and give our neighbours the opportunity to be involved. The result is phenomenal, and the product of this teamwork is visible everywhere. To name a few: The timber-framed Cow Barn and Sheep Barn were built by Dave Burleigh and his team. The Woodland Walk, by traditional chairmaker David Saltmarsh, and local spoon-carver Adam Hawker. Our chestnut fencing by local fencer Mike White. Our Hide Huts by local carpenter Scott McCarthy. Our Shepherd Huts, handmade in the Blackdown Hills. The expert craftsmanship of these people led our projects. Louma’s very infrastructure was curated by their ideas, experience, and knowledge of the land.

 

I also spent a lot of time with the neighbours in their homes at Five Penny Farm, to understand how to respect the land and what that looks like. This notion is at the very heart of how people local to Louma live. They aren’t looking for an alternative because they’ve found the answer, they don’t want to break the pattern or the boundaries. The community is dictated by the land and the environment- not the other way round. That’s why they live here.

Leaning on the Experts

Jyoti Fernandes, Policy and Campaigns Coordinator for the Land Workers’ Alliance and agroecological smallholder farmer, helped to set up a farm management plan. Jyoti was the biggest inspiration and source of knowledge on the subject, guiding us through the fundamentals of farming with a positive impact on the land. Other consultants, such as our Soil Consultant, Tim Williams, our Viticulture Consultant, Bert Martyn and our Bee Consultant, Paula Carnell, are vital to understanding each respective element, and the health of our site.

Louis and Emma knew that finding the right people to join our team was essential, and prioritised culture over skillset or experience. We understood that we could always provide technical training where needed, but mindset and ethos cannot be taught. As a result, we found a team of extraordinary people who lived and breathed the land. They didn’t all come from a farming or hospitality background, but each has brought unique value to Louma. We don’t know of any other destination in the UK, or even globally, that has been created by the hands of people who are as incredibly passionate as our team. There is an aligned culture and an aligned vision here that has made Louma utterly unique. 

There is one occasion I’ll always remember, which was a turning point. As he began our Woodland Walk project, David Saltmarsh drew his proposed design on a piece of paper and said, “It’s not a very good drawing, but I’ve mapped out the woodland and this is what I think we should do.” It was a brilliant design, but not quite the format we were used to. “Can you do this in CAD?” I asked, to which he replied, simply, “No.” We sent our architects the drawing and they overlayed it on a topographical survey. Once the project was complete, we reviewed the drawing once more and saw that it was created with inch-for-inch precision. I realised in that moment that the way we do things today isn’t always the best way, and if you see things through the eyes of people who appreciate and understand the land, you can recognise their integrity can be found, not in a contract, or a formal plan, but in a simple handshake.

The farm buildings, before restoration work began

The Power of Nature

The biggest challenge by far has been nature- especially in the wet seasons. This elemental force dictates everything we do and is often the defining factor. We struggled during droughts, and in the winter months, the water tables rose high, stalling our building work. We installed ponds that now capture excess water and provide essential habitats for wildlife, drilled two bore holes and renovated our three Victorian wells in Lower Guppy. We learned that for each problem, there is a solution, but you will never solve anything well if you are trying to work against nature. Nature will always find a way and by listening and working with these natural rhythms with integrity we can work with effectiveness, and success.

From the very core of Louis and Emma’s values, Louma is created on the idea that wellbeing is about eating, moving and thinking well. Our legacy is based on a hope for everyone to be well, and a belief that if we’re well together, we can make the world a better place. If our guests can take home an interest in any of the elements of Louma, we have planted a seed that will continue to flourish, and if they can notice the simple, beautiful things on our patch of Earth, then they can recognise them everywhere.

 

By Gizelle Renee

You can read part 1 of this article, ‘Learning the Land’, on our Louma Journal.

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