Saturday, 9 April 2011

Clervaux Trust at Croft on Tees

I first met Bill Chaytor about thee and a half years ago when he invited me to visit him at Clow Beck, Croft on Tees. He talked about his plans for the site and I was struck by his vision for the spiritual connection between the land and education. He has long been passionate about holistic approaches to working the land, producing food and learning life enhancing crafts.  Last week, our Diocesan Surveyor, the Chair of the Diocesan Estates Committee and I returned to visit Clow Beck. On a gorgeous spring morning, we arrived to be greeted by Bill and Janine Christley of the Ruskin  Mill Educational Trust, now working in  partnership with the Cleraux Trust. The Clow Beck site is home to a 110 acre, fast expanding and thriving eco farm while there is an Artisan Bakery and cafe in Darlington and residential houses for the workers, closeby.

The Trust provides education and training through a therapeutic, practical life skills curriculum. It provides 24 hour care for young and more mature adults with learning difficulties, mental health problems, autistic spectrum disorders and complex social needs. Working out of the inspiration of the radical educationalist, Rudolf Steiner, the Trust believes in the power of a holistic approach to life and work. Teaching people skills and crafts that improve the land, produce food and allow them to have a pride in what they have created gives self confidence and value. A thriving, healthy social environment helps people to develop meaningful relationships and to begin to make positive life style choices. Celebration is an important part of the community's life. One of the community's strap lines is 'A sustainable life, an engaged life, a community life and a shared life.'

We met some wonderful young people; one was making sausages while another showed us how to plane wood for a chair he was making. Many of the buildings themselves have been contstructed by those who come to live and work with the Trust - and in them we saw some of the results of weaving, textiles, blacksmithing and animal husbandry. There are also workshops and courses in food production, green woodwork, biodynamic agriculture, animal management, mechanics, catering, and computer skills. The bakery in Darlington allows people to learn to bake bread (a group of young people had got up at 4am, for the first time, that day, to bake the bread we ate, which was delicious!), but more than that, it is an outlet for the organic produce from the farm and a social enterprise in which people can gain the skills and confidence they need to work in a small business setting. 

Re-connecting people with the land is a major aim of the Trust. In today's society there is often a major dislocation between people and the natural cylces and proceses of production. The project aims to help people reconnect with the skills and knowledge that allow us to sustain life through its natural rhythms and it does it in a visionary and exciting way.

There is an open day when anyone can visit and I would say that it is well worth a visit - there may well be activities and events which you, your family or your church would be interested in getting involved with! There are also opportunities to become a volunteer. 

The open day is 21st May 2011 10am - 4pm 

For more information visit

And a very big thank you Bill, Janine and all the people we met for an inspiring day out which I shall remember for a long time!    

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