A Summary of the Article in Bath Life Magazine
Amid 70 acres of woodlands and meadows in the Limpley Stoke Valley, the Combe Grove Estate reopened in late 2022 as the UK’s inaugural Metabolic Health Programme.
Businesswoman turned philanthropist Helen Aylward Smith leads the Elmhurst Foundation, which acquired guardianship of the Estate in 2017. The foundation has three principle aims: to practice and increase knowledge in the fields of health and wellbeing, to create high-quality enhanced apprenticeships for local people and to share facilities and expertise for the benefit of the local community.
In this summary of the article written for Bath Life, writer Nick Woodhouse shares insights into the happenings on the Estate. Nick spent a full day with the Combe Grove team, immersed in the natural surroundings and learning in depth about the ecology and sustainable practices on the Estate.
From planting to plate, he detailed the seasonality of the produce grown on the Estate and how it’s used to create the nourishing Map Room dishes that support metabolic health.
Nick notes how Combe Grove embraces permaculture principles and how the Kitchen Garden uses ecologically sound methods. The garden’s diverse plant selection not only withstands pests and diseases but also provides nectar-rich habitats for pollinators. Previously a Country Club driving range, the Kitchen Garden is now home to roaming rescue chickens, offering both eggs and natural pest control.
Adopting a no-dig approach and drawing inspiration from traditional Chinese farming techniques, the garden minimises soil disturbance, preserving its mycelium. Nutrient-rich produce goes directly to the Kitchen, where chefs Marco Appel and Rachel Milsom craft nourishing seasonal dishes for the Map Room.
Horticulture and Woodland Management Team Leaders, James Walker-Stirton and Steve Hill, advocate for the Estate’s charitable apprenticeship scheme, which provides opportunities in disciplines from horticulture to marketing. It caters to diverse age groups and backgrounds, providing an alternative to formal education while nurturing community engagement.
With a field-to-fork philosophy, the Estate strives for self-sufficiency. Any excess produce is sold in regular veg sales for members of the Club. Biodiversity initiatives extend beyond the Kitchen Garden, creating varied habitats from grassland to woodland, allowing fauna and flora to thrive.
Mornings on the Metabolic Health Retreat begin with dawn walks, resetting circadian rhythms amid the varied habitats. The Estate’s heritage apple orchard and edible hedges provide sustenance for guests, birds, and badgers. Stone quarries, turned bat habitats, highlight the commitment to conservation with all but one of 18 species of bat making their home at Combe Grove. Team Leader Steve impressed Nick with his expansive knowledge and commitment to animal conservation and his ability to identify fauna by their individual names.
The Estate’s custodians see a future marked by enduring innovation, recognising the hurdles in transforming both the environment and people’s mindsets. Nick concludes the piece encouragingly, affirming that the initial efforts are creating positive signs for a promising future ahead.
To read the full article, please follow the link here.