The Estate and its History
Our Estate Manager Lewin Nicholas has shared some insights into what we are aiming to achieve at Combe Grove regarding the land and our plans to protect, conserve and improve all that we have here.
“An old idea suggests that each person comes to life at a time when they have something to give to the world. That sense of soulful giving and healing may be more needed now than ever before. Healing is a revolutionary act and we have chosen to live at a time when culture needs to be reimagined and nature needs to be healed. We are here to awaken to the true nature of our own souls and to make more soul in the world.” Michael Meade
We invite you to join us on our journey ‘back to the land’ and welcome you to share in nourishing our health & vitality and that of the land.
As custodians of the land at Combe Grove we are mindful of the vital role we have in conserving and enhancing the landscape. The land provides us with the natural resources that sustain us: food, water, clean air, energy, timber, fiber and minerals. We also derive a sense of wellbeing from spending time in nature that have significant health benefits.
We must nurture all living things with care and recover our balance and deep connection to the land.
Since arriving in 2017, we have embarked on a journey to intimately learn about the land, its inhabitants and its history. It’s important for us to understand our context and respond to the needs of the land accordingly.
Across the estate we employ a mixture of traditional and innovative practices including Permaculture design to gently enable the land to support biodiversity and ultimately greater productivity. Permaculture is an ethical design science that facilitates the creation and maintenance of long-term sustainable settlements in a more ecologically balanced way.
- Monitor the wildlife that the estate is home to and have adopted wildlife friendly practices of land management.
- Avoid cutting hedges and felling trees in the bird nesting season.
- Practice traditional meadow management to allow wildflowers and grass species to develop that in turn support invertebrates, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
- Are free frompesticides adopting organic techniques and practices.
Our woodland that has largely been unmanaged for many years will be brought back into sustainable woodland management. As much as we should support wildlife and plants, our natural environment needs to support us. A careful balance will be sought to provide for nature and provide for us. In the coming years we will bring areas under production by establishing a market garden, fruit and nut orchards, an Edible Forest Garden and a physic garden to showcase medicinal plants.
Wildlife, Plants and Trees
For many years the estate grounds have been left to ‘rewild’ which has been good news for wildlife that are thriving here. We frequently glimpse roe deer, rabbits, badgers, foxes, slow worms and grass snakes, and there’s a wonderful variety of insects and birds. This abundance of wildlife is supported by a mosaic of woodland, scrubland, grassland, hedgerows and a large spring that feeds several rivulets within Eastwood. In total we have 64 acres of land, just over half of which is woodland.
We have two Sites of Special Scientific Interest that are home to two endangered animals: The Lesser and Greater Horseshoe Bat. Our bats roost in large mines that are part of the down-land plateau of Combe Down, north of the manor house.
We also have two extensive badger setts that could be generations old. The best time to see the badgers is in June and July when the cubs are active above ground. Please enquire at reception and pick up a guide on watching the badgers.
Eastwood is our oldest woodland which is approximately two hundred years old. As this has been unmanaged for some time now, its structural diversity supports many woodland species and a rich diversity of plants and trees. Here you will find our oldest and largest trees including Oak and Beech.
In the height of summer, you will see species rich grassland teaming with insect life and an array of different wildflowers and grasses. Our calcareous soil allows a great diversity of plant species to thrive like no other type of grassland in the UK. From June to July, you will find Pyramidal Orchids and Bee Orchids scattered throughout our meadows.
The history of Combe Grove Estate
Henry VIII granted the site of Combe Grove to Humphrey Colles in 1542. It was later sold to Matthew Colthurst, MP for Bath. However, the first mention of the present dwelling dates to 1698, when it was reportedly owned by “a merchant from Grave’s End”.
In 1706 it was occupied by a local family, which had lived in the village since the 1500s.
Over the years various renovations and additions were carried out on the property, including the planting of a grove of fir trees that gave the property its name.
Between 1748 and 1790 the Methodist preacher, John Wesley, was a regular visitor, preaching from the terrace to small congregations on the lawns below.
The house passed through many hands before it was purchased by the Vaughan-Jenkins family in 1810. They kept it in the family until 1968. It was then let to Audrey Easter, who turned it into unfurnished apartments for “ladies and gentlemen who declined to housekeep”. The permanent residents included Rex Harrison and his wife Kay Kendall. as well as the actor and composer Ivor Novello and his mother.
The imposing entrance from Brassknocker Hill originally featured wrought iron gates which were shown at the Great Exhibition of London in 1851. They cost £300.
The health club, Cannon’s, opened in the early 1970s and was managed by Ron Clarke MBE, an Australian athlete who competed against Roger Bannister.
In March 2017, Combe Grove was purchased by The Elmhurst Foundation, a charity which plans to transform Combe Grove into a centre for work-based learning excellence, creating a range of high-quality enhanced apprenticeships. The vision is to evolve Combe Grove into a unique place for integral health, nutrition and wellbeing, making the very most of the estate’s tranquil woodland setting and outstanding natural views.