Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

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Saying Good-bye to Su and Darren

In May we said good-bye to Su and Darren.


Su worked for five years in the Café, cooking breakfasts, and baking cakes, and also making ready meals and jams and chutneys for sale in the Farm Shop.  Her steady presence and friendly greetings welcomed everyone.   You might also have seen her walking her dog, Sid, around the farm.  Su has moved to Derbyshire to work in catering for a wedding venue.  We wish her well!





Su & Jam

Darren, the man who fell in love with Vicars Orchard.

About 3 years ago, Darren was mainly working in horticulture and coordinating the intern program. He took a well-deserved break and went to visit his family in Australia. On that trip he decided his time had  come  to return to Australia for good. He came back to sort everything out after living in the UK for about 10 years. One evening he strolled around the farm and ended up in Vicars Orchard in bloom and witnessed a beautiful sunset.  The beauty of the orchard and the potential gripped him and he decided to stay.  The ticket to return home to Australia (not a cheap affair) was left unused and Darren started sorting out the orchard that had been mainly left to its own devices since 2008.


Darren passion for the orchard and knowledge inspired others to get involved and Vicars Orchard in 2017 is definitely something to be proud of!



The Quiet Aussie

Quiet he may have been, but his presence is missed, not least by the Horticulture Team.   Darren took over from me as Leader in horticulture last July, where he used his considerable experience in several countries to continue and improve what is grown in our tunnels and fields;  he nurtured the orchard with knowledge and passion.   Darren’s innate caring nature encompassed all at the farm, with particular emphasis on the interns for whom he felt a sense of responsibility which included  irritation at their untidy habits!

My lasting memory of Darren is our ‘walk and talk’ times when we took the two dogs belonging to Emma and Tim and my black lab for a wander in the woods.   Our conversations went beyond horticulture and we got to know each other in greater depth, and to talk about Oz where I used to live too.  Darren had to leave his lab behind when he first came here and Daisy and I hope he will get another companion soon.

This picture shows how stressful our weekly coffee and cakes meetings were!   Eva has now taken over as Leader.

Darren Mum Eva 049

Good-on-ya Darren, Eva and I wish you well.






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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Fin helps save the Bees

Fin’s Twenty Seventh Adventure

Lorraine helps save Dr Finlay

May 27th 2017

National Walking Month

Adventures come and go and sometimes we search for them and sometimes they search for us.

Today’s adventure was all about escape.  Dr Finlay wanted to escape, Fin wanted to escape and so they went for a walk together with Fin’s twin who it turned out was called Fiona.

She was taller than Fin with much less bark and rather vulnerable so Fin and Dr Finlay would try and take good care of her along with their friend Lorraine who was an expert at taking care of people.

They met Lorraine at the start of their walk and she joined them and held Fiona while Fin stayed in the gentle hands of Dr Finlay.

Dr Finlay wanted to show Fin and Fiona and Lorraine The Place Where Time Stands Still and so they made their way to Vicars Orchard.

Wandering around the orchard they headed for the bee hives and ….

Oh my goodness what is that hanging from the tree!!!!!!!

Maybe a whole swarm had made a getaway escaping with the Queen to pastures new leaving a smaller group hanging on for dear life on an apple tree close to the hive they had escaped from.

Bees are precious things and there was no time to waste they needed the Bee Emergency Services Team or BEST.

BEST was so brilliant he was already on the way and they met him at the gate of the orchard in the BEST Mobile.

Fin and Fiona, Dr Finlay and Lorraine explained the situation and watched him guide the BEST Mobile towards the hives.  The slogan on the BEST Mobile was very clever:- BEE The BEST that you can BEE.

Euan (The BEST Chief Executive Officer) donned his protective clothing and set about saving the bees and the others watched on in awe at the way man and nature tried to work with each other and how freedom was so cherished by all.

27 bees

When will we be free?

Dr Finlay made a note to remind Fin to read up about Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and William Wilberforce in case they didn’t have time before Doomsday which was now only a few days away.

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Fin watches on as BEEMAN completes the recapture of the escaping bees.

Fiona, Dr Finlay and Lorraine were all keeping a safe distance as they would have been vulnerable to the sting of the Killer Queen.


Tomorrow as they say was to bee another day.

—Dr Finlay
May 27th 2017



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Dr Finley’s Walking Stick: The Story of Hatchiko

Dr Finley Who’s 26th Adventure

May 26th 2017

National Walking Month

Dr Finley Who could now travel much further and faster than before, to travel fast you should travel alone, to travel further you should travel together.

He went back in time by over thirty years in space he moved thousands of miles and arrived on the 26th May 1987 in Tokyo, Japan.

To be exact he arrived outside Shibuya Station in central Tokyo at the meeting point where friends would arrange to find each other at the statue to a dog called Hatchiko.

25 scarecrow

A small dog waiting for its owner who left it behind one day.


Hatchiko’s owner had gone to war and was never to return, his faithful dog waited for him every single day for the rest of his life only for him never to come back.

This loyalty, this friendship, this devotion made the people of Tokyo build a statue to celebrate the importance of loyalty and friendship.

As everyone knows a dog is a man’s best friend.

And also a very, very good reason to go for a walk.

26 bluebells and sid

Sid and Fin Grown Up in another Time.

Stories from the past from Dr Who.

—Dr Who
May 26th 2017

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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Pandora’s Box


Dr Finlay’s 25th Adventure

Yearning for Learning

May 25th 2017

National Walking Month

Dr Finlay felt pleased about letting Fin go and knew he would be happy in the long term.  He wondered if his friends at Holly Bush might name his Twin for him?

There were so many things he wanted to share with Fin but knew he must find his own way.  However he could add a few adventures of his own that perhaps one day Fin would read for himself.

The first story would certainly be Pandora’s Box.

25 box

Elvis Presley wrote a song about a wooden heart and this is what Pandora has.  The Wizard of Oz tells the story of a Scarecrow, a Lion and a TinMan who wanted a brain, some courage and a heart.

Dr Finlay was now moving into the Past and the Future easily and put things from his past that he wanted to leave behind into a wooden box.

He didn’t know whether to burn or bury the box but decided on burying it first.

He had been headless while she had been heartless, not a good mix.

Looking over the burial ground was Hatchiko but that would a story for another day.

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Hatchiko and the Headless Man

He hoped that no one else would open Pandora’s Box and let out all the pain, anger and sorrow that he had locked inside.  He hoped they would never damage another as he himself had been damaged.

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Pandora’s Box and The Vicar’s Orchard

What other legends and stories and myths would Fin like to hear of with his brother?  Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi (who had a great stick) and the greatest Briton of the last century Winston Churchill.

Freedom Fighters All.

Time Stands Still for Dr Who.

—Dr Who
May 25th 2017

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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Fin meets Charles Darwin and …. his maker

Fin’s Twenty Fourth and Final Adventure

May 24th 2017

National Walking Month

24 roger

What a fascinating final day for Fin and his adventures.  He would meet with Charles Darwin who is pictured on the £10 note, he would look at all the pictures from his friends at HollyBush School and he would learn about a co-operative model of existence as opposed to a competitive one.

He would meet an artist who loved Henry Moore inspired tapestries and thought that Perry Green was the best place in the world and he learnt some more about where he came from.

As someone once said, “He would return to know it for the first time.”

As well as this his excitement about speed would be increased with a remarkable bicycle called a recumbent which looked like the Formula One of bicycles.

24 bikes

His life had become full and he thanked Dr Finlay for filling it.  The void left in Dr Finlay’s heart could not be filled and a final twisting or two of knives would bring him finally to his knees.

Charles Darwin had advised him of some useful things that help species to survive following his visit to the Galapagos Islands in his ship The Beagle.

A very, very thick tortoise shell or the hide of a rhinoceros, perhaps this is why Henry Moore had one in his shed while he thought of the external hardness protecting the inner softness.  Resilience, which included the support of family and friends would stand Fin and his Twin in very good stead indeed.

24 roger and dave

Charles Darwin with Dr Finlay, Fin and ?

He had at least found a twin for Fin who could take his place and provide the company and companionship and closeness that only another can bring.

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Fin and ? having a bit of a blurred look at Spitfires during their first therapy session.

Fin would never walk alone.

Tomorrow as they say never comes.

—Dr Finlay
May 24th 2017

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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: Angels and Devils

Fin’s Twenty Second Adventure

May 22nd 2017

National Walking Month

Today Dr Finlay and Fin were joined by an Angel for a walk that took them around the Circular Walk we are all taking but in the other direction, would things become undone?  Can we go backwards in time?

Can we undo the things that cause us pain or relive the ones that give us pleasure.  What are memories for?

Fin and Sid of course are probably untroubled by such things and live solely in the present moment, a place safe from past fears and hurts and future worries or dreams.

The Angel walking by their side today was Aimee, the local music teacher who brought so much joy into the lives of young people in the small village.

Everyone loves Aimee and her heart is enormous and warm and open.  However for every Angel there is a Devil of equal but opposite magnitude, someone who is heartless, cold and closed. Someone who harms not heals.

It is not always easy to tell the difference at first but it becomes very clear and the warning signs are pain.

Dr Finlay told Fin that he had arranged some other guests for him to meet which included a man called Charles, another man called William and finally they would walk with God.

Tomorrow as they say was to be another day.

—Dr Finlay
May 22nd 2017

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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: A Spitfire!

Fin’s Twentieth Adventure

May 20th 2017

National Walking Month and Dementia Awareness Week


An empty day, a rest day, a day of dreams, dreams of visiting a Flying Machine, not just any flying machine, but visiting a Spitfire!!!

Tomorrow as they say was to be another day.

—Dr Finlay
May 20th 2017