Families take care down to the farm

Greave House Farm Trust'Bolsterstone'Derbyshire'Feeding the pigs down on the croft
Greave House Farm Trust'Bolsterstone'Derbyshire'Feeding the pigs down on the croft

A retired dairy farm in Stocksbridge has been given a new lease of life by two Sheffield couples – and is now helping to change the lives of vulnerable adults and the local community.

Greave House Farm has been established as a ‘care farm’ by Chris and Barbara Bristow and their friends Paul and Ruth Smith, who met 30 years ago as volunteers on a Christian camping holiday for inner city children.

They dreamed of one day running something similar themselves and when they came across Greave House, it seemed like a sign.

“We had specifically targeted the north of Sheffield as an area lacking resources for adults with learning disabilities,” says Barbara. “Visiting the farm for the first time was so exciting and it felt just right.”

They have spent the last five years reviving the farm and creating a supportive environment where people with mental or learning disabilities can enjoy being with animals and nature – becoming fitter, learning new skills, gaining confidence and making new friends.

The project is supported by local volunteers and a whole army of fundraisers, including those taking part in the Stocksbridge Chase on September 21.

The 10k event was set up last year and exceeded all expectations, with more than 50 competitors plus family fun-runners, raising £942 for the farm’s work.

The Bristows and the Smiths encountered the concept of a ‘care farm’ shortly before moving to Greave House.

Both couples had, coincidentally, had children with learning disabilities, so are experienced in the specific educational and personal needs.

Creation of the farm has gone on alongside renovation of a derelict barn for the two families to live in.

“It’s been tough at times, but we should all be settled by Christmas,” says Barbara, who is planning a big party to thank all those who have helped them.

Much of the work has been carried out with recycled or found materials, such as old packing cases which have been turned into floorboards and an old tree trunk that is now part of the staircase.

Freecycle has been used to source plumbing and building products while the external walls are insulated with hemp and rendered with lime.

“It’s been a massive learning curve for Chris, who’s project managed, and those who have helped him feel proud to have been involved.”

The Greave House Farm Trust now offers support not only to vulnerable adults, but also to people who come as day workers or volunteers.

It keeps geese, ducks and chickens and has become part of the city-wide Bee Buddy scheme, managing four hives.

The team has planted more than 500 trees, provided by the Woodland Trust and Community Forestry among others, and is also planning to grow fruit.

One of the fields backs on to Oxley Park, where philanthropist Thomas Oxley once grew fruit for his English Fruit Preserving Company.

This is being developed as an orchard and is also home to a herd of pigs, who are ‘digging’ the land ready for the planting of raspberries and blackcurrants – in line with the principle of permaculture.

The farm also now runs courses in subjects ranging from sausage or candle making to permaculture design.

To register for the Stocksbridge Chase visit www.
sheffieldrunningclub.org.uk/chase; for more details about Greave House Farm visit www.greavehousefarmtrust.org.uk.