The John Seymour School for Self Sufficiency

  Spring is slowly moving into the garden at Christon Bank - most of our seeds are  now growing vigorously.    So are the weeds!     We have been hoeing whenever the day looks set to be dry and windy.      Most of the plants started in the new greenhouse are now being hardened off outside.     The courgettes that were blasted by frost have been replaced by butternut squashes from the greenhouse while new courgette plants are already 2 inches high inside.      Today we will plant out sweet williams and night scented stock - to help the butterflies, hover flies and bees.    Yesterday I finished putting new blades on the 2 new A frame northumbrian sycthes which I made last month.   (These are for sale - please get in touch if you are interested!   The short blade and strong snaith make this ideal for tougher materials like brambles and seedling trees.)
New Scythe

  Booking for our two summer courses is now closed.      We may possibly arrange a further course in September - time of harvest - if there is a demand.    Please get in touch if you are interested.   

Spinach MayArtSalad
Here is the "early spring garden" with spinach, rocket and salads already going full blast.    Late frosts have done some damage to early potatoes and the courgettes but we are back on track now.    Over half of the main garden in now seeded.
Those who are coming on courses will see a big change when they arrive!     This is the magic of gardening!  

The greenhouse is now in action
Building work is now finished.    The glazing is all complete and the double glazed polycarbonate roof has been installed.     The doors and gutters are now in place - including my innovation of bringing the rain water into the greenhouse directly into a large waterbutt.     The first 2 new shoots on the young vine have now grown more than a foot towards becoming the main rods for the future.   
The water buttForbiddenG
The new greenhouse "in action".              The "forbidden garden" - a new large extension now planted with potatoes, onions, peas and a new bed of asparagus.
The Renovation Story

  In 2014 our courses moved to the beautiful coast of north Northumberland where we have begun the renovation of a fine old Victorian kitchen garden at Christon Bank.    The renovation work provides an unusual opportunity for our students to be involved in the development of the garden infrastructure and planning.     It's many years since the garden was in full use but the site is lucky enough to have a massively high brick wall along its east and north sides.    The wall was built from the dutch bricks which were used as ballast by coal ships from Newcastle in the nineteenth century.  

The Christon Bank farmhouse has been lovingly restored by the Gilbert family and now includes a pond and wildflower meadow.

The wildflower meadow

The kitchen garden lies on the north side (to the left of the picture).     The soil is a heavy well drained loam with few nasty weeds - no creeping buttercup or couch, just a few nettles.    The biggest challenge was digging out a few very old tree stumps whose roots have gone under the walls.   You can see the massive (recently re-pointed) south facing wall which will give the garden such a beneficial micro-climate.  

The School

Will Sutherland has run self-sufficiency courses for almost 20 years, teaching the methods and philosophy developed by John Seymour.     Will worked for over 10 years with John Seymour in Ireland and, with John, created the New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency published by Dorling Kindersley.   In 2010 we took our courses to the wine growing region near Bordeaux where the warm weather, swimming pool and excellent local wine made a nice change from the cooler climes of Ireland.    Now we are moving back to cooler climes to take up the challenge of re-creating a classic old kitchen garden.  

What our students said:

“Thank you so much: we really enjoyed the course and found it VERY interesting and helpful. And what a beautiful place in which to do it”

“Thank you for a wonderful holiday. The food has been amazing and we have really enjoyed the Class. You have a beautiful place here.”

Such great people. Such strong spirits. Great to know you guys!'

“The training and experience at St Leger was the best birthday present I could have had. Your book and your work have opened up for us a better way to enjoy life in harmony with the land and nature.”

Lots of Good Food - The students who came last year were mightily impressed with the St Leger meals they enjoyed and suggested we put the week's menu up on the website.      Good food and good conversation are important features for all those looking for a more self-sufficient and satisfying style of life!

Vegetarian options are provided.    Meals are served with home made beer including ginger beer!