Advent Brushes Clean – poem by Jon Hamp

The weight of winter builds
to lean against the summer dam,
The dark deep waters whisper, fading, softly
Here I am.
Winter trees.
Distant cousins to the summer siblings
that we knew,
Winter takes an artless brush to
paint our reverie
Mountain blue.
The water forces flowers and sticks apart,
Sending sunlit smiles downstream.
as sediment on a coastal shelf
(A family smiling in the surf)
A hilltop moment, headlight beam.

Jon Hamp 2021

Kelston Roundhill on a clear December day.

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Kelston Roundhill from Bristol

People say you can see Kelston Roundhill from many places in Bristol. I think this photo (shared with me by Tim Graham) makes the point pretty well.

This was from a “24 hours in Bristol” photo comp site which – regrettably – seems now defunct. But Tim’s Kelston Roundhill Flickr group is still there, and has some beauties.

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Open-air humanist wedding in Kelston clump (likely not the first or last)

It was a great joy and privilege to host Anna and Owen’s wedding on the summit of Kelston Roundhill. It was a simple and natural ceremony, conducted in the open air in the middle of Kelston clump.

Refreshments were served at a reception afterwards a couple of hundred yards down the hill in Roundhill Barn. The combination worked really well.

The ritual was designed and led by the eminent humanist celebrant Isabel Russo. It included the tradition of tying the knots as a series of vows were made. It’s hard not to imagine these same Celtic traditions begin carried out in the same special location many centuries ago, before the Romans and Christianity.

It was interesting to learn that Catholic orthodoxy declares marriage a “mutually administered sacrament”. Priests are all well and good, but they’re not actually required for a marriage to be valid in canon law. Note however that English law (unlike Scottish) requires a venue to be licensed for weddings to be valid in UK law, and Kelston Roundhill is not licensed in that respect.

Isabel Russo lives locally and is happy to help with births and namings marriages and memorials at Roundhill Barn. People are welcome to hire Roundhill Barn for a variety of purposes: see here for details. It’s a simply equipped off-grid venue with kitchen loos and shower. It’s not a fully-serviced location, so don’t think hotel or pub. It’s akin to an empty secular church building, sitting in hundreds of acres of own natural space in the middle of a working farm (with all that entails).

After the festivities and feasting the wedding guests planted a new row of saplings so all can have a growing memory of the occasion every time they see the Roundhill. The elm saplings are bred to be dutch-elm-disease resistant (would that Kew Gardens could breed them deer-resistant as well).

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Life on a working farm: the Countryside Code

Kelston Roundhill is a working farm, and when you plan an event on a working farm you have to take certain things into account. There’s a reason the Countryside Code is clear about leaving gates as you find them.

This time a herd of cows wandered over the horizon through a gate someone had left open. Full marks to the resourceful guests for having the initiative to save the day: they chased the cows back in their field and had the gate to the main road closed even before we could even get there.

The farmer checks they’re all present. Try counting cows when they’re all bunched up; it’s hard.

That’s why as well as having a “leave no trace” policy we ask users of Roundhill Barn to be aware of and abide by the Countryside Code.

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Brock’s Outdoors Adventures offers archery and axe-throwing open day Sun 15 Aug

Billie Brocklehurst, new outdoor activities provider (see below) invites all to an open day of archery and axe-throwing at Abbots Copse on Kelston Roundhill. Sounds like fun. Refreshments (excellent tea coffee and cake) available.

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Kelston Roundhill event: reflection on the events of the last year

Kelston Roundhill makes a fine gathering point at times of crisis and stress. We invited the noted humanist celebrant Isabel Russo, a director of the excellent Good Funeral Guide, to devise a specific one-off ceremony for the community for 26 June. We felt we all need some sort of shared appreciation of what we are living through, and hope for the future.

We invited local villagers, the great and good of Bath Council’s eceonomic regeneration efforts, various faithful and other friends. The response was interesting. Some responded enthusiastically: this was just what they needed. Some felt somehow unworthy; since they had not suffered enough their places should go to others. Many simply did not reply; perhaps they were perplexed, perhaps RSVP has lost its traction.

But it worked out fine: numbers were precisely Covid-conformant. Weather was beautiful. Midsummer is gorgeous.

We heard from freelancers, school headteachers, doctors, faith representatives. We heard the anger and grief of a bereaved widow who had been unable to be with her dementia-suffering partner in his last weeks. We sat in healing silence, and heard the sounds of the natural world. Blackbirds sang through the silence, and continued right on cue while Charlie strummed and played the Beatles’ song of the same name.

Where next? We each resolved to do one thing for ourselves, and one for the community.

We walked to the summit and admired the views from the clump, and returned for a shared picnic, with quiet conversation and reflection. The mood of the afternoon is well summarised by the poem Whisper our stories back written afterwards by Jon Hamp who shared the afternoon with us: see below.

We miss the Kelston village fete (best for miles around, whatever they say in Bitton). We wanted to set up the coconut shy but couldn’t find it in the village hall, so we created this memorial instead.
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Whisper Our Stories Back: poem by Jon Hamp

by Jon Hamp

She softly speaks.
And we listen.
The cows eat the hedge.

Insects hum a symphony
of the high beams,
held above us by silence,
and words add new strength to old structure,
as carers and uncaring,
and broken and mended,
are safely gathered in.

And our collective breath builds an organ
within this good curve of good earth.
Towards our dome of branches.
And frail as string,
a blackbird picks a tune.

So may shells at our feet,
below those waves of grass,
whisper our stories back.

As cows eat hedge, insects hum, and the blackbird picks a tune.

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Glorious midsummer in Roundhill field

Pyramidal and common spotted orchids in Roundhill field, June 2021
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Business opportunity for outdoor activities provider

Kelston Tump would like to take forward the outdoor activities work on Kelston Roundhill (pioneered by the late Dan Spencer).

We’re open to leasing Abbotts Copse and other space to make that possible, and to seeing a long-term viable business offering a range of outdoor activities on the site.

If you’re interested please contact us; we can hear your vision and experience and address any queries. Broadly we’re looking for an operation that is credible and medium to long term viable, enhances the reputation of Kelston Roundhill and provides a valuable service to the community, as far as possible “leaves no trace” (eg daily refuse removal), ensures staff and clients always respect the operations of the working farm and avoids any nuisance to neighbours or other visitors.

Please respond by close of play Fri 21 May.

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RIP Dan Spencer 1986-2021

The funeral was held last Thursday at Roundhill Barn of Dan Spencer. A former Scout, Dan first came to Kelston Roundhill through his work with local schools.

Two years ago Dan moved his outdoor activities business Moving Mountains on site, and brought many and varied people to Kelston Roundhill for outdoor activities including archery, axe-throwing and orienteering.

We much valued his presence: cheerful, capable and content that he was in the right place. The barn and site are full of practical touches and improvements he added while he was working here. We will greatly miss him and our thoughts are with his family.

Roundhill Barn all prepared and ready to welcome Dan’s family and friends for a memorable funeral service.
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