Bell tents in a May meadow

Billie has set up half a dozen bell tents in the meadow next to Roundhill Barn for the guests of Mark and Emma, who are celebrating at Roundhill Barn this weekend.

They sit on new discreetly improved sites: actually level, and accessed by narrow paths mown through the meadow. Sleep well, wedding guests!

By now Billie has got setting them up down to a fine art. Thanks Billie!
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It’s cowslip season (and mushroom season too)

It’s cowslip season on Kelston Roundhill.

There’s nothing like a big view with a load of cowslips in the foreground.

It’s also the end of mushroom season for the tasty St George’s variety:

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Talking about death and bereavement at Roundhill Barn

Roundhill Barn hosted an important and moving conversation this week as 24 people gathered to share feelings, experiences and expertise about death.

Participants included doctors, independent undertakers, social prescribers, ritual designers and celebrants, also bereaved friends, children, parents and spouses. We looked at historic perspectives, also medical, consumer, environmental, emotional and spiritual. We heard the still lingering effects – inhibitions and fears – arising from c20th wars and persecution.

The plenary conversation mixed expert contributors with profound personal stories.

It’s a beautiful thing and a great relief to talk openly about a subject which is unavoidable, a universal fact of life and yet somehow taboo. We heard the bizarre example of the headteacher who wrote to say a girl’s mother had died and that no-one at school was to mention it.

We heard awful experiences of people forced into prescriptive and formulaic municipal or religious rituals or processes that overrode their desires and needs. And we heard stories that showed how openness about death and accepting death freed all involved to live life more fully, and how new approaches to undertaking could better meet the emotional and spiritual needs of bereaved people and be far kinder to the environment.

Roundhill Barn is a great place to have such a conversation, especially in the beautiful months: quiet, peaceful, intense. We’d be very happy to work with contemporary funeral directors and celebrants to host memorials which give friends and families time and space to say goodbye in their own way, unrushed, with huge views of the beautiful Somerset countryside.

We ended up with a “death cafe”: four small groups sharing feelings about the subject over tea and cakes.

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Roundhill Barn: conversation about death

We talk about births, and we talk about marriages. But we don’t talk much about death. But talking about death won’t make it any more likely to happen. Or any less likely for that matter.

On that basis we’re going to start what we feel is a much-need conversation about the realities of death.

Date: Tue 2 May
Time: Starts 1400 (doors open 1300 if you want to bring a sandwich); ends 1700
Place: Roundhill Barn, Kelston (directions here)

There will be tea. There will be cake. We’ll invite a handful of experts and specialists. We can talk about medical aspects, spiritual and emotional dimensions, commercial and consumer realities and the environmental impact.

It’s free of charge (you can contribute); numbers are limited. Email us to attend or with any questions.

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Odyssey on Kelston Roundhill

We’ve engaged a seriously good new young theatre company to put drama on Kelston Roundhill 14 July 2023. Troubadour Stageworks are coming to the hill to perform The Odyssey. Here’s the story:

20 years have passed since Penelope and Odysseus last met. 10 years of war, 10 of… well that is the question. What has kept Odysseus from home so long, and what has happened in Ithaca in the intervening years?

Join us for an evening of music, myth and monsters as this cunning couple, blessed by Athena, find their way back to the person they left.

Email for details. Or just get tickets here

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March snowfall and fog on Kelston Roundhill

Some hardy sledders made it up to the top for a greytone view and a bumpy ride down.

She celebrated International Womens’ Day by knocking off two men’s hats with snowballs.

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Why “scattering ashes” is more complicated than it sounds (and what to do about it)

We get enquiries from people whose late relative loved Kelston Roundhill. Can they scatter their ashes up in the clump?

First: it’s always good to hear from people who love the place. Second: it’s nice of people to ask, because not all do (though it’s a clear legal requirement to seek permission from the landowner before scattering ashes on private land).

But third: it’s more complicated than it sounds.

“Ashes” is a euphemism for what cremains really are (hint: it’s not like the wood ash from a fire). What’s left after cremation is very alkaline. Frequent scattering in a small space (eg inside the clump) would affect the ecology quite severely and kill plants. Even burying instead of scattering doesn’t really help. This is well set out at the Living Memorial web site; the approach they recommend as best practice is to blend the cremains with a soil blend, and then to scatter over quite a wide area.

There’s a fair amount of cost in making Kelston Roundhill open and accessible (fencing, keeping trees safe, insurance). Our priorities are supporting viable farming, appropriate amenity use and improving biodiversity across the farm. We’re not in the business of making it a garden of remembrance, and certainly don’t want permanent memorials of any sort (metal, plastic, stone etc).

People sometimes kindly offer trees and benches, but trees require proper planting with protection and also maintenance (watering in first couple of years when it’s dry). Maybe we should accept a bench, but it would not be an improvement to make this special remote place more municipal.

We do rent Roundhill Barn out for events. That helps balance the books. Roundhill Barn is extremely well suited to funeral and memorial events (with unattended cremation elsewhere). It is a great place to say goodbye. We’d certainly consider offering people who rent the barn for memorial events the chance of scattering responsibly as part of the package: be in touch.

We appreciate this land has strong emotional ties for many people and that death is difficult to deal with. It’s a legal requirement to have the owner’s permission before you scatter cremains on private land, and it’s reasonable for us to insist at the least that any scattering is done responsibly blending the cremains with a specialist soil mix to render it less damaging to the soil and ecology.

Post-cremation “ashes” are more like cat litter than wood ash. Mixing cremains with a bucket of specialist soil like this before scattering can reduce ecological damage.

Who wants a stuffy, municipal funeral with the imposition of meaningless language and symbolism and a sense that the next cortege is waiting and you have to move on soon? No-one. Take your time; do it as you want. There are better options available.

Footnote: Many “local” funeral directors or undertakers are in reality subsidiaries of the publicly quoted national market leader Dignity plc. Exceptions are Clarksons, one excellent local independent undertaker. Divine based in Bristol is first rate for a really contemporary style of service.

Pro tip: if you want to choose a good undertaker, ask a GP. And if you want to choose a good GP, ask the undertaker.

We’re happy to work with any funeral director that offers good service, good value and genuinely puts the needs of the bereaved first. You can also do natural burial at Clearbrook Farm, a beautiful resting place. It’s 25 minutes’ drive but would combine well with a funeral or memorial event at Roundhill Barn.

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Happy Monday planting oaks and elms: Feb 2023

Today we planted some oak and elm saplings.

The iconic elm largely died out in the UK in the 1970s (see Wikipedia on Dutch elm disease), but there are now disease-resistant strains. There are no mature oak trees on the Roundhill at all. Conditions are clearly tough for oak but the ones we planted in 2013 seem to be surviving Ok.

Ruth had collected and germinated acorns from St Catherine’s valley, and wanted a happy home for half a dozen oak saplings. She came with posts and collected some topsoil kindly left in neat piles by Mr Mole. We had some recycled tubes and wood chippings from the tree work. Mark and Lewis were on site already with superior tools; we diverted them from their gate work and asked them to dig the holes (very helpful when the ground is mostly stones and I’ve slipped a disc or something like that).

Harry had ordered elm saplings to replace the losses in Owen’s avenue of elms, and Billie from Brocks Adventures lent a hand which she’s very good at.

Ruth had collected and germinated acorns from St Catherine’s valley, and wanted a happy home for half a dozen oak saplings.

Harry had ordered elm saplings to replace the losses in Owen’s avenue of elms, and Billie from Brocks Adventures lent a hand which she’s very good at.

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Roundhill Barn offering funeral and memorial events

Roundhill Barn hosted two funeral events in Jan 2023, making the point that funerals and memorials can be more beautiful and memorable in a rural setting.

One was a Quaker Meeting with tea after the family had attended Haycombe Crematorium. The other was an attended Quaker funeral, after which close family and friends said farewell as a hearse carried the wicker coffin off into the sunset for unattended cremation.

We’re happy to host faith based memorial events, and also humanist and other secular life celebrations.

The key think is the funeral or memorial is a beautiful, quiet, unrushed event. These work very well in a simple barn with a beautiful view under a huge sky, no 45-minute deadline, and no religious or municipal imagery or clutter. We maintain the track to a standard that a hearse can navigate it without problem.

We’re happy to offer Roundhill Barn to ethical independent funeral directors and celebrants.

Contact us with any enquiries about funeral or memorial plans, particularly if Kelston Roundhill is special to you.

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Star field bridges – a poem for Solstice

by Jon Hamp

Walk on star-field bridge-
fur long, sea-swept grasses,
here at this wheeling world’s end,
the long year shrugs,
and passes.

Luminary cities throw
telegraphed jabs of light,
over the star-field bridges
to fracture
winter night.

2022 winter Solstice just after sunset

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