The Wellbeing Farm - a peaceful retreat in the hills above Edgworth
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:11 23 July 2014
A hill farm near Bolton has diversified into a unique centre for relaxation - and a good day out
Celia Gaze didn’t realise when she was an under-pressure director in the NHS that what she needed was a countryside walk with a llama. Nor did she realise when she was signed off with stress she would be the person to keep the llamas and offer other people the chance of a therapeutic walk with them.
The five llamas she has now in the hills above Edgworth are just one element of the stress-busting Wellbeing Farm which has been showered with awards since it opened just over a year ago. In the fields next to Vincent, Humbug, Ezra, Laurie, Yasser and Ezra are sheep, pigs, turkeys, donkeys, rabbits and assorted other creatures.
The farm is also home to a cookery school, children’s party venue and corporate meeting rooms, as well as a restaurant which specialises in home-grown produce (helped along by manure from the llamas).
Celia worked in the NHS for 14 years, latterly as a turnaround director helping to improve struggling Primary Care Trusts, and she said: ‘I worked long hours and it was very demanding. There was lots of pressure and lots of bureaucracy.’
She was signed off with stress after having a baby and used the time to research the causes, symptoms and possible remedies. Six years on, her partner’s family farm has been re-born as a relaxing haven for people suffering stress and also a venue for family days out and corporate meetings and events.
‘The initial idea was for it to be a place where stressed out individuals could escape’ Celia added. ‘The whole ethos here is about stress management and everything has been designed with that in mind, right down to the colour scheme. The five key things here are the countryside, exercise, a nice environment, nice food and learning – they are all things that can help wellbeing.
‘I had been on lots of away days when I worked for the NHS and most of them made you feel worse. There was rarely anything to inspire you, it was the same old food in the same old kind of room with no view and I just wanted to create something very different. We have hotel standard meeting facilities and we serve good food.
‘I am still working long hours and it is very hard work, but I love it. Pressure you put on yourself is very different to pressure that comes down on to you from higher up. Having trained in stress management I know when to take my foot off the gas a little, but I’m often up at 4am and finding something that needs doing.’
The Wellbeing Farm (powered by its own wind turbine) opened last April, in the same week the horse meat scandal hit the headlines and threw the spotlight on the provenance of food – something there’s little doubt about in Celia’s kitchen.
‘This is not a petting farm,’ she added. ‘The sheep and pigs here are bred for meat. We want to educate people about where food comes from.
‘We have had school parties here with children who have never seen a sheep before and have no idea that meat doesn’t just come wrapped in plastic.
‘It’s all about farming and how to cook meat – helping people to appreciate where food comes from. We aren’t totally self sufficient but we use what we produce and that’s why the menu changes so often, we’re dependent on the seasons and everything we make is home made and cooked from scratch.’
Wheatsheaf Hill Farm has been in Celia’s partner’s family for generations and they also own Whitehead’s Butcher’s which has been a feature in Edgworth for almost 130 years and is now run by Celia’s partner Stephen and his sister Sarah Grundy.
The restaurant is open on Friday evenings and all day at weekends with corporate events held during the week. The first wedding will be held at the farm next month and a monthly farmers’ market will start there on the first Saturday in August.
‘People always head off to the Lake District and I don’t think they realise what we have in this area,’ Celia said.
‘It’s only a few miles from the centre of Manchester and we’ve got lovely countryside, incredible views and some great walks. I want to put this area on the map a bit more.’
Green Tourism Goldstar Award nomination
The Wellbeing Farm in Bolton has been shortlisted for the category of Best Conference / Events Venue and is among 60 UK finalists drawn from a total of more than 2,400 contenders whittled down to make the list of nominations for 13 award categories.
The winners of each category will be announced at the Green Tourism Annual conference on November 10 during a special ceremony held in the the Palace Hotel, Manchester.