Our Carmelite Rule exhorts us to “do some work, so that the devil may always find you occupied lest through idleness he may find some entrance into your souls.” It also urges us to “earn our bread through silent toil”. So in Carmel we are obliged to be self-supporting. The early years here were very challenging in this area.

We had to establish the means to support ourselves; a Heidelberg Platen press was installed, and we became involved in typesetting, printing, and marketing. We soon built up a successful business doing work for our Bishop, Wood Hall Centre and parishes throughout the diocese. Eventually we also developed Offset printing, learning new skills. Altar bread baking and marketing was also taken up to supplement our income.

One of the most challenging areas has been the garden and woodlands: 19 acres of rough land with poor, light soil. To begin with we concentrated on the grassland near to the house. When we tried to make a garden there we discovered that we had “built our house on rock” and that there was only a thin layer of soil over the whole area. One foot down we met rock, so every hole for trees and shrubs had to be dug out with a pick axe. It was heavy going but with perseverance and a great deal of hard work we managed to create a garden which gives us an amazing variety of flowering trees, shrubs, a large orchard and vegetable plot. Now, 50 years on, it keeps us well supplied with apples, plums, soft fruit and a wonderful variety of home grown vegetables. The woods, too, were tamed, paths were cut through, and, with good management, provide a pleasant walking area within our enclosure. We continue to plant trees – especially necessary today as the Ash trees in our woods and all over the country are slowly dying, following on the loss of the Elms.

Once we had tamed the garden, we found we had space for keeping some livestock. We began with two goats, making butter and cheese from their milk. These led us a merry dance as they were far from docile, and needed to be tethered as they could leap over the fence into the vegetable plot. Also, if it rained, they began non – stop bleating, demanding to be taken inside! So, we graduated to keeping the more manageable milking cows. This went much better – but involved us in a great deal of work with hand milking, morning and evening, as well as butter and cheese making! We also acquired several bee hives.

At one point, a kind friend gave us three geese and these kept the grasslands in beautiful order until we discovered that they could take flight into the vegetable plot! Now we rely on a sit-on tractor mower! We also made a foray into sheep.

That is how it all began… (but it doesn’t stop there!)

Historically, we have arrived at this particular moment. Our basic commitment follows hundreds of years of people who have been faithful to this call. Now, in our present moment we stand on their shoulders – we know where our past began, we know and cherish our present. We do not know the exact shape of our future, but together as a community of sisters, we can say with faith and trust with St Teresa, “Let us both go together, Lord; where so ever You go, we will go, and where so ever You lead, we will follow.