Tony Wilde writes:
At the turn of the 19th-century big cities in the north of England were becoming more and more demanding of water supplies. Reservoirs such as those in many parts of Wales were developed in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire. The most recent of three adjacent constructions, Ladybower Reservoir, was formed by damming the River Derwent and flooding the ancient village of Ashhopton. Its construction, interrupted by WWII, was only completed in the 1940s. The company involved, the Derwent Valley Water Board, built its offices nearby, alongside a temporary railway built to carry the gigantic rocks and clay needed for what is one of the largest dams in Britain.
One of the “rambling and perhaps over-engineered buildings” of Bamford (photo: Bamford Quaker community)
This rambling (and perhaps over-engineered) series of buildings is now the home of the Quaker Community at Bamford, which takes its name from the nearby village of that name, about two miles from the better-known Hathersage (of Bronte and Little John fame). The community currently comprises five or six resident members, all of whom are Quakers. They are part of Hope Valley Meeting. Throughout the year there is a variety of residential and day courses, ranging from ‘living in community’, yoga, craft-work, music and woodland management. The latter is very appropriate, since the house sits in woodland and organic gardens of about eight acres. It is, certainly, a gardener’s paradise, with ample scope for development.
When I was living in Sheffield, and attending Sheffield Central Meeting, I first heard of Bamford, and visited it often, sometimes cycling there from my home. In the 1990s this was in the early days of the life of the Quaker Community. It has seen many changes of membership, structure and focus since then. Almost miraculously, it has weathered many challenges, particularly those of maintaining and improving a rambling and energy-hungry building. The Community still feels like an energetic and hopeful group, founded on Quaker values. In the last few years, particularly, it has embraced awareness about the environment, and ‘treading lightly on the world’.
The Bamford buildings sit in woodland and organic gardens of about eight acres: “a gardeners paradise” (Photo: Bamford Quaker community)
My most recent two stays in Bamford, in 2019, consisted of two or three weeks each time. I volunteered as a woodworker and ‘handy-person’, soon finding myself occupied in the spacious (if a little draughty) workshop (previously used as a garage for Water Board vehicles). The community is a welcoming group which values any skills that visitors can bring. I repaired and rebuilt lots of broken furniture, from the house and from the gardens, repaired rotten window-frames, and eased sticking doors and windows. ‘Painting the Forth Bridge’ came to mind as I worked steadily and, even if one were to be working there continuously, it felt as if the list of ‘jobs to do’ kept on growing!
But, each working day started and finished beautifully, with a half-hour silent Meeting for Worship, and these peaceful times (sometimes preceded with some Taize chanting) keep the community together, with a spiritual focus.
The house has lots of accommodation, of all shapes and sizes, and can welcome even quite large groups. Visitors come and go, and there is always someone new to meet in the vast communal kitchen. It is possible to be quiet in one’s own room, to do a retreat, or to enter fully into community life – there is lots of freedom. Of course, the house is right in the centre of the Peak District, and wonderful walks begin at the front door. Great public transport, buses and trains to and from Sheffield and Manchester make it easy to get to, even without a car.
The Quaker community has a volunteering programme, which offers “experience in hospitality, gardening, housekeeping, woodland skills, DIY and decorating under the umbrella of sustainability, in a welcoming Quaker environment”.
If you are inspired to find out more, please visit: quakercommunity.org.uk, or ask me for further information.
To contact Tony, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass the message on