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One spring evening in 2003, looking out over our idyllic land in mid Wales, chatting with our neighbours Betty and Baden, I mentioned I’d like to plant some lavender. Back then we still lived in Oxford during the week where Bill taught philosophy. One of the many pleasures of our life there had been to live alongside a magical lavender hedge. I loved the feel of the flowers in my hands. The scent was soothing, calming and fresh.
Baden told us about an agency called Glasu which means “to green” in Welsh – its aim was to encourage farmers to diversify. He thought we might qualify for a grant to plant a field of lavender. A field? I was a journalist, not (yet) a farmer!
The earth on our farm, Cefnperfedd Uchaf, is extraordinary. It’s red and rich and smells like rain. Sometimes I think it smells slightly nutty. On rainy days visitors look at their muddy red boots and rave about the colour.
That September our first 2,000 lavender plants were in the ground.
Meantime our jobs continued to take us to faraway places – to China, across the former Soviet Union, to Africa, Central Asia and Iraq. Summers were spent harvesting lavender and hanging bunches to dry in our barn.
Another chance conversation would launch us on a completely new journey in 2008. My friend Hilary came to see our farm and said you must meet my sister Helen Lowe, a leading artisan in the design and development of cosmetic creams.
As a journalist I had often worked in harsh conditions which made me all too aware of the need to take care of my skin. Helen loved the idea of working with Welsh lavender oil distilled in Wales so we experimented, making a tiny amount for her to use, enough to develop a sample line of face and body creams.
Our essential ingredient, lavender oil, comes from flowers just outside our windows. Like a wine, our rich red earth at an altitude of 1100 feet, produces a lavender oil unique to our land.
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