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It’s easy to grow, smells beautiful and it’s very very English... whilst our neighbouring county Norfolk is more traditionally associated with the lavender industry, Lincolnshire businesswoman Sherry Forbes is seeking to show Lincolnshire ladies how to grow, use and enjoy lavender from her new craft workshop studios near Woodhall Spa...
For Martin woman Sherry Forbes, her new business venture would prove a stark contrast from her previous life as a marine biologist. It was also one that has seen the enthusiastic woman transform a dilapidated farmhouse and barn into a stunning country home and adjacent stableblock in which Sherry is hosting courses and workshops to revive forgotten country crafts.
Next month, Sherry will launch yet another course to join existing favourites like candlemaking, breadmaking, kitchen gardening, rag-rugging and basket weaving. The new course, Lotions and Lavender, combines growing, harvesting, and using the plant’s essential oils to create home-made cosmetics.
“The subjects are varied, but there’s a distinct commonality.” says Sherry. “All of the courses at Manor House Stables involve making things, and employing simple domestic skills that we’ve forgotten about.”
Sherry’s long-standing love of Lavender was really encouraged 10 years ago during a visit to Provence’s lavender fields. The trip inspired her to plant her own lavender in her Lincolnshire garden with each crop lasting around seven years, and to complete a course in distilling the plant, resulting in obtaining the essential oils which can then be used to create hand-made cosmetics.
Now, Sherry will show others how to grow, use and create cosmetics from lavender which are free from alcohol, parabens, and non-natural preservatives quickly and easily in your own kitchen.
Lavender is well-renowned for its relaxing properties, having its origins in Grecian and Egyptian times. Elizabethan England used the plant in the home, whilst Victorians used it as a disinfectant and relaxant, first recognising its potential in cosmetics.
The plant is an excellent relaxant, used in massage oils, or placing drops onto handkerchiefs, being referred to in Edwardian England as Mothering Oil.
It’s also has superb anti-bacterial properties, and is both an anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, as well as an analgesic, ideal for symptomatically treating headaches and migraines.
“Because the products that participants on the course will make don’t contain alcohol or chemicals they make great cosmetics.” says Sherry. The course will start with a short lecture on husbandry, history and usage, and in the afternoon, we’ll make a cleanser, toner, moisturiser, exfoliator and lip balm.”
The idea is that participants will come away with a whole suite of cosmetics that are natural, and can be grown in even the most modest Lincolnshire garden. Plant-based preservatives are the only concession to modern cosmetics manufacturing techniques.
In order to simplify the course and ensure the group can create the whole range of cosmetics, Sherry will use a ‘base’ product, and add the lavender oil to it, and will only touch on the business of distilling lavender oil, which is a complicated process. But the course will see participants leave armed with handouts, books and all the knowledge they need.
“There’s potential for an ‘advanced’ course, covering the creation of toothpastes and perfumes, distilling techniques and so on.” says Sherry. “And we hope to cover the use of lavender in massage in the future too.
But what’s important for the time being is that participants feel enabled and have a go at creating some products for themselves. It’s very rewarding.”
Sherry’s career as a marine biologist saw her moving to Lincolnshire in 1984 and living in Boston, Brigg and Ludford before moving to Martin in 1994. At that time, the building - a former restaurant - was a dilapedated shell. The couple have since been transforming the house and acre of garden, treating it as an ongoing project, and originally intended to leave the stableblock until work on the house was completed.
However, with so many great ideas buzzing around, Sherry couldn’t wait to get started and created from the old barns two holiday lets, known at the Bothy and The Hayloft. Those who wish to stay in the beautiful accommodation are treated to fresh local Lincolnshire produce, a welcome trug of jams, cheeses and chutneys, and apple wine, as well as exceptional, unique accommodation.
Below the hayloft, meanwhile, the craft rooms and a small kitchen area allow visitors to take part in around 15 different courses each year, all based around forgotten country skills.
Whilst Sherry hosts some of the courses herself, other experts are drafted in too, from Lincolnshire gardener Rachel Petherham who is to advised on creating cutting gardens in October and wreathmaking in December, to Jenny Smith of Jenny’s Jams, who will lend her expertise to Scones with Jam and Cream this month. Between six and eight participants enjoy the day-long courses, which cost between £35 and £75, and include all materials plus a home made lunch and glass of local apple wine.
Lotions and Lavender will take place on 15th August, whilst Make an Earthen Bread Oven will take place on Sunday 1st August, Making Corn Dollies takes place on 4th August and A Healthy Harvest, on 29th August, includes information about creating and harvesting from a kitchen garden alongside bread baking.
“All of the courses and workshops reflect a commitment to using natural materials and ingredients, combined with traditional skills and crafts.” says Sherry. “But I think there’s more to it than just being ‘green’ - making your own food or creating your own gifts makes you feel like you have really achieved something and of course, it can help you save money as well.”
The eco-renovation of the barn and the creation of the courses are a relatively new venture for Sherry. Already though, those who have attended similar courses at the venue will resurrect long forgotten countryside crafts, and the venue’s catchline, Living Life Naturally, is one that should appeal to all Lincolnshire residents keen to make the most of country living.