Last weekend I travelled to Derbyshire and the town of Ilkeston to attend the 2017 Weleda Insight Day. An annual event aimed at journalists, holistic therapists and practitioners, Make-up Artist’s and bloggers, the Insight Day is an opportunity to find out more about the history of the company and the wonderful products they produce, as well as having an opportunity to take a tour of the medicinal gardens.
This was the third time I have visited the Weleda’s HQ and I am sure it won’t be the last; it is always an inspirational trip (hence the two part post :) and so I had high hopes for the day ahead.
On arrival we were warmly greeted by some of the team and had the opportunity to partake of some refreshments and take in our surroundings whilst awaiting the rest of the group. The Garden Room (our base for the day) is a light airy space overlooking the original Weleda Garden and contains a number of product displays along with images of some of the many awards which Weleda has won over the past year or so.
Following an introduction from Weleda’s Communications Consultant Susie Fairgrieve, we piled into the minibus and headed over to the biodynamic gardens which are situated a couple of miles away from Weleda’s HQ.
Biodynamic agricultural methods have been used for nearly a century and are at the heart of Weleda’s philosophy. Based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of Dr. Rudolf Steiner (Weleda’s Co-Founder), Biodynamics mean that natures rhythms, moon cycles and weather conditions are considered at every stage of a plants lifestyle; from the planting of the seed to the harvesting of the flower (or root). The Weleda gardens are accredited with Demeter certification which means the produce has been grown to the highest organic and environmental standards using organic, biodynamic techniques.
We were welcomed by Head Gardener Claire Hattersley who (after handing out the insect repellent) introduced us to Michael Bates who for thirty years had previously held the role. Despite having retired from Weleda a couple of years ago, Michael is still as passionate as ever about the gardens and biodynamic farming methods and is a mine of information.
The gardens cover around 13 acres and are home to over 300 plant species. The tour began in the Compound which is a formally laid out kitchen garden packed full of plants and flowers which are used in many of the medicinal products. Although the majority of the skincare products are produced overseas, all of the herbs, flowers and plants being grown in the UK are used in the medicinal and homeopathic treatments which are produced at the Derbyshire site – within four hours of being harvested (often less!)
Listening to Michael is always an enlightening experience and as we wandered from the gardens through the avenue of silver birch trees and compost heaps (currently home to a few grass snakes), he discussed the medicinal benefits and growing and harvesting methods of various plant species.
Onwards past the apiary where the resident bee colony (cared for by the aptly named Mick The Bee) have been gifted a new home in the form of a Sun Hive; an arial hive suspended from a pole some way up. The bees are a vital part of Weleda’s workforce, besides pollinating the plants they provide the beeswax used in Weleda’s lip balm and Calendula Weather Protection Cream and of course make the organic honey used in the Herb and Honey Cough Elixir (any honey left over is of course eaten).
The wildflower meadow is situated just beyond The Bee Shed (the education room where Mick runs bee workshops for adults and local schools) and is always a riot of colour. Each spring up to 3kilos of cowslips are harvested from the meadow and are used in products which assist the rhythmic processes of the body such as the circulatory system and the sleeping/waking cycle.
We wandered through the woodland and out into what had on my previous visit been a calendula field but on this occasion was host to a mass of Camomile planting and some very impressive Scotch Thistle – not to mention the pesky horse flies who too a fancy to one or two of us.
Sadly the tour of the Medicinal gardens had to be curtailed as we were short on time this year however despite the speedy visit, it was as ever a wonderful experience and as in previous years I came away with ideas for my little garden.
Piling back into the minibus we headed back to base for lunch and the afternoon session… That’s another post.
If you don’t feel that you’ve read enough about this years Weleda Insight Day then take a look at previous years posts which can be found via the following links: 2014 Part 1; 2014 Part 2; 2015 Part 1; and 2015 Part 2.
Images: OMUA – LJS