Somerset's Lavender Farm
PUBLISHED: 16:27 25 August 2015 | UPDATED: 16:27 25 August 2015
Somerset Lavender Farm owner Judith Green reveals to HANNAH STUART-LEACH the healing properties of her beautiful purple plants
Before I’ve even headed into Somerset Lavender Farm’s lilac fields I already feel soothed, just admiring the healing herb garden, tucking into a delicious slice of lavender cake and catching the gentle perfume from the 50,000 plants on the breeze.
Judith Green, who runs the picturesque attraction with her husband Francis, says that’s the power of lavender, “It’s the most rewarding part of the job, watching the change in people - they arrive looking stressed out and they leave looking as though a weight has been lifted.”
The Greens began planting lavender in 2003, as an add-on to their dairy farm. Twelve years later and all the cows have been replaced with lavender, including a five-acre field of English Angustifolia and a lavender garden showcasing over 20 different species such as Edelweiss, white lavender, and Fragrant Memories, a pale blue, violet lavender with a fine aroma. It’s incredible to see such diversity, with the appearance and smell of each plant varying hugely. For those looking to increase the sense of peace in their own garden, there is a well-stocked nursery where you can find your favourite species to take home.
The many happy visitors to the farm, which has been nicknamed the country’s ‘dreamiest’, are often surprised to learn of the seemingly endless uses for lavender in all its forms – whether dried or distilled for its essential oil. Judith has learnt as she’s gone along – sometimes exchanging tips with the local aromatherapists and herbalists who like to visit – and is always happy to share tips. She occasionally runs workshops on site, too.
I’m most excited to hear that one of lavender’s many benefits is aiding digestion; rather mischievously surmising that means I don’t need to hold back on any of the lavender-infused treats in the farm café. It’s all seriously mouth-watering stuff, and they’ve also produced a recipe book to help give you inspiration for home cooking with the versatile plant - everything from quiche to lavender lemonade. The Greens also use their floral fields to collect their own honey, so you can pick some of that up to use in your lovingly baked sweets too.
At the end of the summer, Judith explains, the lavender is harvested and distilled to make essential oil. She says the smell from this process is so strong you can smell lavender throughout the village of Faulkland, near Radstock, where the farm is located.
After being stored for around eight months, in dark bottles, some of the oil is then sold and the rest is used to make the natural beauty products you’ll find in the gift shop, everything from face creams and body balms to therapeutic candles, eye pillows and pillow mists.
A bi-product of the distillery process is hidrolat, which is a clear watery substance collected from the steam. Judith hands me some on a tissue, and it smells quite different to lavender – its scent is a distinct mix of toffee apples and meadows. Not only has it been known to treat cases of alopecia, but it also works wonders as a daily toner or refreshing face spritzer.
Most people are able to find a use for lavender, as it has so many uses, and its essential oils are said to be some of the safest and therefore most accessible. Due to its antibacterial properties, it can be used to promote the healing of wounds, for instance, although Judith advises not using it if the skin is broken. You can rub it around a cut or wound to aid pain relief. As it helps calm the nervous system, it is also really great for helping you wind down at the end of the day and getting you to sleep at night – simply drop a couple of drops into a warm bath.
However it is important to recognise how potent any essential oil can be, says Judith, and she recommends only using it diluted, either in a carrier oil – which can even be household olive oil if you don’t have any sweet almond or avocado oil – or in water for vaporising. You can also dab it on a tissue. If you over use it, you see, you can become sensitized which can lead to a skin rash.
Judith’s all-time favourite thing to do with her beloved crop, though, is to put a fresh bunch of lavender in a jar of sugar and leave it in a cupboard for a few months. When you come to open it in the winter, it will release the uplifting smell of summer. w
Somerset Lavender Farm is open Wednesday to Sunday, from May to September. 10am-5pm. somersetlavender.com.