Work, rest and play in a piece of heaven with magic in the air
Lesley Robinson found the perfect live-work home, but a new adventure has seduced her into selling. Sharon Dale reports.
LESLEY Robinson’s enthusiasm and zest for life have led to some interesting adventures and now there’s another one beckoning.
Lesley, 59, is leaving Yorkshire with husband Glyn to travel in Africa before emigrating to New Zealand.
She has no regrets about the roads she has taken, but this time there will be some parting sorrow.
The move will mean leaving what she calls her “little piece of heaven”. Cloudberry Farm, just outside Holmfirth, is the home she shares with Glyn, her eldest daughter Jo, son-in-law Jan and their children Felix, eight, and Hector, five.
It’s Escape to the Country meets the Good Life and she bought it eight years ago as a live/work property after her business outgrew the attic of her cottage in Scholes.
“I fell in love with it the minute I walked in and buying it was the best thing I’ve ever done,” says Lesley.
“I haven’t looked back. It’s a lovely, happy family home and the business has flourished here.”
The farmhouse is perfect for multi-generational living. She and Glyn have one end while Jo and her family have separate accommodation in the other.
With four acres of land, the two families are semi self-sufficient with chickens, vegetable plots yielding everything from cabbages to leeks and fruit trees and bushes giving them apples, pears, redcurrants and gooseberries. They also have Indian runner ducks and four pet sheep.
And it’s only a few strides away from work after Lesley and Glyn converted the old stable block into offices for the Little Herbal Company.
The company is Lesley’s biggest and most exciting endeavour yet and she says the farm has been key in its development, providing privacy for some of her more famous clients.
Little Herbal began after she and Glyn holidayed in Zimbabwe in 1998.
Lesley had torn a cartilage in her knee. An operation, physiotherapy and months of painkillers had done little alleviate her suffering. Despite this, she went ahead with the pre-arranged break, though remembers standing on the station platform at Bulawayo in tears of pain. “We were met by ‘Bagman’, who was to be our guide,” says Lesley. “We talked about the plan for our few days there and said we’d wanted to do some walking, but that would be difficult for me. He asked what the problem was and when he heard about my knee, said: ‘We can fix it’.” Bagman drove the couple out into the wilderness, where they were met by a woman dressed in leopard skins.
“Rosina spoke no English, but Bagman translated and she looked at my leg. She said she could heal my knee but in order to do see she had to consult the gods, which was not something she could do that day, a Wednesday. We had to return the next day. As we left, Bagman said – very matter of fact – ‘The gods never work on Wednesdays’.” Rosina, the community witch doctor, gave Lesley a root that was to be boiled up twice a day to produce a black liquor, which Lesley dabbed onto both knees.
After three treatments, Lesley’s knee was less swollen and she tried a walk in the bush, carrying conventional painkillers with her. More than 14 kilometres later, she returned to camp free of pain, with the tablets still in her purse. “I’d never been particularly into alternative medicine, but I was open-minded and at that point I was ready to try anything.”
Before returning to the UK, Lesley bought a pot of a potion made from the fruit of the Kigelia or “sausage tree”, said to be good for skin conditions. She gave it to Glyn’s dad to try on his psoriasis and for a couple of friends who had eczema. Within four months, the psoriasis had disappeared and the friends were reporting big improvements in their skin, too.
When other people came asking about the cream, it prompted a life-changing decision from Lesley.
She gave up her job as marketing director for a big American pharmaceutical company to launch Little Herbal, which now has a range of traditional African remedies, including the Themba skin cream and Simba, made from the tuber that healed her knee.
Lesley and Glyn have returned to Zimbabwe many times, finding out more about the people of the Matapos Hills, who live in poverty after decades of political turmoil. The couple buy maize for the community, have built a maternity clinic, pay for the education of village children and help fund the local orphanage.
They, together with Jo and Jan, will take Little Herbal with them when they all emigrate to be with Lesley’s youngest daughter Kate, who lives in New Zealand.
“The idea is that Jo and Jan will establish Little Herbal in New Zealand and Glyn and I will go travelling in Africa before joining the family,” says Lesley.
“We like adventures. And it’s time for a new one while we are still young enough, but I will miss Cloudberry Farm.
“It’s like a cocoon. You come home here and feel like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
“Clients come here and always leave feeling better. I call it Cloudberry Farm magic.”
Cloudberry Farm is for sale for £845,000 through Ryder and Dutton, tel: 01484 689792. For more pictures and information visit www. cloudberryfarm.co.uk
For more information about Little Herbal visit www. littleherbal-international.com
THE GOOD LIFE: Cloudberry Farm is a live-work property. The farmhouse includes a one-bedroom annexe that could be let and there is an office block and workshop. Those looking for the good life will find an Aga, chickens, veg plots and an orchard. The property is in Cumberworth, near Holmfirth.