GillianI was born in 1955 in the Lancashire market town of Chorley. At that time, my parents lived in the very middle of the town. My father worked just across the road as a dental technician for his father who was a dentist. My mother kept a toy and crafts shop and she made a great many of the items which she sold. We all lived together on the premises behind the shop. This was a fascinating environment for a small child – it was like being brought up in Father Christmas’s workshop!

My parents were not so keen to be literally living on the job, or to be bringing up a small child in the midst of all the traffic, fumes and bustle of a busy town, so they found the most amazing alternative, just three miles away.

Our new home at Drybones, (originally Anglo-Saxon for  drei bahnen meaning ‘Three Ways’), was a three hundred-year-old cottage, long and low with black oak beams, set in it’s own secluded valley surrounded by ancient woods and farmland. The River Yarrow bordered two sides of the huge, jungle-like garden which sprawled over an acre of land; a pretty stream bisected it. Many fruit trees and bushes jostled for space with hazel, birch, oak, alder, sycamore, elder and hawthorn. Herbs abounded everywhere and wild flowers bloomed in abundant swathes beneath the trees whilst traditional cottage garden flowers tumbled in sweet-scented profusion.

We were, what is commonly termed nowadays, ‘off grid’. We pumped our own water from a spring and generated our own electricity but more often used candles and oil lamps. Cooking on an open fire and baking in a fire oven were sometimes challenging but ultimately satisfying, as was growing our own food, brewing our own beer and wine, producing our own herbal remedies and generally working in tandem with the animals and natural world around us.

I learned from a very early age about the rhythms of life and cycles of the seasons. I grew to love and respect the infinite beauty and power of nature which can so easily render puny humanity vulnerable and helpless. Here I learned many skills and here, too, I developed self-reliance, independence, patience and fortitude, and, perhaps most importantly, a strong sense of humour!

My mother was a huge influence all through my formative years and continued to be so until her death in 2004. I grew up with the traditional values of hearth, home, family and community, not to mention a strong work ethic and the palpable importance of play, fun and time for dreaming.

My student days were spent at Chorley College and Lancaster University where I gained a teaching certificate and Honours Degree in History and Education.

During my adult years I have experienced varied work opportunities and come through long term illness. If life has taught me anything it is a deep reverence for all that is and a great compassion and love for life.

I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), a Theosophist and a Druid. Thirteen years ago I began the druidic teaching grove of Cylch Blodeuwedd.

Seven years ago I found and fell in love with a wild, isolated, five acre field where my family and I are now developing and literally growing an off-grid natural spiritual retreat. So far we have planted hundreds of trees, made a small island, formed various structures from living willow (including a four spiral labyrinth) and grow herbs. Here my son and I lead workshops and retreats and organise voluntary work days (which can be just as educational and beneficial as the more formal events!)

I love my garden and kitchen in particular and I love to cook and welcome everyone into my home. I also read voraciously, am fascinated by history and adore the arts, especially the theatre and all forms of music and dance.

I now live in a Victorian house in the mountains of Snowdonia in North West Wales with my husband, son, two Labrador dogs and five cats.