We were very sad to hear the news that Ruth Daltry had passed on 8th June 2021. As many people will know, Ruth and John Daltry were pioneers of organic growing and were one of the early WWOOF hosts and Soil Association certified producers. We’ve reproduced excerpts from an interview with Ruth and John for our newsletter back in 2013 to give you a little taste of what Ruth was like as a person. We would like to offer our sincerest condolances and sympathy to John Daltry and his family.
Visit to Chevelswarde Organic Growers to meet Ruth and John Daltry
Interview by James Dennis former Projects & Development, WWOOF UK
On Sunday the 21st of April I went over to visit John and Ruth at their holding near Lutterworth, Leicestershire, where they have lived since 1973. It was Ruth’s 87th birthday, Happy birthday Ruth! The Daltry’s moved to the six and a half acre site to enable John (then a Mechanical Engineer) to fulfil his dream of creating a vineyard, which they did.
They found they were not content with the results of the chemical methods they were advised to use and also felt moved by the book Silent Spring. They first came into contact with the alternatives when they picked up a leaflet about the Soil Association at a show at the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh Park, but were initially unsure of this too, “We thought the person on the stall was a bit of a quack” they told me. They did later pursue it and ended up becoming one of the first ten certified producers in the country (and the first ever vineyard). Just before this they also became a WWOOF host.
Over the years a veg box scheme and pig keeping took over from the wine production but then John created a winery room on site and then that again became their primary interest, as they both approach ninety years old the bulk of the manual work is now carried out by two part time staff, Dave Human and Michelle Masters, both local amateurs who revel in their jobs and benefit from John and Ruths inclusive and ‘can do’ philosophy.
Ruth and John back in 2013
At the time of my visit they were hosting one WWOOFer, Inge Thornton, an ex-librarian who took voluntary redundancy, she was on her last week of a years tour WWOOFing around the UK, she is now planning to continue, revisiting some of her favourite spots (Inge reported on her trip in a previous WWOOF newsletter).
I arrived early evening and we sat around the kitchen table chatting, Ruth opened their visitor book, it was full of visitors from all over the country and indeed the world, “We have found that the world is full of lovely friendly people” says Ruth, they have made lasting friendships with a number of them, have holidayed with some and also work with some of them as they have progressed from WWOOFing into professional roles both privately and it would seem within every one of our major organic organisations.
In the morning after a lovely breakfast John gave me a tour around the 6.5 acre site. It consisted of outbuildings, 1.5 acres of vines, (two years ago they produced a record 3.5 tonnes of grapes!). We also looked around field crops and 8 poly-tunnels, each growing various annual vegetables.
Lastly I asked them what advice they could offer to all those thousands of people travelling, working, learning and wondering about turning to this kind of life up and down the country – “Don’t do it!” Ruth says laughing, “it’s crazy!”
You can read a heartfelt article by Phil Sumption on the life of Ruth Daltry in the Organic Growers’ Association news here.