In the soils of Saltash

Mar 19, 2024

By Suze Creedon

The year is 2022: I’ve just finished my year working as an au pair in Paris, France and now are backpacking around, with no plan in mind. Just a handful of experiences I wanted to have. The destinations came as I went along. Most of my travel I didn’t book until the night before.

I liked things this way because it was honestly less stressful. If I was really enjoying a city/place and didn’t want to leave just yet, I had the freedom to extend my stay. I did this in half of the places I ended up visiting. Starting in London, then off to Aarhus and Copenhagen, then to Corfu, Greece and then into the Balkans of Albania. It’s here where I met Sydney from Kentucky.

In the months leading up to this, I had become increasingly intrigued by the concept of WWOOFing. Growing up with a mother who was deeply connected to her garden and cooked with the fruits of her labor, I believe my upbringing instilled in me a profound desire to experience “living off the land.”

Seedlings were ready for sowing. Chard and herbs overflowed the sowing tables. The smell was absolutely heavenly.

After making it to Himarë, I got in my swimsuit and went directly down to the beach where I got to talking with Sydney. She was one of the few Americans I came across on my travels. Ninety percent of the time, other Americans I meet while backpacking are people a lot like myself which makes for easy, great new friends. We’re all feeling a little bit lost and we’re on the road trying to figure ourselves out; cue the deep conversations and fast progressing companionship.

We were catching each other up on our past couple stops before arriving to Himarë when Sydney tells me about this farm she had just worked on in Italy. Jaw immediately dropped. She was raving about it and I was eating it up. This was it. This was the sign I needed to do something of the sort… and soon!

Sydney and I continued to stay in touch after Himarë. I followed her journey though an olive farm in Tuscany, her return to the original farm she told me about, and this sweet little market garden in Cornwall she visited that December which immediately piqued my interest.

Fast-forward to this past June: I had returned to the US after my travels the year before and was itching to go back. So, I sent a text to Sydney about the charming spot she volunteered at in Saltash. She ended up returning in May! She sent me all the info and I immediately reached out.

Crocadon was constantly filled with fresh herbs including plenty of basil. Basil is a natural pest deterrent so it’s planted between all of the tomato towers in the polytunnels.

Two emails and a FaceTime later, everything was set.

I arrived in July. It wasn’t as hot as I was expecting so I grabbed an extra layer at the charity shop before heading to the farm. Tim picked me up at the train station and we chatted during the drive along the tight, high hedged roads of Saltash. I had been to England many times before but never to this area. I don’t think I ever got used to those tiny roads throughout my 2.5 weeks there.

I arrived to Claire and Tim’s home with a delish hodgepodge meal waiting for me, along with their sweet farm dog, Ziggy. Right away, Claire encouraged me to make myself at home but not to stay up too late since we had work in the AM.

Upon entrance to the property, you’re greeted with amber waves of grain. 
Pictured is James Rylance, co-creator of Ideal Day Brewery. Hosted on the Crocadon campus, James and his wife Nia joined the campus to bring ingredient driven brewing to the Cornish countryside.

Each day, we had lunch together in the café or outside on the grounds. Claire made sure we were nourished and fed well. We ate what we sowed which made it all the more special . Coffees were always flowing when we were in need of that mid-afternoon pick me up.

Amidst our harvesting activities, we also sowed seeds for the upcoming fall and winter seasons, including various herbs, root vegetables, and brassicas.

I spent my time between the garden and the café. Once the other WWOOFers Izzy and Tom left, I assisted Claire in the kitchen with a significant catering project. This was such a rush for me. Claire is one of the most authentic women I have ever met. She lived to garden, she lived to cook, she lived to provide. You pick up on this quickly as she’ll make you feel so welcome and comfortable straight away. I savor the times we spent together. I would consider myself a home chef so, being able to do it in this professional setting was such an exhilarating experience. It left such a succulent taste that still lingers on my tongue to this day. Such a wonderful way to explore food and creating art in a supported community.

Head gardener Jess and fellow WWOOFer Morwenna harvesting what’s left of the turnips at the end of July.

As a photographer, everywhere I turned I saw a photo. I studied journalism at university and have always had a deep love for storytelling. I could have spent a year with Claire and Tim and not have captured everything there was to document. It felt as if I was in a movie at times. One thing I love about WWOOFing is the slightest aspect of romanticism attached to each of my experiences. Now, not all farm placements are created equal but, I’ve been fortunate enough so far to have multiple fantasy ventures. My photographic eye has definitely been shaped through all of the experiences I’ve had. Being an active participant and fly on the wall in the lives of my hosts has created a newfound interest in the world of regenerative farming.

Claire Hannington-Williams harvesting any and all of the ripe tomatoes for the following day’s café service.

Maybe it was because my mind was so warm and at ease at Crocadon, but the campus just had such an inviting ambiance. Not to mention the people there were all so inspiring. Head gardener Jess was so knowledgeable and kind. She always had something for you to do and was always willing to assist you or answer any questions. The café staff were all so lovely; each of them bringing a different energy to the table. Cooking with Tom and Hugh was so fun. Holly, Meghan, and Harry always made sure we were caffeinated and hydrated. The passion they all shared oozed from their personalities and it was so refreshing and intoxicating to be around. I loved capturing them all in their element: Jess in the dirt, Tom and Hugh in the kitchen, Claire and Tim in the fields. I never once posed them. They made it so easy for me to accurately grasp what it was like to be a part of their family.

WWOOFer Morwenna in between beds of white turnips, sorting through the ones that made it through the season.
Head gardener Jess trimming the excess branches off of the tomato towers.

Being surrounded by these people, I left feeling so rejuvenated and awakened to the idea that I feel at my best when I’m surrounded by people who reciprocate the energy I feel I put out into the world.

Fast forward to today as I write this at a café in Brooklyn, NY (where I have recently moved). I find myself regularly daydreaming about my time in Saltash. I have upped my home chef game and am planning to get involved in my neighborhood community garden come spring.

Claire and Tim have since moved on from Crocadon and the café for new adventures. They went to New Zealand (where Tim is originally from) and traveled around loads with their son. I can’t wait to see what’s next for them because whatever it is, you can bet I’ll be there for a late summer harvest.

 Soil extraordinaire Tim Williams spent the spring into fall growing a number of different types of wheat on the farm for a couple of experiments with London based bakeries. 

WWOOF has truly opened my eyes to a whole new way to travel and experience different ways of life. I have a sizeable wish list of different farms all around the world I would like to volunteer at in the future so, I can’t wait to start crossing those off this year.

If you’ve been looking for a new and rewarding way to travel, all it takes is an email, an open mind, and an adventurous spirit to create memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Suze Creedon is a documentary photographer and as it says on her website “her eye is one to hire if you’re looking for help finding a visual voice for your brand/story.”

There’s a feast for the eyes on Suze’s website, where there’s so many gorgeous photos it was tough choosing ones for this article. Check it out the full gallery here:

Massive thanks are in order to Suze for getting in touch with the offer of permission to use her wonderful photos in WWOOF marketing and promotion. In addition we’re very grateful to Suze for agreeing to write this article which we think you’ll agree is a vivid and exciting read. Thank you Suze.

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