Fairhill, or ‘Pishwanton Wood’ as it is also known, is a place apart: an inland island of exceptional biodiversity within the surrounding agricultural land. The marked contrast in biodiversity and the peaceful healing atmosphere one immediately feels on stepping into this protected refuge is in itself an immediate wake-up call and a relief to all who come here.
The place as a whole is a perfect retreat in which to experience our varied semi-natural Scottish habitats. A mindful walk through the site takes us on a journey from one ecologically distinct space to another, each relating to the surrounding landscape in diverse ways. From an ecological view point this provides a perfect outdoor classroom for anyone interested in experiencing and understanding many of our plant communities and habitats, their process and their metamorphosis as they heal the land.
We deepen this ecological understanding with our way of observing and contemplating Nature within each 'room' (with its unique plant community associated wildlife and atmosphere) and the surrounding landscape. This can awaken us to extraordinary insights and enables us to experience ourselves as a part of Nature. In this way the journey through the retreat space becomes a unique mini-pilgrimage.
The Ecology Group includes ecologist and Goethean Scientist Katherine Buchanan and biodynamic practitioner Bridget Beagan as the two Ecology Group co-ordinators and Grazyna Fremi (Craft Workshop co-ordinator).
The group oversees and advises on activities on the land that will have impact on the ecology, biodynamics or general ethos of the project where it pertains to these.
The Ecology Group is inspired to work in partnership with Nature: to listen to the land and its needs; to deepen our understanding of Scottish natural habitats and their process of metamorphosis; to care for the extraordinary biodiversity here, and importantly to find ways to co-create with Nature (as opposed to ways of managing nature), and we aim to inspire others to do the same.
We aim to maintain the high biodiversity and integrity of the many rooms here, with their distinct and varied plant communities.
A few areas at Fairhill have been set aside for cultivation: the orchard, the central (largely medicinal) Herb garden created by Margaret Colquhoun and many volunteers, and the ‘Hidden Garden’ which was once a vegetable garden and is now planned to be converted into a biodynamic herb nursery and demonstration garden with an event ‘pop up’ café and festival storytelling yurt for visitors to enjoy.
The central herb garden is a communal biodynamic garden maintained by members of all the groups and by volunteers. This year we are aiming to weed, re-establish and prepare the medicinal herb beds and in 2019 these will be re-stocked. The garden will provide a valuable teaching, demonstration and research garden for biodynamic and medicinal herb studies and for the harvesting of biodynamic herbs for remedy preparations and culinary purposes.
The uncultivated but carefully cared for semi-natural areas of woodland, marsh, meadow, bog and wetland throughout the site will be maintained biodynamically for the general care of the land and its biodiversity and for the benefit of the associated beings as well as for wild harvesting. This is a unique application of the biodynamic method which is usually practiced on cultivated land on farms, gardens or small-holdings. We are hoping to develop guidelines for this new area of biodynamic care through our research.
We are looking for volunteers to help us with all this work on the land! Please see our Volunteering page for more information on how to get involved.
 The land (first appearing on maps as 'Fairhill' probably derived from 'Fairy Hill') was originally set-aside land (protected and untouched by agriculture) left by our ancestors who knew to set aside land for the Good People (elemental Beings and Ancestors on sacred land). By the mid 1800's this practice was no longer adhered to by the local farmers and the place was planted as a worked wood and a place for waterworks (a collecting tank for springs from the field opposite and pipes to pipe the water out to supply a large area of Haddingtonshire). Soon afterwards parts of the site were abused as a fly-tip. Around this time and in direct association with these activities it acquired the name 'Pishwanton Wood' and despite being a loved bit of land by some discerning local inhabitants, continued to be disrespected and abused by many.
Margaret Colquhoun recognized the place as an ecologically varied and important sacred site and worked hard to remove the layers of rubbish, and together with Nature herself to co-create the beautiful protected natural spaces we see today. The plants themselves are in the process of continuing this healing and metamorphosing of the land since the Life Science Trust purchased and protected it as a refuge in 1996 and this has been assisted by the careful personal attention, understanding and biodynamic care given by Margaret Colquhoun, with the help of many caring and devoted volunteers.