A Toasty Warm Friary

by Gerry Lynch last modified 23 Oct, 2014 06:37 PM

Franciscans to enjoy winter of eco-friendly heating with new biomass plant as well as a new hermitage

A Toasty Warm Friary

Workers in action digging for the new biomass plant

Hilfield, the Franciscan gem deep in the bucolic West Dorset countryside, has been a hive of activity over the summer with two major building projects completed.

The largest of these was a new biomass project. For the past two months, roads and paths have been fenced off; trenches, a metre and a half deep, have been dug between all the houses; and earth and stones have been piled up across the grass. When the rain began around St Francis Day in early October after a wonderfully dry September, the place began to look like a re-creation of the Western Front!

All this has been undertaken in order to install a biomass heating and hot-water system for the Friary, that is carbon neutral. The wood-chips it burns are sourced from local woodlands. mostly within 15 minutes walk or so .

It has been a huge communal effort. The trenches, in which are laid the large insulated pipes for supplying water from the boiler to the houses, have been dug by members of the Hilfield Community, together with local friends and visitors, under the direction of the Revd Jonathan Herbert. Everyone has played some part in the work.

John Griffin, a local farmer, has generously lent the Friary his mechanical digger. There have been unexpected problems, and snags and crises such as when water and sewage lines have been broken - at times it has felt that the task would never be completed - but the end is in sight!  Bob and his team from Amber Heating, who have been installing the boiler, tanks, plumbing and electrics, have been tremendously supportive and encouraging, and Bioheat, the firm which has designed and supplied the system, has been very helpful. Good friendships have been made through this work.

The system will mean not just a saving on fuel costs, but, more importantly, a re-connection with the creation in which we live and of which we are a part, a further step towards sustainable living, and a deeper sense of gratitude for heat and hot water!

Hilfield HermitageThe biomass plant, however, isn’t the only new arrival at the Friary. A new hermitage, constructed this summer by Jonathan, Nick, Alex and other friends, was dedicated by Bishop Nicholas at the Stigmata Festival in September.

The building was named after St Edwold of Cerne. Little is known of this Saxon saint except that he was the brother of the St Edmund, the Christian King of the East Saxons, buried at St Edmundsbury. Ewald lived as a hermit in the neighbourhood of Cerne sometime towards the end of the ninth century.

Although Franciscans are usually known for being out and about ‘in the world’, there is also a long tradition, going back to the time of St Francis, of brothers and sisters spending periods of time dedicated to prayer and solitude. St Edwold’s Hermitage at the Friary provides a space apart from the normal Friary life where members of the Community can go for times of prayer, stillness and reflection – a great blessing!

Listen to an interview BBC Breakfast in Dorset's Steve Harris conducted with the Revd Jonathan Herbert, who directed the project.

Learn more about Hilfield's eclectic community and programme of activities on peace, justice, interfaith and environmental issues and for young people on the Friary's website.

Bottom photo: the new Hermitage.

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