On the wings of an eagle…

DSC_4751North Devon is the home of a farm that is helping to rescue men from the iron grip of addiction and homelessness.

Eagle Community is a Christian 2nd stage rehab situated at Ovis Farm in North Devon, on the edge of Exmoor. They take prison offenders, and those who have struggled with drug addiction, alcoholism and street homelessness. The work is enormously varied, and no two days are ever the same as the residents tend to present different issues and problems on a regular basis.

Carole Jones, founding trustee and a director of Eagle Community, explained how she became involved in work here. Carole had lived in Zimbabwe for most of her life and returned to the UK in 2003. Eventually, she got a job working as an administrator at Ovis Farm which was then being run as the ‘House of Heroes’ drug and alcohol rehab. She said: “I worked there for seven years and then I retired. After a while Ovis Farm became vacant, the previous tenants left and the owners of the farm, David and Margaret November wanted the farm to be used for used for Christian purposes.

“So a group of us met regularly to try and think of a way forward and eventually in November 2014 I got a phone call from a woman who I had been supporting for some time who had previously been at the women’s rehab and she said, ‘My son is coming out of prison and he wants to get himself sorted out. What is happening about Ovis Farm?”

Carole went on to relay how in that very moment she felt a divine calling to carry on this work and start up the rehab again at Ovis Farm. “I immediately spoke to the owners of the farm, David and Margaret November, and within a week I had actually got two men and moved out to the farm and started Eagle Community at that point which was early December 2014.”

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The community can now accommodate ten men, and seeks to rehabilitate them through a program of practical work, the learning of life-skills, working with local tradespeople, training providers and offering valuable assistance with form filling, debt issues, and family and relationship problems. Counselling is available to those who want it, and the staff are always on hand to chat and pray with the residents. The work can often be long and arduous, but the rewards are immense when the men are able to really move forward with their lives.

Carole talked about some of the pitfalls and problems that she has faced over the years. She said, “The main problem has been the lack of finance. To start of with, the owners of property funded us until we could become viable which took about six months. Starting a thing from scratch, it’s quite heavy going particularly when you’re battling on your own. I did have various volunteers who worked with me over a period of time, but for the first two years, I lived in the house with the men and we went from there. The biggest thing was trying to cope with all the different aspects of the work; it was quite comprehensive.”

Thankfully, Carole is no longer alone in this work and has gathered a small but effective team around her. A key member of that team is Jason Huxtable, Projects Manager for Eagle Community. Jason described what he does on a day to day basis at the rehab: “My role is simply to try and organise a plan for each day, to make sure the house is in a fit and organised order and to listen to the men on a daily basis, not so much give advice but just be someone that can walk alongside them, chat with them, befriend them, and introduce them to God. It’s the last stage of people’s recovery where they can basically start to piece their life together before they move on. It’s a place where people can push the pause button. A place where they can meet God and start a new journey.”

It is very evident that the work that Carole and her team do here at Eagle Community is highly valued by both local authorities, clergy, the police and also the prison and probation service, as applications for prospective clients land on her desk regularly. I asked Carole about her motivation, and what was it that kept her going in such a difficult and challenging line of work. Without any hesitation she cited her God given passion to work with the men saying: “In this kind of of environment I just thrive, I really enjoy it, and that’s why I do it.”

If you would like to find out more about Eagle Community, including how to apply for a place here, please visit: https://eaglecommunity.co.uk/, email: eaglecommunityinfo@gmail.com or phone 01598 710726

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The Exmoor Live Cookery Demo

Friday 18th August saw the 2nd incarnation of the Exmoor Live cookery demonstration, in a suitably grand marquee at the 171st annual Dunster Show.

Showcasing their formidable culinary acumen, we were treated to an interesting range of cookery demonstrations, featuring 6 top chefs from across Devon and Somerset.

Dishes on offer included a mouthwatering Venison Carpaccio, the slightly abstract but altogether delicious Pork Schnitzel and an oh so tempting trifle made with a locally distilled gin. 

The event was extremely well attended and well deserved credit goes to Chef Andrew Dixon, ably assisted by Chef Olivier Certain, who together organised this very successful event.

The Dunster Show

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On Friday 18th August, the 171st Dunster Show will be held once again in the fields nestling behind Dunster Castle. Always a great success and highly enjoyable, this annual Somerset country fair is set to attract thousands of visitors once again. And there will of course be a cookery demonstration organised and led by Chefs Andrew Dixon and Olivier Certain. Joining them this year for the second year now will be Ed Heard along with newcomers to the cookery demo, Ellis Pannell and Barrie Tucker. See you there!

http://www.thedunstershow.co.uk/

Download the John Raby’s Food & Travel flyer here

Painting the Picture

JOHN RABY meets Anna Fitzgerald, an artist with a unique & refreshing style who is making a real impact on the art scene in Exmouth.

Anna Fitzgerald is a prolific and successful artist living and working in Exmouth. I caught up with her at a seafront exhibition, organised by the Exmouth Art Group, where she had four pieces on sale and by the time I had arrived she had already sold three of them. Anna, it turns out, is quite the leading light on the art scene in Exmouth.

Read the rest of this article on the Devon Life website.

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Horse rider highlights road safety issue

Published in the North Devon Journal on April 16th 2015

IMG_9225A North Devon hairdresser based in Braunton has issued a plea for car drivers to slow down, and show more courtesy to horse riders on the road.

Sue Johnson, 41 has suffered several incidents involving inconsiderate motorists whilst out riding her horse, and feels now that the issue must be highlighted.

Sue, who was based at Chivenor Riding Stables said: “It’s people driving too fast and being impatient, just a general lack of consideration really. It’s a regular occurrence to have abuse shouted at you and finger gestures.

“The vast majority of drivers are courteous and patient.  The problem seems to worsen during summer months due to, in my opinion, motorists avoiding congestion on main roads and diverting onto country lanes but still driving at the same pace.”

Despite wearing hi-vis vests and hat covers and using appropriate hand signals asking motorists to slow down, she indicated that incidents of near misses and horses being dangerously frightened on our country roads remains.

However, one North Devon man who did not wish to be named said: “We all know they have a right to be on the road… but on ever more crowded roads – is it sensible?”

Tasha Clarke, 21 from Kentisbury, also complained about car drivers swearing at her and shouting abuse. She also said that an ambulance had driven past her on a quiet country road with blue lights and sirens in operation, which could have easily spooked the horse.

In response, Melanie Glanville of South Western Ambulance Service said, that because of the high hedges and blind blends on these types of roads, it is “imperative in such situations to have audible warnings sounding.”

Horses and their riders are part and parcel of life in here the Westcountry, and the issue is set to become worse as more and more cars appear on our already seasonally congested roads.

Lloyd Harvey-Bryant, a Sales Negotiator from Barnstaple said: “Horses are unpredictable, …so you have to slow down for them because you never know what they are going to do.”

Ms Johnson concluded, “Horses have as much right to use public highways as any other road users, such as runners, cyclists etc.  In an ideal world no one would want to use roads to ride their horses on.”