News and Events

Meadow Browns at Hilfield - posted 29th June

Community member Marie took this lovely photo of 2 Meadow Brown butterflies on 26th June.  Take a look at the sightings boards on our Conservation Page:

Making hay, fruit picking and butterfly identifying at Hilfield - posted 25th June

Dear Br Vincent, rest in peace and rise in glory - posted 17th May

Br Vincent died at about 1.30 am today (17th May 2020).

Vincent was born on 21st May 1933. He was made a Postulant by Fr. Algy in July 1954 and was admitted to the noviciate on 8th December that year. He made his First Profession on 17th October 1957 (received by Fr Denis); and was Life Professed on 29th May 1963 (by Bishop Mortimer the Bishop of Exeter and Brother David was the Minister.)

He will be remembered dearly for his quiet joy and sense of humour, for his work in the garden and love of nature.

May our brother rest in peace and rise in glory.

Message from Br Benedict, Minister Provincial SSF - posted 6th may 2020

“Brother Vincent was taken into Dorchester Hospital this week. He suffered a seizure and a heart attack. He remains unconscious. The doctors have taken Vincent off everything except liquid. We suspect that the end is very near now. The hospital staff say he is very comfortable, but apparently it is known for people to remain in this condition or state for a considerable time. He has received the Last Rites. Pray for dear Vincent – and for the staff in Dorchester Hospital who are caring for him, and all at Hilfield Friary.”

As we are closed to guests due to Coronavirus today we have been making masks for refugees and scrubs bags for the NHS - posted 30th April 2020

Easter crafting and the new fire prepared - posted 13th April 2020

Hand feeding some Hilfield youngsters - posted 13th April 2020

Friars Fishing - some interesting information about the picture - posted 31st March 2020

Simon, a friend of Hilfield, emailed us with more interesting information about the picture on the left.  He says:

‘Just having an occasional look at your website to see what’s going on at Hilfield, and interested to see the picture of friars fishing (Jan 14th). I’ve known this image for many years, loving the various expressions on the faces depicted. The picture is included in the book “Angling in British Art” (W. Shaw Sparrow, 1923), one of the rarities in my late father’s extensive library of books on fishing. The artist was W. Dendy Sadler, and the picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1880. I was given to understand that W. Dendy Sadler often used friends and acquaintances as models in his pictures, some of them being identifiable in various guises in different works. I hope this is of interest.’

Thank you Simon!

The original news said: ‘Franciscan Friars Fishing on Thursday.  This is a wonderful early 1900s hand coloured lithograph of 12 Franciscan Friars fishing at the pond of their Monastery in the English or Irish Countryside with the Friary in the background. They all have healthy, ruddy red faces.  The photo is entitled Thursday – perhaps they regularly fish for eating on Friday.’

A friend came across this picture while visiting Scotland.  Does anyone recognise any of the Brothers?!’

This is a very interesting piece of history!

A Hilfield guest writes about her hedgehog visitors - posted 10th March 2020

I had not realised what a delight it could be to have hedgehog visitors until some arrived in my garden.

Such different personalities!  There is the bold one, who simply turns its back and sits down when I appear with food – clearly what you can’t see isn’t a threat, especially when you have a fine coating of prickles.  Then there is the shy one, who winces away from the food bowl if challenged by a sparrow or a leaf.  In spring there are the courting circles that appear in flower beds as hedgehogs make the tricky approaches to a potential mate – prickles are definitely to be respected.  There is the occasional confrontation over a food bowl, which involves much snorting and squaring up and then a quick bout of high-powered head-butting that gives you a headache to watch!

If you would like to share my delight in these creatures, make sure there are holes in the fence so they have access, put food out (either cat food, or the different varieties of hedgehog food that pet shops can supply), and of course water in a shallow bowl.  For the winter either build a hedgehog house or buy one of those readily available on the internet; our hedgehogs will line these homes with an insulating weaving of leaves and grasses or hay and straw if you provide these, and will dig a hole underneath so they can hibernate comfortably.  Then you can look forward to sightings, on a spring or summer evening, of a prickly visitor, trundling determinedly, with maybe a baby or two in tow.  What a joy that is.

Quercus cornelius mulleri - posted 18th February 2020

Br Vincent (immediate left) planted his new Quercus cornelius mulleri today.  It has beautiful holly-like leaves and can be seen between Francis House and Leo House.  It is a most unusual oak tree!

Hilfield Re-makes - posted 7th February 2020

A very clever invention - posted 14th January 2020

An excellent invention.  Thought up by Franciscan Magazine volunteer Tony Hess and produced by Community Member Jonathan Herbert.  The Royal Mail postage sacks are put into the frame and held up by 4 screws at the top.  It makes it much easier to put the magazines in ready for mailout!

Friars Fishing - posted 14th January 2020

Franciscan Friars Fishing on Thursday.  This is a wonderful early 1900s hand coloured lithograph of 12 Franciscan Friars fishing at the pond of
their Monastery in the English or Irish Countryside with the Friary in the background. They all have healthy, ruddy red faces.  The photo is entitled Thursday – perhaps they regularly fish for eating on Friday.

A friend came across this picture while visiting Scotland.  Does anyone recognise any of the Brothers?!

Have an environmentally friendly Christmas by Ali Templeton - posted 13th November 2019


 Don’t trash the planet for the sake of Christmas.  People often say ‘Christmas is really for children – so consider the world they will grow up in as you shop this year


Glitter.  Never buy anything with glitter on it.  Glitter is most often plastic.  Shop bought items will not using plastic free glitter.  M&S have announced that 2019 will be glitter free in their shop – hurrah!

Crackers.  How many people enjoy wearing a paper hat?  How useful are the gifts?  How funny are the ‘jokes’?  And then you are left with a load of rubbish that will go into landfill.  Write your own jokes or mottos.  Make paper crowns if you must.  Have table gifts instead filled with useful items or homemade sweets.

Christmas trees are a thorny problem. 
They mostly come from monoculture farms requiring high levels of chemical input. Artificial trees encourage production of oil-based plastic – however if you already have an artificial tree keep using it for as long as you can.  If you buy a real tree make sure it is organic or FSC-certified and/or locally grown. Visit British Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Avoid the drastic plastic of shop-bought Christmas decorations.  Buy pre-owned decorations from charity shops, or make your own.

Go natural with your Christmas decorations.  Take a bag, go for a walk, and see what you can find. Holly sprigs, ivy trails, pinecones, rose hips and bark can all be used. Make sure that you have permission from the land-owner before you start snipping!

Christmas candles look great and really add to the atmosphereBut most are made from paraffin, which gives off harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases, as well as coming from the non-renewable resource of oil. Buy candles made from beeswax, soy or other vegetable alternatives.

How long do you keep Christmas lights on?  Make sure that you remember to switch them off during daylight hours, or why not save them for a special hour each evening? Limiting their use to certain times and making sure that you have LED lights will help to save energy as well as save you money.


Keep Christmas cards to make Christmas tags next year.  Recycle the section that carried the greeting and cut out the picture to use as a present tag. You’ll help reduce the huge number of trees that are used to provide all our Christmas tags.

Recycle or reuse the envelopes

Collect the stamps and give to a charity scheme

Tons of wrapping paper are thrown away each year.  Get your scissors ready for opening up all those presents on Christmas Day! Using scissors rather than ripping them open means you can keep the paper to re-use next year.

Use fabric remnants and ribbons as wrapping. Make simple draw-string gift bags in various sizes using Christmas material. You can store and re-use these for many years to com

Use recycled brown paper and tie up with coloured ribbon – this looks great.   If you have young children, give them the task of decorating the paper.

See how many of your presents you can buy from a charity shop this year.  You’ll be amazed what can be found when you take the time to look. A simple idea is to buy an attractive glass or vase and fill it with chocolates or flowers. Glass jars, such as Kilner jars filled with small items also make attractive gifts.

Put a £5 /£10 limit on presents for adult family members. 

Countless unwanted gifts end up in landfills.  Give tickets for an event or a voucher for a massage/ facial. Or give the gift of your time instead, like the present of cooking for someone once a month for a year; taking them out for a coffee; babysitting; house cleaning – whatever is appropriate. Make a ‘gift voucher’ and put it in a card for them.

Avoid over packaged gifts – particularly those using plastic.

Many beauty products given as gifts contain palm oil. Its production causes mass deforestation and air pollution, as well as human right abuses. Read labels carefully, avoiding products with non-sustainable palm oil.

Empty jars make beautiful candle-holders, decorated with some Christmas ribbon. If you don’t have any jam-jars, search charity shops for suitable glasses, vases etc. Make some for the Christmas table. If you have children, this could be a project for the holidays


Make a list and don’t over consume. 

Buy biscuits and chocolates in tins and not plastic containers

Ten million turkeys are killed each Christmas. If you’re eating one of them, make sure it’s lived a happy life by buying free-range or organic from a local farmer or independent retailer, if you can afford it.

Make sure your nuts are Fairtrade!  These are now available in Co-op, Sainsburys, Tesco and various independent retailers. You’ll help overseas farmers make a decent living and encourage them to grow produce in a sustainable way.

Support farmers overseas by ensuring all your Christmas fruit and chocolate is Fairtrade.  You’ll enable farmers from abroad to make a decent living and encourage them to grow their produce in a more ecologically sustainable way.

Make your own truffles!  This will avoid packaging.  Bring 175ml double cream to the boil. Pour over 225g plain Fairtrade chocolate, broken into chunks in a bowl. Mix until chocolate is melted. Leave the mixture for 1½ hours until cool. Using a small spoon and dipping your hands in icing sugar, scoop out pieces and roll them into balls. Roll the balls into fairtrade cocoa powder, icing sugar, chopped nuts or mixed peel, and place them on a tray with greaseproof paper. Leave to set.

Invite someone to join you on Christmas Day who’d otherwise be on their own.  It’s an act of generosity and hospitality. It’s also a way of reducing energy consumption as they share your heating and cooking!

Sustainability is for life – not just for Christmas.      

Reflections on the Extinction Rebellion Protests by Ali Templeton - posted 13th November 2019

Ali helps out in the Hilfield gardens–among many ways that she supports the community.

I have always been a grower – living on a farm as a child, then small-holding, then gardening. Harvesting fruit and vegetables is one of my greatest loves. I value food, the soil, the air, the rain, the sunshine.

I was overwhelmed with the generosity of Hilfield Friary and the Pilsdon Community (both in West Dorset) when I asked if they could support the International Rebellion (Extinction Rebellion, XR) in London with a donation of fruit and veg harvested from their organic kitchen gardens. These together with many more donations from our area were transported to London for the Rebellion. Our purpose in London was to get each Government department to issue their emergency plan for climate change and ecological breakdown.
Keeping on-site kitchens going to feed the activists was a constant challenge as Police repeatedly confiscated equipment. However, by week two when I arrived there were two agreed and designated sites for XR bases – Trafalgar Square and Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

On Monday 14 October I spent the day working in the Trafalgar Square kitchen, serving the many people who came for food and drink. It was impossible to have much of a conversation with anyone as it was so busy and I quickly realised we weren’t just feeding activists – there were people in smart work gear, and there were those who were obviously homeless. I felt myself tense inside when I thought I was feeding people who weren’t XR. What right have they to ‘our’ free food? But how was I to be sure? And did that really matter? There was a donation box for those who could afford it and what a gift to be able to feed those who live on the streets of London. I decided I would gladly serve anyone who came and not be Food Police.
All this food was donated – through on-line financial donations, through people constantly dropping in bags of food, through van-loads from the regions. What overwhelmed me most was Hare Krishna donations – huge hot boxes of gorgeous vegan dal and bhajis on a trailer attached to the back of a bike. The cooking and transporting day after day after day must have been a huge operation for them. By complete contrast a lady, probably in her 70s, came to me with a small silver foil package and said “Today is my birthday and I’ve baked brownies for you to share”. I felt my eyes prick with tears.

Later, when things quietened down a bit, I spent a couple of hours with an XR friend sorting the food donations tent. It was in a complete muddle – donations arrived so quickly they were simply dumped in there, making it impossible to find things. We went through everything, organised into categories and labelled bags and boxes clearly. I was so satisfied.
That evening at 9pm the Police cleared Trafalgar Square having given only 30 minutes warning. I wasn’t there but for those who were it was a mad scramble to clear tents, sleeping bags, personal possessions, gazebos, First Aid equipment, banners………the list goes on. Anything not removed was confiscated and dumped in removal vehicles. Those who remained were arrested, including a Green MEP. The shock of this clearance from an agreed site was severe for the XR community. I heard that that night legislation had been put in place such that any XR protest within the ring of the M25 was illegal. I gathered that the wearing of an XR badge, the carrying of an XR banner, the singing of XR songs could lead to arrest.
And what of the Trafalgar Square kitchen? I don’t know but I fear all the equipment was confiscated, and the tent full of donated food was trashed. That hurt a lot.

At the end of the fortnight I was in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament. There again was the same Hare Krishna volunteer with his bike and trailer-load. I went to speak to him to say thank you for all he and his colleagues were doing. He told me with sadness and anger that where ever he now stopped the Police imposed legislation such that if he didn’t suspend his activity and move away he would be arrested. Free food had become a crime.

Why am I involved in Extinction Rebellion? Because there is a higher law than the law of our land. It is the law of love – for our fellow human beings, for our ecosystems, for the soil, the oceans, the air, our planet, the future. What are we if fighting for these things is illegal?

Ali Templeton
28 Oct 2019

Audio/Visual Equipment available at Hilfield Friary

  • Projector with built in DVD player&speakers
  • Laptop with hdmi/usb/VGA & office pro 2019
  • Projector screen in rec room
  • Hearing aid loop system in rec room
  • Speaker system for audio equipment (3.5mm)
  • Bluetooth speaker(small)
  • Various leads etc

Our new Conservation Cloister - posted 1st July 2019

Here is our new Conservation Cloister.  It has information about all of Hilfield’s diverse plant species and the wildlife that can be seen there.

Why not come and visit us to see it and then enjoy our Wildlife Trails around the Friary land.

Take a look at our Conservation Page

Visit our Conservation Group page on Facebook - posted 15 March 2019

Visit our Hilfield Conservation Group page. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on. Richard Thornbury, our land manager, always has something interesting to post.

Franciscans worldwide films

There are some great films about Franciscans all over the world made by Br Christopher John our Minister General SSF.  Take a look:


SHARES has a new website

We now have our own website – see

Please help spread the word about our work by telling your friends and colleagues, and sharing the website on social media. If you use Facebook please follow and like us at