News and Events

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?!

Cushions Galore! - posted 22nd November 2019

Suzi decided to hold a class for the volunteers on simple patchworking on the theme of reusing upcycling materials from the Craft Barn.  Currently several volunteers are in the process of making Christmas presents as well as brightening up the Guest Common Room with cushions.

We would be grateful to receive any unwanted bright pieces of cotton that we could use in our patchworking. Contact Suzi on 01300 341345 or email her at

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

Arocha autumn appeal - posted 1st November 2019

A Rocha UK is a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world.  Visit their website:

Interest in environmental issues is increasing rapidly amongst UK Christians, and in the last year we have seen a surge of enquiries and interest in what is being done by UK Christians to address these issues. This includes at least 15 organisations with interest in joining the Partners in Action (PIA) network. This is both encouraging and challenging.

A Rocha UK give Hilfield this message: Thank you so much for the work you do on the environment in your context, and for your witness on this issue to those who visit your place.  You have been amazing pioneers on working with us for a better planet! As we continue to journey together on these issues, we are looking to better resource partners, to provide further training opportunities and to expand the partner network to have wider geographic coverage, and to inspire others by our example of Christians making a difference in the places we live and work.

With this in mind, we have made the Partners in Action network the focus of our autumn appeal. We hope that through this appeal, we may directly be able to benefit your organisation- with the hope of more resource support (capital and time). We would be very grateful if you could share the following link with your supporters, staff and board:

Please share this as widely as you are able, so that, together we can make a lasting contribution to restoring nature in the UK – and to witnessing to a loving Creator God across the UK through how we treat the land.

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

SSF Book Sale - posted 18 March 2019

The last few copies of some of our SSF publications are available at a reduced price. Please contact Sara Whistance at Hilfield:

Email or phone 01300 342311 if you would like to order any. (Prices exclude postage and packaging)

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