Farming 'liquid gold'

Aimée Smith, 01 May, 2018
15 years ago, it was a derelict piggery. Today, Steve and Anne Jaques’ 12-acre home is a thriving lavender farm – and the only one in the UK to use a traditional wood-fired distillery.

Set on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, Wolds Way Lavender is home to 120 varieties of lavender, as well as a 7.25” narrow gauge railway, ‘living’ maze and tearoom selling delicious scones – lavender flavoured, of course. We recently called in to catch up with Steve and find out more about life on the farm…

Q: So firstly, why lavender?
The soil here is very poor, probably the worst 12 acres of farmland in the area. It would only be good for growing carrots, and we didn’t think people would want to visit a carrot farm! We visited Norfolk Lavender and gleaned some ideas that we then improved on using my tourism background [Steve used to run Eden Camp – a local WWII museum] and Anne’s garden design courses.

Q: How has the business developed over the years?
In the beginning, there wasn’t a tree or hedge on site. 16 years on and the landscape has changed completely! Our original plan was to grow the lavender, harvest it, distil it and then use it in our range of products. That core aim is still at the centre of the business but the way we achieve it has evolved over the years. The activities we run alongside the lavender have grown and are necessary to ensure the viability of the business.

Q: Is there anything special about your distillation process?
The essential oil is released by the age-old process of steam distillation. The steam is passed through the lavender which evaporates the lavender oil. Our still is unique in that it is wood-fired – we have a huge kettle producing the steam just like in days gone by, whereas all other lavender farms use a gas or oil-steam generator to force the steam through the still. We take three hours per batch compared to their 30-40 minutes. Ours is of course the best!

Q: How did the railway come about?
In the mid-80s, I travelled around the world and during my stay in Aussie I saw the sugar cane trains working the fields near Cairns in Queensland. That memory was to re-emerge when designing the layout of our distillery, where we need to bring the harvested lavender in from the fields and to transport the wood that fires the still.

Q: Tell us about some of the products you make.
Lavender oil has many properties – for a start, it is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. We use the oil to create a variety of wonderful products: the soothing muscle rub, relaxing massage oil and foot balm are great for aches and pains, while our reviving cooling gel is good for skin irritations and sunburn. The luxury bath and shower cream, and shampoo and conditioner are all a must in the bathroom.

Q: Any favourites?
The 100% pure lavender essential oil, our ‘liquid gold’, is our pride and joy. It is the culmination of several years of hard work here at the lavender farm and is one of the most versatile of all the essential oils. It has many diverse benefits, and can be used to alleviate stress, burns and insomnia.

Q: When is the best time to see the lavender in bloom?
The lavender starts to flower around mid-June and is at its best through July and August. We start to cut it in August so there is progressively less as the month goes on.

Q: And finally, what lies ahead?
We are constantly evolving and coming up with new ideas – for example, our newly grown two-acre willow maze with giant games has been well received by young and old alike. We have a lot more planned for that area of the farm, all centred around good old-fashioned family fun.

Wolds Way Lavender

Browse Wolds Way’s collection of high-quality products, all made using the 100% pure lavender oil extracted on site.
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