Arriving in Lewes on the train straight from London makes you shift gears downwards almost instantly, as fresh air hits your lungs & you notice people moving with less urgency. It wasn’t my first time in the beautifully sleepy (appearance can be deceptive .) town in East Sussex, but it was the first time my destination was Hawthbush Farm, a place where British natural beauty brand Amly‘s heart beats & the soul sings.
A fairly large group of journalists, bloggers, creatives and friends were gathered to learn about Amly’s collaboration with the local block print artist and founder of Cabbages and Roses Molly Mahon. Looking at the sky we all felt a little apprehensive at the start of the day, but gods of nature & weather were kind to us (or were those the local fairies?) and just a few of the droplets of rain, more like a short drizzle, only refreshed our senses & faces, as we walked through the wild meadow, keeping to a narrow, well-walked path, towards the farm and the house of Lisa Smallpeice, Amly’s co-founder.
New friendships formed instantly, conversations easily flowing between a variety of subjects, as we all tried to inhale as much of the surrounding peaceful beauty as we could. Eyes were drawn to uncut grass, standing tall to attention and a variety of wild flowers poking their colourful heads at us in greeting, with butterflies and bees flying around, checking up on their domaines. Humans and inspects at peace with each other for once.
It’s makes you feel almost child-like to see such abundance of natural beauty, buildings integrated so perfectly into nature, morphing into each other, serving different purposes for both family and work. Dogs running leisurely around the apple orchard and a cat observing them from the safety of carefully placed cushioned day bed.
We city dwellers are so easily disconnected from nature that it feels like such a treat to spend half of your work day walking through meadows, listening to the bird song and unhurried conversations that nurture, rather than clutter, your brain.
I was lucky to talk to Molly, who told me about her long friendship with Lisa (they met when both of the women were expecting their firstborns and have been friends ever since). She told me about her collaboration with Lisa on the beautiful hut, to which she was putting the last finishing touches as the Amly event fast approached, clearly revelling in the opportunity to combine her vision with Lisa’s aesthetic. The result is the peaceful abundance of bright colours dancing together in a serenely upbeat dance. Sky blue merging with honey, mustard & turmeric & shades on the white background, alongside rough rugs & cosy blankets and pillows. An inviting bunkbed that you want to climb in and cosy up with a favourite book, allowing the time to further slow down its march.
It’s impossible not to smile looking at the block-printed fabrics that Molly creates in India, where she travels to a few times a year. Interestingly she manages to do much more work there in one stretch, compared to when she works at home, with her children popping in on their way back from school, observing her at work, often with their friends coming along. The sounds of happy voices accompanying her work in progress.
Talking to Kerry, Lisa and Molly, looking at their beautifully vibrant clothes, sparkly eyes and radiant complexions, I wondered whether life in the countryside is much better for both our spirits and creativity or it’s just a conscious effort to be more in touch with each other and nature, irrespective of your location. Honing past practises & skill sets in different modalities and lines of work and adjusting them to modern reality and needs. Spending time with like-minded people instead of being glued to a computer screen, interjected with phone screen checking. Enjoying life truly, with its ups and downs, instead of just putting one foot after another on autopilot.
Lisa walked us around her house, with its wide wooden windows and exposed beams, fireplaces, cosy sofas that are used, rather than displayed for its beautifully impeccable appearance, works of art and prints laid out on the table – work in progress. She talked about doing a feng shui in the garden where she grows the herbs and plants for Amly distillation and how the energy changed after that. She showed us her carefully cuts summer plants (I think it was elderflower?), each leaf and stem placed carefully on the hanging mesh trays to dry up for a day or two, before starting to work them into Amly skincare. Simplicity of a very special, thoughtful kind. The old piano, well-thumbed books, glass jars and sun beams dancing around. Amly products, old, new and the-ones-to-be launched, proudly displayed in the centre of Lisa’s kitchen, vying for attention and drawing the eyes with their simple perfection, surrounded by the colour-coordinated summer blooms.
After marvelling and exploring, striking many a conversation – who knew that Lewes seems to be attracting so many former Londoners to its fold and keeps them for good – we all leisurely walked back through the meadows back to the tented area, where deliciously abundant lunch awaited us.
By the time our large crowd assembled fully, the tent was ready for us. Tables groaned with seasonal food straight from the kitchen, local beer and even wine, all vying for our plates. Lisa’s adorable and wonderfully self-assured young son mingled with the team, helping carry the plates and bowls of food to the table, everyone smiling and looking out for each other.
Bowls & trays of salads straight from under the shopping knife, breads, spicy mustard, cold pork pies & quiches were just a few things that we piled on our white china. Rose wine reminded me of leisurely summer lunches in Provence – it certainly seems that Lisa’s family farm is the British version of it, even with the sun hidden behind the clouds.
Sated with learning about each other and the food that tasted so much better ( and somehow fresher, more alive with vibrancy of earth untouched by chemicals fertilisers – something that is of paramount importance to Lisa & Kerry), we sat around the fire pit, full of freshly cut logs. If we weren’t full enough, trays of meringues, macerated strawberries, cream and tea and coffee awaited us in the barn.
Someone will call it indulgence, I would call it nourishment – something that is intricately linked to each of Kerry & Lisa’s creations that they launch into the world under the umbrella of beautiful Amly product family.
It wasn’t just the hut that Amly and Molly presented to us on the day. Each table placement included another result of their collaboration – three Discovery Bags. Detox. Sleep. Radiance. Each elegant block-print inspired washbag filled with Amly minis – for home or for skin-indulgent travels. All three are due to be officially launched in July. Suffice to say they will be worth the wait! And if I hasn’t fuelled enough your curiosity, two new Amly products are planned to be launched later this year .)
As our time on the farm came to a close and copious amounts of hugs were given before we plumped ourselves into the waiting cars to be driven to Lewes train station, I felt a little sad to be leaving this exquisitely peaceful place behind. Inspired, indulged, intrigued. Happy that such places not only exist but thrive, promoting biodiversity, organic farming, friendships, creativity, collaborations. I hope to return again to this jewel of a place where magic of the past is expertly woven into the modern fabric of British creativity, particularly at the time of adversity. Past informs our future, all we need to do is focus on the present and learn from nature about the best ways of life.
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