Blog Society of St. Columba

And So We Begin – August 2020 Newsletter

Every community needs a vision bigger than itself, without it,

they would have nothing to grow into.

Br. Sam – Society of St Francis

In this newsletter, you will find a general update on the life of the Society St Columba and opportunities of how to get involved and support the work of this fledgling Celtic New Monastic community. We hope you enjoy the updates and feel moved to support our life and work at Chanctonbury.


So much has happened in 2020 it is difficult to know where to begin; Lambing, COVID19 lockdown, signing the lease, the arrival of the bees, plans for the Chanctonbury Forest Garden, fruit and veg community allotment plots, it has most definitely been an eventful 6 months. As we sit here at Chanctonbury overlooking St Columba’s Farmstead we do so with a heart full of thanks to God..

Quiet Possession – Let’s begin with the completion of the lease. Society St Columba & Columba’s Barn CBS co-signed back in February and in mid July (due to COVID19) we received ‘Quiet Possession’ of the 23 acre farm for 30 years. Champagne is on ice awaiting when we can all meet together to celebrate the long 6 year pilgrimage to get to this point of possession.

Chanctonbury Forest and Community Garden – Plans are well underway for the establishment of a five-acre forest garden (planting begins in the Autumn) alongside the two community allotment plots that have been planted. Turning up usually means going home with arms full of veg. The creation of this biodiversity hotspot is a gardeners, foragers and pollinators paradise. This is in a small way, the beginning of our move towards food self-sufficiency and food generosity. We are now working closely with the Southdowns National Park Authority who have accepted us onto their Trees for the Downs scheme.

Apiary – The bees have been a wonder this year, their arrival was dramatic, bordering on miraculous and has been so encouraging. Build it and they shall come, springs to mind.

Joining in. – Becoming a part of the life at St Columba’s is open to all. It represents a rare and unique way of identifying and participating in an original way of expressing our Christian faith and affirming the dignity of humanity and the natural world. The message of Jesus has so much to offer our communities by way of authentic sustainable living and we pray you will be able to come and join us as we learn to be followers of Jesus in a fractured world.

Our Financial Needs.

Over the next six-months we are beginning the slow and prayerful task of transforming our old heritage farmstead into a thriving community hub of prayer, spirituality, conservation, hospitality and sustainability. This ambitious vision needs resources that are both financial and personal. Below we have prepared a list of the investment we are looking to secure over the next six months. We are presenting this as an itemised list so people can understand the detail and breadth of the foundations we are looking to establish.

Starting the Renovation Work

The beauty of our new home is we are now located in a genuinely historic, turn of the 19th century heritage farmstead. 

Over the next six-months we are beginning the slow and prayerful task of transforming our old heritage farmstead into a thriving community hub of prayer, spirituality, conservation, hospitality and sustainability. This ambitious vision needs resources that are both financial and personal. Below we have prepared a list of the investment support we are looking to secure over the next six months. We are presenting this as an itemised list so people can understand the detail and breadth of the foundations we are looking to establish.

The current run down state of the Celtic Learning Centre.

CELTIC Centre – £54,153

Celtic is short for Community, Education, Learning, Training and Innovation Centre.

Education and empowerment through participation is a passion for us. St Columba’s Farmstead represents a rare opportunity for Christians and the wider community alike to learn through getting one’s hands dirty on the renovation and repurposing of the farm. At the centre of this learning experience is our Celtic Centre, an old late Victorian red brick animal barn that will provide the wider community with a learning centre dedicated to sustainable living and lifestyle.

Whether it is environmental conservation, documenting wildlife, flora and fauna, planting and nurturing the forest garden, hedge planting, animal welfare or gardening, all the activities on the farmstead make up a beautiful opportunity to learn and grow in our understanding of how to care for our world and live sustainably.

Schools Programme – Once this building is renovated we will be able to facilitate schools, colleges, youth groups and special interest groups from the wider community to come and learn about the breadth and interconnectedness of our work. Our teaching programmes will be linked to the National Curriculum at KS1-4 so as to maximise the learning opportunities for young people.

Theological Learning – As a Christian Community we shall be investing into biblical and theological exploration of key areas of Christian understanding in our world and how we as the Body of Christ can make a lasting contribution to the protection and preservation of God’s creation. We believe good theology is worked out on the ground in practical ways. Details of the content and curriculum will be published in due course.

Creating Conversation  The Celtic Centre will also host conversations around topics and issues related to climate change, ecology, innovation, change and much more. The idea is to create as space to re- think many aspects of current structures in society and the “way things are done” from housing to community, hospitality to health etc, and provide a mutual learning environment in a peaceful and inspiring context.

Special thanks to Simon Thomas and Ben Kirk, who have worked very hard to create a very cost-effective framework that meets both our heritage renovation needs as well as real value for money for the Society and its members.

Celtic Centre
The plans for the Celtic Centre

Supporting the Build of our Celtic Centre.

We are inviting members of the public, our community and well-wishers who want to invest or donate towards the renovation of this important building to please do so. Our target for the fully costed heritage renovation is £54,153. This cost represents excellent value for money. At 84 sq. metres this translates into £645 per sq. metre. When you consider an average cost on a renovation like this in London would be close to £2500 sq. metre I hope you will see the details we have prepared below represent genuine value for money.

Celtic Education Centre Renovation and Repurposing Costs
Description of itemised costsCost
Site Set Up460
External scaffold and internal birdcage2530
Remove existing rotten doors and windows230
Strip roof tiles, batten and crate tiles1380
Remove damaged rafter purlins and decayed sections of wall plates920
Replace decayed wall plates and dragon ties1265
Undertake repairs to roof beams with new timbers920
Template, fabricate and install blacksmith made straps to tie beams and new metal tie rods1840
Install new purlins to replace existing ones1265
Install new rafters to replace existing ones where required1955
Repair plate ends and replace barge boards in oak1610
Install steel column under valley517.5
Fabricate 1 new window, restore 5 windows, restore 2 doors including glazing8000
Refit doors and windows including painting and weathering1610
Repair brickwork north east corner1035
Localised rebuilding to north walls plus helibar to north west corner920
Take down and rebuild loose section of brickwork to east wall between door and window920
450x450x450 pad foundation for steel column575
Allowance for repointing and reconsolidation of brick work and stone work 5750
Roofing including felt, batten, dreadnought classic red handmade tiles + lead work to abutment with chimney.19737.5
Site demobilisation and clean up460


General Farm Investment – £17,500 required

We need these general resources in order to prevent further deterioration of existing buildings and prepare them for full renovation before the winter sets in. In order for there to be a full health and safety environment on the site, a number of other items to do with infrastructure and site health and safety are also necessary at this point in time. This will contribute to establishing firm operational foundations that will last over the next 5 years of development.

General Financial needs for the next 6 months
Planning Conditions
Contamination and de-contamination work500
Drainage – foul and rain water450
General Scaffold Tower1120
Building maintenance to prevent further deterioration
Great Barn Horsham Stone roof repair4200
Small Granay wall repair2880
Large Granary wall and roof repair350
Pathway and farm infrastructure
Type 1 crush3500

How to financially support our work.

We have created a number of ways that individuals or communities can get behind the exciting plans for St Columba at Chanctonbury. 

Donation or Gift.

You can make a donation/gift to the Society St Columba via Paypal or Direct Bank Transfers. Or you may choose to take out a regular standing order to Society St Columba, bank details are on the gift and donation page of the website.

Become a Shareholder.

Become a Shareholding member in Columba’s Barn Community Benefit Society is another creative way of getting involved. In exchange for your financial contribution we offer shares in the Community Benefit Society. Our share-holding members are an important part of the life of St Columba’s, they are valued at £1 per share, with a minimum subscription of £100 person. You can make share purchases via the Paypal link on the CBS page.

For Bank Transfers 

BACS: Account no: 65811247 | Sort Code: 08-92-99

IBAN: GB36 CPBK 0892 9965 81 12 47


We are able to receive Cheques made payable to The Society St Columba for donations or, Columba’s Barn CBS Ltd for purchase of shares. Please send your cheques to Society St Columba, 1 Holloway Cottage, Chanctonbury Ring Road, Wiston. West Sussex. BN44 3DR. United Kingdom.

Undertaking the challenge of restring and repurposing of St Columba’s Farm is no small task. We recognise the need to re-imagine how we can live together as women and men of faith – close to the heartbeat of God in a sustainable and economically just fashion. Our aim is to learn together and mentor the next generation of followers of Jesus with tangible examples of how to live out the message of Jesus in a deeply fractured world. We pray that you will catch the vision of what is before us and feel able to contribute to this social, economic and ecological transformation.

Thank you for taking your time to read this newsletter and we look forward to seeing and hearing from you soon,


Greg Valerio on behalf of the Society St Columba.

Simon Thomas on behalf of Columba’s Barn Community Benefit Society Ltd.

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  • Janice Freeman Bell
    September 10, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you for this timely meditation “Into the Silence”… went straight to the heart of my own journey and It was not an accident that I “discovered” your website. While I live in the states, I was born in England and plan to visit your monastery on my next trip to England. Blessings !

  • Greg Valerio
    October 2, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Hi Janice, many thanks for your encouragement. You would always be welcome – but I’d rather speak about restoration farm, than monastery. When we took this place on, we did so in the full knowledge that ours is a journey of restoration, both personally and physically. An external witness of the Churches inward need for restoration and renovation. The joy…

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