The John Seymour School
There has never been a better time to think about "growing your own"! And whether you have a small garden or thoughts of rolling acres our courses will help you learn "how". Even the smallest patch of lawn can become an oasis of productive garden and for those with more land there is the prospect of producing eggs and meat. And even without land you can learn to brew your own ales and bake your own bread. What's more all this can all be done without poisons and preservatives.
The Skills We Teach
Course content always aims to cater for individual requirements, as well as being dependent on the weather and the time of year. There is a good mixture of practical and theoretical work. We aim to give students a first hand experience of the day to day realities of living on a smallholding.
Planning a smallholding - Garden layout, the orchard, the chickens, the pigs, the soil, the shelter belts, clearing rough land, how to get started, hedges, pathways.
Organic Gardening - basic principles of the organic cycle, improving your soil, creating a vibrant ecosystem, bringing in fertility, the role of the animals, the management of pests
Poultry Management - the day to day routine, types of poultry run, protection from predators, prevention of disease, feeding rations
Pig Husbandry - basic principles of pig husbandry, methods of fencing, the design of the pig sty, the choice of breeds
Beekeeping - structure of the beehive and the annual cycle of bee activity, how to get started, basic equipment needed
Basket Making - a day spent making a simple round basket, different types of weave, how to manage and cut your own willow
Building and Block laying - basic practical steps in building a simple wall, making cement, using trowel, level and builder's line
Storing and preserving food - Essentials of different methods of preserving produce by freezing, bottling, jam/jelly/wine making, drying, clamping and salting
Scything and grass management - how to manage your grassland, make hay and use a modern scythe effectively
Wine and Beer Making - "Hands on" practical work making wine and beer as appropriate to the season
Jam and Bread Making - part of the everyday routine of the smallholder
Knots and Ropework - a useful wet day activity that always proves popular
Top fruit and soft fruit growing - planning of the orchard, tips for planting and pruning
Composting - the practical demonstration of how to manage this most vital part of your garden - the compost heap
Self sufficiency in the kitchen - Practical work to prepare and cook home grown produce in the kitchen, including sausage making and bacon curing.
Will Sutherland has run self-sufficiency courses for more than 20 years, teaching the methods and philosophy developed by John Seymour.
Will worked for over 10 years with John Seymour in Ireland and, with John, created the New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency published by Dorling Kindersley.
In 2010 we took our courses to the wine growing region near Bordeaux where the warm weather, swimming pool and excellent local wine made a nice change from the cooler climes of Ireland.
Now we have moved back to cooler climes to take up the challenge of re-creating a classic old kitchen garden.
"Thank you so much: we really enjoyed the course and found it VERY interesting and helpful. And what a beautiful place in which to do it"
"More than a training to learn technical skills, Will Sutherland offers a complet life experience to discover a different lifestyle, off the beaten track. Learn to do things with your hands, to enjoy simple things such a nice beer in a nice pub surrounded by fellow students and having a good time, discuss how to change the world and what life is about. Kick-off your own change!"
"Such great people. Such strong spirits. Great to know you guys!"
“Thank you for a wonderful holiday. The food has been amazing and we have really enjoyed the Class. You have a beautiful place here.”
Our residential courses will take place at the old Victorian garden which is being restored at Christon Bank in Northumberland. The old Victorian garden at Christon Bank is bounded on its north and west sides by huge brick walls. The south facing wall is about 50 metres long while the east facing wall is even longer at 70 metres. This would have provided about three quarters of an acre of intensive vegetable and fruit production - which is typical of the traditional gardens which provided food before supermarket were even thought of. The garden will be restored in stages.
Northumberland offers many wonderful opportunities to enjoy iconic scenery whether on the coast or in the hills. We always take time to explore and picnic - also to experience local culture and traditional music in the pubs.
Topics covered in our residential courses include many of the activities described in The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency.
Students will be staying in the nearby coastal village of Newton by the Sea. Newton bay is just north of the fine beach at Embleton overlooked by the majestic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. The cottage is in the square just 50 metres from the beach and even closer to the Ship Inn!
Anyone interested in a non-residential weekend course either for themselves or a group please get in touch via email. We can try and arrange a mutually convenient weekend. The cost per person for a one day course is £55 - discounts offered for groups.
The course fee of £880 covers 7 nights accommodation, bed and breakfast (home made bread, eggs and jam plus cereals, tea and coffee) plus 6 days tuition including coffee, lunch and the big traditional evening meal.
Ample supplies of beer and wine are included!
Note that numbers are limited to 6 persons per course. For those coming with a spouse or partner there is a 20% discount for the second student.
We are happy to collect students who travel by rail, bus or air. There is a useful international airport at Newcastle (40 miles distant) and an excellent train service to Alnmouth (10 miles). Just make sure you let us know well in advance of your travel plans. For those travelling by car full directions will be emailed to you once a booking has been made.
We generally use the corner cottage in the square at Newton by the Sea as accommodation for students. The cottage is comfortably furnished on this pretty square about 50 meters from the beach - a really unique setting.
Book a course
Up to date information about our most recent and upcoming courses can be found in the Course Planning section above, or else click here.
To secure a place at on a course, please first securely pay £150 deposit by clicking on the PayPal button below.
We will also need a message detailing:
your preferred course dates (see options in the Course Planning section)
later – your travel arrangements
We will email confirmation of your place on the waiting list as soon as your deposit is received.
Courses have limited spaces and are filled on a first come, first served basis! For those coming as a pair there is a 20% discount for the second student.
all deposits are strictly non-refundable
courses are not suitable for children below the age of 13 years.