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I found happiness in nature during my darkest hours

Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, reveals how her passion for nature has brought her joy 

May 24, 2024
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Whether it's out walking on the windswept Somerset Levels or weeding in my garden, nature gives me the restorative fix I need to deal with the daily challenges I face.

I crave seeing green space after I've been in busy Westminster for a few days and interwoven into my lifestyle is my ingrained inclination to live life as sustainably as I can.

Growing up in nature

Rebecca Pow MP harvesting berries in garden© Rebecca Pow
Growing up on a West Country farm gave me a passion for nature at a young age

Growing up on a West Country farm where we all mucked in – bringing in the dairy cows for milking, feeding the calves, hauling bales in the summer and tending the turkeys in the winter – was a full and active life. Eating wholesome homegrown produce was a natural part of our daily routine.

All our vegetables and many of the fruits we ate were grown in our garden, the meat was locally produced, our milk and cream came from the dairy and the seasons dictated what we ate. 

I guess the whole concept of self-sufficiency, reliance on the land and its rich produce surreptitiously washed over me without even realising it. Every day of our school holidays, we joined in harvesting the veg and cooking for the family and all the foreign students that stayed with us to learn English. 

My mother also saved, washed, and reused every plastic bag and carton and all the veg peelings went into the compost.

Rebecca Pow MP posing outside on farm with pigs© Rebecca Pow
Bringing in the dairy cows for milking, hauling bales in the summer and tending the turkeys in the winter was a full and active life

My garden became my happy place in a time of grief 

Years later, my garden is now my refuge and my respite. It is grounding and restorative. As soon as I return from Westminster, I walk around the garden, listen to the birds and pick a handful of flowers and foliage and fill my windowsills with them.

I often sit in my Edwardian summer house (which I can rotate to follow the sun) at the weekends doing my Ministerial boxwork which is far more relaxing than sitting at a table indoors. 

Rebecca Pow MP posing with homegrown berries© Rebecca Pow
My garden is my refuge and my respite during hard times

The garden was a wonderful place for my children to grow up, always roped into spud planting, apple picking and juicing (and making dens and mud pies). I introduced them to a whole raft of livestock including hens and sheep of various breeds... and we had some serious escapades with pigs!

The garden itself is a creative canvas developed by Charles, my late husband and I. It’s filled with many agricultural artifacts he picked up during his work as an agricultural auctioneer.

When my husband was diagnosed with bowel cancer which gradually spread around his body, it became our haven. We drew enormous solace from immersing ourselves amongst the trees and plants and sipping a glass of wine, reflecting on what we had planned and created together from scratch knowing that the trees we had planted would live on long after we have gone.

Rebecca Pow MP inspecting garden© Rebecca Pow
The garden is a creative canvas – developed by Charles, my late husband and I

Charles is buried in the churchyard that you can see from the garden.

Finding peace outside 

I never stop planning and creating new features and planting schemes. In Covid, I created a mini glade in honour of my mother-in-law who died just after Charles and this last winter I planted a little copse filled with crab apples, ornamental hawthorns, silver birch and cider apple trees. 

They will all have attractive blossom, rich berries and great autumn foliage and will provide valuable food and shelter for wildlife. 

Rebecca Pow MP posing in a field of flowers© Rebecca Pow
I created a mini glade in honour of my mother-in-law who died just after Charles

I also take great pleasure in using as much produce from the garden to cook with as I can. I am chuffed that my homegrown potatoes lasted all winter, and I still have some onions left, as well as artichokes growing in the garden, and I have just harvested my first rhubarb of the season and made a fab crumble (with some shavings of ginger added for extra tang).

DISCOVER: How can you live a more sustainable life? Introducing HELLO!s Planet Positive initiative 

My life is something of a whirl in terms of its pace and I can't pretend I am not driven in terms of genuinely wanting to leave our environment in a better state for those that come after us. But without a shadow of a doubt, my home, garden and my 'homemade' lifestyle are very much where my heart is. 

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