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The Co Down couple sharing the joys of life on the farm

Malini and Iain Colville of Glenside Farm opened up to the community during the pandemic.

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Malini and Iain Colville on their farm near Co Down.

Malini and Iain Colville on their farm near Co Down.

Iain and Malini have run their farm for six years now

Iain and Malini have run their farm for six years now

Iain juggles the everyday needs of the farm with his work as a barrister

Iain juggles the everyday needs of the farm with his work as a barrister

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Malini and Iain Colville on their farm near Co Down.

A Co Down farm with prize-winning cattle has offered the chance to escape everyday life by opening up to the community and offering respite to groups facing struggles, such as refugees and foster children.

Married couple Malini and Iain Colville have been running Glenside Farm near Comber for six years.

Their prize-winning livestock include Blue Texel sheep and Aberdeen Angus cattle, who are no strangers to winning rosettes at the Balmoral Show.

While Iain is from a farming background in Newtownards, Malini grew up in London and has embraced the switch from city life to the peaceful countryside of Co Down.

During the pandemic, they made the decision to also become a community farm and offer respite days for groups, including refugees.

For those facing struggles in their own life, it’s easy to see the attraction of escaping the city for a day to work outside, surrounded by green fields or even just sitting for a cup of tea and a chat with others.

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Until recently, Malini had been working as the Northern Ireland lead of the fostering and adoption charity, Home for Good.

She has now made the jump to focusing on the community farm project full-time.

Iain also juggles the everyday needs of the farm with his work as a barrister.

During lockdown, Malini said she often heard media reports about how access to rural spaces were important for mental health.

"We just thought we’d go on a bit of a journey about how we could use our farm,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

After attending a community farming course, they signed up as a social farm.

Typically, social farms will work with people who may have learning disabilities or mental health needs.

Working alongside a farmer for the day, it helps to improve their wellbeing and to feel included in the community.

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Iain and Malini have run their farm for six years now

Iain and Malini have run their farm for six years now

Iain and Malini have run their farm for six years now

Malini and Iain were keen to incorporate their own previous experience working with the refugee and asylum-seeking community in Northern Ireland.

Malini said: "We’d love to explore how to get families who may be living in a one bedroom flat in Belfast, who feel quite isolated, how to get them on to the farm."

Another area they are keen to include is the fostering and adoption community.

This can include bringing siblings together who are living in different homes.

"We’re just exploring if I'm honest, a lot of it’s about finding the right funding and people who are going to support us,” she said.

In the future, the couple are keen to expand further and invite out school groups.

"There could also be scope here for things like glamping for foster families, a space they can feel safe in.

“We had Syrian refugee women on the farm a couple of weeks ago. One of them was actually a shepherdess in Syria, so she was asking my husband loads of questions.

"There’s beautiful views down here, and she said to us ‘That’s what Syria would have looked like before the war’.

"That just shows the therapeutic power of doing this.

"Another lady who was part of that group was 94, she just sat by the woodburner to keep warm and have a cup of tea.

"But it was nice for her just to have a different space to relax in.”

With the likelihood that some of those displaced from the current war in Ukraine will come to Northern Ireland, Malini said projects like Glenside Farm could offer friendship.

“For these families that are displaced and come to Northern Ireland, or even foster families, they’re doing it alone,” she said.

"So being able to come to our farm can offer a sense of community.”

Iain said that while the enterprise was still starting out, the couple were excited for its potential.

"Following lockdown, we realised that people in urban areas needed to be out and about for their mental health,” he said.

"We thought we have a lovely setting and quality animals for people to come out and enjoy being around.

“We realised we could use the farm for other peoples’ benefits, a social enterprise that would facilitate access."

Still maintaining a career as a barrister in London, Iain says he is amazed that he manages to keep everything going.

"It’s still early days, we’ve established the enterprise and Malini is taking the lead on developing programmes.

"It’s exciting now that she’s able to develop this full time, to facilitate access for vulnerable children and adults.”


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