The Lure of Letchworth Garden City
Roger Newman Turner describes what brought his family to Letchworth nearly 60 years ago.
For country-dwellers, as my family had always been, Letchworth Garden City seemed a suitable transition to urban existence – handy for London; plenty of open space; and, more importantly, a community ethos that was based on progressive ideas and environmental concerns. It was a place in which unorthodoxy could be normal and even a little eccentricity did not seem out of place. Not that my parents were eccentric but they had certainly had a life of respectable rebellion against the orthodoxy of agriculture, healthcare, and militarism.
We moved to Letchworth in 1958 where my father established a practice as a consulting medical herbalist and naturopath. (He was already a consultant at the Society of Herbalists in London). The move here marked a major turning point from a life in agriculture where he had demonstrated the importance of working with nature for the health of the soil and the animals reared on it.
The son of Yorkshire tenant farmers who had first learned to milk a cow at the age of five, he had a conventional training in agriculture at Leeds University then worked in London for a cattle feed manufacturer whilst developing his journalistic skills as a contributor to the leading farming periodicals. He met his future wife, Lorna, on a business trip to Cornwall and they married in 1939. While living in London in the 1930s, he became active in the peace movement, joining the Peace Pledge Union founded by Canon Dick Sheppard. At the beginning of the war, he registered as a conscientious objector and, in 1941, was placed in charge of Goosegreen Farm, near Bridgwater in Somerset, which was run by a group of Quakers to train COs who had to work on the land.
The farm was pretty run-down and the livestock was in poor health. He soon realised the futility of pouring chemical fertilisers and pesticides on the soil and its failure to produce food capable of keeping his cattle well and his vets’ bills under control. As soon as he was able to lease and, later, buy the farm, he started to apply the principles of composting advocated by his mentor, Sir Albert Howard, one of the founders of the organic movement.
Wholefood (a term coined by F. Newman Turner in the 1940s) is the basis of good health.