In my teenage years, Lord Y used to tease me that night after night I only ever dreamt of galavanting from one party to the next. And the reality was, of course, absolutely correct. But, truth be known, my love of meeting new people comes directly from him; he has always been a brilliantly effective networker.
At a recent swanky lunch, he happened to meet the Canadian, Nancy Durham. Hearing of her lavender enterprise and remembering my passion for anything lavender related, he promptly introduced us online. Following this, I more than adored the box of goodies she sent over from Wales, where she and her business are based. The small people loved the spray on their pillow at bedtime and I found the night cream to be just the right amount of richness and sweet soothing smell.
Naturally curious of this relatively new business, I probed Nancy about Welsh Lavender:
What made you embark on such a radical and challenging task of creating a lavender farm? It all began with a conversation about a lavender hedge. I mentioned it to a farmer in our valley and he encouraged me to think on a slightly grander scale!
Of all the crops to farm, why lavender? When I came to the UK from Canada I lived in Oxford where my boyfriend, now husband, taught philosophy at Balliol. One of the great perks of his job was to live in Holywell Manor – a 16th century manor house in the middle of town. A lavender hedge lined our private gardens and I’d never seen anything like it. The idea must have planted itself then, subliminally.
Can you remember when you first smelt lavender? This is such an interesting question because I don’t think it registered properly with me until I lived in Oxford. Growing up in Canada I don’t remember seeing it. I recall smelling it in bars of soap and liking it but the first time I properly took in its refreshing, invigorating scent was at Holywell Manor. It seemed modern – it was nothing like those horrible old-fashioned perfumes. A living, growing lavender plant is another world – so are its products if they are used naturally and not laden with heavy synthetic rubbish.
How many hours a day do you spend tending to your lavender field? From mid July till early September I am in and out of the lavender fields all day or in the stable where we distil our lavender oil. It’s full on hard work but wonderful to be immersed in. These May days I am in and out of the field pulling weeds and planting new ones where necessary.
I hear that you have collaborated with the style guru, Tyler Brule, on the development of your latest product. How did this come about?
I’ve known Tyler journalistically for years. One day I was in his office at Monocle HQ and somehow the pot of Farmers Hand Cream (£12) came out of my bag and he was immediately interested.
Where would you ideally love to be stocked? In locations where women want the real thing, care about the provenance of a product and aren’t looking for false promises. Our creams are rich and lasting, effective moisturisers. I would love to see our products in Liberty.
Does your husband like the smell? (many men don’t, apparently!) This topic is fascinating to me. I’ve been amazed at how many men tell me they like lavender and actually know about its healing, calming benefits. One of my best sellers is a lavender sachet for gentlemen which we make for Trunk Clothiers in Chiltern Street, the smartest men’s shop I know. My husband does like the scent, and prefers the Grosso variety to the others. It’s more robust and works really well for men and women.
Do you have plans to develop a scent? In my dreams I want to develop a Welsh lavender plant variety! I think our understated lavender scent, mixed with skin conditioning treats like sea silk protein (from marine algae & is protective and moisturising) and borage seed oil (hydrating and typically in high end creams) are already putting our creams in a new and very modern category.
Welsh Lavender is now available to buy online.