My Visit to the Franciscan Friary

Nigel Roberts March 2022

On the first weekend of March I joined some of my fellow Christian Climate Action (CCA) members for an inspiring, relaxing and contemplative weekend retreat at Hilfield Friary, an intentional community in North Dorset. Here, a core of four Franciscan brothers and a wider community of members and volunteers young and old, single and married, live a simple and sustainable way of life together inspired by the example of St Francis of Assisi. Their aim is to grow in the knowledge of the love of God, to serve and nurture God’s creation, and to seek peace among people and with every part of the created order.

Each day the community come together for daily prayers in the simple chapel converted from a barn, and shared meals at the long common table in the refectory. There is also plenty of time and space to be quiet and alone. A sustainable ethos prevails throughout friary life: from the way they maintain and heat their buildings, how they source and prepare their food, the way they travel, to how they care for their land and animals. With the help of a grant they have installed enough solar panels to take them closer to their carbon neutral goal. They have achieved a 95% reduction in their carbon footprint, even with old hard-to-treat buildings. When they applied for an Eco Church Silver Award, their application was so impressive they were immediately upgraded to Gold!

The friary’s land is a haven for wildlife in a local area of heavy agriculture. On Saturday morning, as part of our CCA weekend of activities, we were taken on a guided tour of the land reflecting upon the life of St Francis and St Clare. There is a secret garden, a kitchen garden and a hermit’s wood which they are turning into a wet area, with wooden walkways, to counteract flooding in the local area. Many new trees have been planted the previous year with one dedicated to CCA. We were told the story of how St Francis saved two lambs from going to slaughter by giving his cloak as payment for them. Later, after conferring with a brother, he gave the lambs back to the shepherd who insured they would live a full nourished life. This is a reflection on how, if we are connected with nature, we can have a will to care for our environment.

Statue of St Francis
Eco Church Gold Award
Holding a banner at Hilfield Friary

We later produced a banner for future actions and watched a fascinating film about the history of Greenpeace and how they changed the world’s attitude to whaling and seal hunting. Some members of the community are also directly involved in climate action with CCA, so it was as much a joy for them to invite us as it was for us to be there for the weekend.

Using Your LOAF

During this season of Lent I would like to introduce the principles of LOAF which I learned many years ago from Green Christian. These principles are at the heart of every meal shared in the Hilfield Friary. The decisions we make about what kind of food we choose has far reaching effects influencing the way food is produced and animals are treated…

L = Locally Produced – helping community and neighbour

O = Organically grown – taking care of the Earth 

A = Animal friendly – avoiding abuse

F = Fairly Traded – creating social justice


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