Countrymen’s club offers lifeline for retired farmers

A countrymen’s club that offers retired farmers a more fitting alternative to a day centre, has been getting creative to support its members during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sarah Kidby reports.

As two national lockdowns and ongoing social distancing measures force many of us to spend less time socialising, some groups have been hit harder than others – particularly those who were already suffering from social isolation.

The Countrymen’s Club at Road Farm Countryways in Buckinghamshire is a lifeline for retired farmers, agricultural workers and those with an affinity with the outdoors – as well as those who care for them.

The mixed arable and livestock farm offers a fortnightly opportunity to socialise with like-minded people, reminisce about farming and get involved with activities designed for those with a passion for rural life.

Countrymen are able to help choose the content of sessions, with previous examples including wood turning, sausage making, working animals, brewing and land management.

Farm owners say they realised several years ago that sharing the farm in a way that involves more direct participation could really help the health of others, and improve people’s understanding and appreciation of the countryside.

Countrymen are able to help choose the content of sessions, which always have an outdoor or rural theme.

Carrying on through lockdown

Like many initiatives, the club has been impacted heavily by Covid-19, but undeterred, leaders have ploughed on with outreach services, keeping in touch with regular phone calls and delivering farm care packs, quizzes and magazines. The group is also extending this service to others who may benefit.

One of the Countrymen, Geoff, says: “I look forward to going to the Countrymen Club, to meet up with friends on the farm. As a retired forester it makes me feel good to be in the countryside.”

His wife who cares for him adds: “I am delighted that my husband has the opportunity to go to the farm with other men with similar interests. And the Outreach packs have been a fun and helpful source of interest, especially during lockdown.”

Outreach worker and volunteer Emily Reddy comments: “We have recently started sending our Outreach pack to one gentleman, a retired pig farmer who is shielding and feeling pretty isolated. He has really appreciated getting information about what’s going on in farming and reminiscing with us.”

Outside of lockdown the group has been able to welcome back members in Covid-safe numbers and a social cookery pilot evening was held recently, as well as a woodwork session and bird box building. The club also helped the Chilterns AONB Celebration with a chutney-making workshop and guided walks.

Co-leader Wendy Gray was presented with a BBC Three Counties Make a Difference Social Care award.

The initiative recently won a BBC Three Counties Make a Difference Social Care award, presented to co-leader Wendy Gray for her tireless energy and enthusiasm in providing opportunities for vulnerable people to participate in farm activities, improving their wellbeing and learning.

On receiving the award, she said: “Thank you so much for this! Such an encouragement. I must say thank you to everyone who supports us. This is a team effort, down to an amazingly wonderful husband and family and our wonderful team of volunteers.”

A nationwide initiative

The club in Buckinghamshire forms part of Countrymen UK Network, an award-winning, Lottery-funded initiative that helps men to become more resilient to life changes as a result of health problems or rural isolation.

It was launched after farmer John Stockley developed Parkinson’s disease, having been a farmer since the age of 14 and been active in many outdoor pursuits. Day care wasn’t the answer for him as it often involved indoor activities or talking groups.

His daughter Julie Plumley, a registered social worker who ran her own care farm in Dorset, set up the first Countrymen’s Club, giving members choices and offering social interaction and physical activities.

If you or someone you know would like to keep connected with the countryside and farm life you can follow the Countrymen’s Club in Buckinghamshire on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Or, if there is someone who you think might benefit from the outreach service, contact Road Farm Countryways CIC on

For more on the nationwide services available visit:


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