The Happy Hall

Thornage Hall is the home for about 24 adults with learning difficulties in which they live and work

Thornage Hall is the home for about 24 adults with learning difficulties in which they live and work independently - Credit: Archant

The thriving community at Thornage Hall is preparing for Christmas and New Year, as Michael Pollitt reports

Carols in the cow barn at Thornage Hall in north Norfolk are just part of the build-up to Christmas and New Year celebrations. An informal celebration for residents, staff and also villagers at Thornage Hall has become an established fixture in the calendar.

And fortunately the farm’s resident native breed Red Poll cows didn’t join in the singing last year, says Jenny Parker, who celebrated her first Christmas at the hall last year. It is a great way to bring the charity’s 70-acre farm in the Glaven valley, which grows and produces meat and vegetables for the 25-strong community and staff, into a time of reflection and celebration.

As the hall’s personal care and support manager, Jenny was asked to record the traditional Christmas preparations. Since 1989 when the hall’s first residents celebrated at Christmas, traditions evolved but were never written down. Now, with help from long-serving trustee Cynthia Hart, a record of the Camphill Community life has been made for residents, staff and the visiting co-workers.

Thornage has a remarkable sense of community, which not only underpins home life for residents but also involves the increasingly important day service visitors. This area providing training and skills from IT to horticulture, weaving to woodwork has been expanding rapidly, led by newly-appointed day services’ manager Louisa White.

As coffee breaks and meals are taken together, it enables residents, staff and visitors to chat and discuss aims and objectives - and plan for Christmas too. Every detail from the daily Grace before meals to the precise timetable for decorating the Christmas tree and placing of wreaths in the hall and the other houses is planned.

On Christmas Day itself, the dining room seating about 24 residents, staff and co-workers is converted into an enlarged horseshoe – ensuring everyone is involved in the celebrations. But the highlight, which involves everyone at Thornage, is the New Year’s party. Even those residents, who have been away at Christmas with their families, make a point of getting back to Thornage to see in the New Year.

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Cow barn carols takes place at Thornage Hall this year on Monday, December 21, at 2pm.

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