sc0006_archery school 1If you’ve been to any school fairs in Marlborough recently you may have seen Dartington Barn Archery featuring… I’ve already mentioned Springlands School and we’ve also been at Spring Creek, Linkwater, Fairhall and Tua Marina schools, teaching Robin-Hoods-in-the-making. I’ve really enjoyed helping out these schools’ fundraising efforts this term. And the archery sessions have been a hit, much to the delight of many children, adults, and myself!

At Spring Creek School the archery and Splat the Rat sessions raised a couple of hundred dollars. Splat the Rat (if you’re not familiar) involves firing marbles from a catapult at stainless steel silhouettes of rats which are suspended from rugby goal posts. I think we lost about 80 marbles in the playground. One guy had such stunning accuracy that the marble shattered when he hit the target!

We had a fantastic day at Springlands School – flat out all day and there was still a queue when the fair had finished. Eighty kids went through the archery sessions and 60 through Splat the Rat, raising nearly $400 for the school.

You might have seen in the Marlborough Express that we had archery on offer at Fairhall and Tua Marina’s recent Christmas festivals too – again more successful days raising several hundred dollars for each school (as we did earlier at Linkwater School too), and giving children, and adults, a chance to add another string to their bow. The queues were long and enthusiastic at all three events with budding Katniss Everdeens and Robin Hoods abounding!

We’re delighted to have introduced hundreds of Marlborough children to the exciting sport of archery this year.

sc0005 (2)_archery school 2

Checking in with the chickens

For those of you following the fates of our free-range organic egg producers (also known as our Shaver Browns) – here is a little update.

They have all settled in well, as if they’ve been here forever – and are now producing an average of ten eggs a day from ten birds, which is just what we want. Perfect for use in the Dartington Barn kitchen and our Gourmet Masterclass sessions.

They really know what their wings are for though and have been getting into the garden to cause mischief. Mistresses of mystery, we haven’t worked out how they are actually getting into the garden – whether it’s through a hole in the run or whether they are winging it over the creek. And they do love to make a mess of the gravel path, with their dust bathing and scratching.

All in all, a perfect life for chooks – roaming free but knowing where to lay their eggs.  And I can assure you that there is no taste like a fresh egg from your own backyard.  The shells are tough, the whites are tight and the yolks stand tall and are fantastically bright orange, and the taste is magnificent. A perfect accompaniment to the other bounty from our garden (like the asparagus) or in an eggs-cellent pavlova for Christmas!

Team-Building Takes Off

Recently we had Indevin bring about 30 of their staff here to Dartington Barn for Archery Plus. Indevin is one of the largest contract winemaking companies in New Zealand and it was a real pleasure to host them.

“…such a fantastic day, everyone enjoyed themselves and it definitely got the competitive juices flowing! The day has been recounted many times and it is so great that such a place exists in Blenheim…an amazing team-building day out for our staff members and we hope to be back for a rematch one day.” Erin Lynch (Indevin)

Interest seems to be growing in both Archery and Archery Plus – particularly as team-building activities – judging by the number of enquiries we are receiving. We’ve recently bought more gear so we can cater really well for children’s archery parties too. And Angie’s felt Robin Hood hats, along with the warrior helmets for axe and star-throwing, are a real hit for young and old!

Give Springlands your best shot

Our local Marlborough followers may have seen our archery make an appearance in this article in this week’s Marlborough Midweek:

Give Springlands your best shot

Yes, we’re taking our little slice of “Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest” to the Springlands School Gala. The perfect chance to come & try out some archery fun.

We’re delighted to be supporting Springlands School’s biggest fundraiser of the year, as they look to raise money to develop the school grounds.


What you need to know:

Springlands School Gala

Murphys Road, Blenheim

Saturday 18th October

10.00am – 2.00pm

See you there!

Family-friendly archery at Vines Village

I’m thrilled to now be taking archery out into the community. I’ve been enjoying my Sunday afternoons for the past few weeks teaching archery to children and their families at The Vines Village.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to try archery out – this is a great opportunity to do so. I’m at The Vines Village on Rapaura Road every Sunday from 2–4pm and for just $10 you can come along and try your hand at being Robin Hood, Katniss Everdeen (from “The Hunger Games”) or Merida (from Disney’s “Brave”) – and so can your children! All ages are welcome.


Instructing a budding Robin Hood

Instructing a budding Robin Hood


Getting to grips with the finer points after a short lesson




Gourmet clotted cream tea at the Barn for a good cause

Angie and I are excited to be supporting the wonderful Marlborough Cancer Society with our Clotted Cream Tea at Dartington Barn on Sunday 12th October. Come and join us in the beautiful gardens for a gourmet cream tea with our homemade scones, fresh clotted cream, glorious jam and a pot of tea. There’ll be live music too and the latest sunhat fashions. We’re also giving people a chance to try our archery, the latest in leisure activities – not to be missed!

All proceeds from the day will be donated to the Cancer Society Marlborough for its brilliant work in the community.

Go to the Cancer Society in The Forum, Blenheim, before 9th October to buy your tickets ($25 per person) and join us at the Barn from 2.00–4.30pm for a fun-filled afternoon that will also support a great cause in our community. All ages are welcome. Look forward to seeing you there.

Cancer Society Cream Tea at Dartington Barn

A taste of things to come at Dartington Barn

Plump spears of asparagus popping up are a sure (and welcome) sign of spring for us at Dartington Barn. We’ve got a little longer to wait for this year’s crop, but we’ve been doing a little gardening in preparation – hopefully securing us a bountiful harvest in spring!

So, what’s growing at the Barn? This week we focus on our asparagus beds…


So far we’ve had a really mild winter and we only just recently cut back the brown asparagus fern and tidied up the patch. We have also been down at Monkey Bay collecting Bull Kelp seaweed from the beach. We picked up about 20 kilograms and have put it directly onto the asparagus bed, doing our best to make sure each crown has some kelp over the top of it. Asparagus, being a plant that originated from areas with a high salt level, loves seaweed – apparently it’s especially the iodine content it’s keen on. Whatever the reason, the end result speaks for itself, and tasty asparagus abounds.

The asparagus beds at Dartington Barn

The asparagus beds at Dartington Barn (Winter 2014) – with bull kelp seaweed newly added

Next step will be to cover the kelp with compost and eagerly await mid-September for new season spears. Then, of course, it will be ‘Bon Appétit’!


Braden Takes A Shot At Archery

Proving it is a truly accessible sport for all ages and abilities, Braden Mason has recently taken up archery here at Dartington Barn. Braden Mason is a (nearly) 16 year old young man who is confined to a wheelchair.

Braden takes aim in his archery lessons at Dartington Barn

Braden takes aim in his archery lessons at Dartington Barn

Braden made media headlines recently when his ‘Drift Dream’ came true: “Eight years ago doctors gave him three months to live, but this week Braden Mason was continuing to defy the odds by learning to drive a drift car.” (You can read more about Braden’s drift dream in the Marlborough Express article here: )

And just as his cancer didn’t stop him giving drift driving a go, nor did it stop him turning his hand to archery. Despite Braden’s inoperable condition affecting his brain and spine to the point where he is no longer able to walk, he proved an able archer. Hamish said “Braden shoots really well and his enjoyment is a pleasure to see”.

Braden’s mother Heather says “Hamish is an awesome teacher and Braden is really enjoying it. It’s great exercise for him as well.”

Braden’s archery exploits also featured in the Marlborough Express yesterday Braden explains “I’ve always wanted to try [archery] ever since I watched Robin Hood…It’s harder than it looks, but I really enjoy it.”

Good luck Braden – we’re sure you’ll hit whatever target you aim for next!

Hamish & Braden (1)

What’s growing at the Barn this week?

This time it’s our chickens!

Yes, at Dartington Barn we love to grow as much as possible to ‘bring to the table’, and also to use in our Gourmet Masterclasses. So, we keep a flock* of chickens here at the Barn – usually Shaver Browns for their wonderful egg-laying prowess. There’s nothing quite like an aioli or pavlova made with free-range, organic eggs from your own backyard.

Dartington Barn Chickens

Our most recent ‘girls’ were born back in autumn and came to us as chicks, quickly settling in well. Right from the start one showed a bucket-load of attitude and liked to peck my gumboots! We only had to place them on their perches for the first night and then they were very independent. We started off feeding them chicken mash and gradually increased the amount of kibbled wheat in the mix.

Nowadays we’re feeding the chooks a mix of about 9:1 of kibbled (cracked) wheat and “Peck ‘n’ Lay”, but so far we’re getting bit of pecking, but no laying. All they are producing right now is a choir of clucking! Having said that, the level of the grit in the run has started to go down, so we are expecting our first eggs any day now.

Although we’re fond of our hens, we never name them – keeping them at one remove, so they’re not viewed as ‘pets’.

We’ve found a couple on the outside of the wire recently so they’ve clearly discovered what their wings are for. We don’t clip their wings as we feel they’ll have more chance of escape from a hawk or other predator if they are fully winged. They also know how good they have it, so we’ve never had any go for a “Great Escape” in the past.

We haven’t let them out across the ‘Chook Bridge’ yet and we’ll wait until they have got into a rhythm of getting up, having a feed, laying an egg in the morning and just, well, hanging out with their buddies. Once they know where to lay their eggs we’ll let them out across the bridge into the vineyard where they will enjoy lots of good greens and foraging fun.

So that’s what’s growing at the Barn next week. Hopefully we’ll be able to report on the delicacies we make with their eggs, in the very near future!


* Fun fact – You’re a bit spoiled for choice in collective nouns for a group of chickens. The possibilities apparently include: a brood; a clutch; a hatching; a nest; a parcel; a battery; a flock; and a peep.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Archery – Aiming For A Healthier You

If archery is not the first sport you think of taking up when you are turning over a healthy leaf, think again. You may be pleasantly surprised by its many health benefits.

Here at Dartington Barn our guests get to enjoy the tranquil and elegant surroundings while they partake in the medieval sport of archery, with surprising health benefits.



Build muscle tone

Archery develops most of the muscle groups in your upper body. Drawing a bow uses the strength of both arms as well as exercising the shoulders and back. The repetition of the sport and the fact the bow pull is maintained for several seconds, give similar exercise benefits as weight lifting.

There is also a surprising amount of walking done by archers, which leads to better muscle tone and leg strength, as well as improved cardiovascular health.

Strengthen your core

Holding your body still while aiming and making a shot helps you gain control over your balance, which in turn strengthens your core. This leads to all sorts of benefits, including improving your posture and straightening your back.

Develop mental focus

Along with physical strength, archery is also excellent for mental development, through building focus and attention skills. Learning to focus attention solely on the target allows your mind to clear, providing valuable stress release. This practice may also help you overcome procrastination and distraction.

Hand-eye coordination is also greatly improved through archery, leading to better dexterity in your hands and improving your central nervous system.


And best of all… it’s fantastically good fun!


To find out more about the fun leisure activities in the beautiful grounds of Dartington Barn, head on over to our Archery and  Archery Plus pages.