We spoke to Xanthe, organic grower and chef who inspires others to develop a connection with the plants we grow, the food we source and nature on the whole through her workshops, supper clubs and the dishes she shares on her Instagram.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re based and what you do.
I'm Xanthe Gladstone, I'm a chef and grower based in North Wales, which is where we are now, and I'm very passionate about food sustainability and knowing where our food comes from. I moved to Wales to learn to grow my own food, which was about three years ago, and I have lived here since.
Could you tell us about your experience living in Wales?
Living in Wales is very, very nice. I spend a bit of time in London, but I like living in Wales because it makes me a little bit more grounded and settled. It also gives me the ability to live a bit more within the seasons and the changes that happen in nature throughout the year.
I like being a bit more adaptive to what's changing and how I'm living as a result and just being outside every day. It's made a massive difference to my mental health, and I love it.
What things inspire you to get outside, and how does it make you feel when you do those things?
My dogs get me outside, which is a really good way to start every morning, and I feel like if you are strict on yourself with not taking your phone with you on a walk or keeping it in your pocket, then those walks and those times outside where you're properly embracing the smells and feelings that surround you, it can start you off on the right foot. Spending time physically and outside in the garden makes me feel very calm, and together, it allows me to process my thoughts.
How does it feel to be active in your body, in the garden?
I love it more than anything. I've never been someone who's very good at sitting around. So being active to me is how I find pleasure and find happiness. In moving my body, I feel confident because I feel productive.
I feel like maybe gardening was the thing that made me realise how important moving your body is and can affect you, and how it can make you feel. I think I like the feeling almost more on a rainy and cold day. It's more satisfying because you have this feeling when you get inside in the evening and have a cup of tea and a bath, you're like, I did good.
Over the years, I've learned that I need physical movement in my life. Consistently being able to process thoughts, emotions and feelings and then being able to put physical movement into my everyday work has really changed how I view work and mental health. It has shown me that you can be productive in a different way.
What have you learnt from foraging and growing food?
Foraging connects me to nature because I know exactly what's in season in which month. I'm very aware of the seasons changing, of what I'm foraging and what I'm collecting or what I'm seeing grow at particular times of the year. Obviously, it's autumn now, the mushrooms are everywhere, and that's such a sign of the season's changing in my head.
It's such an age-old thing, but I think you kind of forget when you're living in a city or when you're not spending time in nature. You don’t realise where food actually comes from and how time and effort-consuming it actually is. You have a newfound respect for nature and farmers and everythin in between when you grow your own food.
Can you talk a bit about the lake you swim in and your relationship with swimming?
When I swim in the lake, it can be ice-cold sometimes, so I have to go into it with a very calm mindset and understand what I'm putting my mind and body through. I think it can make me feel quite empowered because I realise that I can do something that I thought I couldn't. It has a very strong effect on how I feel physically, which can have a positive effect on how I feel mentally. It's just so peaceful as well. The minute I step down there into that space, the openness and the vastness of it just make me feel calmer.
What does nature teach and show you?
Nature shows you that when things are stressful or uncertain, there's always a certainty. That it brings and it changes, and it develops, and it transforms, but it's also just always there when you need it. I think it shows you that you can rely on things that you don't think you can rely on for comfort and security. You can place your hope and stuff always in the next season. You can sew seeds in the future.
How does your body inspire you?
I think I'm inspired by my body's ability to move, either through exercising like yoga, going on a walk, going swimming or being in the sauna. I would say that it inspires me because of the effect it can then have on my mind. It's crazy how connected the physcial movement is with your mind and have such an impact on how you're feeling mentally. In the last year, I've picked up yoga quite consistently and watched my body get really strong and feel really strong. It's inspiring watching it change in relation to what I'm putting into it and it's quite empowering.
When do you feel most free in your body?
If I've had a week where my routine is a bit confused and I haven't had the chance to eat well or exercise properly, then I don't feel that comfortable in my body. Whereas, if I've made sure to feed myself well, I've been drinking lots of water and I've done some exercise and my body feels like it's really functioning properly, that's when I feel very free in my body.
What's the connection between the food that you cook and the way you nourish your body?
I think it's a really natural connection for me. I've always eaten very wholesomely, I guess. I've lived in the countryside all my life, apart from a few stints in the city. I think I've been attracted to the flavours and tastes of food that feel like they do good for me. I'm quite in tune with how food, how different food affects my energy. I'm always more driven to fuel my body with proper nourishing food. So in the winter, I make lots of soups and stews, whereas in the summer, I make lots of lighter meals with plenty of vegetables.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and treading lightly on the planet?
I do what I can, and I'm not gonna beat myself up for the things I can't do. So I think my impact of treading lightly is my ability to use my skills and my platform to inspire other people to be connected to their food and where it comes from, to show that you can live a life that is surrounded by nature. Treading lightly is definitely having respect for nature and respect for where things come from and being a bit more mindful of your ability to affect that in a positive or negative way.
I'm learning from nature all the time. To be more aware that connecting to it doesn’t just happen, it comes in waves and builds with time. I’m understanding the power of nature and how much we need it in our lives as a way to teach us to respect the world and everything in it.
Text: Joya Berrow
Photographs and video: Joya Berrow