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Inside the new Countrymen Club for older men... (it's not what you think)

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feel better every week.Rylands Farm occupies 30 acres in the village of Holnest, south of Sherborne in Dorset. It is a small-scale dairy and beef operation, and at first glance the only slightly unusual features are the range of additional animal residents – geese, goats, a pair of Kunekune pigs and a trio of donkeys – that share the premises with the herd of Simmental cattle.On closer inspection, though, the farm has been subtly but significantly modified to accommodate the needs of some special visitors.

It is the home of the Countrymen Club, a service that enables men who, through force of circumstance, have lost touch with their outdoor existences to re-engage with the landscapes and creatures that have previously meant so much to them.

Many of them are, for example, retired farmers or agricultural workers living with Parkinson’s, dementia and other health conditions that make it difficult to go out.The scheme was founded by Julie Plumley, the owner of Rylands Farm, and while the pandemic posed obvious challenges to expansion, there are now 11 farms in the Countrymen UK network across Britain.Julie, who is 59, is herself the daughter of a farmer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and suffered the anguish of being separated from the land and life that he loved. “My mother looked after him, and of course she did her best,” she recalls. “But often she’d insist that he stayed indoors for his own good, when what he wanted most of all was to be in the open air, with the grass under his feet.”She points out that, because of greater longevity among women, men are often outnumbered in care homes and retirement villages by women, enduring a daily routine that often features too many soap operas and too much discussion of the.

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