A FORMER British Army officer and his wife are behind a project to restore a farm to nature. 

Soldier turned eco-warrior Tom Constable has lived with clinical psychologist wife Chloe and their young children at a Grade II-listed farmhouse at Llantilio Crossenny between Monmouth and Abergavenny since April 2023, where they will offer glamping alongside education projects. 

They also plan to host corporate “away days” along with office space for businesses in a converted steel agricultural barn to fund restoring the biodiversity of the 80-acre grassland farm. 

“Chloe and I, five years ago, were very much not in tune with nature and I don’t come from an eco-warrior background,” said Afghanistan vet Tom, outlining their motivation in setting up the Grange Project, which is named after the farm. 

“I’ve been in the military for a long period, and then into business, and my wife worked in the NHS. But having had a child, you think what sort of world are you handing over to them?

Tom and Chloe Constable are rewinding The Grange farm
Tom and Chloe Constable are rewinding The Grange farm. Photo: The Grange Project (The Grange Project)

“You dig into climate change, and biodiversity loss and yor’re not so sure you’re comfortable with your child inheriting that without feeling you’ve done something to try and address it.” 

The couple, who moved there from the Forest of Dean, are documenting their efforts to restore the farm to nature on the project website (www.grangeproject.co.uk).

The site also explains how after the birth of their first child they took practical steps to reduce their carbon footprint, including leasing an electric car, refraining from flying and reducing meat consumption. 

Monmouthshire Council has granted planning permission for three wooden glamping cabins, to be used from April to October, and the conversion of the redundant modern barn. 

As well as providing a small shower block and toilet facilities for glampers, the barn will also be used as an open educational area for schools and groups, as well as a podcast recording studio. 

The couple already create podcasts to promote biodiversity and the studio will also be used for Mr Constable’s Warfighter podcast, that examines the convergence of new technologies and defence training. 

Restoring biodiversity is the “different side of the same coin” to defence for the former officer, who served in the Army Air Corps in Afghanistan and describes restoring nature as a similar form of service to the nation. 

Mr Constable is cautious of what might be understood by the term rewilding however, saying: “We’re not trying to reintroduce bears or wolves. We might get some insects back and I would love to get the curlew back, that has been pushed out of this area, but it’s not what people are fearing.” 

The farm has most recently been rented out for hay crops but with restoring it to nature, which hasn’t required planning permission, it will still be used for food production, including meat, and the couple already have some pigs and could introduce a small herd of cows as well. 

Tom Constable with a pig
Tom Constable with a pig. Photo: The Grange Project (The Grange Project)

Mrs Constable, who works with young people and families as a trained psychologist, intends the project to benefit more than just nature.

She said: “It can be a really important part in addressing what is described as a crisis in young people’s mental health, with one in five young people diagnosed with a mental health condition.

“I think a lot of this can be addressed by having a more positive relationship with nature and being outdoors.” 

Permission has also been given for a small hardcore car park, while four part time jobs could be created.

The couple intend employing staff directly and providing opportunities to work with local firms, from office space, to partnerships such as a walk developed with the Halfway pub in Tal y Coed. 

A report by the council planing department states: “Rewilding projects are shown to increase employment by 78 per cent in comparison to traditional agricultural businesses.”