Buddhist Centre Features

A Renovating Virtue – Hartley Woolf and His Alfoxton Film

On Fri, 18 August, 2023 - 22:13
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Alfoxton House in Somerset, England has a long and rich history stretching back over 1000 years. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, and is where the young William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and their great friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge helped birth the radical new Romantic movement during a magical year there in 1797.

In June 2020, a new Triratna Buddhist community received the keys to this astonishing property set within 52 acres of ancient woodland complete with herds of red deer grazing the hillside. This week on the Buddhist Centre podcast we hear from that community - and particularly from film director and Alfoxton community member Hartley Woolf on his affecting and poetic documentary capturing a year in the life of the inspired band of souls who have taken on the ambitious task of renovating a once great estate.

Following the seasons, Hartley’s film reveals the changes in the land and the travails of this huge building project, weaving connections between the poetry of the Romantics, physical work and spiritual practice. We hear how in the midst of knocking down walls and rebuilding foundational structures, Hartley treaded the sometimes difficult path between being both a member of his community and a filmmaker. And catch a glimpse of the shared wonder that emerges as relationships are forged in a project based on the deepest values of awareness, love and a common quest for the truth of reality.

Triratna has long posited a deep connection between Buddhist spiritual life and the Arts, ever since Sangharakshita first began to articulate a fresh vision of contemporary western practice in the 1960s. In the spirit of that tradition, the Alfoxton community has been working to restore the house, tend to the land and provide opportunities to go deeper into both Buddhist practice and the practice of music, poetry and philosophy. Their inspiring program of retreats and events sees them welcome hundreds of volunteers and visitors each year, bringing the electric thrill of the great English Romantics back to life for new generations of seekers.

Join us in the great oak-panelled room at Alfoxton, where Coleridge first recited The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for this wonderful conversation! We’ll be hosting the online premier of ‘A Renovating Virtue’ by Hartley Woolf on The Buddhist Centre Online in September 2023.

Show notes
Watch the trailer for ‘A Renovating Virtue’

Visit Alfoxton House!

Support the community and the restoration of Alfoxton

+ Follow the Alfoxton Diaries on YouTube

‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ (text of 1834) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


There are in our existence, spots of time,

That with distinct pre-eminence retain

A renovating virtue, whence – depressed

By false opinion and contentious thought,

Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,

In trivial occupations, and the round

Of ordinary intercourse – our minds

Are nourished and invisibly repaired…

William Wordsworth, The Prelude


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