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My Henley Life: Catherine Ducker Painter, farmer and owner of the Coaching Barn 

Catherine Ducker is the daughter of former councillor Ann Ducker. Ann, who died in 2014, was very well known as she was extremely politically active in the local Henley area.  Catherine has always been a painter as well as a farmer for many years as well as a mother (for 14 years). She says she sees them all as one and she admits that they keep her very busy.  Recently she converted a large tythe barn on her farm in order to make an educational centre for children and adults to learn skills within the arts and also in farming. The farm and barn makes for a huge characterful space and gives field-to-fork demonstrations.

What brought you to the Henley area, why do you stay?
I have always lived in this area, my family moved to our farm in 1920. I feel a huge sense of family input on our farm and in our house. As most of my family has died, I feel it is my job to be the custodian of the farm and carry it on for the next generation. I really love Henley and Wallingford, such special valleys. I have a real sense of home and community here.
What would you change about Henley?
I wouldn’t change anything, I like the way the town and surrounding countryside has been preserved and now has such thriving festivals. Farming is an art as it’s one of the most incredibly challenging professions. I really love diversity and excellence and love that Henley has that. 
How do you spend your leisure time locally?
I don’t get leisure time, but when I do I plant hedges and trees, I’ve witnessed improved ecology from this . If I had more leisure time I would be in my studio painting, as I love to explore and push my work, or otherwise I would be just hanging out cooking, talking to family and watching films. 
What are your top three local haunts?
Littlestoke is my world, I have been nurturing growing businesses there, so I love to hang out there, at Green and Gorgeous, and now at The Coaching Barn. I also love the Swan at Streatley now it has reopened and the Perch and Pike in South Stoke is a fantastic pub.
Which song would you pass down to your children?
We recently visited family who farm in Oregon and we listened to country & western music, my kids didn’t really enjoy it much but they do have Big Johnstuck in their phone and it may well make them smile every time they hear it. Also Indian meditational music so that they can always find some calm in this busy world.  
Which book, film or play inspires you the most?
I’m not a great reader. I’m quite dyslexic which is why I am always practical. But I have stacks of reference books and love books on horticulture, raising children and art. Films I love, classics like Lord of the Rings, I don’t get to see many plays, but I love to watch my
children acting. That’s just fab. I do also love a good Netflix series like Mind Hunter or watching comedy.
What do you treasure most about life in the UK?
I really love life here, it’s so diverse. We are so lucky to have Oxford and London nearby. 
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
I love India, because I am always inspired by the skills, the hard work ethic and the food. But England is my true love though, I would never leave it.
Is there anyone or anything in the area that you admire, would recommend or deserves a special mention?
I love artisans who produce high quality workmanship through really hard conditions, my tree grower is amazing, he refuses to retire. I have friends who are horticulturalists, people who are farming and raising UK livestock, friends who are committed to their art. 
Which things do you wish you had known when you were younger? My dad was in a wheelchair as he had MS which restricted his farming, so I knew I had pull my socks up and do the best I could do. I also grew up in very forward thinking houses with friends of mine. This meant that I was around very dynamic conversations from an early age which was great and I travelled a lot on myown from the age of 17 for my art.

This Month's Issue

Henley Life March 2020