Ellerton: Nurturing dreams and uplifting communities through Art and Sustainability | Sunday Observer

Ellerton: Nurturing dreams and uplifting communities through Art and Sustainability

16 July, 2023
Luca, Iromi and Sam the dog
Luca, Iromi and Sam the dog

Ellerton, a captivating, greenery heaven nestled in Doluwa, Peradeniya, has a fascinating history and a cherished heritage. Originally built over a century ago to serve as the residence for the manager of a prominent tea estate, it now belongs to Luca and Iromi Poloni.

Retaining its timeless character and serenity, Ellerton stands at an elevation of 2,400 feet (800 metres), offering an ideal blend of Sri Lanka’s favourable weather. The warmth of the sun during the day is complemented by the refreshing coolness of the evenings and nights, free from the coastal humidity or the chilly atmosphere of the hill country. Positioned near the geographical heart of Sri Lanka, just a three-hour drive from Colombo and a mere thirty minutes from Peradeniya, Ellerton serves as a perfect starting point for exploring the island’s wonders.

Journey of Ellerton

Luca Poloni, an Italian residing in Sri Lanka, instantly fell in love with the country’s captivating allure and exceptional diversity. Arriving as a young man in the 1980s, he was captivated by the distinctiveness of Sri Lanka compared to his European roots. The changes he witnessed, like the opening of the first supermarket, marked a transformation in the country. However, Luca believes that the true richness lies in the diversity of people, traditions, and cultures, which he feels is often underappreciated and overlooked. Despite this, he cherishes the opportunity to experience local festivals and embraces the cultural tapestry of Sri Lanka’s communities. Luca’s attachment to the country extends beyond personal connections, as he deeply values its natural beauty and the depth of its heritage.

As Luca and Iromi embarked on their journey to find a fulfilling project that would bring them joy and profit, their connection to Sri Lanka led them to Ellerton. The English owners, seeking buyers with ties to the country, presented them with the opportunity to acquire this remarkable property, coincidentally sharing its name with the ancestral home of the Maysfield family in Shropshire, UK. While contemplating a potential name change, the couple decided to honor the historical significance and preserve the cherished title. Surrounded by picturesque gardens, the bungalow boasts nine comfortable rooms, including four suites that can accommodate up to four individuals, each equipped with en-suite facilities.

They are committed to avoiding the glorification of the colonial past when promoting the bungalow, as evident by their removal of colonial-themed paintings that adorned the premises. Although the history of Ellerton before their ownership remains elusive, Luca and Iromi Poloni’s five years tenure has brought forth a new chapter in its story.

Luca unfolded the story of resilience for the past five years. “2019 was a one good year, however, the past four years have been dreadful due to the pandemic and economic recession in the country. Through these challenging times, our unwavering commitment was to remained steadfast of our staff and their families. Dreams and ideas were set aside and we were patiently awaiting the moment when we could flourish once again. And now, as the world and the country begin to stir, those dreams are taking shape,” speaking to the Sunday Observer Luca told.

Unique Lavishness

A vibrant biodynamic organic vegetable garden has emerged, yielding a plentiful harvest that speaks of Ellerton’s care and the Earth’s generosity. But Ellerton is more than just a garden; it is a sanctuary for the weary. A place where one can find solace, practice yoga, and indulge in rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatments. Within the enchanting realm of Ellerton, an open-air cinema comes alive, offering a magical space surrounded by a jungle where children can lose themselves in their favourite movies.

Ellerton understands its role as a steward of the Earth. With every breath of clean mountain air, it renews its commitment to sustainability. As insisted by Luca chemical fertiliser have no place in their tea production but replaced by organic methods.

They strive for regeneration, planting majestic trees for future generations and nurturing their community. In addition, biodegradable cleaning products ensure the surrounding environment remains unspoiled.

“We believe in a regenerative type of tourism, so sustainable is not enough anymore. You have to regenerate not only the land and the forest, which we are, the jungle, we are replanting nice trees, hardwood trees that I will never see in my lifetime, but future generations will,” Luca said.

Luxury at Ellerton is not about opulence; it is about the simple pleasures. Nourishment comes from homemade bread, flavourful jams, and organic vegetables.

Personalised service and a warm atmosphere create a sense of belonging, where guests are cherished companions on this journey.

Social responsibility

In this tale of dreams, Ellerton stands strong, relying on its own resilience and ingenuity. At Ellerton, the spirit of community and sustainable living thrives.

“For Ellerton, social responsibility and sustainable living are integral to our existence. We embrace the opportunity to uplift our community, fostering a sense of well-being and shared purpose. Through the provision of resources, knowledge, and inspiration, we strive to make a positive impact on the lives we touch. As we continue our journey, we remain dedicated to these principles, carrying the torch of social responsibility and sustainable living ever forward,” Luca added.

A testament to this ethos is Dixon, their beloved tuk-tuk driver, who holds a deep affection for chickens. Recognising his passion, Luca have built him a chicken coop on his property, providing not only the chickens but also covering all associated costs. This endeavor ensures he can enjoy the companionship of chickens and relish the delight of fresh, organic eggs.

“In parallel, our dedicated gardener, in his pursuit of organic gardening, extends his expertise beyond the borders of Ellerton. Together, we embark on a journey to visit three local schools, where we plan to establish plots of land on their grounds. Guiding the children in sustainable cultivation methods, we share the art of growing vegetables organically. This venture brings joy to all involved, fostering a sense of connection and empowerment. As schools reopen, we eagerly embark on this exciting project, hoping to inspire young minds and sow the seeds of sustainability,” Luca explained.

While self-funding remains their commitment, Ellerton understands the power of collaboration. As a member of the Rotary Club, Luca explores the possibility of seeking additional support for their worthy initiatives. “However, we firmly believe in taking ownership and responsibility for our projects, ensuring that our efforts align with our values,” Luca insisted.

Gallery in the hills

‘Gallery in the hills’ is another vision takes shape at Ellerton—an artistic haven where young Sri Lankan talents find solace and support. This gallery, an embodiment of hope, opens its doors to aspiring artists, offering them a space to nurture their craft through artist residencies. The paintings created during these transformative journeys carry not only the artist’s soul but also the potential to uplift their lives.

With a heartfelt commitment to these artists, Ellerton ensures that the revenue from the sale of their artwork flows directly into their hands. It is a gesture of empowerment, a brushstroke of belief in their talent and potential.

But Ellerton’s generosity does not end there. The gallery, known for its customary 50 percent share in art sales, redirects these funds toward noble causes, fostering solidarity within the community.

“These acts of solidarity go beyond the walls of the gallery. We intertwine with other endeavours such as artisanal tea-making, a craft that bears the essence of tradition and dedication. The fruits of these labours, the profits they generate, serve a higher purpose—nurturing society, one cup at a time,” Luca explained.

In this harmonious ecosystem, Ellerton embraces the role of a catalyst for positive change. “As the artist finds inspiration within their canvas, they are also invited to contribute to identifying and supporting worthy projects. It is a collective effort, where creativity intertwines with compassion, giving rise to a symphony of transformation. Each stroke of the brush, each sip of tea, becomes an act of giving, a gesture of hope.

Through their artistic endeavours and artisanal crafts, we pour resources and love into the tapestry of society, weaving a future where dreams are nurtured, and communities are uplifted,” Luca added.

In this tranquil sanctuary, where creativity dances with purpose, Ellerton continues to pave the path towards a more vibrant and inclusive world. As the ‘Gallery in the Hills’ stands as a beacon of artistic growth and solidarity, its impact echoes far beyond its walls, creating ripples of positive change that resonate with the very spirit of Sri Lanka.