A few days ago a friend reminded me of a deeply entrenched phenomenon which occurs fairly frequently in our patriarchal society. A woman makes a statement and the group ignores it, a few minutes later a man repeats the idea and the group applauds and accepts it. If you are a woman that has ever been in large business meetings I’m certain that this is not news to you. However if it is news to you, I invite you to observe. To observe your friends, colleagues and family, and to listen for the overlooked voice.
Do you have a voice inside that you overlook? Do you wait for someone in ‘authority’ to validate a truth you already know inside?
So often when a voice is overlooked there seems no way to challenge it. You could say “I just said that five minutes ago!” but it sounds petty, or you might let it go, glad at least that the idea is out there, or sit back and roll your eyes. Perhaps we could start by challenging the behaviour in ourselves too?
What would happen if we listened to ourselves? If we trusted ourselves and spoke our truth? What would happen if we listened to the overlooked voice in the room?
There are truths which need to be said, truths which our ecosystem and our future children are relying on. We’re being called to listen, and to speak up.
And by the way, the friend who reminded me? It was a man. Would I have taken the step to write this otherwise? I don’t know, but I want to from now on.
Scotswood Natural Community Garden sits within one of the most deprived areas in Newcastle. They frequently suffer vandalism and theft yet for twenty years they have relentlessly worked to alter the course of peoples lives in Scotswood for the better. The vegetables get dug up, they replant them, the solar panel gets stolen, they lock things away out of hours, but all the time the garden grows, groups come, and lives are changed.
Walking around the two and a half acre site with permaculture gardens, a pond, bee hives, shelters and woodland it’s incredible to learn that originally it was a bare grass playing field. Over the decades the series of people involved with the land have created, enhanced and maintained a beautiful heart of energy for the community, despite all the flow of sadness around. Children, unemployed and refugees have all found another choice here, a flow going in a different direction that they have a chance to join.
It takes a lot of energy and strength to maintain a course against a bigger flow. The path that all those involved with at Scotswood have carved over the years is truly beautiful. Long may it flow.
Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle is about making a positive difference, to the environment and community. Based at The Eco Centre in Hebburn they’ve been steadily working to make improvements for the future for over twenty years.
The Beacon is just one of the projects completed by Groundwork in Newcastle to provide a resource for the local community. to fulfil their ambitions.
The Nuttery at The National Trust’s Washington Old Hall south of Gateshead was a fantastic discovery that brightened my day. Amongst the nut orchard are wildflowers, bee hives, a pond, education projects and wonderful people. Amazingly the garden and Nuttery are free to visit, so if you are anywhere nearby it’s a great place to restore your energy with peace and beauty. I spoke with the gardener Ellaine and some of the volunteers about the Nuttery and how they came to be involved.
Like many people I find the description of the ‘desolate’ north deeply insulting and incorrect. Heading North from Durham to Newcastle the accents change (“Where’ you sittin’ Mam?”), there are old and new industrial areas, dramatic rivers and beautiful architecture. Heavy industry and exploiting the environment has been a part of the area’s long history, with people working hard in the jobs that fed the economy of the rest of the country. I’ve walked through some areas of Newcastle that are undeniable economically deprived but everywhere I go in the country there are people who care about the future; people who care about other human beings and about the ecosystem we share. People who devote their lives and energies to protecting the future of our communities. I could not be happier that this final week of the journey will finish in the North East and am really looking forward to walking the stunning North East coastline for the first time. Last but certainly not least.
There are several great projects in Durham including Fruitful Durham and Abundant Earth, however upon hearing of Rupert’s accident, it was to the cathedral that I headed. Although many of the visitors are there as tourists, people still come to pray and contemplate in this amazing place. Despite not being Christian, during this journey I’ve found churches to be places of community, safety and care. Lighting a candle and sending my thoughts to Rupert at the cathedral, where he used to sing in the choir, felt right. A verger, I discovered, is someone employed by the cathedral to order the services and maintain the space. I also discovered them to be kindly, helpful and willing to sit with someone in distress. Where do people in your community go, when they don’t know where to go?
The weather changed a few days before I got to Darlington, there’s a chill in the air that won’t go, so I know there’s not long on the walk left now. Clervaux Bakery and Cafe was a fantastic refuge from the feelings of autumn, with it’s sunny atrium. The social enterprise cafe has homemade food and a social conscience to warm your heart, providing work experience for vulnerable young adults.
The cafe is partnered with the wider work of The Clervaux Trust, with some of the profits going to support the trust. Clervaux Trust has a 100 acre farm which it uses to give young people land and craft experience, selling veges through a delivery box scheme and crafts at the Darlingtron cafe. When bees fly they have to rest and snack at flowers, which is why it’s so important to have a wide variety of flowers all over the countryside that flower at different times. My sincere thanks to this beautiful flower for its shelter and food :)