A couple of days ago I was walking through the woods when I came accross a beautiful shire horse, all harnessed up. It turned out that he was being used to drag Sitka Spruce trees out from the wood to increase bidiversity and for use in a biomass boiler! The man conducting the operation was John Williams who was well aware of the value of maintaining traditional practices.
We’ll have more of a use for these horses as fossil fuels decline with peak oil.
You can see the horse in action here.
Then just yesterday I met Jonathan who runs a gorgeous B&B called Higher Bidicott Farm, where he farms with horses and has done all his life! He trains around three working horses a month for other people so that they can be used on other farms too.
By accident I stumbled accross E & TVR. These mysterious letters signify the Exeter and Teign Valley Railway. A railway that was dismantled not because it was unprofitable or because it was unused, but as part of a government policy which happened decades before I was born. Colin Burges has made it his lifes passion to campaign for a reinstatement of railways, especially those that are largely still intact. He sees a future where cars are off the road and people and goods are back on the rails.
The E&TVR visitors center is a whimsical and sometimes darkly funny look at his love of the railway and desire for a more environmentally conscious transport policy – the thing that caught my eye was a crushed car labelled “The only green car”! I spent the night in the beautiful minature railway car, Tadpole, which was lovingly made by Colin and normally sleeps children whilst adults often book the larger Toad. As well as the restored line, loading yard, and information hut there is also a small rail car that children can take rides in. Located next to a beautiful river, it’s a very peaceful spot.
If you are nearby I would heartily recommend learning from the displays and from the very knowledgeable Colin himself. I give you fair warning though, don’t expect an ‘easy ride’ if you arrive by car! 🙂
Acorns learning at Oakwood Denbury is an outdoor leaning center run by a family. Steph and I arrived to find an outdoor fire, a long table with food and friends celebrating with their children. I won’t tell you too much about the center but rather invite you to go and experience it. With food growing and an equal weight on emotional literacy as well as numeracy. Sharona one of the founders shared this with us:
We’re all on a journey as humans. I really felt alone but now there’s a feeling that we’re in this mass community.
The site certainly had a rocky journey getting going because of difficulties getting planning permission, despite the fantastic work they do. But they recieved nearly a hundred letters of support including from Satish Kumar and Schumacher College. Steve tells me:
We’re still putting our head above the parapet just by being here. People have been frightened by it.
Looking at the beautiful wooden teaching huts, the growing plants and the circle of wooden stools the madness of such fear is apparent.
Embercombe is located near High Ashton and is more about your inner transformation than the practical skills you will learn, although there are sustainable skills to explore. The large site runs a wide range of programs for different groups and ages and through their volunteer program people come to live on the site for several months and change their lives. I spoke with the founder Mac about those who come to Embercombe. More information will be in the final documentary after the tour. The key emphasis has been on the inner changes to enable people to act, which in these times has now become so important.
Speaking with some of the volunteers it’s clear that their time here has been amazing ,challenging and life changing.
It’s really good at opening your eyes to what you do and who you are.
A place where you can really BE, with genuine people who reflect you back.
A social enterprise is a business or organisation with a social or environmental mission. Social enterprises are a fast growing sector of our economy, trying to create a better future through their everyday work.
I spoke to Adrian at ReStore in Dartington about their work .
Since arriving in Devon I’ve been delighted by the variety of species. Because England has lost 97% of it’s wildflower habitat since 1940 in many places verges and hedgerows are often the last refuge for plants and the species that feed on them.
During the walk from Totnes to Denbury we looked at how the hedgerows have changed. Laying a hedge (cutting the side and bending it down) is now a rare event, with most hedges maintained by cutting the sides and tops. In this short video, Matthew explains the curious sight of bent hedges.
If you are looking for a snack, you may find primrose flowers which I was surprised to learn taste rather like rose turkish delight. Moreish. Or if you are looking for something to boost the flavour in your cooking, try wild garlic which is out in force at the moment.
Phil Chandler AKA The Barefoot Beekeeper, is obsessed with bees. And with good reason, these amazing ceatures are the foundation of our foodchain, with our foods having been selected over millenia by the actions of bees. What is Natural Beekeeping I asked him and why is it different from the more commercialised style?
In Natural Beekeeping the emphasis is on a respect for the bees and not interferring anymore than is necessary. Rather than taking all the honey and replacing it with a sugar solution, the beekeeper takes only the excess honey that is available and avoids disturbing the hive. Because bees create honey as a food for their babies it contains all the things that they need, so they are stronger if they are able to eat it. The hives are carefully contructed by bees to minimise the risk of airborne diseases, so avoiding opening the hice helps to allow the bees to control the environment inside. You can learn more about natural beekeeping and visit the discussion forum at www.biobee.com.
If you are also interested in supporting the protection of bees, Phil is a founder of Friends of the Bees.
The first days in Totnes have been incredible, pictures and videos will be up soon but here’s a taster of this amazing town.
These days Totnes is usually best know as the home of Transition – a process for moving your community towards a positive future away from fossil fuels. Transition Network now includes groups around the world and their website is a fantastic resource of “how to”s and inspiration.
Oddly the first thing I noticed on the way to Steph Bradley’s beautiful cottage are that the verges in the areas around Totnes have a wider range of plant species than I’m used to – Devon council has taken the enlightened step of not cutting them and leaving them for the bees and other life.
The town itself is a beautiful tourist location with a castle, dozens of independent traders, gurgling river, rare breeds farm and steam train. I like to do a ‘smile test’ in places and see how many people smile back and how long it takes them. Totnes is a big 9\10 on my totally random measure – most are already smiling at you!
Rob Burbea resident Buddist meditation teacher at Gaia House shared some of his thoughts on meditation and climate change as well as introducing us to DANCE (Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement). It is wonderful for me when I see a spiritual respect for our existence being translated into how we live in the world. More on this wonderful aspect will be in the documentary of the Buzz Tour.
The people and organisations of Totnes have engaged with positive change to such an extent that despite the towns small size there are several environmental event going on every day! The South Devon Green Living magazine Reconnect is an astonishing collection of news and views, many of the achievements right here in Totnes.
One event we were able to attend was the Community Conversation organised by Schumacher College. With key words like ‘Exploration’, ‘Transformation’ and ‘Subversive thinking’ groups made a collage on the theme, discussing the issues it raised. Schumacher College offers courses on sustainable living by using active participatory learning – doing rather than listening. Their courses focus on three systemic areas of our society – economics, design and food. If you are thinking you need some learning to help you move forward, their courses would be a great choice.
The Community Conversation draws allies together and one of the interesting people I met was Josh from Network of Wellbeing where they support putting wellbeing into practice.
What can you expect from the next four months? A lot of inspiration, some mishaps and some great times. 🙂 As we walk we will be updating the blog with information when we get to internet connections. We’ll be taking short video clips to post as we go. We’ll be introducing concepts and linking to sites where you can find out more. We’ll also be taking higher quality video footage for a documentary which will be released after the tour has finished. Sometimes there may be reflective podcasts for you to put your feet up and listen to, at other times a gallery of photos of places you may never have seen. And throughout there will be amazing people, doing what they can for the future of our culture and our planet. So friends if you can’t be with us on the walk, we invite you to be with us here, to learn and to discover as we do, and to change the culture, not the climate.
We’ve reached our crowdfunding target and have three days left! Thank you so much to everyone who’s contributed. There’s still time if you would like to put in a few quid – it all helps!
Lush threw us a fundraiser in Oxford this weekend, raising £57 for us with sales of their Charity Pots.
Then we visited bike co-op Broken Spoke, and set out along the beautiful canal and Port Meadow and passed the ruins of Godstow Nunnery.
Further out we found Fai Farms providing artifical bee homes. You could provide living space for bees in a similar way.
We passed Wytham Woods a Site of Special Scientific Interest where the habitat is being preserved.
In total the four of us walked about 35km, mostly on the second day which was a good long practice!
Thank you to Participatory Video experts Insight Share in Oxford who have donated a video camera to us for the walk! We’ll be using it to create a higher quality short documentary of the tour. The first part of which we aim to screen for the first time on 20-22nd June at the Tandem environment and music festival in Oxford.
Operations Manager Marleen Bovenmars introduces Participatory Video:
The way we do it is straight away to hand over the camera and they tell their own story through activities and games. So they’re learning straight away. Once they have the basic skills we help them with storyboarding.
A storyboard consists of pictures representing video scenes, to help plan and visualize the shooting of the footage.
We spoke to Richard Howlett from Seeds For Change in Oxford about their work providing training and resources for grassroots activists.
Richard Howlett from Seeds for Change
We believe in bottom up change, that we should have power and responsibility for our own lives, and collective action is more powerful than individual action. That is a reflection of how we go about learning – as facilitators rather than teachers. We’re trying to help the learning come up through you. It’s pragmatic but it’s also political and ideological too. Doing something real, that’s where you are really going to learn.
Amongst the very useful things that Richard shared with us were information booklets about facilitation skills and consensus decision making – very handy for the walk!
Consensus decision making is a process where the group as a whole can come to agree to a proposal rather than just a majority vote. With proper facilitation the process can be more successful and democratic than traditional group decision making.
On our practice walk this weekend we visited the biking co-operative Broken Spokes in Oxford. Co-founder Elle Smith tells us about forming the group.
One of the striking things about a visit to Oxford is the thousands of bikes, chained to everything. It’s common to see women in skirts and smartly dressed people cycling to work, as well as the thousands of students. Broken Spokes savages bike and helps people repair their own bikes by providing knowledge, space and tools. They also help people to take up cycling, and provides a great community hub. We meet Owen who is cycling to Austrailia and Dave Thomas, Green Party Candidate for Holywell Ward Oxford.
This weekend the kind people at Oxford’s Lush store on Cornmarket Street are throwing the Buzz Tour a Charity Pot Party fundraiser! The store’s manager James Atherton explains.
All the weekend’s sales from their Charity Pot’s will be donated to The Buzz Tour! We’ll be at the store until 1pm on Saturday so you can come and ask us more about the tour.
Then at 1pm we’ll be leaving on our second practice walk and you are welcome to come with us! If you want to walk for a few hours, just turn up but if you’d like to walk the whole weekend let us know in advance to help us plan. 🙂