I am fortunate enough to be sustained along the road by warm hearted people and friends new and old. In Farringdon after a exhausting and painful ride I met Lesley in The Rookery, an organic café and hairdressers, where two Frappes, a deep conversation and two hugs later I was recharged and ready to roll.
Coming into Oxford over the lock I heard someone shouting “Eve!” and was shocked to find my friend Ben on a boat, passing the lock at exactly that time. In Oxford I visited the newly opened Wild Honey for the first time and saw the wide range of ethical and organic products as well as yoga classes.
Oxford’s Lush hosted me again for the afternoon so I could sell our book and tell people about the journey. They also gave me a gift of some of their beautiful makeup that I had an eye on. Lush’s makeup confused me – it’s healthy liquids in little coloured bottles and looks like nail varnish but actually it’s lipstick, eyeliner or eyeshadow depending on the brush attachment that you choose. Now with confidence about how to use it I’ll be enjoying some girly beautification.
The day finished off with a cosy film screening with friends. It was such a pleasure to show the film to the bees Rupert and Miranda for the first time!
Hawkwood college runs a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) biodynamic farm and this month they have opened up a share offer to help the farm grow and take on new land.
The college is a centre of learning about food, crafts, art, music and social change. This weekend was the very special Seed Festival, the speakers for which included: Charles Eisenstein, Satish Kumar and Natalie Bennett. I could only attend the first night but with an attendance of only 500 it’s a fantastically intimate festival and a way to learn about a wide range of things in a fun environment.
Local people become members of the CSA in exchange for their vegetables, and the monthly fees give the farm workers a steady income. The land to the south of the college farm has recently come on the market and the college wants to raise £380,000 to purchase the land and run it biodynamicly as part of the CSA. The share offer closes on 24th of July 2015. Anyone can buy shares and if you are interested in investing and helping Hawkwood to grow you can find out more on the biodynamic land trust’s website.
It’s comforting when things you love are stable, and in Stroud it was mostly the things that hadn’t changed which caused a contented smile on my lips.
The shop Made in Stroud is still thriving (but with a few more awards), still selling locally made goods and making positive influences everyday.
The Stroud Valley’s Project is still promoting conservation and offering educational courses. They recently ran a scything workshop after seeing it done wrong on Poldark! Scything is less damaging to the environment than mowing and also helps you to easily leave rare species. The day I visited they were about to run a bat ecology course and head out with bat detectors.
Those creating positive change in Stroud had a higher average age than people I met in other towns, and had been in the town for longer. As Julie, the fundraising manager for Stroud Valleys Project says, “Who would want to move once you’ve landed here?” The town has a more stable, developed feel to the community than other places I visit. In the Stroud Valley’s Project office they have a reciprocal arrangement for work or rent with the Car Club and Transition Stroud. Transition Stroud have been running open eco-home event and open garden tours with about 1000 house visits. A new addition by Transition Stroud at the back of a closed pub is a pop-up “rain garden” to make efficient use of rainwater runoff from roofs. So simple it makes you wonder why on earth we normally pipe it all down the drain.
Stroud Against the Cuts has had a great turnout at its events and Stroud Co has become a thriving hub for selling home grown food surplus.
It feels like there are lots of people steadily making improvements in Stroud and the cumulative effect of that over many years is to have made a very special place and a very special community.
I’m in love. With a bike. Sadly not the bike I currently have. Let me present to you the object of my affections, an electric bike called A2B.
Many people said to me that I would just get more fit with this tour, and that yeah, I could probably do about 50 miles a day no problem. Well, it has transpired there is a problem, lots of them, they are called hills, and England is littered with them. I’m not unfit, but I’m not one of the steel-calved peddle pushers that keep overtaking me either. I’m an ambler by nature and every hill I have to dismount and push Polly and my luggage up the hill with cars passing stressfully by. I’m sweaty, panting and grimacing – not an advert for cycling. I’m sorry, I tried to like cycling, but I only like the flat or downhill bits. Then I visited eCycle in Stroud who sell electric bicycles, to get myself educated.
Jacob didn’t bother with the hard sell, he just invited me to go for a test ride. “These things sell themselves,” he said smiling. Oh my gosh yes they do, but since you can’t try one right now I’ll try and explain. You still pedal on the bike but the battery assists you, so you fly up the hill, laughing gleefully. They’re not heavy like I expected and it looks like a normal bike. To charge it you just take the battery out and charge it up for a few hours from a normal plug and then it’ll last you about 60 miles. But you don’t have to have it on all the time either. I tried a couple of bikes but the relaxed touring style is definitely the one for me. I remember when the ipod came out and thinking “This is it, this is an invention which will really make my life easier then carrying all those tapes.” Well now I know what will be a viable alternative for me – this bike.
Cycling is not for everyone, but most people can enjoy an electric bike, if you can afford it. And that’s the sticking point. The only reason I didn’t leave with an A2B bike is I can’t afford it. But love knows no bounds and I will have it. Jacob has my details and when an ex-display model becomes available I am first in line. In the meantime I’ll have to get paid work to save up the money…
Now I just have to cycle all around England on a normal bike, knowing full well what an electric bike feels like instead. Joy.