When I arrived at the well garden there was a group of about forty people milling around by a cafe shed. Some of the women were in long coloured skirts. A small bonfire was surrounded by benches. The garden had a large flat lawn with a tiny curving stream through it, and carefully planted flowerbed slopes.
It took me a little while to realise that the ceremony was taking place further into the gardens. Up the slope through a tree filled garden there was a small waterfall which had stained the stone wall orange, covered in moisture loving plants. Inside the walled garden, the water had been channelled into two rectangular shallow stone pools where people could bath in the healing waters. The well cover had been raised, a beautiful dark wood circle with curving metal around the edge and decorating across it. The well itself had been decorated with a beautiful floral display. One or two people sat in quiet contemplation around it.
I could hear drums and someone projecting their voice in a happy but serious way. Through a doorway in the brick wall, the view opened up into a clearing in a dell with steeply sloped sides. The effect was like an amphitheatre and there were a hundred or so people gathered, and standing up the slope. Many wearing flowers or colourful clothing, covered by anoraks to protect them from the drizzle.
There were many different parts to the ceremony, which was already well underway by the time I arrived. The elements and directions were being honoured with different prayers, with water, fire, earth and air. We all then held hands and an embrace of peace and love was passed around from one person to the next. There was clapping and singing, with a small band using traditional instruments, including various drums. The two women and one man conducting the ceremony were dressed in the styles of old – loose fitting long clothes, dresses, tunics, cloaks, bright colours and flowers. There were fertility dances, and a symbolic passing of the May Pole through a hoop, to fast clapping, cheers and suggestive laughter.
The May Pole was then carried to where it would be used later in the day for the dances. During the May Pole dances colourful ribbons attached to the top of the pole are held by the dancers as they pass under and over each other, creating a woven pattern around the pole.
It was time to get out of the rain and get some breakfast so I headed back to Earls to find out more about ACE.
“What we want to do is set up an energy park. So it’s not just a field full of solar panels, not just wind turbine but where the different elements compliment each other. And combining it with food production.” Earl told me. A big poster board showed a drawing of what the energy cooperative hoped the park would look like, with crops, pools and sheds.
“For example,” continued Earl, “there will be chickens in the sheds and solar panels on the roof.Then the chicken muck will be used in an anaerobic digestor. ”
“Ooo, I love anaerobic digesters, closed loop and all that. Using waste to generate biogas, lovely.” I said “What do you think of these solar panel farms? I’m not too sure. All that tech, and isn’t it a waste of farmland?”
“You can plant the fields with wildflowers, and sheep can still graze them, underneath the panels.You have to maintain the grass you see, so it doesn’t get too long, and sheep will do that perfectly.” said Earl.
“Ahhhh. I didn’t know that, I assumed they would break them.” I said.
“Cattle would, but sheep are fine.” Said Earl.
“Hmmm, that’s sounding much better. What about all these other parts.” I said gesturing back to the picture. “It says you’d grow hemp?”