I write this from a very comfortable semi prone position in the very pleasant newly decorated guest room at Linda Screen’s house. The lovely Linda, for those of you who don’t know her, is on the steering group of Transition Dorchester, as well as being my Transition Network colleague.
This is a very welcome scheduled break for me in my gruelling mud trudging journey. I am being very looked after; Linda’s partner Steve is working hard to find a way to get photos off my phone and into a form where I can post them on the blog and Linda bringing me food in bed as I lie with my feet up on a cushion.
So, where did I leave you? In the congenial company of Richard and Margaret Toft, methinks. Over a breakfast pow wow it was decided that walking the 16 mile Bridport to Dorchester stretch was only likely to produce the stumps my partner had been warning me would be the result of my 1720 mile walkabout.
Being congenitally stubborn, this was not an easy thing for me to accept, but with hindsight they were absolutely right and I am glad that Sally and the Tofts were of single mind in their determination to have me arrive in Dorchester oil fuelled rather than under my own steam.
Richard took Sally and I off to Ourorganics, the most wonderful land based project I have yet seen. Ourorganics is situated in a small (3-4 acre) narrow field nestling in a valley near Litton Cheyney. It is a permaculture educational project taking in woofers and running courses. What is unusual about it is that it has no mains water at all. It utilises the stream running through it and an ingenious system of sluice gates dating from way back and based on Medieval Arabian water engineering. The old stone walls lining parts of the stream with slits carved into them to take the 2 foot square wooden gates are hundreds of years old.
Richard is responsible for maintaining this ancient plumbing system so the trip had to be made anyway which goes some way to alleviate my discomfort at having to be oil driven for several miles. The solar powered shower has stopped working. Sally & I learn all about simple physics and are astonished at the mark on the shower which shows the waist high water level compared to the level we saw at the entrance to the field – showing that the land is higher here by about a metre, just 100m or so down the field, meaning the water from the stream can be used in the shower, though it still requires the use of a hand pump to lift the water from its large plastic water container where it is piped from the stream, to the tank above the shower. There is a smooth wooden pump handle; easy to use and really satisfying to use and watch the water drain out of the container and know that it is your own energy that is taking the water to the tank.
The water is heated by a solar panel leaning up against the polytunnel where the shower is situated, all cosy in the corner of this multi use structure that in addition to the raised beds of various ingenious kinds and levels, also houses a hammock for mid afternoon siestas! Richard’s solar panels must be seen (and felt; lovely and hot) to be believed. He has them on top of his very modern and common place looking bungalow in the Bridport suburbs, as well as at Ourorganics. He makes them out of old French window glass frames and underfloor heating pads and they are just brilliant. We attempt to convince him that he really should be running workshops teaching people how to be solar panel plumbers! He already has so many LETs units collected for his plumbing services he can’t spend them.
Whilst Richard is unblocking a pipe Emma, woofer, takes us on a tour around Ourorganics. We learn how the stream sluice gate system is used nightly, except in the extreme weather conditions of late when extra watering would likely float all the plants away…to flood the raised beds, meaning no hose pipes, no wastage of water, and plants being watered directly to their roots.
I am so impressed.
This is just so much more fun than turning on a tap and attaching hose pipes which personally I have always found to be rather unwieldy things, on a par with using vacuum cleaners when a dust pan and brush is so much more straightforward.
Ourorganics is a delight to be in all round. A bright green frog sits happily perched on some greenery in the polytunnel pond, happy knitters meet for a knitting circle in the chalet where Pat, the inspiration for Ourorganics, lives, and I get to eat chocolate brownies with Debbie Lacey and Nigel McKean from transition Westbridge (Suffolk) who have been staying there for a permaculture course.
Transition Westbridge, I hear, have a town cryer project on the go. Nigel has come up with an idea where rather than a single person being town cryer a group take on the role meaning there is always somebody available to spread transition news all around the neighbouring villages. Transition Westbridge are also keen to pull together a regional gathering to talk, amongst other things, about a regional LETs or currency scheme. If you’re in the Ipswich area and interested contact Nigel –at- progressplus.co.uk.
Debbie talks about the challenge of setting up and maintaining an inner transition group, a common theme so far in the transition initiatives I have spoken to. We talk about the need to have projects where people can get actively involved, and the importance of establishing a network of people involved in this area of interest who can support one another.
Pat, who has been rushing around being all things to all people since we arrived, comes to say goodbye; I buy some of her salad to take on to my Transition Martinstown hosts, and she presents me with some homemade comfrey ointment for my now quite swollen feet. I’d love to give you a link for this paradisical place but Ouroragnics are far too busy living on, and working, the land to have time to worry about electronic communications. To woof or visit phone 01308 482455 at dawn, or just turn up and help see link for directions. http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=litton+cheney+dorset&daddr=DT2+9DH&hl=en&geocode=&mra=ls&sll=50.760785,-2.433472&sspn=0.21891,0.877533&ie=UTF8&ll=50.710265,-2.643499&spn=0.013697,0.054846&z=14
It is at this point that Sally & I get kidnapped!
I want to walk up to the main road to catch the bus to Winterborne Abbas where Linda & Steve are meeting us. Richard has other ideas. Not only does he take us to the main road but then insists on taking us to the next village.
The state of my feet as I hobble into Daphne Morrison’s house (Peter Harper’s mum – 92, and proud of her successful campaign to prevent the local willows being chopped down to stop them overshadowing the main road, and her appearance on local TV to talk about all the recycling that went on in the second world war, like the fondly remembered rag and bone men) justifies the crime!
Linda & Steve cycle in to meet me and we all look at my feet. I’m raring to go from the ankles up but my feet are a vivid statement of “no way”. They can’t speak in words but are eloquent none the less. Defeated I arrive in Martinstown by bus.
My arrival in Dorchester is comical, and a real test for my dogged independence when I have to accept help. Steve gives me a piggy back down the high street to the local pub where we will meet the local transitioners at the Green Drinks evening. I talk with Bill, 72, who is delighted about his new garden. Marion Dove, who I am delighted to see again; she came on the first Transition Tales Training we ran in Totnes in March, is teaching him gardening the permaculture way. Linda started up the garden share, now coordinated by Liz, and Bill is one of the first lucky matches.
Marion and I talk about transition tales and schools and plans to map the curriculum so that we can more easily work with teachers, supporting their work, rather than giving them more to think about.
Tom Brown’s has a good atmosphere and the group are friendly, very relaxed, and really supportive of one another. Linda explains that this is how they meet as a steering group nowadays and that their next AGM is planned as a plantlet swop (the garden having determined it is too late in the season for a seed swop) and picnic.
Everyone is mesmerised by my feet which are resting on the low table between us and look a lot worse than they really are. They are caked in mud, and a markedly different colour to my legs as they have been exposed to the sun. My face and feet are already tanned in sharp contrast to the rest of my lily white winter skin.
On the way for the bus back to Martinstown we spot transitioner and town cryer Alistair, guiding a group on a ghost walk around Dorchester. Linda & Steve tell me gory stories about the antics of Dorchester of old, where young boys got hung for stealing bread, and we pass the old court house, where a particularly vicious judge tried the Tolpuddle martyrs leading to their imprisonment and later execution. One escaped prison in his ball and chain only to drown in a pool in the dark from the weight dragging him down. I think of the shin deep puddles I have waded through and consider myself lucky!
My feet, after soaking in hot water and tea tree oil, two lashings of comfrey ointment, and a whole night and day of lording it up on a plump autumn red cushion are feeling quite proud of themselves for finally getting the attention they deserve after braving mud, brambles and puddles for a week.
The swelling that could so scare the squeamish has gone down, returning them to their usual size after their down to earth and un clinical treatment. I am reminded of how much we have come to rely on experts knowing best when often a good old fashioned rest, a bit of common sense, and some “old wives’ remedies”, are exactly “what the doctor ordered”!
What have I learnt about walking in modern England and walking in a pre or post oil society?
I have a schedule to stick to – meaning that when my body needs to rest I have to make a choice of compromising my health or choosing to use oil based solutions. I imagine that before oil was an option any schedule went out of the window and people rested up till they were better. Living with that level of presence must be a great deal less stressful! I have felt quite disorientated since arriving in Dorchester so quickly!
I spend the second evening getting transition tales out of Linda.
There is so much going on she is quite surprised herself! She comments on how nice it is to have recognition for all that they are doing. I find it equally rewarding to be so regaled with positive stories.
Transition Dorchester are currently waiting to hear about land they have been trying to acquire for a community garden and community orchards. Their local food group, in the capable hands of Andy McKee, is strong. They have monthly shared meal meetings and have put on lots of awareness raising projects.
Steve Atkinson, my saviour from hard town pavements and the mysteries of technology, facilitates the energy group. They are all in the busy stage of developing new projects and rarely have time to meet up nowadays.
One of the things which excites Linda is how successful their collaboration with the local council and DA21 (their regional agenda 21 group) is. They have had joint funding with both of these. They are working with the council over producing a walkers and cyclists map of Dorchester. They ran an open day to get community participation in this which went really well, in spite of sour grapes coming from the only paid member there – the project coordinator, who wasn’t comfortable with group decision making.
With support from DA21 they were able to pull together a regional gathering of transition initiatives which was held in Dorchester. This went really well and was talked about with great enthusiasm by transition Bridport too. One of the things that could be really useful was something Turn Lyme Green were starting to talk about: a skills audit. Using an online service – Survey Monkey – they have started to map what skills they will need in a transition future in Dorset, to see if they all represented.
Inner transition is mentioned again. There is no group in Dorchester looking at this. I start to think about ways to engage those that are comfortable with this type of work in transition. Transition Tales feels like a good link.