I write today from a beautifully carved old wooden four poster in a red room dominated by a large potrait of a young girl in red velvet. I am in the home of Candida Blaker & Hugh Dunford Wood http://www.dunfordwood.co.uk/exhibitions. The house is filled with the most beautiful lansdcapes; I comment on one that catches my eye, and learn that it is of a green lane! From this I go on to find out that Hugh has been the illustrator of a pilgrimage on green lanes around Britain.
Candida is the reason I am here; she founded Turn Lyme Green, before transition had been born, and has since been one of the people helping to bring transition to Lyme Regis. The proximity of MonktonWyld community brought transition and more people to the group. We talk over dinner, after we have got over being excited over our common experience of us all having spent some considerable amount of time in Brazil, of all the projects Turn Lyme Green have been successful in implementing – no mean task considering Lyme has a population of just 3 and a half thousand (mainly elderly) out of season, swelling to something like 25,000 once the tourist season starts.
There was the plastic bag campaign http://www.lymeregisradio.com/sound/Royalionlive2ndNov07.html, hugely successful, until the recent opening of a Tescos which has diminished the results of the good work; only 2 shops failed to join the decision not to use plastic bags, but with Tescos refusing to climb on board when they arrived things have slid back. It was a fabulous project for the children of Lyme to be involved in though – year 6 (10-11 year olds) of the local primary school made a great animation which you can see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI1IokqmDi0. The design for the new cloth bag was the result of a competition amongst the young people of the town.
Turn Lyme Green have discovered that it is easier to focus on a project at a time, giving the whole town something to work towards, and are now thinking of ways to get more people on board in a more active way. They hope that their current project, their newly launched garden share, will be the beginnings of a new sub group. The project looks all set to be a great success, with an article in the local paper proclaiming the joys of having Cupid involved in the match making of gardens to gardeners.
Arriving in Lyme Regis late last evening was a huge relief for my feet! Sally Eaves,my faithful walk back up, who had bused in from Totnes to join the walk for a few days and I had spent a very leisurely afternoon and long evening wending our way from the gorgeous little village of Beer – some 9 miles west. Before that, however, I had been walking from Sidmouth with Pete (who I blogged about last time) and his wife Tracy. After a 9am start out we made Beer Head, a couple of miles from Seaton, by about 12.45 after, for me, a gruelling 8 miles of walking up hill and down dale at long distance walker speed. It meant there were enough day light hours for me to manage the 17 mile trip.
It also meant, sadly, that I had no time to enter the intriguing Farming as it Was then, and Now, exhibition that was being held in the most beautiful village ever, Branscombe, nor time to take in the delights of the feast for the eyes the village and surroundings are. I also think Pete and Tracy must have been very disappointed at having to walk considerably slower than normal, and to miss out some of their favourite bits of path in favour of tarmac in places for me to avoid the death top flip flops mud.
I think I have realised that slow travel is not only about leaving cars behind, it is also about moving in our own rhythm. My walk would have taken considerably longer had I gone alone, but I would have arrived with my feet intact having felt I had drunk my fill of the mouthewatering sights. As it is I feel alomost as if I had been driven past in a car.
What I wouldn’t have missed however, were the tales Pete told of the area he knows and loves so well. The tunnel the Victorians dug through the cliff for a train, which, when it arrived didn’t fit… Pete has watched the cliff collapse over the years so that now you can barely tell where the tunnel was. Further along we see the erosion caused by stones having been removed to build such edifcies as Exeter cathedral, and I hear stories of the bishop, on hearing of a landslide, enquiring after the health of his horses, the forerunners of our horsepower, with not a mention for the men. I am reminded that the greed of humankind we now see in our addiction to oil, has been around a long time, albeit in different guises.
I also hear about how the modern quay side housing development that transition Exmouth lament replaced a bohemian shanty town where lots of singing and dancing and art took place. I find out that Shanty towns, or hidden communities, though not official, were allowed until before the war and then all kinds of regulations came in that eventually made it impossible for them to remain. I am reminded of the Shanty Men, an Exmouth group who are keenly involved with the transition group. They have revived the old sea shanties and sing in harmony at events as fundraisers, including for transition. Jane Habermehl and I talked about how to get women into the group – by way of a powder monkey.
Powder monkeys were young lads taken on board ships to put the powder down the canons. Young wives were known to dress up and be taken on in this role so they could stay with their husbands when they were sent to sea.
Tracy and I talk school, she enviably works in a tiny primary school of just 60 children, and laments that fact that she has to commute nearly all the way to Lyme to do it, we talk sadly about the loss of small communities where everyone works in their own town and knows everybody. The talk of schools and work with children helps distract me from Pete’s obvious agitation that we are walking far too slowly. I learn later that the clock watching has all to do with pub opening times!
I must learn to ask people to walk on and leave me to walk in my own stride. When will we English learn not to be so damned polite!