Let There Be Car Share in the Town Betwixt Four Rivers (Day 46) May 13th
I have a feeling when I awaken that I will stay in Hertford another day, though I can’t say why, other than I seem to have gained a day in my walk from London, and Hertford feels like the sort of place I’d be happy to spend a day in.
I am just starting to pack up my bag when Stewart Hillin of the Hertford Quakers calls me. Before I know where I am I am sitting in the Salisbury Arms drinking herbal tea with Stewart, and Ray Bomber, Quaker and member of Transition Town Hertford Seed Group, (the very lovely name they give their steering group).
From that brief meeting we have soon cooked up a meeting in the evening of as many seeds as can be rounded up at such short notice at the weekly Quaker Arts night at the very lovely Courtyard art gallery community space that Stewart and wife Jane have helped to create.
I am invited to stay with Stewart and Jane, and on going to their house, after a visit to the Quaker meeting house, the oldest meeting house in continuous use since its foundation in the 1600s, Stewart points out the house of his friend and fellow Quaker and transitioner, Dick Warn. Dick has been interested in green issues for many years and has equipped his house with photo voltaics to provide his electricity.
Later in the afternoon I go and visit Dick and wife Ali for cups of tea and cake and to hear their stories. Dick is delighted that from him installing his home with photo voltaics and talking about what he did he persuaded one more homeowner to do the same, and now exponentially, there are two more people on his road who have photo voltaics too.
Ali is a retired primary school head, she feels as I do that we must work with the children; to give them hope for the future; this comes on the day I receive news from back home in Totnes that we have been invited back into KEVICC, our local high school, to work with the whole of the year seven again, our third year running, but this time for a series of 10 sessions (we started out with 3 in the first year, and extended to 6 last year, in response to our understanding that the children need more time with the people they are working on positive stories with , in order to get to know each other better, to better be able to address the responses that the children have regarding the big changes happening in our times) and a set of field trips in the Autumn to our local environmental centre Embercombe (http://www.embercombe.co.uk/) where I will also be storytelling at the West Country Storytelling festival at the end of August.
Kat Fennell, (http://www.kingedwardvi.devon.sch.uk/index.php/Year-7-Curriculum/menu-id-672.html) who has taken over as our liaison person, is very enthusiastic about involving the 6th formers in the process so we are delighted that the work will be able to extend to work across the age ranges.
Ali and I talk about the importance of providing the time for children to hear about what is going on in the world, but only out of context of being prepared for it, working out of a safe, held environment, where they have the opportunity to work through difficult emotions, and find positive solutions. We talk about those detractors who feel children shouldn’t be told about climate change and resource depletion, and agree that to baldly go into to deliver facts alone is totally inappropriate.
I tell the tale of how I learnt the way forward with working with children within a transition context. I had been working with a class before the lunch break; when I returned afterwards they were hyper and noisy. I knew something must have happened, and that to continue with my carefully written up session plan would lead to disruptive behaviour and the children being labelled as badly behaved and getting into trouble for this from the teachers.
I asked what had happened. A group of boys came out of the walk in book cupboard where they had been hiding; a group of older boys, they said they thought they were sixth formers, had been bullying them. It also came to light that the boy I had asked what was going on had been having an on -going dispute with a girl in the class. They were, from their behaviour, clearly locked into the type of habitual pattern of blame that persecutor and victim type roles lock horns with in many marriages, I asked if the class would like to resolve the situation and looking very relieved they said yes.
We sat in a circle and the children talked about what was going on and how they felt. They had lots to say and it was for me a very valuable experience. I learnt that we cannot confront difficult external challenges when there are other, more pressing personal issues to address first. The key to talking about transition for me has always been the positive aspect; the sense of community that grows from the working together, and building of healthy relationships. From this starting point, with a firm base, the challenges of our times can be addressed.
Later, in the evening we go to the Arts Centre. There I meet Sandra White, transition initiator in Hertford, Dick Warn, Ray Bomber, and Veronica, all from the seed group, and Stewart, Jane, David, and other Quaker arts people stay to here the tale of the walk and to listen to the tales of TT Hertford. I am so thrilled with having met up with the group and to hear them talk of themselves as the seeds that I decide this is the place to present the 33 biodynamically grown broad bean seeds that Peter Brinch of transition Forest Row gave me to take onwards.
I am rewarded with a Forest of Ideas. Sandra tells me about a heart and soul idea that they included in the Eco Film Festival that they ran last month where people were invited to write their thought for a positive future in Hertford onto a leaf to be displayed. She reads out some of the many ideas collected
“Let there be car share”
“I don’t want so many aeroplanes”
“A car free day a week”
“More cycle paths”
“More bridges and footpaths so people can walk to do their shopping”
and presents me with the handout of ideas to be taken on the next transition place.
I learn that Hertford is a town betwixt 4 rivers, the largest, the Lea, which I had followed, the Bean (where they might plant their new broad bean seeds), the Mimram, a name surely made for poetry, and the Rib (which is Saxon for watercress) by which I shall leave the town heading NE towards Cambridge.
The group talk of their rivers as being a project they maybe would like to take on; they are not all flowing well anymore and they would perhaps like to explore why that is and see how they can integrate them rivers into life in modern Hertford; already the theatre is fitting a turbine to the side of its building in the centre of town to harness the water power for its electricity.
TT Hertford believe in collaborating with other organizations over projects so they joined forces with the council over the Eco Film Festival and had over 300 people through the day visiting them and watching films that included “The Story of Stuff” http://www.storyofstuff.com and “In Transition“ http://transitionculture.org/in-transition .
The group is quite new, have been going around 6 months, are very enthusiastic, and are aware of the need to go softly to encourage the people of the predominantly dormitory town for London to get involved. They are very much at the awareness raising stage, and are also looking to build a structure where the heart and soul aspect of transition is embedded, integral, rather than being a separate group. I think this wise, having heard from so many that they don’t have a heart and soul group at all, or they have called it something different (my hosts’ response to the name was horror (“that sounds like born again Christians” ). Making inner transition integral to the approach seems to make a lot of sense; it is something that some of us have talked about in Totnes too, and wondered how to do that given that we have a group that has been going from the beginning. The mentor scheme, where any transitioner in TTT feeling stressed can find a mentor amongst the heart and soul group to talk things though with and find solutions together, has been one very successful project the heart and soul group have initiated.
It is not only inner transition that concerns TT Hertford, not at all, Sandra comes fresh from a council meeting where transition have been asked as a group to play a part in the council discussions about the town.
Stewart shows us an article from the Mercury the local paper, asking people to complete a questionnaire about how they would like Hertford town centre to be. It seems a great opportunity, he says, for transitioners to get some of their ideas out.
TT Hertford are also eager to get involved with their local university and their solar allotment idea; to put solar panels on their ample roofs and share with the neighbourhood. Sandra thinks this is an idea worth replicating.
There is tree planting afoot in Hertford too; they are working in conjunction with official bodies in the area to help ensure the trees do not get damaged. They recorded the carbon footprint of their Eco Film Festival (including asking everyone how they had travelled there) and they will offset this by planting trees in local conservation areas. They plan to do this for every public event they put on.
I am thoroughly inspired by this seed group and the work they are doing, and the way they plan to work together. It is interesting that half of their members are Quakers, with such similar ideals. They all quite different from one another however, and value the diverse skills they have; renewable energy, work with councils, eco psychology, IT and journalism; they seem to have all they need.
I ask that they keep us informed with their inner transition integral approach. It is a challenge for them, to learn how to do it, but I feel it is the way forward, and I am excited for the town of the Lea, Bean, Rib and Mimram.