Once there was an orchard, which had been in the same family for 80 years or more, since Norman’s great grandfather’s time. This orchard wasn’t making any money, and then one day Ann had an idea; to share the orchard with others. So now Ann and Norman, who live in an award winning eco house they built themselves, have a thriving orchard with many tree sponsors and many community members , called crop sharers ,who help support it and receive produce every year as well as taking part in many orchard events www.dragonorchard.co.uk .
The beautiful orchard of plums, apples, and pears was visited one day by Hannah and Tom, wine makers by trade. They went into partnership and formed Once upon a Tree, and now they make award winning cider and perry, and juices from the fruit www.onceuponatree.co.uk .
I walked to Dragon’s Orchard with another member of Transition Ledbury, Ruth Busbridge, whilst Paul and Beverley cycled off to join in on a Transition Newent cycle ride, one of a periodic ride the group organise to raise awareness, and to have fun.
Ruth and try footpaths but are thwarted by the large conglomerate that have bought out Heineken, and replaced the now defunct Robertson’s jam and Atora Suet as the chief employer in Ledbury. The large ugly blot on the landscape not only makes a nuisance of itself aesthetically, but also practically; there are large signs up to show they have applied for permission to get the public right of way rerouted, and try as we might we can make no sense of the alternative provided mostly because the adjoining farm is planted with a cereal crop and no way through it has been allowed for. We go by road; Ruth cross that her legal right to walk locally has been taken away, me resigned; I have seen this too often, and prefer the quiet back roads that nobody wants anymore. I love them; they are signposted, safe from hazard; car or cow related, and some of them quite lovely with hedgerows full of life lining their sides. They are also the earlier track ways between settlements, so that even if I have not really been very successful in seeking out green lanes, I have found ways to connect places that would have been well used before the coming of the big fast A roads.
We talk of many things, of Ruth’s long standing dream to build her own passive house and how she now finally has paid off her mortgage and can afford to re mortgage to pay for the work that will be needed to retrofit her home. It seems very sad to me that someone who cares about the environment and wants to make a difference should have to get back into debt to be able to do so.
Ruth and I explore Dragon’s Orchard and meet and talk to Hannah who tells us the tale of success above related. I leave with a large bag of local cherries to eat on my way and Ruth with juicy yellow mirabelle plums she says make the best jam. I go off on my way and Ruth heads homewards.
I spend a pleasant day walking, content in my own company, happy along quiet back roads I have to myself.
I am most charmed by the village of Mordiford where I finally discover what Wye is all about. I have been musing upon its meaning, and am thrilled to learn that references to dragons I have been coming across ever since Nick Martin and I walked out and away from Bransford, via Dragon Lane to my arrival in Ledbury where I was told of Dragon Orchards, that Wyevern means dragon and there was a dragon once at Mordiford. He was a green one, and was painted upon the western end of the church until comparatively recently and local historians speculate still as to why he was there.
There two version of the tale; one that there was indeed a dragon that would capture and eat animals and young women as they made their way down to the river by Serpents Lane to drink and he was finally killed by man called Garson who was himself then killed by its fiery breath. The Garson family lived in Mordiford until the latter end of the twentieth century. The other version of the tale suggests that dragon was euphemism for the parties of Welsh that would come and raid periodically.
The village continued to suffer losing folk in later times and the church is dedicated to the Holy Rood, or Cross, a sign that it was rededicated at the time of the Black Death, and a plague memorial in the form of a preaching cross stands close by the main door.
I set out again reluctantly, it feels like a long walk today; for Breinton, where I will stay tonight, is three miles west of the city of Hereford which I must walk though the very centre of, all the while feeling I have reached my destination, and all the while knowing I still have three miles to go. Hereford retains much of a feel of an ancient city though its main thoroughfare is pedestrianised and filled with clone shops, and I begin to get a sense as I walk, that to pedestrianize a high street is to kill it, though I am not at all sure why that should be.
I meet Anita Sancha of the amazing eco animations many of you transitioners will know, and I get to see the home sweet home ( ) earthhttp://www.anitasancha.co.uk/
As I arrive Anita is atop a ladder tying her cucumber vine (for vine they obviously are when seen creeping naturally) up against her converted garage wall, that is now become a beautiful tropical greenhouse. I am dazzled by how amazing this space is; an ordinary garage become wonderful growing house and really congenial semi outdoor space in which to hang out, with its doors open at both ends and its roof mostly covered in transparent recycled plastic roofing letting sunlight pour in on the kiwis, tomatoes, and cucumbers climbing the up the walls and looking lush, and the nasturtiums, lemon grass, and sweet potatoes growing around the edges. In the centre tables and chairs where in the comfortably hot environment, we sit and are served delicious vegan food mostly from the garden.
I visit the garden, lush and full of raised beds full to overflowing with produce and am taken down to the bottom of the plot to see the hobbit house, made for 800 pounds only from recycled things from the house repairs, and the recycling centre by a man called Frank Hemming. It isn’t quite finished yet, if it was I’d have been able to stay in it. It is beautiful and a testament to what can be done with what we have been dismissing as rubbish for far too long.
I meet Susana Piehto as well, another co-founder of the transition group in Hereford, who tells me about the Spirit of Transition group which I am thrilled about, so relatively few initiatives have an inner transition group, but here it is strong, and I love Susana’s down to earth sense of awareness of what is needed and how to accomplish it, and I finally begin to understand that it very often takes a special kind of feminine energy to manage a heart and soul group, and s/he mustn’t be too dogmatic, nor too ethereal, but very earthy, strong, tuned in, and capable, yet also mild mannered and gentle, with a deep understanding of what different people need. I haven’t met many, but Susana is one of them; we shall need more and more of these people if we are to make the transition smoothly.
Hereford’s vibrant transition group have inspired the start of many local groups; Ledbury, Malvern, Colwall, and Newent, and now have formed a Herefordshire wide hub so they can all meet up and share ideas and experiences.
Susana also tells me about Hereford’s Unleashing party, planned for the 13th October, inspired by the Malverns and their great idea to give local officials 45 second slots to speak the essence of what their politics are. The Unleashing will take place during H week, a Herefordshire wide initiative to explore energy saving in the county.
Anita’s house has been totally converted, from damp pouring down the inside of walls to completely insulated with wooden slats (recycled wood gathered from about the house and the recycling centre) on the north facing outer walls, sandwiched with foam. This work can be done on all houses that have a wide enough margin of space between the roof and the gutter. You can feel the difference in a house well insulated, cosier and more solid somehow.
I spot an apple tree at the far corner of the garden and Anita explains that this house and its adjoining neighbour are old Bulmers workers’ houses, and adds that in those days companies cared for their workers, ensured they had plenty of land to grow on and planted fruit for all their workers in their gardens.
In the evening I get to see Anita’s new film, and you can see it here …