I spend the morning writing up and posting my latest blogs and working out the next stage of the journey and then, once ready to go discover that Steward’s Wood cannot host us after all and Clare offers to let us stay another night with her in Chagford.
It is a sun shiny day and we have lunch at the edge of the millpond together, dangling our feet over the decking and admiring the views over the gardens and Dartmoor and are pleased we have been given a little more time to talk. Clare tells me about more of what Chagford do, and expresses her ambivalence about having official transition status but having to go through all the constitution writing and yet having then a name and a group that people can come towards, and yet the inclusive- exclusive nature of groups comes up then, coupled with the fact that Chagford have been doing transition things for 20 years or more and groups are already very well established. I say that for me there seems no need if everyone is happy, and that I often think of them as the Dartmoor Circle when thinking of a group name for them, as this was how they first approached Transition when they hosted a two -day transition training.
Clare explains that this is a Dartmoor wide group, but there is as well, of course, the Kitchen Table Wisdom group which is local and seems to me to be all that’s needed to hold everything together; the CSA that deliver the local veg boxes by horse, and till their fields using horse power coupled with new light weight horse drawn machinery made in Germany, the school Willow project in conjunction with Epona, Yuli’s local textile work, the community cafe, Proper Job recycling centre and shop, Nicky’s composting genius, and the Conservation group Paul and Pauline go out with and keep the footpaths open and clear.
Chagford might not be an official transition town but it is in everything but name a highly successful transition town, with all the functions the working groups perform, running beautifully, as they have been doing for years and years.
I ask if Chagford is a small town or a large village and Clare laughs and says it’s a highly emotive subject to some, for it could qualify as either, with the shops and facilities of a small town with the cosy feel of a village.
Georgiana and I go to visit Yuli in her felt making barn studio and watch her roll the beautiful wall hanging she is creating over and over, discover she is the maker of the gorgeous leaf shaped shrouds that can be seen for sale on Totnes High Street, and are given a pair of felt boot liners each. Mine will have to wait for the cold weather to come when I coax my feet back into boots for the winter, it will be a treat to look forward to, I have been told of the value of lining one’s boots with sheep’s wool. Georgiana has agreed to have her feet felted and makes an appointment for tomorrow morning to have them encased in Blue Face Leicester sheep’s wool, used to line boots and to cover feet for it does not irritate or itch. Her wool covered feet will be soaped and shaped and her boots slipped back on and the resulting felt will come out perfectly feet shaped!
Yuli and Georgiana talk on and on about their beloved Norway, Yuli with longing for her fatherland, Georgiana with love and pride for her adopted home, and I listen, and learn much about how it was to live in Nazi occupied Norway during the last world war, how to resist meant torture or death or escape and how after the war the Nazis and anyone connected with Germany, including children of mixed marriages, were tortured and victimised in retribution, and how difficult it has been for the country to recover from its occupation.
Yuli says she has often considered how it would be to be in the situation of having to choose sides and who she would trust, with her life, for that is what it would have meant, back then, in Norway, in those times. I think about the caduceus symbol again, and hope that we are coming into a state of maturity now that we would no longer have to choose sides but be able to recognise, together, the point of view held by all, and find common ground, based on humanitarian principles, and that we have learnt the harsh lessons that going to war taught us.
Georgiana takes herself off for a walk in the hills around Chagford, and I head back to the studio where we are staying, tarrying awhile in the town/village centre, irresistibly drawn to being in it, slowly sauntering, soaking it in, looking at property to rent in shop windows, and wondering. I call into the Courtyard and eat chocolate ganache cake, the most delicious cake you can imagine, as I wend my way back through Clare’s garden, past the Barefoot Barn, and settle back at my netbook, glad of a time to catch up with my e mails.
Georgiana comes back and we eat delicious fresh veg from Clare’s garden that Georgiana prepares whilst I talk to Neil, newly come to Chagford and keen to get involved in transition here having been involved elsewhere, but concerned that we are only reaching the usual suspects. He was unable to come to the storytelling so we speak now, on the phone.
I emphasis what I have learnt on my walk; that the way to reach the largest numbers of people is through the message of having fun together; a positive message. It seems he has taken some food for thought and I am glad, for he seemed disheartened at first; faced with the enormity of the task, for so it seems when we focus on those that don’t get it rather than on the task in hand and the joy of living the way we know to be right and sharing that with others.
Georgiana and I talk community living; my experience of living in intentional community, and hers of living for a while once in a collective in Norway, and the community her parents still live in. We talk about eating together and the role it plays in building relationships.