Wimborne Minster is a delight, as is my lunchtime host Angie Corbet. I have thoroughly enjoyed my walk, along the Castleman Trail, which Andy Hadley has told me leads all the way from Poole to Ringwood, and is great for walkers. It is flat, easy to follow, very scenic in places, and you meet the nicest of guides along it. The man in a hat on a bicycle who popped up twice to give me useful directions at potentially confusing bits, and a lovely old gentleman, Robert Knight, (how fitting was that!) stopped for a chat and learnt what transition is and walked on with me to the next confusing bit to show me the way. (He told me of the council plans to turn the field we were approaching just outside the village into a community garden and the ranger opposition to it because it contained rare wild flowers, I found myself wishing all community garden schemes were forest garden schemes; there’d be no problem then).
It is almost as if when you set out on a walk like this you enter the world of adventures in more ways than one and story book elements creep in just as if they have always been there. The challenges change, and the guides change guise to fit the landscape, but story is well and truly alive if you are prepared to enter in. I have a strong sense of how easy it is to forget that there are so many worlds we can choose to inhabit, and it really is down to us to make that choice. I walk through the world of cars roads and supermarkets now as if they are a surreal vision come across occasionally but that really have no meaning to my life right now except in the form of hazard; too fast, noisy and polluting, too hard, too disorientating, respectively.
Wimborne is old, small, retains a feel of how it must have always been. The butcher proudly displays a sign that states proudly that it has been in the business of providing local food for a 100 years. Angie regales me with tales of Morsbags, http://www.morsbags.com which Andy had also told me about, the Dorset Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, of which she is a member, and the newer, internet connected Ravellery group https://www.ravelry.com . She shows me her work; as with Claire’s felting in Poole, I am in deep admiration for the skill of this work, the softness, beauty and wearability of the garments produced. How can we think to encourage child slave labour by shopping in Primark, when our local people can make such clothing from our own wool? I am shocked to discover that farmers are giving away fleeces on FreeCycle because nobody wants them!
However did that happen? Dorset, as Devon, made their wealth in the past from the wool trade. Angie gives me a hand crafted spinning cedar and maple whorl and shaft and a skein of wool to take on into Hampshire with me and I present her as Transition Wimborne, with the hazel sapling Andy had given me, gift from Poole, where I had left the green wood turned spoon gift from Purbeck.
After a delicious lunch of home baked bread, homemade nettle soup and homemade crunchy oat biscuits with home brewed ginger beer (the best I have ever tasted) Angie walks with me on through Wimborne to meet Tom Read of nearby Gaunts House http://www.gauntshouse.com/joomla/index.php .
As we walk she tells me tales of Wimborne. I am again in awe of yet another place that is already pretty resilient in some ways, excellent local shops selling local produce, the local town hall has a psychic garden where herbs are labelled to help teach people to recognise them, and how Wimborne, though small, is the market town for a whole host of surrounding villages. It used to be the main route through to London up until fairly recently and I marvel at the narrow one car’s width High Street. Angie remembers as a child living elsewhere, being driven this way and the whole family getting out for a picnic on the green whilst her father drove the car through! What a different pace of life.
A local success story is in the nearby village of Witchampton where the village shop is run as a community shop. In Wimborne plans are afoot for a community garden.
What I find shocking is that the local high school, which is fed by all the villages, takes 400 children in each year group. Wherever did our system manage to get the idea that this would produce healthy well balanced children with a clear perspective on local life? I recall Collette’s determination to keep the school in Swanage alive, to avoid such a situation developing in Wareham too.
Tom meets us on his bicycle and we all walk together a while. Angie and Tom talk about their next steering group meeting. Transition Wimborne is about to re-form itself as various steering group members have had to step back due to personal circumstances. Tom is hoping to bring a couple of new people along.
Tom and I walk on to Gaunt’s House, an intentional community which also runs a retreat centre, the purpose of which is to encourage and promote self awareness. We try to walk two abreast sharing our experiences of living in intentional community, and receive positively vindictive stares from car drivers on the narrow lane who seem to think they should still drive at main road speeds at all times. It has surprised me all along how when people get into cars they seem to resent slowing down. Almost as if person + car becomes a new entity that is frustrated by not using the full potential of the car’s ability to go fast.
We talk, when we are able, about consensus decision making, both its frustrations and benefits. Here again it is about speed; it can take time to reach consensus and some decisions need a quicker response. It seems to me that the real value of community living in this way is in the learning of ways that a group can come to a decision that takes all points of view into account and benefits the whole. It is no easy task, and yet a very valuable way of learning a lot about oneself and others, and how to collaborate over a shared vision.
Gaunt’s House is an enormous property. It has 60 acres of land, the large Victorian red brick house, and a large converted stable block where I am given a lovely room, get to do my washing in the laundry, and catch up on e mails in the community office. I am taken to see the gardens, there is a big walled garden area, old Victorian glass houses, a lake, and acres of pasture land. Tom’s vision is to turn some this over to permaculture and forest garden and run courses. He asks about Bowden and how we manage the land and is inspired by our fortnightly Community Action Days where people interested in becoming part of the community come and work and eat with us for a day.
He also talks about turning some of the land over to allotments for local people. At the moment Gaunts House, owned by Richard Glyn, and having been a community for 30 years, is an embryonic one all over again with just 6 members. I meet just 3 of them, young and enthusiastic and looking forward to new members arriving in the summer. They are looking for more people to join them.
Next day Tom walks with me along the Castleman Trail as far as a patch of woodland his grandmother owns. He and his brother would like to see it become a tree house centre for people to visit but is at present home to a tramp who is usually drunk and they are unsure of how to approach him to involve him in the project.
As we walk Tom talks about how he quit his architecture job to study more. He was embarrassed at being hired out by the company for £60 an hour as a newly qualified architect, knowing he was new and knew very little. He was appalled that the other more qualified architects were on £120 an hour. We discuss how impossible a society is when such rates are charged, encouraging inequality.
I feel hugely encouraged knowing some young people are not having the wool pulled over their eyes about what is going on, and are not being tempted by offers of large salaries to become part of the problem. Tom tells me about his architecture dissertation and how he wrote about very different community models and then discovered transition and knew that was where his life’s work lay. I tell him about Pattern Language http://www.patternlanguage.com and we enjoy visioning the future with everyone living on their own patch of land to grow food on, no fences, wide trackways on which people can walk freely. I ask if there will be space for that for everyone and he tells me research has been done and that there is.
I learn of 2 exciting transition compatible projects from Tom; CPULs (Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes) who work with planning edible woodland strips between communities in cities , http://transitionculture.org/essential-info/book-reviews/cpuls & http://www.bohnandviljoen.co.uk and also Maps for Change; he is part of the Dorset group http://www.northdorsetgreenmap.co.uk . They are mapping every green initiative in Dorset so that everyone knows of a green project actually happening close to them that they can go and visit and be inspired.
Tom’s vision for the future, from the transition training, was of a completely open land, with no boundaries, no fences, and the people free to roam. He, as I, and so many of the folk I have met along this journey, cannot wait for transition to happen. We muse as to which settlement will be the first to reach tipping point, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tipping_Point when the whole thing will be able to settle into place.
I walk on alone, thoroughly inspired and positive, knowing that Transition will happen as quickly and as smoothly as our imaginations will allow.