UPDATE – since I posted this blog, John Nicklin has created a google map of the route we walked…which you can see here
After a night’s sleep in the most amazing hobbit house, in a clearing in the middle of Bishopswood, with a full moon and rabbits playing outside, I make my way to the staff room to write a little and then meet John who has breakfast for me, and walk from the centre accompanied by Rob Scott of Transition Malvern, and one of his students who is keen on the great outdoors, Chris, and John Nickin, a B&B owner (www.worcesterbb.com), and keen walker.
As we set off I hear from John all about his local group; the Path -or- Nones group (www.thepathornones.co.uk) who take it upon themselves to meet monthly to walk the footpaths in their village, Martley, and its environs, and keep them clear. They have a lot of fun walking together and work hard to keep the paths maintained; cutting back the undergrowth and letting the relevant people know if any path or style needs attention. They are also part of a scheme to gradually replace old broken styles with new gates making the paths more accessible to more people.
Whilst walking with Chris we talk about his decision to go to vet school after the holidays and his disappointment that the campus is located in London (http://www.rvc.ac.uk ); he doesn’t want to go to a big city, he enjoys people sized places and being close to nature. I tell him of my discovery that London is actually a collection of villages and towns, that unhappily have all become attached to one another, but that nonetheless retain their individual identities, but I can well relate to his discomfort; I don’t think if we really searched down deep enough within ourselves many would choose to be far from nature.
Chris would really like to be an outdoor instructor but has been discouraged from doing so from speaking to others who say it is difficult to make a living; even to get work. I recall discouraged in the same way by the career’s teacher at school when all I wanted to do was archaeology and had chosen my subjects for O level accordingly. I really do wonder what it is we have come to when we counsel young people to not follow their dreams; it feels like the road to disempowering us at an early age, to not believe in our own sense of what our life is about. I urge Chris to follow his dream whatever people tell him, and think of Robbie William’s fabulous ode to the teacher that tried to persuade him away from his dream to become a singer and to join the army instead! (You can find the lyrics easily on a google search). If there are any career teachers reading this; please never dissuade someone from following their dreams; we all need to follow our dreams; they are the hope of the world! And if you are young, or old, please never let your dreams be diminishes by the fears of others who dared not realise their own dreams. We need your dreams to be realised!
Any students lucky enough to have Rob Scott as their teacher will not find their dreams discouraged. As we walk he tells me of the success he has had with working with 6th formers with special needs and getting them into university in spite of teachers who did not understand their students’ behaviour and had not learnt to communicate with them effectively. I am thoroughly moved and inspired to learn, as I had suspected, that to be tarred with a label such as asperger’s or autistic does not have to mean you cannot learn to integrate successfully in life; it simply means no one has spent time learning what it is you need in order to assist you to develop the skills you need. How often we write people off in our society with the excuse that they have this or that syndrome (label) rather than admit is lack of preparedness to take the time to see how it is that each individual, with their different life experiences, communicates and sees the world. This would seem to be a challenge we face the world over; we’d fight no wars if we could only learn to communicate effectively!
We struggle with a few footpaths where considerate farmers have planted their crop clean over the right of way. I learn from John that it is actually illegal to in any way impede a public footpath; they come under the same law as the highways and there would soon be complaints if they were not kept open. It would be so great if we had groups of people in every town doing the work the path-or-nones do and maintaining our network of walkways. They are part of our heritage and are something that in the Americas do not exist at all. Let’s not encourage our farmers to think they are American plantation owners!
Thankfully for the most part we walk along the lovely river Severn and see very little farmland. It is always lovely to walk through land that hasn’t been factorised into rows!
As we walk Rob and I talk transition endlessly, reliving last year’s conference, talking of the different projects, Rob wants to know more about the Totnes pound; he and another transitioner in Malvern, Nick Martin, are planning to get something started in Malvern too. They are already know about the barterbods http://www.barterbods.co.uk/barterbods local Lets scheme and have been trying to get in touch with the organiser to find out how it works, and to link up with it.
John is curious about transition and I tell him; and he immediately asks about population. It is a question we all asked when I did my 2 day transition training too, and one which I have thought a lot about. For me we have to do the awareness raising first; people will think about their town’s carrying capacity before their own wanting to have children when they understand we are all interlinked and that every child is the child of all of us, and a member of our next generation, and of upmost importance to all of us. If we had this type of awareness people would not feel so desperate to breed their own child but be happy to share in the caring for each child born in the community. We would have no neglected children if we valued the coming of each one as a special gift to the community; not just the biological parents.
We come to the Holt Stop; a lock on the river, manned because to operate a lock on a river with a moving current is a little different from the canals of still water. I learn from John that the nearby island of Bevere was where the folk of Worcester would shelter in times of siege.
Further along we come to another riverside pub, where John tells us about Micron theatre http://www.mikron.org.uk a company who tour on their narrow boat, doing travelling performances and making theatre accessible to many. Later on, when we arrive at our destination, the Fold, I am told about their impending visit there too. John is very impressed by the Fold and decides to bring his wife out to visit.
My fellow journeyers leave me with Will and Jane Toobe of the Fold and we have dinner and talk of heart and soul related topics, the importance of inner transition, and discover a mutual acquaintance; Jo Hardy. I know her as our local 5 Rhythms teacher, they know her as a singer and I am surprised I didn’t know that about her and we talk about Bowden House, the singing community where I live (..) and they say they would very much like to visit; both being singers themselves.
Jane talks about how Will was born and bred on this farm and Will explains how he has spent the last number of years sitting on the local council in the hope that one day they would begin to listen to him talking about sustainability issues, which pretty much fell on stony ground until Transition became a buzz word and the council wanted to climb on board, so they turned to Will and asked him how t get it started in Malvern! I think this is a great tale, and feel humbled that there have been people doing apparently thankless tasks for years, but who actually have been preparing the ground patiently all these years, ready for the seeds of transition to begin to fall on fertile ground.
In the evening Will takes me to Priory Hall in Great Malvern, where I am to tell tales. I have a very lovely time, not only because I love to tell the tale of the walk and its many inspirational characters, but also because herein Malvern I discover a great many wonderful transition talers!
When Nate the Filmmaker talks of the- people- who- think- they- run- the- town and Brian Brain Energy and the gazgateers we rename him Nate the Storyteller! He picked up on the style of a transition tale that has been developing with me as I walk and shares stories beautifully and has us all enthralled.
The tale of the gazgateers must be told. Malvern has gas lamps, some of which have not been converted over to electricity. This in itself is news to me and I am quite thrilled, though aware that no doubt there will be problems with gas light too. Nate talks about the battle between electricity and gas and how electricity won out and so that now we have light pollution and cannot see the night sky and the stars anymore.
Brian the Brain Energy went out with his merry band of assistants, now christened the gazgateers, one night, and for several nights, to check which of the lamps were still linked to gas and which had been replaced. Brian the Brain Energy has been studying how gas lamps work and the impact that electric lights have on the environment; how much light is wasted as it shines upwards not downwards (I wonder if they had to be made so strong in the beginning as the skies had been made invisible by all the smog created by industry) and how much warming of the environment they contribute. What Brian the Brain Energy and his gazgateers are working on is a wonderful plan to be able to reuse gas lamps in an energy efficient way, staggeringly so.
Ginnie the youth worker tells the tale of the youth club gardens which began to grow and grow with the help of transition so that now they have vegetables growing in patches that didn’t exist before and Ginnie has become a regular volunteer at the club. Janet the gardener, a very vibrant elder of the group, reminds the other gardeners that most leeks are meant to be picked and eaten when they are ready and not all left to become 5 foot tall giants with seed heads on the top! There is a discussion about traditional garden methods and permaculture, and Rob Scott the teacher talks about his try it and see garden where he has been experimenting with permaculture techniques and learning many useful things. He has discovered that putting his cardboard waste on his compost works really well
Will-heart-and-soul -Tooby talks about the starting of transition and the 3 monthly programme of events they make public in a leaflet. I see from previous ones he gives me that they did a lot of awareness raising films in 2008, and that be the summer of 2009 there are more talks, skill share events, and that Transition Drinks have been inaugurated. There has also been the emergence of working groups.
A great feature of the programme is the list of all the organisations that support transition in the area; including Agenda 21, the district council, ANOB, the police, and the green party to mention only a handful.
Robin Coates the eco builder, my host for the night, talks about his village initiative, Greening Colwall; they have a thermal imaging project which consists of amazing packs that they take out to people’s homes, and loan to others, so that they can measure and photograph how much wastage of energy is coming out of their homes. They also started working with their local primary school and had Brigit Strawbridge and the big green bus come to visit. The school now has a big recycled paper bin outside that is for the use of the community as well. Collwall have a car pool and an electric bike share scheme, and sound as though they have a great deal of community spirit.
I am thrilled to hear from the Pebworth Porkers via Robin Walker of Transition Evesham Vale (rwoffenham AT gmail.com) who has come especially to see me to tell their take for them. His storytelling skills equal those of Nate the storyteller and you can read them below, cut and pasted from the e mail he sent me next morning:
The idea was sparked by Andy the Orchardeer, who, with Mandy the Thatcher had kept pigs in their garden for several years. Geoffrey the Morris dancer had some land, and his son Kevin the Parish Lengthsman wanted some pigs on it. Following a number of discussions over several flagons of Ale and Cider at the Fleece Inn, Bretforton, (which has a barn perfect for a future Transition tales) Andy, Mandy, Geoffrey and Kevin, got together with Jon the woodcutter, Steve the professor, Judy the hairdresser, Graham the power broker, Heather the cake-baker, Maureen the solar heater, Natalie the cat lover, Linda the Very Wise, and Porker Walker, and the Pebworth Porkers were conceived. (Conception actually took place somewhere else, with the help of a couple of large boars).
Geoffrey built an ark out of some scrap timber, and everyone met at a plot of land in Pebworth, and erected a sturdy fence. Porker Walker and Kevin the Lengthsman then travelled to a place not far from the Town in the hills with nice water, and collected 4 little Gloucester Old Spots, and 4 Large Blacks.
They are now growing nicely, have their own facebook page, and have 29 friends (you are welcome to be number 30). Much of their food is waste (very tasty) from local growers, who prefer to see their waste put to some use, following the permaculture principles of getting the pigs to process the waste before using it on the land.
Some will eventually go off to the great pig pen in the sky, but we hope to keep some to breed more pigs, and propagate the idea of community pig farming across the Vale of Evesham.
Rob, inspired by the tale, talks of his hopes for a pig club in his village, and says the tale has given him confidence to talk about it to others.
The next tale to be told was that of the Great Unleashing at which the guest of honour was the golden key tree. Lynn the visionary Clearwater told the tale of the lady with transition hopes way before transition had ever been thought of who had gone around all the homes in Malvern asking people if they would like to make a sustainability pledge for the millennium and for each pledge made a key was tied to the tree. At the Great Unleashing ten years later the tree was carried ceremoniously to the party where it was tied with the transition wishes for the future.
The final bout of storytelling comes via DVD and a special 20minute edition the group had made for their Unleashing which happened recently, and has been talked about far and wide as I walk as being a great success. The DVD is called “People Make Transition Happen” and is a fantastically inspirational film of local people doing amazing things and talking about them, including the participation of many of the local school children from the various schools transition is working with.
I am thrilled by the film and suggest Nate ensure it is sent in to become part of the next In Transition film; the quality is so good it wouldn’t even need editing. I present the Transition Malvern Hills group with tea towel Transition Bewdley has sent them, and they give me a copy of their film to take on to the next place.
I spend a truly inspirational evening! I am heart full and brimming over; lump in my throat and moved to tears by the immense sense of community, and fun, that this group embody.