I am met off the ferry by Andy Hadley and Harriet of BH hub, and Transition Poole. They are really welcoming, and fantastic guides. I marvel at the wonderful network of people transition is drawing together.
At this point I think I am almost at my evening’s destination. I still have a weird kind of parallel going on about the bio region’s similarity to the tiny fishing village of Tibau do Sul in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in NE Brazil which was my home for 5 years. As Andy & Harriet guide me through the first streets of houses, past the hotel, and the millionaire’s row on the waterfront I can easily imagine Tibau becoming this way in the future and can really visualise how Poole came to grow so much.
The houses we pass are spectacular. They are large, have the most incredible views and gardens, some even have a view of the bay out of one end of the house and the beach and open sea out of the other. Andy tells me that some of them are really recently built, not the first building, but simply that new owners don’t like the architecture of the house they have acquired, but they do like the location, so they flatten the structure they find, and build the house they want, over and over this happens.
I am stunned at how far it is from the ferry to Poole town centre. It takes us 2 hours to walk to Andy’s home in the suburb of Stanleys town at the other side of the centre. All along there are houses. The size and opulence of the houses gradually downsize as we near the centre. The views remain spectacular for most of the way. I read later that Poole harbour is the second largest harbour in the world. It is boat lovers’ paradise. For a moment I step back into my past and wish I were still in the world of sail boats that took me off on an adventure to Brazil some 18 years ago.
I marvel at the fact that there is a wide pavement all the way from the ferry to Andy’s house! I have become accustomed to pavements that disappear at town boundaries leaving pedestrians to the mercy of the traffic. My whole stay in Poole I am to marvel at the pavements, the wide streets, and even though I am overwhelmed by the sheer density of buildings I like the town. It is clean and well planned.
Harriet and Andy tell me about Brownsea Island – it was where Baden Powell first started scouts’ camp. I learn also that flying boats in the second world war used to practise in the bay. I am amazed at the spit of beach that has become a strip of expensive houses. We still build houses on sand; will we ever learn?!
I am constantly being reminded on this journey that the natural landscape we see has not always looked that way – from natural disasters such as the 16th century storm that changed the estuary beyond Exmouth, to the Victorians carving train tunnels out of the cliffs in Sidmouth, the recent landslides caused by heavy rain in Lyme, and the changing of the bay of Poole to suit human usage – the coast line is always on the move. For times of transition this feels an appropriate reminder. Resilience is our ability to adapt to change, and as a species we have always managed quite well up until now. It would be very satisfying and refreshing, however, if we worked with our environment rather than our default position of causing, or responding to, disaster.
I learn on the walk of the formation of the BH hub – an area covered by the BH postcode – from Poole, to Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Wimborne Minster. They form practically (Wimborne Minster isn’t quite attached yet) one continuous conurbation, one of the largest in Europe, although none of the places is classed as a city.
Later the towns began to form smaller more localised groups so that each is now a transition initiative in their own right. Poole was the first to get going, and Wimborne has been going since last summer. Each initiative has its own distinct flavour. Christchurch are very organised with a calendar of events programmed 3 months at a time. Transition Poole have a strong energy group. The BH hub still meets up to share experiences.
Harriet leaves us along the way to cycle off; she is going to watch “In Transition” for the fifth time. There is to be a local showing; the initiatives are now starting to notice that within their town limits there are even smaller settlements that have an identity. Harriet says each time she watches the transition movie it just gets better and better. Like everyone I have spoken to Transition Poole think Samadi is the star of the film – and if you haven’t seen the film yet, or don’t remember Samadi…you really should watch it (again) “from the mouths of babes” he sums up what we are about succinctly and perfectly. Visit Transition Culture http://transitionculture.org/ to get hold of a copy.
Over homemade pizza, and baked apples with marzipan (a must try recipe) Andy, wife Claire, son Dan and girlfriend Lottie, myself, and Transition Poole permaculture teacher Gary Finch talk transition and discover that we all have a visit to Ourorganics in common. If you have been following my blog you will remember that this is where I was wow-ed by Richard Toft’s solar powered plumbing. Andy and Dan have helped create the plumbing system, and Gary helped dig the fire pit for the old tin bath where hot tubs under starlight happen.
Claire and I talk felt. I show the wondrous piece of craft I am carrying to Hampshire from Devon and admire Claire’s skill – I learn about nonu felting – where felt mysteriously attaches itself seamlessly to a finer fabric to make delicate scarves with decorative felted end pieces. Gary fancies the tea cosy I am carrying for the Patch. I learn that (some?) men like to wear tea cosies if no one is looking – while they are still warm from the teapot!
The Patch is one of the real successes of Poole. Andy et al have been going for a lot longer than the time transition has been around. They were part of DA21 –as far as I am aware the only agenda 21 initiative to be still going. There have been allotments in the Tatnam area of Poole for years. There was a spare bit of land next to them. One of the group asked to have it as an allotment and the council said he couldn’t because they didn’t have the money to clear it. This was all the group needed. They took it on and now, some 11 years later it is a haven. I cannot not believe my senses the next morning when Andy takes me on a visit. It is a veritable oasis.
Tucked in between the allotments, separated by dragons’ teeth (massive serrated stone boulders used in the war to stop tanks driving where they were not wanted) and a sheltered housing project ,in the middle of a built up area, is a triangle of land with a stream running down one side with a wild forest garden type margin and a very productive community garden replete with old greenhouse and a most ingenious watering system worked by natural water levels and needing no energy at all, meaning plants get watered without any human power at all, and utilising all sorts of found scrap; toilet cisterns, old water tanks, old tin baths. Quite apart from its sheer practical value it all sounds such fun – beats a visit to B&Q any day!
The Patch is full of birds singing. It is really hard to believe that a minute away is a road full of cars.
Back to Andy’s to pick up my pack for the walk to Wimborne Minster and I hear the tale of Stanley’s Green. Outside Andy’s house is a small green triangular road island. On it a clump of young trees are growing. Andy took Dan there to plant an oak when he was just a young child. It got pulled up, and several more attempts have always had the same result. Finally the council planted the present clump. The traffic island is probably all that remains of the original village green of Stanley’s town. How sad that we are so far removed from our roots that folk do not know what familiar features represent.
Andy presents me with a hazel sapling to take on up to Wimborne Minster. He finds an ingenious way to attach it to my backpack and my visit to Poole is complete. I leave replenished after my visit to the Patch, full of tales of Gary’s peramculture courses for transitioners, Andy’s amazing plumbing skills, and formidable local knowledge, Claire’s amazing craftswomanship, and admiration for the clear sighted planning and gradual scaling down to settlement size of the BH hub.
I am especially thrilled by a new idea to carry forth to other transitioners. Transition Poole learnt it from Transition Sheffield, who I had been told had disbanded. If anyone out there has more information or suggestions of who to contact up there that would be great.
The idea is a project called Abundance.
It’s simple; identify people with productive fruit and nut trees who don’t know what to do with the excess produce. Collect it, distribute it free of charge to anyone who doesn’t have fruit and nuts!
I love it. Do be aware though, before getting completely enthusiastic, that it takes a bit of human power. Andy summarised several areas that need covering to make this work effectively at the meeting they had to discuss how to implement it. Identify trees, publicity, collecting, packing, distribution to name a few. What a wonderfully simple idea to get started with in just one location though then let it spread and soon everyone will be doing it!
I set off to Wimborne Minster. I am to follow the Castleman Trail. This is the old railway line that will eventually take me on to Ringwood & Hampshire on day 17 as well.
Cross B&Q car park, said Andy. You can’t miss it.
Hmm, I am confronted with a busy main road. I feel panic arising. In the few short days that I have been walking cars have become like the monsters under the bed – just that they are very visible, very real, and very dangerous!
I find my way eventually, and have one of my best days walking yet – the track is flat and tree lined – a tiny ribbon of oasis through surburbia. I really enjoy myself and am disappointed when I have to come off. Even the losing my way was delightful; unlike West Dorset there are no lovingly carved marker stones, only wooden finger posts, new, and obviously thoughtful, but, each and every one only show directions for some of the paths leaving a walker completely perplexed as to which way to go. I encounter a man in a hat on a bicycle – he gives me directions spontaneously. At a further point he pops up again with encouraging words and more directions. I feel like a very fortunate adventurer from a fairy tale, one where there are so many kindly guides that the monsters are soon forgotten.
I arrive at the river Stour and look back. There is a sign welcoming travellers to the borough of Poole. It has taken me 4 and a half hours to traverse – I can’t quite believe a town can be that big, and at the same time am grateful for never once needing to walk along a road. Poole is kind to cyclists and walkers.