I have a very lazy day; I feel quite spoiled, a holiday in the midst of the walk. Cambridge is a beautiful place to be staying, and my diary is pleasantly filled with small engagements.
I meet Rowan, transition storyteller, for lunch at Ford St George, an old pub on the river, named for its apparent similar appearance to the fort of the same name in India. We talk about community living, she has lived in various kinds over the years, about Totnes, where she lived a short while, about long walks, her brother once walked the watershed from John O’Groats to Lands End.
Then we go down the river a little way and meet Rosemary, who is selling her barge to go off travelling around the world, crewing on sailing boats. I talk about my adventure sailing from Gibraltar to Recife on the NE coast of Brazil, as ship’s cook way back in 1992; a period that still stays with me as a peak experience in my life.
Rowan and I learn of life on board a barge, and get to explore the beautiful interior; Rosemary is particularly proud of the benches she has just made in the outdoor seating area, her first experience with a jigsaw. I am very impressed with her handiwork. Rosemary has lived on her boat for more than 3 years on the waterways of the Cam and the Ouse. She talks about the real sense of community that the boat people share.
We talk about whether it is possible to walk along the tow path to Huntingdon; it can be done but it is a long way round, 3 days walk. I have spent my morning trying to discover if it is possible to walk to Huntingdon along the guided bus way – a hugely over budget scheme to find a way of utilising the disused rail road that runs between the two towns, and reducing traffic on the enormously busy A 14.
Work has stopped as it has cost some 50 million more than it was estimated already. According to the council department I speak to however, the site is still the responsibility of the contractors, and as such they cannot give permission to cyclists or walkers to use the way, even though it is practically finished and work has stopped.
The people I speak to are sympathetic and clearly would like to give me permission, telling me lots of people are using it already, but that technically speaking the contractors could prosecute for trespass.
I am left none too sure how I feel about walking this way; part of me likes the idea of walking an old railroad with a brand new use, in fact, I have walked some already – but ones that have been designated walk ways, but part of me thinks to walk along a contractor’s site turning a railroad into a guided bus way might not be as pleasing as a walk that might take me at least in part along rivers.
I retire to Patisserie Valerie for cake and to ponder.
Later I rejoin more transitioners in the Cherry Hinton church hall as we sit and watch “The Turning Point” a lovely film that I highly recommend of how eco village Findhorn is in the process of making the transition to a lower carbon lifestyle. Scenes of what Findhorners are doing are interspersed with clips from Joanna Macy, Rob Hopkins, Richard Heinberg and other inspirational speakers.
After wards there is a question and answer session as three of the hub group of Transition Cambridge have been to Findhorn. The group, who had got together earlier for a shared meal in the church hall at Cherry Hinton where we are gathered, have plenty of comments and questions.
The film has been full of all the ways Findhorners have found to feed themselves; they keep a small herd of cattle indigenous to their region and make their own cheese. They keep 100 free range chickens and say that although it is more work to collect the eggs this way feels better, they bake their own bread every day and it is delivered daily to the shops and cafes and they grow lots of their own veg and five types of fruit; saying that to keep a lawn is an awful waste of space.
There is a lively discussion about how larger places can feed themselves and the suggestion that permaculture is the best way we know.
Findhorn has a car pool too, saying that they know this is not enough to reduce their carbon footprint but that it is a step in the right direction. In Cambridge where it feels that just about everyone has a bicycle and a street car (car sharing) scheme has just been launched there is a positive approach to this.
At the end of the film we talk to our neighbour in true transition style and I meet a lovely older lady from the Trumpington church community. She has just started coming to transition film nights and we talk about how churches have been good at holding communities together for a very long time.
The vicar of the church is lively and enthusiastic and encourages everyone to think of ways for how the church hall we are sitting in could be used for more community events. He has enjoyed the film and would like the church to play a more active part in making things happen. Ivan, transition hub member, comes up with the idea of a veg box scheme that could be distributed from this hall. It is lovely to hear the same ideas appearing in community after community; I haven’t even told them about Kingston’s veg box distribution scheme yet.
At the end there is plenty of mingling, and meeting old friends, making new, and networking and Anna’s subscribe to the weekly transition bulletin list soon gets new names.