Tales of a city that is not too big and not too small IV
By Steph Bradley 18th September 2012
The People by the Ford
For many a moon had WynnAlice had heard tell of the People by the Ford, who grew organic food for the city that was not too big and not too small, and yet never had she visited, until He of Kindness and Compassion did invite her to share of her skill of storytelling.
With great excitement then did she go, accompanied by the Well Spoken Harmony Gardener, to see for herself the People by the Ford.
In a circle of trees, quite the most idyllic school you can imagine had been created. In a circle of trees at the edge of the farm, did He of Kindness and Compassion and Tom the Enthusiastic spend their time working with children to show them how it was that fun was to be had doing all the things children of old knew from experience; build a den, light a fire, make things from wood, and forage for food.
To a circle of trees strode the merry bunch; WynnAlice, the Well Spoken Harmony Gardener, He of Kindness and Compassion, and Tom the Enthusiastic, passing first one brightly coloured shelter then another where they did gather around a fire pit of special design; to one end was a place for fire and to the other a place to scoop the fire leaving cinders and hot coals on which to cook, and all around the pink earth dug pit were stones to keep heat in, or to sit upon on cold chilly days.
Around the fire pit were seats dug out of the pink earth, and on the fire a kettle it did boil, and nettles were picked for WynnAlice’s tea. A storyteller’s chair, fashioned from wood by Tom the Enthusiastic was brought, and upon this fine structure did she sit and the tales they did begin.
Of stories for children did they hear and share and the best of all was the tale of the school in a forest where once a storyteller had come and heard how it was that came two young men with fire in their hearts to create for the children a better way to learn. Told they their dream to all who would listen until The Humble Farmer did hear, and gave to them a circle of trees to be theirs for as long as a school in a forest was needed.
And in the natural way of things each stage of the journey was paved with gold; one thing led to another as good things are wont to be, and people came and brought their children to the school in the forest and little did the young teachers charge, for theirs was to be a school for all kinds of folk and it really didn’t matter whether they be rich or poor but a wanting to learn in the great outdoors was all that was required.
And dedicated to a mix of children, diversity did they create and in the doing brought to the world not just outdoor education but loving kindness too, as child after child learnt s/he was loved for who s/he was and not for what she had or whence s/he had come.
Magical it was, and the Well Spoken Harmony Gardener did swear he saw figures in the trees, and pretty soon they were visible to all and the woods did they come to life with magic and story and the merry bunch did know this place was the beginnings of something good, and happy they were.
Of stories we will tell, dens we will build, living tales will we create, and fires shall be lit and camps shall be had, and in the circle of trees that is a school in a wood children shall go on a Quest and explore the kinds of challenges only politicians do face, and through play and imagination will they discover that it is only in this way that challenges get solved, with the help of a little dreaming, a whole load of diversity, and a belief that everything is possible. And fun will be had and the adventurers will see that each and every challenge is solved with just taking that first step into the realm of our dream; the rest follows naturally as ever it has, and if floods do come why we will work together and community form, and grow rice on our hillsides not lament the passing of former times.
And the storyteller saw that these young teachers needed not her skills, for in abundance already they had them, and in delight heard she of the tales they had made, and encouraged the use of a dressing up box, forgetting their words, and making it all up as they went along. With a twinkle in her eye she could see these young teachers would go far, and her heart was glad.
And took she and her companion on a tour of the Place of the People of the Ford did Tom the Enthusiastic, and met they with The Humble Farmer and saw they the fields and polytunnels full of fresh growing food full of juicy cherry tomatoes and wwwoofers a–smiling wherever you looked. And from Tilly the dog who loved cuddles more than patroling her territory to the happy faces of wwwoofers leaving their working day with carrier bags full of produce to eat that day the place of the people of the ford was clearly the place to be.
Of insulated pods, and hotels for bugs, of companion planting and exotic fruit trees, the tale of the Place of the People of the Ford is one that will be remembered all down the years; the place where the fruit and veg of the city that is not too big and not too small, with a cathedral in the centre and a green all around, is grown, the place where the children of the future shall learn, the place where the city dwellers shall find that community is found, aye and fun and food too, a place stuff of dreams; dreams come true, in a time of Transition in the warm southern reaches of an ancient land.
My thanks go to Chris White and his Forest School partner Tom Lowday, and to Shillingford Organics, and Martyn Bragg, its humble farmer, for inspiring this take and providing an experience not to be forgotten.