We are about to set off on a 10-day trip, to see what other people are doing. In case you’re interested, here’s where we are going.
Ford Hall Farm
Near Market Drayton in Shropshire, Ford Hall Farm was one of the first organic farms in the UK: it has been organic for 65 years. It is also a community-owned farm — when the landowner tried to kick them off the land, they set up a huge project to raise the money to buy the land.
Although Ford Hall doesn’t talk much about permaculture, Arthur Hollins was probably “doing permaculture” before the term was invented. We’re especially impressed by their “foggage farming” (leaving the animals on pasture all year round).
There’s a really interesting account of Ford Hall Farm on Rebecca Hosking’s BBC documentary, A Farm for the Future.
Incredible Edibles and Incredible Farm
Next we’re off to Todmorden to look at a community project to grow good local food. To quote from their website,
We are passionate people working together for a world where all share responsibility for the future wellbeing of our planet and ourselves.
We aim to provide access to good local food for all, through:
• working together
• learning – from field to classroom to kitchen
• supporting local business
Membership: If you eat you’re in.
It will be getting late on Sunday afternoon when we get to the Lancaster Co-Housing Project at Forgebank, so there’s every possibility that we may not actually get to meet anyone! But it’s a brilliant project: a group of friends have got together and built 40+ houses to Passiv Haus standard, at a price that is comparable to standard houses in the area.
They also benefit from having a lot communally-held resources, but they have individual homes. There’s an excellent short video about the Lancaster Co-Housing Project, here.
The Witherslack Community
The people of Witherslack, in Cumbria, have taken over the Witherslack village shop, to stop it closing. They had to fight for funding, and made use of a Community Land Trust.
They seem to have quite a lot of “vertical integration” going on in a small village, involving some self-build eco homes, the village pub (The Derby Arms), the local school (Oversands School, previously Withersands Hall School), and, of course, the Village Shop.
The more I read about Witherslack, the more impressed I get with what they have done, and the more confused I get about how they have done it (and we really want to understand that!) So we are looking forward to talking to some of the movers and shakers in Witherslack. The summary (from the Community Land Trust website) says:
Witherslack CLT operates in the Parish of Witherslack, Meathop and Ulpha, consisting of about 350 households in the southern end of the Lake District National Park. It is has developed and now manages two three-bed self-build homes. It also bought the freehold of the village pub, which it holds in perpetuity. The pub also houses the community shop.
Layapoint Permaculture is in Ulpha, Cumbria, and Witherslack is part of a community called Witherslack, Meathorpe and Ulpha. It took me quite a while to realise that there is more than one Ulpha!
Laya Point Permaculture is dedicated to learning, playing and experimenting with sustainability both in the home and in community and business enterprises.
Nicole Hermes and Tom Dennison are the first genuine “permies” that we are meeting on our trip, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they are doing, and hearing about their training. What they are doing looks exciting (and their website is really beautiful!)
The Screes Inn, Nether Wasdale
There’s nothing “permie”, or co-operative about the Screes Inn … it’s just our Cumbria base for three nights (we got a good deal on GroupOn!) And our time aways isn’t all visiting farms and CLTs and co-housing … it’s time to start my walking rehabilitation after my feet problems and surgery!
Fab Lab Cockermouth
A community workshop and Fab Lab will be at the heart of Foldehampton … apart from anything else, it’s where we will be cutting the panels to build our Wikihouse buildings.
It’s always good to see what other Fab Labs are doing, so we will be visiting Cumbria’s Fab Lab in Cockermouth to see what we can learn from them.
Old Hall Forest Garden, Cockermouth
It’s only an acre site, and fairly young. As far as we can tell, it’s the long thin triangle of woodland just south of the school, that you can see on this map. Apart from that, we don’t know much at present, but probably will after we’ve visited Danaway. We found it when researching Forest Gardens and Dr Naomi van der Velden (of whom more later). They have a map of Cumbria Forest Gardens.
One of the local people involved in Old Hall Forest Garden, and in the Riversmeet Community Project in Cockermouth, is Richard Cross, who runs Danaway, “A Northern Permaculture Homestead”, just south of Cockermouth. Richard ticks so many of the boxes for criteria for people we would like to meet and talk to, that I can hardly wait to get to Eaglesfield!
Dr Naomi van der Velden, University of Cumbria
Dr van der Velden is an expert on forestry, permaculture, and, especially, on Forest Gardens. We are hoping to visit her as we leave Cumbria, but the meeting isn’t confirmed yet. Watch this space.
Another as-yet-unconfirmed visit, Lakeland Permaculture also teach permaculture courses, in Lakeland. We are looking forward to hearing what they do (if we can confirm the meeting!)
Offshoots Permaculture, Burnley
The Offshoots project is, I think, extremely exciting. Another community-based project, using permaculture principles to teach and encourage local people to grow their own food. I find this video inspiring:
Earth Heart Housing Co-operative
Earth Heart sound like a really interesting project. But I can’t find any website of their own. They have self-built their houses, so Self-Build Central has an article about them. They are an intentional community, so Diggers and Dreamers also have an article about them. They design their landscape using permaculture principles, so the Permaculture Association has written them up, and they are a co-housing co-operative, so the UK CoHousing network has an article, too!
I am really hoping that we can meet them, and hear what they have to say about themselves!!!
And the last place we have to visit on this trip is Haye Farm, in Worcestershire.
A traditional family farm, Haye Farm is now highly diversified:
Located in the tranquil rolling Worcestershire countryside Haye Farm with its grade II listed farmhouse feels a million miles away from the bustle of everyday life. A place to unwind and escape the modern hectic lifestyle. The farm remains a traditional working family farm; its diversified activities have been key to its survival. Two fishing pools and a caravan site have been operated for over twenty years; to compliment this a barn has been converted to provide holiday accommodation.
… and they use permaculture principles on their farm, where they raise Dexter cattle (Susan’s dream!) and Wiltshire Horn Sheep. We believe that a high-level of diversification will be key to Foldehampton’s economic success, so we’re keen to see what they are doing at Hay Farm.