“The personal is political,” wrote Carol Hanisch back in 1970. Well, Foldehampton’s story is certainly both.. This post is about the personal: why we, or actually, why I, Susan, want to spend the rest of my life creating and living and working in Foldehampton.
It all began with a personal epiphany.
James and I were standing on a hillside outside Barcelona, having spent several days at the Green FabLab at Valldaura, walking around the 320 acres of wooded hillsides and valleys, spinning fantasies about what we could do there. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the place, and living in that atmosphere of practical idealism – reading the permaculture books stacked on the shelves, hearing the ambitious plans for developing the place as an education centre and example of best practice in sustainability, pitching in to clear the struggling food forest of the weeds that were swamping it – all reconnected me with enthusiasms that had inspired me earlier in my life.
I have always loved animals, and as a child, I had wanted to be a zookeeper. However, my academic strengths were not in the sciences, and I let that path slip aside. I was lucky to be in my late teens and early twenties when the world was in the throes of change. In America, the Peace Corps, the Civil Rights movement, feminism, and VietNam war protests were beginning to make an impact. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had brought the conflict between industrial and agricultural chemicals and the natural world to everyone’s attention, igniting the environmental movement, and the Whole Earth Catalogue and The Mother Earth News began publishing. Despite living nowhere near the countryside, I devoured every issue I could get my hands on, along with Rodale’s Organic Gardening. I felt inspired and full of enthusiasm, but had no idea how to become a part of it.
So, my academic achievements and unconsidered social and financial ambitions led me down a fairly typical path of office work, marriage, and children, setting those idealistic hopes and dreams aside to be quite forgotten for all-too-many decades. When in the 1990’s, health issues led me to a career change, I chose psychotherapy, another long-term interest, but again one that involved sitting in a room, listening, thinking and talking, rather than actively connecting with the natural world. In September 2013, on that hillside outside Barcelona, it all came flooding back. At the age of 64, after careers in commercial property and psychotherapy, I finally knew what I really wanted to do with my life. The exhilaration of being in that lovely place, and the effort and satisfaction of clearing the food forest, filled me with the whole-hearted excitement of making things better, physically engaged with the natural world.
It would be some months before the inspiration, hope, and energy that exploded on that day took the form of Foldehampton village, but that is how it all began. And best of all, by the same good fortune that drew us together, James had his own epiphany at the same time.