This week we have been here for three years. It might have been a lifetime. Or yesterday, I can’t tell which. Looking around it is sometimes hard to remember all the things that have happened here already. How many people have come and shared their lives with us, and helped to make this place as amazing as it is. Although the results are very tangible, everywhere I look I have fond reminders of all the folk who left their mark on the place. Sinead and Jon, and the others who helped to get the cottage into a habitable state. Bettina, who hitchhiked all the way from Austria (twice), to build paths, dig beds and a pond!, and allow us to walk around without losing our wellies.
Jean-Paul Baptiste who survived the snow to plant native trees, Eugene digging beds, Dougie and me putting up the compost loo. Whenever I sit in the tipi I think of Armando and Clare preparing the poles; walking past the woven fence reminds me of Canadians. Our kitchen is hung with notes and little things from volunteers, and I have many happy memories of the laughter and amazing meals that we’ve had there.
When you are in the middle of it all, it is so easy to see only what remains not done, and so we rely on incomers to remind us what has been done. Food is being grown in beds, on trees and in polytunnels, a thousand trees got planted; we have our own solar power station; a woodstore; fences; paths; an amazing classroom space; a second cottage; a woodland space for teaching. The list is much longer, and all these things are incredible, but what makes them more incredible is that they were made possible by the help of other people who came, gave their time, and shared their lives with us for a while.
The physical buildings and infrastructure are just a vehicle to allow people to come and learn, to exchange ideas and stories, and to build connections. Hopefully when they leave here they take some of that knowledge and connection with them, and spread it out into the world. When that happens we know we are succeeding, and that all the time, effort and (occasional) heartache is worth it. Sometimes it is nice just to pause and reflect, look back and enjoy the memories before taking a deep breath and ploughing on.
If you are reading this and you haven’t been in touch, give us a shout and tell us about your story. Better still, come by and tell us your story, we’d really love to hear it.