WWOOFbury — 2005 a participant's perspective

WWOOFbury 2005 was a collaborative venture with the Pennine Camphill Community, well organised by Catherine Heinemeyer (the N.E. Regional Organiser) and Samantha Stubbings (a Co-worker at Camphill), and attended by some 30 WWOOFers. Sam and Cath had arranged a week-long programme but offered people the option of attending for just part of the week, which could have been a catering nightmare if it hadn't been for copious quantities of runner beans and some creative cooks! However, WWOOFers who could not stay for the duration were regretful at having to miss parts of the action-packed and stimulating programme, which proved to be a process reflecting the principal aims of the Camphill communities ‘to meet everyone for who they are’ and enable each individual to achieve their potential. Over the course of the week, people’s different skills and qualities revealed themselves, and we forged friendships and wove our dreams (literally — see below)!

The WWOOFing agenda was to clean the vegetable gardens which had become overgrown whilst the students were on holiday over the summer. In the mornings, we liberated leeks from bindweed captivity, waded amongst a sea of squashes, and uprooted Fat Hen which we subsequently ate for dinner. We competed with the plants for water as we wilted in the sunshine. We made newspaper plant pots (which are easy for students to transplant) as a preliminary to making clay (or even felt) vessels at our craft workshops in the afternoons.

The forging workshop was particularly challenging due to the sultry heat, compounding the temperatures in the forge. We struggled to maintain a Zen focus on the task, whilst wielding large hammers and operating an enormous pair of bellows. Some people managed to create coat hooks from horseshoes; others (myself included) took pride simply in avoiding heat exhaustion or injury.

At other, cooler and less challenging workshops, people sieved sawdust for traditional firing of clay pots, and tried green woodworking. Felt-making seemed to be a simpler, more intuitive process, which allowed real scope for creativity, and enabled people to produce attractive objects (one of which won the ‘creative response’ competition judged by the visiting hosts on the final day).

Evening activities included presentations by Mark Fisher, who was a passionate, if controversial speaker on permaculture, and a reflective talk on biodynamics from a member of the Botton Village community, who introduced the subject with elegant simplicity and compassion. Catherine led a singing workshop (while stoically battling a sore throat), and we really enjoyed the Pennine trampoline, which proved to be a great way to wind down, and up, and down....

One of the aims of the week was to promote local WWOOFing and introduce hosts in the northern regions to WWOOFers, so the programme included a visit to The Nursery in York. The ground plan of the site revealed the very unusual layout of this remarkable conglomeration of gardens, crammed with different varieties of fruit and vegetables. Jane and Tony are very organised and skilled, and their passion for growing was obvious and infectious. They explained that the small scale of their enterprise means that they can offer WWOOFers a variety of tasks and the opportunity to experience urban self-sufficiency in the historic city of York. We concluded the day by releasing recently planted native trees from their sheaths, and returned home to find Bob (the blacksmith) in his natural element, playing with fire again, this time baking pizzas for our supper in a clay oven.

To the same end of strengthening the northern WWOOF network, the week concluded with a meeting and ceilidh to which we had invited the region's hosts. Each introduced their projects and outlined their needs. We became aware of the high level of activity and the scope of work available within the region, so why travel further? Many of us opened our diaries and organised future WWOOFs there and then.

Many thanks to Catherine, Sam, Steve and all the members of the Pennine Camphill Community, who provided us with excellent food and accommodation, and helped to make us feel welcomed and valued. Our only regret was that we didn’t manage to pick all the currants!

By Trudi Warner,
with help from other WWOOFbury

Reproduced from WWOOF News (Issue 203)