As the warm summer breeze sweeps through Embercombe, with it a new group of volunteers come to join the community. The summer’s programme is a short one, just 2 months, and we are already 2 weeks in, but it feels like a lifetime in the most wonderful of ways.
The beginning is always daunting. Even as I start to write this post, I am aware I have no idea what I’m going to say, where the words will take me. A parallel between this and my journey’s beginning at Embercombe…
I had been here once before; a few months ago, to visit my friend Tim who is volunteering on the Education programme. I was touched then by Embercombe’s special energy, its beauty and the importance of its place in such a fragile world. So struck, that as I began the long journey back to Sheffield, I was certain I would be back. The next day, I handed in my notice at work and began the application process to become a volunteer.
And so, the beginning. I arrived here shaky, anxious, excited. This was the beginning of my new life; a first risk in a life mapped out by fear, a separation from a life of rigidity and structure… the first step on my journey towards a deeper understanding of nature, of this earth and of myself.
“No one can go back, but everyone can go forward. And tomorrow, when the sun rises, all you will have to say to yourself is: I am going to think of this day as the first of my life”
~ Paulo Coelho
It was the promise of Embercombe’s mission, the feeling of community, of care for each other, for nature and the environment… and my own fraught path that had brought me here. A place to help, a place to learn, a place to grow, a place to become.
We started our first week with a tour from Jenny, Volunteer Co-ordinator at Embercombe. Her passion and love for Embercombe so evident, as she guided us around the beautiful site. The creations, processes and achievements of the volunteers, past and present were quite overwhelming. Here they have built a community of beautiful people, animals, plants, buildings and structures on this beautiful farm full of delicious food from their own sustainable sources.
Monday afternoon brought our kitchen induction with Robin, Kitchen Manager. I am a notoriously terrible cook, but keen to learn. I am so aware of the importance of the journey from field to plate (and back again), and my short time at Embercombe has really cemented this for me. The resourcefulness of the whole process is so carefully thought out, everyone makes such an effort to ensure everything is used, nothing is wasted.
On Tuesday morning we made bread with Yaara, we prepared gluten free bread and 2 different wholemeal breads. In the afternoon we had nature connection with Jack, who took us up into the woods. He suggested that as we walked up there, we refrained from talking so we could begin to train our ears to listen out for the sounds of the natural world around us. Our time in the woods gave us the opportunity to experience this world deeper; we spent time lying down, training our senses to find an awareness of everything around us.
On Wednesday morning Fred showed us around the 5 acre garden and the orchard with 100 different varieties of fruit trees. Johnny, who works alongside Fred, carefully and expertly talked us through the composting process. In the afternoon Rob showed us around the site – the expansive workshop, the wood yard and then we had chance to get involved and lay a path outside The Bothey- still a work in progress, constructed by dedicated volunteers, using local timber and cob.
On Thursday we had an introduction to the practical psychology programme with Chris. Alongside the practical skills we hope to develop whilst volunteering here, Embercombe aims to help us to develop emotional resilience based on self-awareness, learning how to live with each other and respecting our different ways of connecting and relating to the world around us. This is an important step in Embercombe’s mission to inspire change; giving each of us the confidence and courage to speak our truth and truly take action.
On Friday Jo Clarke talked us through the education programme, central to Embercombe’s mission:
“to inspire a new generation of leaders and change makers to take courageous action for a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”
The concept holds children at the heart of Embercombe’s actions, with the intention that our work should protect the children of the next seven generations. This ethos is also consistent across all of our actions at Embercombe, especially throughout the education programme. It seeks to encourage and inspire children to connect to nature, to who they are and what they love.
The next week would begin with my first experience of eco-building. I have never looked forward to a Monday morning so much in my life. It’s amazing that as soon you break down the routine and structure of your week and fill your days with community, care and love the promise of each day becomes infinite… it fills you with anticipation and excitement. The simplest activity can fill you with unexpected joy; a kind glance or a hug can bring the deepest of connections and wash away your anxieties, a chance meeting with a kind soul can enrich your day in the most beautiful of ways.
Here I am, in Mac’s garden to grow people, and I am ready to grow.