Friday, 13 April 2012

The Final Chapter

Falmouth and The Lizard.
It was Saturday afternoon when I arrived into Falmouth. I was sure what to expect. The plan was to try and get to the southernmost point of mainland  Britain, a placed called Lizard point. The peninsula's geology is the best preserved example of an exposed ophiolite in the United Kingdom. An ophiolite is a suite of geological formations which represent a slice through a section of ocean crust (including the upper level of the mantle) thrust onto the continental crust. It is said that this peninsula broke off the Land mass now Africa and was pushed up towards the British Isles. I had heard alot of good things about the Lizard form folks all along my trip. And I was now so close that I thought 'Why not? Could be interesting.' I walked around Falmouth looking for a place to set up camp. The town centre is situated on the coast where huge and commercial ships dock. The town was fairly crowed. I was continuously swinging and swerving to avoid knocking people over with my large rucksack. I decided to ask for help at one of the many B&B's on the hill near the town centre. The manageress was very pleasant and helpful. She offered me a map of the town, and pointed me in the direction of a caravan park. It was a nice walk to the park. I took the South West (S.W.) coast path towards Swanpool Bay. I met a man collecting seaweed on the beach and offered to help. I managed to get a lift with him to the caravan pack, which was over a very long and steep hill. To get to the site I had to climb over barbed wire fences, trek trough brassica fields and across a small fast flowing stream. This wasn't the marked out route but it was the quickest.
I arrived at the site from the back and had to climb over an old stone wall to gain access to the site. There were caravans parked up in rows, not being used. Further on there were more caravans and further on still small cabin-like structures with the symbols indicating male and female toilets, showers and drinking water. As I wondered through the site I came across the lady who runs the place. I explained my situation and was allowed to pitch my tent for a few nights, free of charge. I spent most of Sunday roaming around Falmouth. It's a nice little town with a fairly large student population. I visited the docks, enjoyed the beaches and hung out in the woods overlooking Swanpool nature reserve. There wasn't much going on in town so I began to look into the best way of getting down to Lizard point.
Sunrise on Monday morning I woke up, cooked breakfast, packed my day-pack then headed into town to catch the bus to the Lizard. It took about an hour to get to the Lizard via bus. I had decided that I was going to walk along the coastline for as far as I could until it began to getting dark. Dead end. The bus stopped, emptied, turned around, then headed back up the road it came. This was truly the end of the line. The most southern point of mainland Britain. I began walking down a narrow muddy track then soon came upon an open field grazed by Shetland Ponies. Behind them was a breathtaking sight.
I walked along the cliffs heading north. All along my journey I was presented with beautiful views of cliff forms, gorgeous beaches, and amazing land forms. I stumbled on a group of ponies grazing on the steep side of the cliffs. At first they all kept their distance. Then one of the females began walking towards me. She came right up to me, bowed, then began rubbing her snout up against me. 'Strange.' I thought. These ponies are tiny. She was one of the biggest in the group but she was barely over 5ft. She followed me for about 300 metres before she got bored with me. I walked for hours until I got to Mullion Cove then began to head back inland. I got as far as Poldhu where I caught the bus back to Falmouth. The next day I woke up very early. Packed up then headed into town. I began feeling a bit unwell so decided to take the train to Penzance which was the last stop on the mainline railway system. I was now very close to the end of my journey. 

Plan-it Earth
I had made arrangements to volunteer at Plan-it Earth eco project in Sancreed which was a few miles from Penzance. I took the bus to Sancreed and arrived at Plan-it earth and met David and Paddy. The three and half ache site was set up by David and his wife Rachel to be an inspiration and educational tool for sustainable living. At first I was a bit taken aback by the site. I was expecting a community of individuals all living together. Instead it was the home of David and Rachel, their two young children. The aim of the project is to provide the opportunity for any and everyone to learn and/or experience low impact living. The project is open to the public and people can book eco holidays, of rent out the space for events, etc. Paddy is a volunteer at the project and was down to help with the new straw bale building that was going to be erected. We made our introductions, had a cup of tea then had the tour of the site. I liked the site and enjoyed seeing all the interesting eco elements built into it. The bog composting toilets were among my favourite. Basically an above ground shit pit with a shed on top surrounded by trees. No need for clearing out the contents as the trees eat it up faster than you can fill it. I met Rachel later that evening and we hit it off really well. I pitched my tent in the in the young coppice woodland near the wetland sewage treatment system. Didn't smell at all. On Thursday I went walking down to the Drift reservoir. It was beautiful. I found a really nice trail which lead to the wild side of the reservoir, sat up a tree hanging over the water with a clear view of the little stream emptying into the large enclosed mass of water. Than evening at Plan-it earth two new volunteers arrived and would be staying for a while. We got on well, Nie, Sandy and I. The next day we all began working on the platform which was to hold the straw bale building. Later that afternoon, together we built a raised bed out of old tree branches and it looked great. That night was very wet and windy. On Sunday I went for a long walk and got within 3 miles of Lands' End. I hadn't realized how close I was to completing my journey. I reached a a place called Chapel Carn Brea which is an elevated granite outcrop standing approx. 200 metres above sea level. From here I could see all the way back towards the Lizard, from where I came, and right out to Lands' End, where I was heading. Mondays were communal dinners. For the first one I made a Caribbean influenced meal of jollof rice and a spicy beef stew. It was very well received. The next day David took us to a place called Millennium Woods. This is community planted woodland near Hayle in Cornwall. The mission was to collect some hazel poles to be used in the straw bale house construction. it was a nice experience and I learnt a lot. Back at the Plan-it Earth site we continued work on the straw bale round house. Later that evening another volunteer joined us. Chris, a friend of Sandy and Nie, an interesting feller who seemed to be working out some issues. We got off to a rocky start but as time went on we got on great. During my time at Plant-it Earth Rachel took us to visit a friend of hers in Hayle. This guy built a food forest garden on a sand dune. One of the most inhospitable places to grow food, but somehow he managed to pull it off and the site is thriving. I enjoyed looking around the site and thought it was raining for most of the day it was both very interesting and inspiring. The rain continued well into the late evening and back at Plan-it Earth we were greeted by the arrival of yet another volunteer. It was a full house now. I, Nie, Sandy, Jenny and Gabe were the volunteers staying on site. We had loads of fun.

Lands' End
On Friday 24th February I set off from Plan-it Earth and began walking towards Lands' End. I walked along the public footpath, which passed through lots of open farm land and rouged hills. It was wet and misty when I began my journey. As the day went on the mist got thicker and within an hour of walking I could no longer see more than 15metres in front of me. I began to panic a bit. The route I had chosen had no distinctive tracks and they was no sign of civilisation. I could no longer see where I was going nor where I had come from. My map reading and navigational skills were now being put to the ultimate test. I managed to work out where I was on the map and took a heading with my compass and began following it. The mist was so thick at this point that I could taste it. I walked for what felt like ages. Climbing over stone walls and thorny hedges in an attempt to keep my heading. It was difficult to tell the time as the sun was complete consumed by the dense mist. The terrain was swamp-like. At one stage I was ankle deep in pig manure, which some farmers would spread on their land to increase fertility. It was not a pleasant experience but one I had to endure If I was to get to my final destination. I could hear the crashing of waves in the distance. I was getting close. The plan was to get to the coastline just north of Lands' End then follow it all the way round. I got to the long staircase which leads down to Gwenver beach. I could hear the sea but couldn't see it. Even when I got to the bottom of the stairs and sat on the lovely fine white sand beach I could only just make out the ocean. The rain had held up but the mist was just as thick as ever. As I sat on the beach admiring the sounds of the wind on the ocean and the tumbling of the waves on the shore, a bird of prey suddenly appeared out of nowhere, grabbed a hold of a smaller wood pigeon. An explosion of feathers occurred on impact and in seconds it was over. I had never before seen such a thing in real life. The bird settled down on an rock pile, no more than 10metres in front of me, and began tearing the flesh from its' prey. I think the mist had helped to conceal my presence and allowed me to witness this amazing event. Having had its' fill the bird elegantly glided off the edge of the cliffs disappeared into the mist. I continued my walk along the cliffs   heading south pass Sennen cove and arrived at the Mayon cliff. Here I noticed a small castle looking hut on the top of the rocks and so began climbing. The view at the top was somewhat dampened by the cover of mist, but what the mist could not hide was the sounds around the cliffs. I was surprised to hear, what I could only describe as whistling. I scouted the entire area for the source of the sounds and was amazed at what I discovered. The cliffs were singing in the wind. I continued walking and soon got to the legendary Lands' End. The mist had begun lifting and I could, for the first time, now see the out to sea. There were small rocks rising out of the sea and sitting on one of them was a lighthouse. The waves crashed onto these land masses and created a waterfall effect as the white foamy salt water tricked down the sides. I spent a bit of time wondering around the amusement park and hotel and wasn't too impressed so continues walking south along the cliffs. There were some very interesting rocks shaped by the continuous bashing of waves against their bodies. Some had arches carved through them. Others were shaped like mushrooms. It was a beautiful place. Very wild and rouged, cold and windy. Darkness began to fall. I began to look for a place to spend the night. Earlier during my walk I came across a cave on the side of the hills overlooking the cliffs. I started heading back and soon found it again. After a quick inspection I cleared a spot and lay down to sleep. It was cold, wet, dark and very uncomfortable. During the night I was woken up several times by the thunderous sound of wave thumping against the cliffs. The entire hill side shock. I was scared. I climbed out of the cave at around 3am. The moon lit up the sky. It was magic. I climbed half way down the cliff face and sat on a rock extended out over the sea. The splashes of the monstrous waves were inches away from me and I could taste the salty air. Sitting there suspended over the mighty ocean, time stood still. I felt alive, I felt a sense of accomplishment ... I felt free. The sun came up and sent a beam of light into the cave. It was time to start thinking about heading back to London. 

The Journey Home
I began walking east inland and soon came to a main road. I managed to hitch a ride into Penzance where I, coincidently, met up with David and his kids at a environmental event at the town hall. I went back to Plan-it Earth and decided to stay a few more days. All the other volunteers were still there. We played cricket, went skipping (dumpster diving), completed the floor of the straw bale house, did a fair bit of gardening, had a lovely fish BBQ, and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises ever. On my last day at Plan-it Earth I helped make a live willow structure then we all had a nice communal dinner. We said our goodbyes and I headed into Penzance. It wasn't long before I got a lift from an interesting feller who was leaving for South Africa the next day. We had an interesting conversation and he gave me some very good advice on where were the best places to hitch-hike in Cornwall. He took me to a place called Chiverton Cross, a roundabout on the A30 heading out of Cornwall. I waited here for about half an hour then a black van with blacked out windows pulled into the lay-by. I was a bit suspicious at first. I walked over to the van. The window came down. In it was a skinny looking guy wearing the darkest sunglasses ever. 
'I am heading to London.' I said.
'I am, heading to London.' He replied with a smile on his face. 
'Great. I'll just grab my stuff.' 
I got my bags, loaded up the van and we were on our way. The drive took 5 hours, and all along the way we chatted about his work, we shared travel stories and I told him about my trip. Here I began to think back to some of the adventures I had during my trip: Sleeping in the woods in Southampton, squatting in Bournemouth, surviving the storms of Allaleigh, ballooning through a rain forest in St. Austell, and sleeping in a cave in Lands’ End. I had experience so much during my trip. I learnt loads and met a lot of interesting people along the way. I look forward to the next epic adventure. As we drove into London we both noticed a huge dark grey cloud hovering over the city. It was difficult to tell if it was rain clouds or smog. We both began expressing how much we would rather be in the lovely unspoilt countryside of Cornwall. He dropped me off at Kings Cross in central London. It was rush hour when we arrived and there were people everywhere. I climbed out of the van and was engulfed by the swam. I felt my hearth race faster and faster. I felt lost, disorientated and even a bit sad. It had only been a few minutes but I was already craving the peace and tranquillity of the countryside. I dropped my bags, sat down on the pavement, closed my eyes, took a deep breath then exhaled.
It’s done. My trip was now complete. London to Lands’ End and back again. It was fun, exciting, scary, and interesting all in one. Sitting there on the pavement outside Kings Cross station I thought back to all the people and places I had visited. It brought me real joy and a feeling of accomplishment. My hearth steadied, I opened my eyes, rose to my feet and began to make my way home.    

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Liskeard to St. Austell

Keveral Farm
I arrived in Liskeard around midday then got on a bus to Seaton. Seaton is a small beach on the south east coast of Cornwall. I was now in a completely different part of England. Devon seemed more chilled out and accepting than this part of Cornwall, but I wasn't ready to make any judgements quite yet. My aim was to get to a place called Keveral Farm. I had heard about Keveral from various individuals who had done Permaculture courses there and they all had good things to say about the site. The person I was in contact with was called Oak, a great guy. I got off the bus at Seaton beach and decided to take a little rest on the side of the road boarding the beach. I was tired. My bags were once again beginning to put an enormous strain on my shoulders. I sat on the beach for about half an hour admiring the little stream rushing down the hill and crashing onto the large boulders before finally dispersing into the calm sea. The longer I sat there the more beautiful the scene became. Rejuvenated I phoned Oak to ask for directions to the farm and soon after began making my way up the track which lead to the site. The track was a seep uphill one running from Seaton beach through a small woodland which was the boundary of Keveral. It was a huge effort. I was greeted by a small apple orchard then two huge polytunnels. The biggest polytunnels I had ever seen. They could easily house six of my tunnels. I had a small wonder around and shortly afterwards bumped into Oak. We exchanged greetings and then I was shown where I would be staying. A caravan measuring approx 2m by 4m. It was small, had electricity, a gas stove, cosy mattress and warm blankets. My first thought was 'luxury.' The next morning I woke up feeling really rough. I absolutly hated sleeping in the caravan. It felt like I was locked in a metal box and burried underground. I felt no connection with nature and the air was damp and still. I decided that I would pitch my tent and sleep outside for the remainder of my time at Keveral. On my way to the compost toilets I met two ladies who lived onsite. Jenny, a Canadian national who has been living at the farm for 16 years and Lambrini from Greece, who has been there for almost just as long. They both seemed very lovely and we had a nice chat before I met up with Oak. We drove into a place called Looe, had breakfast the headed off to another ecological project called Plants for a Future. The site was an amazing one. 22 years ago it was an empty field, now it was a haven of diversity. I had a good wonder around the site and enjoyed working there. At the end of the day I managed to pick a few kiwi fruits from one of the vines growing on site and was surprised as to how sweet they were. 
The first few nights were wet but still quite mild. Sleeping in the tent was so much better than that night in the caravan. I met Sean who is a salad grower and sells his micro greens all over the country. He also specialises in edible flowers and other salad crops. I did a bit of polytunnel clearing with him then had a very extensive tour of the whole site thanks to Jenny. The first few days at Keveral I did a fair bit of work with both Oak and Sean. I learnt loads from them both and was really looking forward to meeting the other community members. As the weekend approached I began to look for exciting things to do and heard about the South West coast path. On the map it showed a path running from Seaton beach to Looe and beyond. On Saturday I woke up early and headed off on this 12mile walk. It rained during the morning but quickly cleared up and the sun shone for the rest of the afternoon. The South West coast path started from the Seaton, carried on up Looe hill then broke off towards the cliffs of south east Cornwall. It was a beautiful walk through woodlands, and along jagged cliff faces. I walked pass the Labyrinth which is a sacred symbol carved into the land. It is used to help individuals in decision-making and problem solving. I also walked pass a monkey sanctuary which was closed for the winter months. I walked for about three hours before I got to Looe. I sat down for lunch at the top of the hill overlooking Looe. I had an amazing view of the whole town and the surrounding coastline. I walked around Looe for a bit. There was a harbour running through the entire town and lots and lots of pasty shops. The walk back was a lot dryer. The next day I went walking around Seaton Valley nature reserve. Not what I was expecting but a very nice and green open space surrounded by woodland. 
The first week at Keveral was mainly tree cutting and site clearing. The second week I did a bit more garden work done. I helped Sean prepare his polytunnel for salad sowing, helped Lambrini do some black and red current pruning, then did a bit of salad harvesting with Bill a Permaculture teacher who also lives onsite. I didn't get that community feel at the Keveral site as I did at Landmatters. Everyone there seems to just be getting on with their own thing to fulfil their own needs. The community has been going since the 70's and you can tell that the land has always been worked. The site was huge with two woodlands planted by Oak only a few years ago, two orchards, four huge polytunnels and lots of outdoor growing spaces. I really enjoyed my time at Keveral and do look forward to going back for a spring/summer visit. I decided to do the SW coast path once again and this time it was a lovely hot sunny day. I walked along the cliffs to Looe and then along the beach on the return journey. It was magical walking along the beach during low tide. The rocks, which were only visible during this time of the day, were of various colours and forms, the cliffs were mainly made up of slate and sandstone, which crumbled and came loose with the slightest disturbance. The sand was dark and moist and mimicked the colours of the rocks and the sea was a beautiful turquoise. I walked right out to the shoreline and sat on the highest rock and had my lunch as the sun began to race towards the horizon.  The night before I left Keveral it was cold and windy and wet and I started to worry a bit. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to brave the cold weather that February had to offer. Oak introduced me to a friend of his who had a small farm in Hearodsfoot and I packed up my kit and headed over to the community farm called Trevalon.

Trevalon and Sky Grove
It was raining when I got to Trevalon and Chris who gave me a quick tour of the site and suggested placed where I could pitch my tent greeted me. Later on I met Mark, the guy in charge. The best site for my tent was behind a hedge out of the path of the heavy winds and on the flattest part of the slopping site. Unfortunately it was also close to where the pigs were kept. The smell was fine you couldn’t even notice it. It was the noises they made during the night that was a bit unbearable. While I was erecting my tent a figure emerged from the distance. He was wrapped up in layers of winter clothing and had bells hanging from his waist. 
You stay in a tent?’ he asked.
Yeah,’ I answered.
'You're brave.' He said in a surprised voice.
Do you live here?’ I asked.
Yes, I live in a caravan just over there.’ He answered, pointing towards the bottom of the hedge.
His accent was not English and I was intrigued to find out who this man was.
Finish setting up then come over to the barn.’ He said as he disappeared in the mist. ‘We’ll have a cup of tea.’
The barn was a large open structure where vegetables were packed and sent out to the local community. Zulu was his name. He was a South African with light skin, long dreads and light blue eyes. He was a peculiar individual and we got on great. He told me stories of his childhood growing up in Zululand, working on the farms and stories of his travels around the world. Zulu was a fountain of knowledge. His appearance is one that if you came across him in the big city you would be more likely to throw him a few coins or ignore him than have a chat with him. The next few days were cold, very cold. On Friday 3rd February I woke up to find that my boots were frozen solid and there was a layer of ice on the outside of my sleeping bag. I checked my thermometer and learnt that the lowest temperature reached during the night was -12°C. The ground was hard and all the puddles left by the rainfall of previous days were now frozen over. All the pipes were also frozen solid. In spite of this the sun shone brightly and even though it was nearly below freezing during the daylight hours it was nice and warm sitting in the sunshine. There wasn’t much happening at Trevalon, securing funding had taken priority and Mark spent the majority of his time on the computer. During my time at Trevalon Zulu and I became good friends and he took me to visit another project he had been doing some work for. Sky Grove. This site was owned by Kevin one of the supervising gardeners at the Eden Project near St. Austell. Emma, one of the growers at Trevalon took me up to meet Kevin on the Saturday. It was raining so the three of us did some work in the polytunnels. The Sky Grove site blew my mind. Only a few acres but very well managed. The site was only three years old but a lot of work has been put into it. When Kevin announced that he was going to grow vegetables on this stony site everyone laughed at him. It is one of the harshest sites for vegetable growing there is. The site sits on the top of a high hill exposed to the full force of the elements, but the views are absolutely breath taking, and the ground is completely caked with stones of varying sizes. Kevin has managed to grow a range of vegetables by simply working loads of organic matter into the land and planting a wide range of trees to help protect against the strong winds and eroding rain water runoff. Kevin doesn’t like using heavy machinery so he has two enormous French horses that help work the land and also provide very nutritious manure. Bill and Ben are the biggest horses I have ever seen they are as wide as one and a half humans and covered in muscle. As I stood face to face with these beasts I found myself trembling. It was like being in the presence of Titans.
I walked up to Sky Grove again the next day and worked on getting one of the polytunnels ready for planting. Kevin turned up later in the afternoon and we planted some carrots and beetroots then went around the site putting up guardsfind that my boots were frozen solid and there was a layer of ice on my sleeping bag. I checked my thermometer and learnt that the lowest temperature reached the night before was -12°C. The ground was hard and all the puddles left by rain on previous days were now frozen over. All the pipes were also frozen solid. In spite of this the sun shone brightly and even though it was nearly below freezing during the daylight hours it was nice sitting in the sunshine. There wasn’t much happening at Trevalon, securing funding had taken priority and Mark spent the majority of his time on the computer. During my time at Trevalon Zulu and I became good friends and he took me to visit another project he had been doing some work for. Sky Grove. This site was owned by Kevin one of the supervising gardeners at the Eden Project in St. Austell. Emma, one of the growers at Trevalon took me up to meet Kevin on the Saturday. It was raining so we all did some work in the polytunnels. The Sky Grove site blew my mind. Only a few acres but very well managed. The site was only three years old but a lot of work has been put into it. When Kevin said he was going to grow vegetables on this stony site everyone laughed at him. It is one of the harshest sites for vegetable growing there is. The site sits on the top of a high hill exposed to the full force of the elements, but the views are absolutely breath taking, and the ground is completely caked with stones of varying sizes. Kevin has managed to grow a range of vegetables by simply working loads of organic matter into the land and planting a wide range of trees to help protect against the strong winds. Kevin doesn’t like using heavy machinery so he has two enormous French horses that help work the land and also provide very nutritious manure. Bill and Ben and the biggest horses I have ever seen they are as wide as one and a half humans and covered in muscle. As I stood face to face with these beasts I found myself tremble. It was like being in the presence of Titans. I walked up to Sky Grove again the next day and worked on getting one of the polytunnels ready for planting. Kevin turned up later on in the afternoon and we planted some carrots and beetroots then went around the site putting up guards on the young trees that were being attacked by rabbits. It was such a privilege working with Kevin, a person who loves working the land and keeping it simple. At the end of the day I was invited to visit the Eden Project and I jumped at the opportunity. The weekend at Sky Grove restored my faith in organic farming and the next week I, Emma and Tony, another volunteer working at Trevalon, did a fair bit of gardening on Emma’s plot. Later that day Emma gave me a lift into Lostwithiel, a town a few miles from Liskeard, to meet up with Kevin. I spent the night at his home and had an early start the next day.

Eden Project
When I left London in December I never thought that I would be working in a rain forest but that's exactly what happened when I went into Eden. We arrived just after 7:30am. We entered the service entrance and it was at this point I realised what an opportunity I was given and how lucky I was to have befriended Kevin.  The Eden Project has been running for almost 11years and is sited in an old kaolinite-mining quarry. It is a visitor attraction in Cornwall, including the world's largest greenhouse. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world. He introduced me to a few of the members of his team. 'The Green Team' as they are known at Eden. The workers parking lot is situated at the top of the hill and from here you can see the entire site. It was a site to behold. From here you can see the two massive geodesic domes. You can see the Tropical biome which covers an area almost four acres, the Mediterranean biome which is just over one and a half acres, the core which is a building used for educational purposes, the visitors centre and all the land in between. I had visited the project before but had never seen it from this angle. We drove down from the parking lot to the site in a small buggy. We did a bit of work outside and then later on in the afternoon I went into the tropical biome and helped build a penan hut (bamboo poles and palm leaves). It was freezing outside that morning with temperature barely reaching 5°C, but inside the biome it was a whopping 30°C and the air was very humid. Just walking around made you sweat. It was amazing. I was given an exclusive tour of the biome by one of the researchers, John, and then was offered a helium balloon ride around the dome. I floated off to the top of the dome, over 50m high, and navigated myself through the canopy by means of a horizontal rope spanning the entire length of the dome, while avoiding leaves, the occasional lizard and tree frog. It was an experience I will not soon forget. As the balloon pasted over the waterfalls I had to pinch myself just to make sure it wasn't all a dream. The folks at Eden are an amazing bunch. These are not your average gardeners. The collective knowledge of these men and women of the Green Team was shocking. I was truly in the presence of the greats. I almost didn’t want the day to end. I was having so much fun chatting and learning about soil, plants and pests. I was really looking forward to going back the next day.
It was a slow day at Eden that Thursday. Most of the Green Team members were off sick. That meant that there wasn't much to do and I could now really explore the site. I went down to the tropical biome. Helped Hetty, the lady in charge of the tropical biome, water the rain forest then made my way over to the outdoor veggie patch. It was a cold morning and the ground was solid so not much was going on in the garden. I moved onto the Mediterranean biome. There I helped reinstall a drip irrigation system for the citrus patch. While I was burying the drip lines a lady dressed in a long white robe and carrying a shaft walked over and stood in the centre of the large round courtyard style space. 'Gather round ladies and gentlemen.' She shouted, 'It's story time.' Her voice carried around the entire dome and slowly a crowd began building around her. She told the story of Davie a welsh man who couldn't seem to find work and ended up making a deal wit the devil. It was a strange but entertaining story and one with a moral lesson. She did a great job of getting her audience involved and received a huge applause when she completed her story. With the irrigation system installed and buried I made my way to the link lodge, this is where all the employees of the Eden Project come for breaks and lunch. The lunch menu was amazing and the potion extremely generous. I sat around a table with experts in many fields and eavesdropped on some of the conversations picking up bits and butting in with questions about topics I didn’t quite understand. It was great, I felt so blessed being in such a position. After lunch I went up to the Eden orchard and learnt a bit of hedge laying. The orchard was packed with different apple trees neatly planted and pruned using various pruning techniques. It was planted on a slope and at the top was an old abandoned farmhouse that I was determined to visit. Later that evening I headed back to Trevalon. I packed up my kit and spent the night in a small mice infested caravan. The next morning I got a lift into Eden. I did a bit of stonewalling then headed up to the farmhouse. It was open and I made my way up the stairs and chose the best room. It was a very large house with many rooms and occupied by bats. It was a great experience. I had a massive bedroom complete with a fireplace and a view overlooking Eden. I made a fire, got into my sleeping bag and fell asleep with a big smile on my face. Saturday was a busy day at Eden with a larger number of visitors than the previous days. I retreated to the link lodge and met up with Andrew a scientist working at Eden. He was keen to interview me about my experiences growing up in St.Vincent and The Gambia. We had a lovely chat and he then offered to take into St. Austell where I would embark on the next leg of my journey.                       

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Land Matters

I have managed to survive the cold weather we have been having here in the UK. It’s been tough but also enjoyable. The coldest it got was -12ÂșC. I will post updates on my experiences during the cold spell in a few weeks. For now here is how I spent the first two weeks of 2012.

Landmatters is a co-operative (group of individuals) which owns and manages a 42 acre holding in South Hams, Devon. Using permaculture design systems, they are managing the land for the benefit of bio-diversity and wildlife whilst providing for many of their own needs for community, food, water, energy, shelter, creativity, transport and waste management. They are also developing land based livelihoods, reducing their ecological footprint and acting as an educational resource for the wider community. I first visited Landmatters in November 2010 which doing my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course. I immediately fell in love with the site and shortly afterwards the people that lived there. I promised that I would return for a visit. 
The train ride from Weymouth was a beautiful one along the south coast of the British Isles. It was a bright sunny day and we left Weymouth quite early and were fortunate to see a display of immense beauty as the Sun's rays bounced off the oceans and illuminated the red and grey cliffs for Devon. We arrived in Totness just before midday and as we walked around the narrow high street, which was only just wide enough to accommodate a large car, the clouds quickly covered the Sun and light rain began to fall. We took shelter, trying to keep our backpacks dry, until it had eased up then went shopping. Almost every other shop in Totness was a health food shop and the ones in between were charity shop. What an amazing place, the energy of the town was one of acceptance and genuineness. After gathering up supplies we started heading out of town and towards Allaliegh. We managed to hitch a lift just outside of town all the way to the gates of Landmatters, which was lucky because the walk from the main road would not have been a pleasant one while carrying heavy backpacks. The large wooden gate and the unpaved pot hole ridden track up to the top of the site brought back fun memories of the PDC course. As we approached the communal bender at the top of the highest field on the site my heart melted, I felt a great weight lifting off my shoulders, it could have just been the removing of the backpack, but it was a great sense of relief to be out of the big city and being able to take in deep deep breathes without immediately wanting to get it all out again.
Week 1.
We were greeted by Andy, one of the people living on the site who is responsible for the management of the woodland bit of the site. He informed us that it was Beanies' birthday and that they were all planning to have a communal dinner to celebrate the occasion. 'What a perfect time to arrive' I thought to myself. 
We went off, pitched the tent and stored all our kits in the cow shed (converted for storage) and headed back to the communal. This time most of the community members were there all to celebrate Beanies' third birthday. The gathering was great. There was loads of food and a very special pancake layer-cake which was very yummy. The next few days we didn't do much as everyone was still in the hibernation phase, so Sophie and I simple enjoyed the site and caught up with the folks on what's been happening during the last year. The third day at Landmatters I was becoming increasingly restless and decided to wake up early and walk to Totness. The town is only about 6 miles from the Landmatters site and the walk should have taken me no more that 2 hours. I set off and took a wrong turn and added another 4 miles to the journey. It was the most exhausting walk I have ever done. I didn't eat breakfast and forgot to refill my water bottle for the return trip and as I walked back to Landmatters with two bags of groceries hanging over a stick across my shoulders I began to struggle. The rain fell consistently during the entire walk and it was cold and the wind blew the sharp drops of rain into my eyes making it increasingly difficult to see the road ahead. I managed to find a shortcut through a large field planted up with radishes. I walked through mud, long wet grass and along high hedges running parallel to the busy narrow country roads. When I finally got to the gates of Landmatters I was suffering form dehydration. I began to walk up the steep flooded track to the top of the site and as I slowly made my way up the track, in desperation, I began sucking the drops of water hanging from the stems and leaves of the trees on the side of the track. I reached the communal, where Sophie, Sharon and Maren were preparing for communal dinner, dropped my shopping and collapsed on the large wooden bench in the centre of the room. I was exhausted and dying of thirst but every sip of water I took I felt the urge to throw up. So I dragged my way to the tent and completely switched off. Sophie shortly followed and with a concerning voice said, "Are you OK?"
"Not really," I replied, "I just need to sleep for a bit." 
I woke up an hour later and feeling a lot better I headed over to the communal for a lovely communal dinner. Later that night I had a nice bucket shower and a lovely well earned good night sleep. 
The first week I spent at Landmatters the weather was really appalling. We had a New Year party at Maren and Brainys' and we all have a very relaxing day on New Year day. Sophie and I went for a walk in the woods along the green lane which runs partly parallel to an ancient wall, covered in intertwined tree roots and multi coloured moss, along a small stream. It was raining but the beauty of the site made it tolerable. On the 2nd of January I was showed how to make cob for the first time ever by Rooh Star, an amazing person who also lives at Landmatters and has been attempting to build one of the most interesting houses I have ever seen. The house is a large round house made from massive oak posts from the woodlands of Landmatters which supports a reciprocating root system, which is the oddest roofing design technique I have ever seen where the beams all support themselves without the aid of fixings. On the outside there is a large green roof where kale and other vegetables grow along side grasses, wild flowers and other weeds. Making cob was great, from picking out the larger stones from the 15-20% clay subsoil, to dancing on it to get a consistence of a baby seal. Working the cob involves a lot of hip action which to onlooker, I imagine would look pretty hilarious. That night while I was in the communal reading up on forest gardening Sophie came running in, "Randy I need your help, the tent got blow across the field." I ran to the camping field only to find my tent lying on its’ side and soaking wet. We re-posited and properly secured the tent, wiped down the inside and took the sleeping bags to the communal and hung them over the wood burner to dry out. Once dry we went back to the tent and settled in to sleep. The winds gusted at 65mph that night and it felt as though the tent was about to lift off the field. The fences were rattling, and the corrugated sheets of the cow shed roof sounded as they were about to come loose. The wind caused the outer shell of the tent to touch the not waterproof inner layer which caused water to come pouring into the sleeping area. Sophie decided that she had had enough and went to sleep in the communal. I decided to stick it out and spent the night in the tent. It was a scary experience but at the same time exciting.
The next morning I woke up to find that a huge ash tree at the top of the site had blown down. This made me realise how lucky I had been. The tent was pitched near a large hedge to help provide shelter from the stronger winds and if one of those trees were to fall over during the middle of the night and fall on the tent that might be the end of me. Luckily no one was hurt and nothing was damaged. The biggest news of the day however was that Hannan and Andy's baby daughter was delivered during that windy night.
The morning was sunny and calm so we managed to get a fair bit of gardening done before lunch. After lunch the rain and wind started up again. During dinner we all got the first chance to see the newest member of the Landmatters community. We decided to join Sophie and spent the night in a yurt which was attached to the back of the communal bender. That was my first experience of sleeping in a yurt; it was damp, cold and felt very congested the strong wind gave the impression that the top half of the structure was about to take off over the moors.
The next day I helped to cover the compost toilet steps with chicken wire. This was to make it safe to walk on when wet, as they can get quite slippery (another lesson learnt). The majority of that afternoon was spent hanging out with Sophie. She was leaving later that evening. We took the bus into Totness sat around a beautiful rockery garden for a bit. We said our goodbyes then I was on the bus once again heading back to the Landmatters site. I played with the idea of sleeping in the communal that night but it was dry and still and as a result I had the best night sleep I have had since I arrived.
Week 2.
The days became drier and calmer. I ordered a new tent online and was now waiting for its’ arrival. The high winds over the pass few days had cause a bit of damage in the site. One large ash tree, which was at least 100 years old, was blown down and though it meant that there would be a lot more fire wood available in the coming seasons, it still felt like a lost. The winds also damaged one of the wind turbines on the site and we had to dismount it from the top of the 18ft pole which held it high above the surrounding obstacles allowing it to catch the most of the winds. We built a scaffold tower, secured it to the pole which was buried into the ground and held in place by four metal cables anchored into the ground and attached to tensioners. Carl then climbed up and undid the generator. We then found out that we had to dig up the entire pole to be able to get the generator off completely. Felling the pole was not an easy job as it was heavy and situated in a very awkward location. Two days it took us to get the scaffold tower erected, the generator dethatched, and the pole down. The first day we started work on the wind turbine I met a 6ft peanut. He was a cool fellow who was, surely, at some point in his life a punk (spiky hair, piercings, etc). He now makes jewellery. The technique he uses is to mix different metals together. This gives his products a very unique form with two, three and sometimes four different colours layers on one another. The day after I met Peanut I hitched into town and did a bit of shopping. It was Carls’ birthday celebration that night and there was a theme dinner. Indian curry was the theme and I had decided to make an aubergine curry with a little Caribbean swing on it. My dish went down well and the night was one of love and appreciation. After the celebrations I watched a bit of a film called Four Lions with Peanut and Andy. A very funny and thought provoking British film.
I was woken up the next morning by bird song and a lump moving around under the floor of the tent. I wasn’t sure what it was and to this day I haven’t been able to work out what it was. It could have been a rat, a mouse, a mole, a snake, I would never know but this lump emerged again and again over the next three days. As I unzipped and the tent and stepped out onto the field a carpet of birds lift off all at once and sent a mild breeze rushing towards me. It then accrued to me; the tent had become part of the landscape and the creatures inhabiting the land had learnt that it wasn’t a treat and just went on with their daily lives. I made my way over to the communal had tea and went off to do some gardening. The gardens at Landmatters are raised beds with off cuts of milled trees for boarders and the all are mulched (covered) with either grass clippings of straw. I had the privilege of working with Nesster 8, and Sylvin 10, who also live on the site. We spent all day building raised bed from scratch and were very pleased with the end result. It was full moon that night. There was no cloud and the sky was absolutely littered with stars. There was no need for head torches that night as the moon light was like a large florescent beacon which illuminated everything within its’ gaze. It was cold outside but I couldn’t resist being under such a magical sky.
Monday morning there’s a check-in. This is were every member of the community come together and say how they are doing and voice their opinions and concerns. It is also the time when the tasks for the week are set. One of the tasks was to address the leaks in the communal bender and the yurt. Some of the canvas which made up the roof of the bender had become rotten and had to be replaced. I fetched a ladder from the huge barn, leaned it up against the structures, climbed up and began to peel back the layers of canvas. As we pulled back the layers of canvas swarms of angry wasps came charging out, clearly disorientated from their long winter sleep, they simply fluttered around for a short while before forcing their way further up under the canvas. Moving the second layer of canvas and a bit further up the structure a small lump of fur came tumbling down. “Shit! Is that iced a mouse?” I shouted. On closer inspection we noticed that it was a very small bat. We had disturbed its’ hibernation. Apparently it was fully grown but no more than 3 inches long. As the day progressed I left the canvasing of the yurt and bender to the more experienced individuals. Sharon, another Landmatters community member, had been working on her Permaculture Design diploma. We both sat down along the massive wooden table in the communal and she was kind enough to talk me through her design process. That night I heard a few bats roosting in the trees just above my tent, there sonar ticks unmistakable. I had a nice lie in the next morning. When I finally managed to pull myself out of my snug-pack (sleeping bag) I decided to do a bit of laundry, as the weather had been fine. While doing the laundry a missive rainbow arched over the entire north east portion of the sky. The sight almost brought a tear to my eyes. Later we were all coming up with ideas of sorting out the rat problem in the communal bender. I got absolutely scratched up while collecting gorse which is an extremely thorny plant which help stop rats freely wondering through your home. On Wednesday 11th there was a council meeting on the site and I used the opportunity to do a little exploring in Totness. This little town has so much more to offer. I got myself lost wondering around the back roads of the small town and found some amazing sceneries. On my return I had a chat with Lee who is building a home out of an old 20ft wooden cider barrel. I would love to see that some day. Rooh showed me how to erect a cod-wood wall and I absolutely loved it. All that’s needed is a few logs, some clayey soil, a bit of water, a little straw and your hands. The only tool we used was a small stick about 8 inches long and 1 inch thick. Which these minimal resources she proceeded to teach me how you could build the most beautiful and functional house. The afternoon was spent weeding salad beds with Josh, an ex-Landmatters resident and another Landmatters resident Charlotte, who I am convinced was a spectacular woodland fairy in a previous life. Josh runs a salad business and there was a lot to learn from him about growing salads. In Friday the 13th was the first day of winter, in my opinion. There was a hard frost which had settled on the ground the night before and this caused a crunch sound when stepped on by either humans or the heard of sheep that congregated outside my tent at ungodly hours of the morning to feast of the lust grasses that filled the fields of Landmatters. Lee showed me some techniques for stone sculpting and I did a bit more of cod-wood wall building that afternoon, I think I’ve got it down to a fine art now. Lee offered to take me for a ride to see some the sights of south Devon. We visited Slapton beach, which was a lovely stretch of beach on one side a nature reserve on the other. It was a great spectacle driving down the narrow strip of road with the pebble sand beach on the left and the large fresh water pools and mashes on the right. The next place we visited absolutely took my breath away. No combination of words would do justice to the beauty and splendour of Blackpool Sands (in the winter months). The beach is small, about 200 meters long, and enclosed on both ends by spectacular cliffs which gently slope right down into the warm-green coloured sea. The cliffs were covered in living vegetation despite the cold harsh winds which are constantly forced upon them off the shimmering waters of the south English coast. The sand was teaming with colours, (there were blacks, pinks, greens, reds, yellows, purples and browns) and of varying grades. Blackpool Sands reminded me of a beach from my childhood and, if only for that reasoning, it will always have a special place in my heart. On Saturday we had a visit form 10 volunteers from Plymouth University and I was asked to lead one of the activities. I was honoured. I grabbed a few of the young academics and had a lovely session building a raised bed and then later on we got a bed weeded and transplanted some raspberry plants. I managed to pass on some of my gardening knowledge and the case against bad farming practices. There was a large mix of subject the students were studying, logistics, geography business studies and environmental science were a few. I would like to think that I was able to pass on some useful and meaningful information to these very keen individuals. Once the volunteers left I am Josh had a nice wind down chat and later Ambooka and her son Slyvin mom, was good company that night by the roaring fire in the communal.
Sunday was my last day at the Landmatters site. I woke up early did a fair bit of packing up. I decided to send my new tent back to London and tough it out with my old one. I did a fair bit of cod-wood wall building, made a big pot of jollof rice and finish packing up. That night I slept in one of the benders on site. It was an amazing structure. Being inside gave the illusion of being in a small forest. I lit the wood burner had a hot bucket shower and cozied up close to the fire. It was a night a luxury and it was not very nice to be perfectly honest. I think I had gotten use to the simplicity of sleeping in an unheated tent.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The road to Totnes

I am having an amazing time on this adventure of mine. I was really looking forward to the Christmas season. My girlfriend arrived on the 23rd and we quickly began enjoying the beaches and gardens of Bournemouth, Boscombe and Christchurch. On Christmas eve we went to visit the Smith family who also lived in The Gambia during my lengthy stay there. It was great fun catching up on all the crazy fun things that them and my mother got up to. They took us for a walk along a beautiful woodland trail, whose name escapes me at the moment, which ran parallel to a small stream which empties onto Highcliffe beach. Walking along this trail you felt completely engulfed by the woods and the sound of the small stream triking around the rocks was enough to make your whole body tingle. This was a huge contrast to the masses of concrete just eight miles down the road in Bournemouth. Back at the house we sat down for dinner and shared more stories about our time in The Gambia and managed to find some pictures which brought back memories which I had long since forgotten. There was a pictures of my mother, my younger sister and a picture of me and the entire Gambia cricket team, which I was a member of for three years. It was really good to be able to sit and chat with some familiar faces, especially ones that I hadn't seen in years. There two youngest sons were now taller than me and it made me think of how quickly time was passing by, which only strengthened my drive to carry on my adventure and live life to the fullest without regrets. After dinner we headed back to my house in Bournemouth and began thinking about the next move. The plan was to have a Christmas picnic on the beach and head off to Weymouth on boxing day. 
We decided to stay and enjoy the beaches of Bournemouth one more day and pack up on the 27th. We woke up early that morning and gather our things. My bag became lighter even thought I had added a few more items I had picked up in Bournemouth. We waved good bye to the house that had kept me dry and fairly warm the pass week and jumped on the bus to Poole. Once I Poole the plan was to somehow get to Weymouth where we had booked a train to Totnes. I had become conscience of the time factor and concluded that there was no way I was going to making to Lands' End and back to London in time for the 2012 growing season if I had to walk the entire journey. Plus I had a partner now and I was about to put her through a night like the one I had in the New Forest. When we arrived in Poole we were told that the bus to Weymouth was not in operation as it was a bank holiday. A quick look at the A-Z map and we decided that we would take a local bus to Wareham and hitch-hike the rest of the way. We got to Wareham around 1pm and began walking along the A352 towards Weymouth. We found a good spot to take a rest sat down, fired up my little petrol camping stove and not long after we were enjoying a nice cup of chi tea with hazelnut biscuits we bought from the co-op in Wareham. Wareham is a very small town with not much to offer, apparently, while we were laboriously carrying our rucksacks down the main street into the town one of the local came up to us and asked "Coming or going?"
"Both." I said with a smile, "We just arrived but on our way out again."
"Good! Not much to see or do in this bloody place." he said. I could here the depression in his voice. He's been living in Wareham for 20 odd years and hates it. 
"Why don't you just leave and stop complaining." I thought to myself. 
Once we had our fill we headed to the roundabout which exited to Swanage, Weymouth, and Dorchester and began or hitch-hiking mission. It was about half an hour before we managed to get a lift all the way to Weymouth.We arrived in Weymouth about 3pm and immediately began looking for places to spend the night. I was fine with pitching the tent in any old field, it was only on night after all but my queen had other ideas. She wanted to have a warm shower. This was understandable, I was wearing the same cloths for about a week and had not had a wash since Christmas. She didn't say it directly but I think it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to share a tent with me. I stunk.
We managed to find a campsite on the tourist information booklets which was open all year and after making a payment of £12 over the phone we now had a pitch for the night, we just had to find a way of getting there. Weymouth is a nice little city right on the seafront, very much like Bournrmouth but not as touristy, we walked to the closest bus stop, checked to times and waited......and waited. It was about an hour before we began to think something was not right. I quickly ran to the next bus stop and asked the driver "Excuse me, what time is the next bus towards Chickerell?" 
His eyes widen, "The buses are operating on a Sunday service today," he explained, "it's a bank holiday you see. The last bus was at 16.20." I looked up at the large clock tower overlooking the high street, 5.56pm. Failing to realise that is was a bank holiday was miss read the timetable. We were stranded and the campsite was about 4 miles away. I wasn't about to let my £12 go to waste so we got hold of a local map from the tourist information centre and began working out a route. It looked like the site was in the middle of nowhere and I was not prepared to take to risk. Alot can go wrong in 4 miles at night. We walked into the town and located a taxi service. "How much to Bagwell Farm?" I asked
"Where?" the lady sitting behind the thin glass cubical looked at me as if I was specking a different language.
"Bagwell Farm, it's near Chickerell."
"One sec. Let me check." She disappeared under the counter for a second and reemerged with a large folder.
"Twelve pounds." she said.
We threw our bags into the back of the seven seater and we were on our way. It wasn't long before we were beyond the borders of the city lights and whizzing along the highway in almost complete darkness. We arrived at the site and once the lights of the taxi disappeared down the track Sophie turned to me and said, "I am so glad we didn't walk."
"Me too," I answered, "I can't see a thing."
As we walked down into the camping fields we passed one field filled with caravans, a huge building which housed toilets, a kitchen type setup, and showers. Ahhhh..... hot showers. This was the first proper shower I had had since setting off from London two weeks before. It was lush. Back in Bournemouth I was simply boiling a small pan of water and using that the wash with. It was simple but it worked fine. I was just an effort to do this everyday and petrol is expensive so I only did this when it was absolutely necessary. With the tent pitched and all my underwears washed and blow-dried (oh yes, there were blow dryer in the shower rooms as well) we set up the stove, cooked some rice and had a very nice meal of brown rice with cashew nuts, sunflower seeds and spicy lime pickle. Yummy. 
With clean clothes and bodies, and full stomachs we could sleep comfortably knowing that 'this time tomorrow we'll be on one of the most amazing sites in Devon, Landmatters'.

Monday, 26 December 2011

A weekend in Dorset

I have had a very eventful time in Bournemouth so far. After securing my belonging at my new house in the city I really hoped to find something to keep me occupied and my mind off worrying whether I had made the right choice of leaving all my stuff in an old abandoned house. I made my way to the New Leaf Allotments in Throope, approx four miles from the city centre. When I arrived at the site I was greeted by Chris, the person who manages the project. The entrance to the site was completely submerged due to the prolonged rainfall of the day before. This was going to be a good test for my new waterproof boots. As I manoeuvred my way around the slippery mud banks and along the temporary wooden planks, placed in the muddy puddles, I got my first look at the full scale of the site.
Thirty plus young students of Bournemouth and Poole college were volunteering on the site that day and it looks like they were all having a blast. I was lead down to the back of the 1.2arce site pass a group of volunteers shifting and spreading compost over a newly dug raised bed, where another small group were attempting to erect a large polytunnel.
The site was great, sitting in the centre of two LARGE cabbage and cauliflower fields, the first 60 metres or so was covered in raised beds of various sizes and heights, some completed and others under construction. Further down were the polytunnels and behind those was the apple orchard. The trees in this orchard were at least 100 years old and produced a stunning canopy of zigzagged leafless branches. On ground level were two vacant box bee hives which I thought were very interesting. There was so much activity going on the site that I hardly had time to talk with the man responsible for the maintenance of the site. As the sunlight slowly dimmed and the polytunnle frame began to take shape the call for everyone to gather outside the metal shipping container at the top of the site was made and everyone made their way back onto the buses which would take them all back to the hustle and bustle of the city. I had such a good time at The New Leaf Allotments that I made a promise to visit again during the coming week. That night I was extremely grateful to have a proper roof over my head and as I made up my sleeping space in the basement of my new home I couldn’t help but smile as I thought back to the night before in the New Forest.
The next day the sun was out in full force and I quickly made my way down to the beach and sat on the cliffs and watched the sun slowly make its’ way across the clear blue sky only partially obstructed by a few faint streaks of white fluff which were soon blown away by the cool costal breeze. On the beach there was no protection from the wind and sitting on the sand you get the full feel of the salty air making its’ way off the surface of the water and into the town centre. I did a fair bit of reading on the beach that morning and then walked along from the East Cliffs to the West Cliffs, visiting the Bournemouth pier on route. This was where I saw a baby seal the first time I was down in Dorset. No seal this time round but the walk was very much appreciated. As the day went on I headed away from the coast and into the heart of the city centre. The madness of Christmas shoppers was all a bit too much for me so I cowardly hurried back to the calmness of my squat. Back at the squat I decided to have a better look around while there was still a bit of sunlight left. From the basement I climbed the stairs to the ground floor, gracefully avoiding bits of old furniture, doors and empty gas canisters. Though it was bright and sunny outdoors there was hardly any light penetrating the thick wood sheets covering the doors and windows of the house. Passing a large kitchen, a huge living room and a small bathroom I continued up the stairs to the first floor. As I approached the top of the stairs a small beam of light illuminated the glossy wallpaper and the whole mood of the house changed.
All the windows on the top floor were left uncovered and this allowed the full light of the sun to fill the entire floor. This was the cleaner of the three levels. There was a good size bathroom, a large kitchen, a small bedroom with a bunk bed and a good sized living room. As I looked around the rooms I found a small dust pan and brunch and began clearing and clearing up the living space. After an hour or so of sweeping carpets, beating couches and carefully disposing of the numerous syringes that were lying around the room was fit for a king....well almost. It was dark now and I gathered all my necessities (sleeping bag, ground mat, water bottles, etc) from the basement floor and moved into the top floor which I called the pent house. As the temperature dropped I climbed into my sleeping bag laid on the superbly comfortable couch and had the best sleep ever.
I woke up on Sunday morning just before sunrise and headed directly to the East Cliffs. It was a slightly obstructed sunrise as the sun struggled to escape from behind the pink-purple clouds. The view of Poole Bay reflecting the sun rays was a sight to behold and was worth all the hardship I had endured on the way the Bournemouth. After enjoying the sunrise I headed in the direction of Boscombe and came across the Boscombe Chine Gardens, a lovely little wild garden of pine trees, and a small wetland patch. As I walked through the gardens, bright green woodpeckers hammered away at the soft wood of the irregularly shaped pine trees. The ponds were the special part of the gardens for me and were supposedly fed by a natural underground spring. I spent a long time in the Chine Gardens and then moved on to the town of Boscombe which was a lot smaller than Bournemouth but had a lot more character in my opinion. As Darkness fell once again I jumped on one of the many yellow buses which serve Bournemouth, Christchurch, Boscombe, and Poole and headed for home wondering what the week ahead had in store for me.       

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Southampton and Bournemouth

When I arrived in Southampton on Thursday 15th I had no Idea what to expect. As the train pulled into the station the first thing I noticed was the large number of boats moored nearby and a very very large cruise ship docked in the near distance. I began making my way west along the A33 and got as far as Millbrook where my back and shoulders began to really ache. Stopping to rest at Millbrook station I began to doubt whether I will be able to carry on. I went to the ticket booth and bought something called 'permit to travel' and sat down to wait for a train.
As I sat there waiting on that very uncomfortable metal bench I began to think "what is the propose of this trip of mine? Is it really worth it?" As the 13:20 to Redbridge approached the platform my mind was made up. My bag was so heavy that I began to loose all hope of walking more than a few miles before collapsing. With a sharp whistle the train pulled out of the station. A quick look at the map and I discovered that I was only a few miles from the New Forest. Had I taken the train I would have completely missed it. A few hours of walking and I saw the first sign indicating that I was approaching the New Forest. As I entered the town of Ashurst I began to notice more and more forest and less artificial lighting. I bravely stepped off the A35 and headed into the heart of Woodlands. It was very boggy and not as dense as I initially thought. As it got darker I quickly looked for a good spot to set up camp. 
I walked for about half an hour through the forest before I finally decides on a place to pitch my tent. It was cold, wet and dark and even though I was completely immersed in forest the night was as silent as death. Only the occasional sound of cars whizzing along the highway and a few creepy footsteps were what reminded me that I wasn't alone. I woke up just before sunrise to the sound of rainfall against the tent. I had a very comfortable night sleep and quickly realised why. I had chosen a very wet boggy location to set up camp The spongelike soil was the equivalent of a very comfy mattress. One end of my sleeping bag was soaked as was my ground mat, which luckily was waterproof. I waited for the rain to ease up before attempting to pack up and head south towards Lyndhurst. After walking for about two hours I managed to get a lift to New Milton and from there I  slowly made my way to Bournemouth. I wandered around the outskirts of Bournemouth for a bit and then suddenly got my first glimpse of the ocean. I headed towards the sound of crashing waves and the smell of salt and ended up on the edge of the East Cliffs of Bournemouth. It was amazing to see the horizon once again. a sight I hadn't seen for some time. Once I had my fill of tumbling waves and soaring gulls I went into the town centre, had some breakfast and shortly after found a nice abandoned four bedroom house very close to the seafront and the city centre. After checking out the property I managed to find a way in without breaking any of the very clever deterrents that were put up to keep people out. A quick nose around the two storey house and I concluded that it was safe and hadn't been in use since April. I cleared out the basement and made this my home. This is by far the most insane thing I have ever done.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Welcome all

Welcome to my blog.

I started this to keep an account of my experiences during my attempted London - Land's End walk. I will try and update it as often as I can. I took another detailed look at the map today and would just like to share with you the overall plan.

Stage 1: Mapping out
             The first section is what I call city to city to city.... and I think it might be the less preferred leg of the walk. It runs from Morden, south London and passes through 4 major cities (of which I think Southampton is the largest) before ending up in Bournemouth. I am not a big fan of the city so I’ll be attempting to get through this concrete maze section of the walk as quickly as possible. Though I’ll be walking pass The South Downs National Park, it’s the town of Lyndhurst I’ll be most looking forward to visiting on this section of the walk. The town is just outside of Southampton and sits on the edge of the New Forest National Park, attractions include; deer sanctuary and reptile centre.
The second section is woods and wwoofing, where I’ll be spending the most time. I will be doing some volunteer work on various eco projects. This section ends in Dartmoor National Park where I plan to re-visit the site where I did my Permaculture training and hopefully do some wwoofing. From Bournemouth I’ll be heading towards Dorchester then on to Monkton Wyld Court near Bridport. From there its then off to Honiton, pass Exeter and cross into the Dartmoor woods and moorlands.
The third leg of the walk will start out from Tavistock to Liskeard then heads west towards a place called Indian Queens, the name alone is reason enough to investigate further. From there I’ll be heading to the Coastal city of St. Agnes then south to Penzance. From Penzance is about 10miles to Land’s End (final destination) so I was thinking I might visit a few of the bird sanctuaries along the way.
Well that's the summery of the 306mile walk from South London to Land’s End. I have given myself just under two months to complete the walk. This route is not set in stone and I’m quite sure that minor alterations will be made to it during the course of the walk. Click here to view the route.

Stage 2: Hardening off
            For the last 9 months I have been gradually conditioning my body to outdoor living. I have been sleeping in a tent, going on 2 hour walks and reading up on wild food and money free lifestyles. Sleeping in a tent is fine it’s trying to conduct activities inside a tent that’s the hard part. The coldest temperature I have endured in the tent was -1°C and I was still quite cosy. During my hardening off stage I went on a few wild camping sessions in Brighton, Rusper and a few sites in Wales. I have experience rain, wind, mist and frost so I hope that has prepared me enough for the coming winter. I have also become a very efficient fire starter and have picked up some very useful techniques for living comfortably while on the move.
I have learnt a bit about wild food and foraging and have managed to get a hold of some really useful survival books. I have also been, slowly, adjusting my eating habits and have also been looking up on what foods would provide me with the most vitamins and minerals without being too bulky. So all in all I think I’ll be ready when the time comes to set off.
I have been through sleeping in a wet, cold and windy conditions, nursing injuries, recovering from exhaustion, being lost, hunger pains but still carrying on. “I remember reading somewhere that how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. “ - Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild).