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.
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.