The Path Less Followed…….

If you are a regular reader of the Woodland Ways blog you may have read my husband Barry’s recent blogs Oh for a Simple Life, Honouring Our Ancestors and Seasonal Living about his journey to becoming a Woodland Ways instructor and his perspective on life. We thought perhaps it was my turn, as the wife of an instructor. More poignant now that we stand on the edge of a massive change in our lives by moving 200 miles from our home in Essex to a new start in Derbyshire. These are my reasons for going on this adventure.

First and most obvious is that Barry now has a full-time position based from Derbyshire with an impossible commute. But to move 200 miles away from an area I’ve lived in all my life has meant a monumental shift in how I am now to how I was 2 years ago.

Alresford Creek, a wonderful habitat on our doorstep

I love where I live, the community I’m involved in, and its countryside, with the river, creek and ancient woodlands to walk the dog and never thought I’d get to a point in life where this wasn’t where I wanted to be. So, what changed?  Building work began in our village in 2019 and it began to change dramatically in its look and feel. Then came 2020 and everything changed. It was a turning point. Before the pandemic I’d begun to feel perpetually angry, much of the anger I now see as grief at the state of the natural world and what was being imposed upon our village. Lockdown found me quite content with a feeling of hope for the world, that this was a turning point, something to make everyone sit up and take stock of what we as a species were doing to the amazing planet on which we live. But that hope was short lived and life was forced back to a new normal but not anywhere near to that which our species needed to adopt if our planet was to sustain us into the future. The village that I came to 9 years ago was changing, growing and in threat from further growth: Barry spent a disproportionate time of his commute home just getting through or around Colchester with the forecast for it only to worsen. It wasn’t the place we’d moved to and there was an overwhelming desire to get away from an area that was fighting for its very existence and under threat from everything and everyone, including climate change. 

Through the pandemic I found myself caring, not only as a job but with friends and family; keeping them going. This I did willingly as that’s my nature but it left its toll. I found myself feeling utterly depleted and some odd behaviours of my own that indicated I too was at risk from mental health issues. What to do then? Staying where we were, although I loved where I lived, it offered me no respite and the only thing to do was to disentangle myself from it all, and Barry’s job offer was the escape. We found our temporary living space by doing what we usually do and thinking outside the box. We followed the breadcrumbs and they led us to Exmoor in a 56 acre woodland where we found our converted DAF 7.5 tonne lorry and were allowed to stay in a log cabin while the deal was discussed. The lorry came complete with kitchen, compost toilet, dining table and benches, a log burner and a mezzanine bed above a settee. We were sold.

The magical stay that led to our new home

Barry and I live a bit of an alternative life, one that we have tried our best at to be simple and sustainable, this was an adventure to follow this path further and we hope that Derbyshire will offer us the chance to go a few steps beyond what we do at present.

So, we are leaving the relative stability of our sustainable house with a productive garden, my chickens and allotment, job, friends and family and we are off on an adventure in a camper lorry and the hills of the Peak District until we find a new place to lay down roots. I intend to find my peace by painting, reading and just sitting and being, it’s what my body, mind and spirit need so that is what I intend to give it. Adopting a simple life and working out what’s really important and what is needed and what is not and looking after the most important thing in all our lives; Mother Earth.

Our productive forest garden

Although we leave relative stability behind and head for the unknown, we feel there is this huge potential and excitement in this adventure. At home I have probably caused much puzzlement in some but hopefully inspiration to others as well.

My advice to keep sane and envisage a future in this crazy world is to read and read, never stop learning new things and question everything. And if you get the time, look up permaculture, it changed our lives.

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