Welcome to SpanThatWorld.com! The online home of the District Fellows Movement, the 16-20 age group of the cooperative children and young people's charity The Woodcraft Folk.
The Share: First steps towards a national DF centre
Convincing an organic smallholder to rap: “I’m a hobbit from the Shire and I know my roots” was not the only highlight of April’s groundbreaking skillsharing trip for the Share, but it’s high up there.
Four DFs volunteered at Lammas low-impact eco-village in Pembrokeshire for a crash course in green building, turf roofs, hydroelectric energy, veg growing, low-maintenance crops and low-impact living. And rap. Since January, Facebook has been buzzing with debate suggestions and ideas. 90 DFs have joined the Share group to contribute hundreds of enthusiastic comments. There is a real sense of excitement for this new DF and kinsfolk project to create a low-carbon DF venue where we will meet our basic needs from the land. This makes it a pity that my thoughtful plan to increase the number of members by changing the group name to a more popular title was branded unprofessional, even three times as many members have joined “EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT 2PAC WILL ALWAYS BE BETTER THAN LIL WAYNE!“. But we have 89 members at the moment, while they have 252. And we’re trying to create a large national movement. Just saying.
Dozens of DFs have come together at the Share Facebook group, where they have designed a Share logo and voted on exactly what they want to see on the site. Top of the list are renewable energy, a veg patch, woodland, rainwater harvesting and compost loos, with more than one hundred votes between them. Underdogs wallowing sadly lower down the list are a “pirate ship” with a lonely 8 votes, a “moat” that only 7 people chose, and a “ball park” with only 3 votes. “Gandalf” got no votes at all. If there were ever proof of the problems with this country’s youth, these twisted priorities must be conclusive. In what world is compost more important that a pirate ship surrounded by a moat filled with coloured plastic balls and captained by Gandalf? That would be utopian. Nevertheless, the people have spoken, and it seems DFs know what they want: a low-carbon DF venue where we meet our basic needs from the land.
With this in mind, we launched a skillsharing trip to Lammas, to showcase the very best low-carbon infrastructure. Lammas were at the forefront of a hard-fought battle to change national planning law to allow low impact developments (such as eco-smallholdings), which they won – changing the law and allowing the residents to start living on the land 3 years ago. I found no evidence that they acheived this thanks to any good-natured Tolkien wizard, but a Tolkien wizard would have helped progress, and they’ve made good progress, so I drew my own conclusion. On-site at Lammas I saw various different types of compost toilets, green buildings, underplanted orchards (“forest gardens”), veg patches, renewable energy and I also saw three fellow volunteers who were exasperated at the constant confusing references I was making to Lord of the Rings. Compost toilets, green buildings, forest gardens and veg patches match up almost exactly to the poll of what DFs want at the Share. I say “almost” exactly, as Lammas haven’t yet built their eco showers but DFs want the Share to have eco showers, and based on the facial expressions of other passengers when we got the train home, the public also agrees that we should have showers.
We were inspired by what we saw at Lammas. We are delighted to announce plans for exclusive DF training in eco-infrastructure this summer, likely to happen around August. Shower before you leave for peace of mind. The plan as it stands is to divide DFs into specialist groups of around 5 students, each to learn a particular skill. We have talked to Lammas residents, and there are likely to be opportunities to train in green building, veg growing, compost toilet management and possibly solar shower management. For some reason solar showers seem to be elusive. Watch this Space for updates.
At the Sping Awakening 2012 mini-thing, we decided to take a motion to Althing in September to free up funding, resources and support for the Share, to be used for training, green infrastructure, fundraising and grant applications. The motion will also create a two-year role for an elected DF to take the Share project forward. I have been told tactlessly by tired, worn-out friends that regrettably it is unlikely that Gandalf is available for the role. Passion for the Share is coming from a wide range of avenues. At Annual Gathering in April 2012, the Woodcraft movement nationally will vote to instruct Woodcraft’s General Council to “support the District Fellows Movement in developing The Share”. This has the potential to be rocket fuel for getting the Share off the ground. Eco-rocket fuel. Probably for pedal-powered rockets.
So we are starting to see exactly what the Share will look like. With motions at Annual Gathering and Althing, a skillsharing trip under our belts and a training trip on the horizon, it is hard not to feel delight at the Share’s first steps to becoming a reality. We are starting small, and working towards ambitious goals. No one said that acquiring land for a glittering self-sufficient DF centre would be easy, but the path there is solid. We are starting with motions in support. Then we are moving on to training. After training, we will put in green infrastructure at existing Woodcraft Folk sites. And with that proven experience, we can show to grant bodies such as Awards for All that we have the expertise to set up a low-carbon venue.
So – Park Farm, Lockerbrook, Cudham, Activity Den, Heightgate – all of the Woodcraft folk campsites stand to gain in the coming months from enthusiastic, trained DFs who want to set up compost loos, solar arrays, forest gardens, and maybe – if luck comes our way – maybe even showers.
To keep up to date with the latest Share news, join the Facebook group, The Share: a campsite and environmental Centre linked with Koodoo.