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Drawing to a close

Tomorrow is our last ‘working’ day at our current hosts. As is now my pattern I will update on this host after we leave but unless something totally out of character happens tomorrow it is shaping up to be our favourite host so far. The people are fabulous – inspiring, friendly, lovely, interesting; the scenery is gorgeous, the set up is awe inspiring and it is generally all round fantastic!

We are all four feeling slightly WWOOFed out now. It was said to us by a few people before we set off that moving from host to host every week or two might be a bit of a challenge and indeed it has been – great because we get to fit in as many hosts as possible, interesting for the variety and diversity but hard because it very much characterised this as our Year of Goodbyes – goodbye to friends and family and home before we set out and then goodbye to new friends and hosts along the way as we went. WWOOFing for just a short period often means we are simply not around long enough to be trained to be useful so we end up doing similar tasks each time. Much though we might enjoy being in the sunshine weeding or chopping wood it can be hard to maintain enthusiasm for those types of tasks when you are doing them week in, week out and there is a sense of frustration in not learning any new skills or trying new tasks.

Fortunately this host has been fantastic for renewing our passion, reminding us of what we want from this experience and in teaching us loads of new skills. We have tackled all sorts of new things here and will leave very much educated, informed and armed with new practical abilities. We will also leave with a mere 5 hosts left to go. Although we are only just over half the way through our planned time away we are over 2/3 through our booked hosts. This was accidental in the first place as when booking hosts for zone three it was nearly a year away so it wasn’t possible to fill every week. I was quite happy about this as it built flexibility into our plan and allowed space to take time out if we needed it. As it turns out we do feel we need it. We are not exhausted from work but we are ready to chill out, to recouperate as a foursome and take some time just for us. To chat, to laugh and to just be. To discus what happens next, to reflect on what we have learnt, what we still want to learn, where our adventure has taken us so far and what gaps – if any, we have remaining.

We left with so many objectives and goals for this year, so many hopes and dreams, so many expectations and ideas about what it might bring, alongside the practial skills we hoped to learn from WWOOFing we also had a plan for living off the land and seeing more of the UK. As we move ever further northwards that aspect of our plan swings into action and we anticipate dusting off our air gun, digging out our fishing rods and bringing down the spotter books from the shelf in the van as we try our hands at hunting, fishing, foraging, wild camping, wildlife spotting and enjoying the rugged wilder side of our countryside. We have at least a week between every host from now on and intend to spend it living as frugally as possible, getting back in touch with ourselves and nature and working out what happens next.

4

Briefly Homeless

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See that? Willow – our home, our bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, lounge, our vehicle, our shelter, pretty much our everything in terms of material possessions up there on a ramp about to have all her wheels taken off. This was where Willow spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday night. We on the other hand, by virtue of…
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5

Anti-WWWOOFing

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At pretty much every single one of our WWOOFing hosts I think it is fair to say that hosts have become friends. This last week the opposite has been true and friends have become hosts! After a fairly intense first half of our planned adventures (we have booked nine months worth of hosts, we are…
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5

All about the people

One of the things I was most excited about on our adventure was the opportunity to meet so many people, subscribing as I do to the idea that strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet. Along with the hosts, who have been so generous, welcoming us into their homes, their families and their lives we have also encountered all sorts of other new friends along the way.

We have WWOOFed alongside other people, from all sorts of backgrounds, coming to WWOOFing for all sorts of diverse reasons, all ages, nationalities and types of people. We have met the hosts friends, families and neighbours. As a result of bumping into people we have already deviated from our planned route and found ourselves ‘WWOOFing’ for people who aren’t even WWOOF hosts! Our motto is gradually becomming ‘take every opportunity that arises as and when it comes up!’ As a result we have met some amazing people and had some fantastic experiences. Spending time with Jill from Middlewick (twice!) was as a result of getting chatting to her at a pizza evening she hosted for her neighbours, which we went along to with our WWOOF hosts at the time. We feel very lucky to consider Jill as a close friend now and keep regularly in touch.

At our last hosts the next door neighbour was Ian Sturrock, the apple tree man. Ian picked us up one afternoon as we were walking along the lane back to our hosts, let Dragon and Star do some pond dipping in his pond and invited us back the following day for a tour of his apple tree operation. We learnt about sexual reproduction and vegetative reproduction on apples, grafting and root stock, using chemicals or not, pruning, apple tree shapes and sizes and Welsh apple varieties that had almost died out. We tore ourselves away really as spending time with Ian was entertaining, informative and a lot of fun. He invited us to stay any time and we really hope to take him up on that and return some time.

On our last evening at our hosts they very kindly took us out for a meal at a local restaurant where a friend of theirs was singing. We were briefly introduced before he took the stage and were instantly entranced by both his clear and pure voice and his fantastic songs with a strong message of sustainable living approaches. After about half an hour I leant across to our host to ask the name of the singer so I could look up his songs and get hold of copies and did a double take when  I got the reply ‘Eric Maddern’. Eric Maddern! Only one of Dragon, Star and I’s favourite authors! We first discovered his books when Dragon was about four or five and started asking questions about where humans came from, why some of us were different colours to each other and how the world began. It seemed that Eric had a book to answer pretty much every question in beautiful poetic words, stunningly illustrated. Books to treasure, to bring out by the pile and snuggle up and share together over and over again.

We all really enjoyed the songs and spent some time chatting to Eric after his performance, thanked him for his stories which we have all gotten so much pleasure from and were invited to visit him at his home and eco-retreat the following day. What an amazing place it is too. Cae Mabon (I really recommend having a good look at the website, particularly the pictures, which do some justice to how beautiful it is there). We sat and chatted to Eric in the sunshine, added to our collection of his books with a couple of signed copies which have instantly become treasured items with a space found for them in the van, had a tour of the woodland, river, amazing eco buildings, gardens, ducks and wonderful space there. We really hope we will return there at some point and have promised to stay in touch with Eric who is interested in our adventure.

Who knows who we’ll meet next, which way our adventure will lead? Staying open minded to suggestions, invitations and opportunities, saying yes to offers, taking chances and going with the flow. We’re going to keep smiling at those strangers and saying ‘hello’ and sticking our hands out to introduce ourselves – every single one of them could turn out to be our new best friend.