Train from Leeds through more beautiful spring-time English countryside arriving at Lancaster then cab to the community on Mill Lane, Forge Bank. Situated right on the beautiful River Lune and next to the Old Mill.
When the Lancaster formation purchased the land – without a planning permit – they inherited with it a large old mill which subsequently became a factory space for Polish WW2 veterans who developed a business making engineering products. The Polish allies were demobbed there. Now it is owned and managed by a Co-op of community members. It’s a least a hundred squares on two floors and has been retrofitted and it is owned by Lancaster. It’s managed buy a separate co-op and operates as a Business Incubator and a small income stream for members and the local community.
The community is only two years old. It is built as a long row of 2 storey homes (1, 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms) (some as small as 40 square meters) facing onto the river with the bank opposite a natural woodland with a bike and walking path along it – once an old rail-line.
The buildings are all very energy efficient PassivHaus accredited using 85% less energy than comparative sized houses. They rented their roof to a separate solar co-op that some of them belong to and they also instigated a small hydro scheme on the River Lune with another co-op of local investors.
They were also part of a broader community scheme organising to physically dig, with tractors where possible, the super-fast broadband trenches – four miles away – and they met a lot of their neighbours and the landowners in the process.
We arrived after a day’s travel just in time for the Daily Diners Club meal (abut 16 of the forty or so households do a Daily Diners – fitting in with the other scheduled Common Meals). They welcomed us and started plying us with wine and probing for insights to help them with their current issues of participation, communications, relationships, burn out and disappointments. The wobbles. There was a lot of laughing notwithstanding and we all celebrated together the many benefits and recognised the commitment that is now – amongst so many in their young community and ours – just a given.
We met up with more amazing community activists. With a larger community there seemed to be a larger range of activists and professional backgrounds and skills and they seemed more organised with their record keeping although still a ‘Work In Progress’ and somewhat patchy. For example, they were finding that not keeping records of meeting attendance was making it more difficult for them to address their participation problems.
Again the discussion regarding climate change elicited an energetic response and good connections were made that may be fruitful in some way.
During our stay at Lancaster I made contact with Kevin Anderson – Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University. I was extremely fortunate to be able to meet with him for an hour and a half and to interview him. (I have sent the tape off to Luke and the Breakthrough mob). It was a very valuable meeting and validated a lot of my thinking. It has spurred me on to continue to search for those few, all too rare, people who want and are able to talk about restoring safe climate conditions and who work in this field.
We did get an opportunity to wander around Lancaster for a bit – it was a lovely old university town – and we also went for a long walk along the Lune River and through the lanes and fields past a magnificent view of the mountains famously painted by Turner and saw a memorial to the witches (or was it a warning?)
Back to the Common House for a nice cuppa tea.
Sounds as if your brain will be exploding, with all the visuals from the train, then all the enthusiastic conversation, with wine etc. great to read.
Findhorn has been a great place to recuperate in. Five days – still with a presentation, conversations and stimulation; five days also with amazing surroundings, walks in all weather and a cosy cottage to wind down in. Leaving today for Copenhagen.