by Lee Jenkins
Lee Jenkins, reflects on a very successful second Eastern Permaculture Gathering, held over the weekend of 10th-12th April at his home in Norfolk.
The weekend was initially planned as an opportunity for a small celebration on the completion of mine and Ben Margolis' Permaculture Diplomas, our accreditation presentations for these, and the launch of Soil and Soul, our permaculture teaching collective.
However, over the months that followed interest from local permaculturists, as well as people at both ends of the country grew, organically turning the event into something much more. This led to a coming together of an incredibly diverse group of people of all ages and backgrounds. Ben and I were truly thrilled to welcome everyone to our homes at Walnut Farm in Southburgh and to The Grange at Great Cressingham for the weekend.
A grounding opening circle beside the tranquil banks of the water’s edge and underneath the pollarded Oak tree was the perfect beginning to an amazing weekend, but the kids were having none of it! The energy was electrifying from the start and this set the tone for the couple of days to come.
More than 80 people came together to witness Ben and I present the culmination of our Diploma pathways and to join in with the variety of fun and interesting workshops and activities. These included an interactive arts project to re-purpose old umbrellas, willow weaving, bird box making and a wonderful dance workshop; as well as thought provoking discussions on everything from food, survive and thrive, localising permaculture and many more.
A truly fitting transition from day to night in the form of a moving fire ceremony was held in the forest garden early Saturday evening by Bee, singer of the Blue Dawn. Here a space was created for us to give thanks and peace to our ancestors and to our land. A good moment for reflection and appreciation before being lured by the inviting sounds and warmth of the barn for a spirited celebratory cèilidh.
With nearly a third of the crowd being kids, the weekend was rich with the buzz and excitement made by many generations all in one place. The incredible and inspiring contributions made by so many people - from the food to signage around the site - is a real example of what we can all do as a connected community.
The venue for the event, my home at Walnut Farm, is a 16 acre certified organic smallholding including a two acre forest garden, (which has now kindly been adorned with a magnificent archway, created in a group workshop).
During the weekend the event spread beyond Walnut Farm, with the opportunity for people to have a tour of The Grange, Ben and Sophie's home, their site at Great Cressingham. This ten acre smallholding offers a range of therapeutic retreats and courses leading to qualifications for marginalised groups.
Both sites reflect a wide diversity of permaculture in action and in true permaculture style we managed to stack the extra function of officially becoming the first two registered LAND Centres (demonstration sites) in Norfolk!
The origins of how this event came to be makes me reflect on the invaluable role of Hannah Thorogood, as she sowed the seeds with the courses she has led over the last 5 years. The accreditations over the weekend were a culmination of her work too and a clear reflection of the magic she has inspired within us as we both move forward delivering permaculture education and our first full PDC course together as lead tutors.
Further details of Lee and Ben’s work and courses can be found at http://www.soilandsoul.org.uk/