The Willow Hey site is now open and fully functional, it has been a long slog through two harsh winters, where up until fairly recently we were only able to work on the site for one day a week, but we persevered, stuck to our guns and got on with it, until the former jungle of a site was returned to a place of fertility and usefulness for the local community.
It seems like such a long time ago when we were knocking together make shift fires and frying eggs for our Butties in the flames in the middle of a cold snowy winter as we struggled to assemble a large chicken coup. This was at a time when we were having to rely on the kindness of local Cafe the Pepper Mill for our brews until we got our own cups and kettle.
The Real Deal!
I have never seen such a level of keenness and dedication on any project I have worked on or been involved in, there have been sights and things said on the site that have bought me close to tears of joy, Chris wood echoed this sentiment earlier on today when we had a catch up about the project . Its like Chris puts it ‘Its a special place’ and it really is.
At Willow Hey project, people find self worth, confidence, friendship, laughter and a very laid back and supportive environment, once again this has happened because we have all allowed each other to work and lead in our specialisms and accept the expertise and guidance of whoever is engaging in a specific type of work, none of us are precious about our skills, we are keen to share them with anyone who shows an interest or needs to learn them.
A skilled community emerges
As a sat sipping at my brew and tugging on a roll up earlier today, I drifted through the evolution of the site up to the present and what is has now become, and it really made me smile inside. And then I thought about the varied skills of the people who come onto the site, it makes a compelling list when we put these skills into the context of developing communities and creating solution based strategies to continuing austerity.
Here are just some of the skills that people have on the site: Green woodworking, carpentry, permaculture design, joinery, community work, horticulture. food processing and preparation, support work, teaching, IT (computer building and maintenance) blogging, woodland management, writing, and two Men in Sheds Tutors.
And what is really exciting about this bank of skills that people possess is that it all came together organically, the right people for the job, came to the right site, at the right time and it because of this diverse range of skills that the site has become a lively and thriving community Hub, in the last three weeks alone we ran an introduction to permaculture, a small festival complete with bands, lovely food and activities for the kids, and today the site was host to some children off the local estate who are in the middle of their summer holidays.
The next phase for us, and one which we are specifically geared up to do is engaging with people from the local housing estate, as you have seen from the list of skills above we are able to provide wide ranging traditional and useful skills to members of the local community. This will continue through the late and into autumn and winter as we deliver workshops on pickling and preserving, how to use herbs in cooking and medicinally, keeping chickens, and another introduction to permaculture which I am hoping to run in early September on the site, and of course the weekly Men in Sheds sessions.
There is a lot of poverty and social exclusion close to the Willow Hey site, it is here where we can have an impact in peoples lives by offering them a range of skills which will enable them to feed their selves and families, we can offer quality and useful skills to those seeking employment or self employment, and we can be there for those who those who fall into isolation through our men in sheds project and a women’s gardening project we hope to begin in the spring.
Hubs for a low impact future and localised economy
In the face climate change and the dwindling of natural resources Hubs like the Willow Hey project are able to offer local communities the means of crossing the bridge from consumption to low impact community production. where people have skills to generate their own day to days resources locally, reducing their dependence on finite resources, saving money, and reducing their carbon output to virtually zero. At present we are venturing into the area of creating micro income generation through local food growing, we are in the process of finding out what local buyers, cafes, pubs etc are interested in buying in terms of fresh produce and looking at how much we are to deliver, over time this will create quality horticultural employment for young people living on the estates close by.