Horrendous hills, soothing soup, wicked workshops and a much-awaited reunion – Tastetastic North’s final days

10th September 2012 by

Tastetastic North’s indomitable grease magnet, Tamsin, and unorthodox map-reader Gavin, take us to the final horizon…

After packing our panniers and saying a sad farewell to Falkland, we resettled not too far away – at the inspiring and incredibly hospitable Monimail Tower Project. A charity existing to preserve the beautiful medieval Monimail Tower, it’s also an ecologically-conscious and communally-organised community based on a smallholding around the tower itself. A number of residents live in a proto-eco house – one of the Segal self-build houses that sprang up in the 1970s and 80s. Featuring beautiful vegetable gardens, a new cob pizza oven (with Morris Minor bonnet for a lid) and fruit trees, it also hosts wwoofers and benefits from the ongoing volunteering and interest of past residents going back at least 20 years. This was our idyllic base for a few days while we headed out to run workshops in Fife schools, and by a brilliant chance the Project was hosting a fascinating traditional skills-sharing day at the end of our stay there, with craftspeople coming from all over to share their knowledge with members of the public. We did our bit by hosting an Otesha kids’ tipi area, though the weather was so glorious that the tipi itself didn’t see much use as we took our activities into the sunshine.

We tried our hand at archery, spoon-whittling, hurdle-making, felt-making, soap-making…

… and we laid on some activities for kids (of all ages) – in this case drawing on the acrobalance expertise in our team.

After a great musical bonfire on the final evening and a hearty (fermented) porridge breakfast the next morning, we set off for Edinburgh, past beautiful Loch Leven and once again over the Firth of Forth where, shortly after, Chloe’s back tyre suffered another puncture.

We sheltered under our tarp, sharing stories and the contents of our snack bags, listening to the rain all around (and on) us whilst we patched the tube. Who knows what passers-by made of this lumpy, giggling tarpaulin…  Once the bike was back together, the 3rd cycling team caught us up and so we rolled into Edinburgh together.

We arrived at James and Alice’s flat to an amazing roast squash dinner! Yummo! The next day we visited St John Vianney Primary School where, after running workshops on Growing Your Own and Fairtrade we all ate our lunch together with the students – wonderful!

In the afternoon we met Will, who is part of a group setting up the New Leaf Co-op. He chatted to us over a delicious meal made with local ingredients, including elephant garlic from the Isle Of Arran! Getting insight into setting up a workers’ cooperativewas really interesting and inspiring – it was great to compare and share learnings with experiences of our team member of setting up and working in cooperatives.

Will talks to the Tastetastic North team about workers’ co-ops and bringing affordable, healthy food to the ‘burghers of Edinburgh

After more great workshops the next morning, this time at Stenhouse Primary, and a meat-related lunch miscommunication (see our food mandate) we set off along the canal path to Falkirk and its famous wheel. A very bumpy towpath resulted in missing nuts and bolts and a long journey to our campsite, arriving late in the night… but luckily Sonia’s amazing warm soup and snack shelf restored us all, and a well-timed appearance by another Sonia, our brilliant host, had ensured that the cooking team had found the campsite with time enough to get the cooking job done.

After a great evening circle (our regular team meeting) and some reflection on our consensus decision making process we began to look at the route for the following day’s ride. The contours suggested some beastly hills, and the roads mapped several pages totting up to 45 miles! Our fears were soon laid to rest, we rose early and arrived at our final desination, the Talamh Housing Co-op, before sundown and in time to be reunited with Tastetastic South!

We were there not just for a reunion with our southern counterparts but also to take part in Otesha’s ‘How to Change Things’ training. So many tour members are bursting with ideas for how to change the world (or their small part of it, for starters), and Otesha have developed this over the years help turn little acorn ideas into great oaks.  How do we know there’s a need for our project?  How do we give it the best chance of success?  Who are our allies and what are the stumbling blocks? How do we find the people we need to help, how do we keep them on board and how do we make sure we’ve got a healthy diversity of people involved?  Lots of mind-mapping and discussion help our kernels of ideas to take shape – and just as importantly, the input of other cycle tour members was invaluable.

And so, inspired, well-fed and feeling we could tackle anything, the Tastetastic teams headed home, ready to make a difference.  Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone we met along the way – projects, hosts, schools and kids – whose kindness, hospitality, knowledge and inspiration made this experience possible.

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