Alumni Spotlight: Amazing Abby

28th February 2013 by

bike scrapOur cycle tours have a huge, many would say life-changing, impact on those who take part.  They turn peoples lives upside down, inside out, shake them all about in a way that no one expected when we did our first tour in 2008.  Since then over 100 young people have joined our sustainable summer cycling adventures and thousands more have been inspired to make our world greener fairer and basically, much cooler for all of us.  We want to celebrate our alumni because they make Otesha what it is.  Not a week goes by when we’re not blown away by a past tour member doing something awesome.  So we’ve started an ‘Alumni Spotlight'; each month we’re going to shine our (green powered) spotlight on an alumni to showcase to the world how great they are.  First up it’s Abby Nicol.

OTESHA: What tour did you go on

Wild West 2008 around Wales and Caledonian Road 2009 as a tour liaison

OTESHA: What were your tour highs and lows?


Swimming in stormy seas below rainbows on a huge white sandy beach all to ourselves in the Gower peninsula in Wales, ah hoc spontaneous street performances of the play, storming a bank in Carmarthen demanding (in song) to see their ‘ethical policy, collectively building a bicycle at a scrap shop, re-learning how to knit, bed time stories from a magical Welsh Story teller,  tea and cake stops in many picturesque villages, superhero days, reading poems around a tree filled with bike lights in Chai Ovna cafe in Glasgow, evening circles in a hand painted yurt in Moniave, meeting people behind inspiring projects- Magpie’s Nest in Govan, Greener Kirkcaldy, campaigning against open cast coal mining in Merthyr Tydfil and more, being impressed by school children during workshops, playing a compost bin, gaining confidence cycling on any kind of road, seeing the UK countryside from the seat of my bicycle, and on the whole meeting the bunch of mad and amazing people in my tour groups, collectively overcoming challenges, learning from each other and building a wonderful, supportive, crazy, nomadic cycling community.  

Wales was wet and soggy, a mystery illness started going around the group pouncing on an unsuspecting member each night, I was actually one of two (out of 18!) who managed to avoid it so maybe this should be one of my highs. One day we cycled 70+miles up and down Welsh hills in the incessant rain to be greeted by a leaking, smoke-filled tepee in tepee Valley where fellow oteshites were huddled around the fire eating rice flavoured with marmite crying ‘this is an emergency situation!’ Very comical looking back on it but not the welcoming to the utopian community we had envisioned. The situation was turned around when we managed to all find shelter in a cosy yurt and snuggle down listening to excerpts from Roger Deakin’s ‘Wildwood’.

Scotland- Deciding to adopt a porridge-only diet in Glasgow (a solidarity action with people around the word who exist on very little and so to appreciate the wealth of food we have at our finger tips) now I’m a porridge fan but our first batch for breakfast was laced with charred oats and the flavour lingered for the rest of the day, we then somehow, in a wave of blind enthusiasm, decided to opt to continue porridge-day for a second day…this was when cracks began to emerge and bellies rumble at the thought of the tasty vegan meals we’d hastily agreed to give up, cue big long consensus decision making meeting which thankfully ended merrily with us abandoning the porridge and resuming our vegan feasts.

OTESHA: Briefly, what have you been up to since the tour?

I got a degree then fled to the fields! well..finished uni, environmental food projects with Transition Edinburgh University, traversed Spain just me and my trusty bicycle (Beryll the Mountain Goat), wwoofed, got horticultural working on organic farms around the UK, I’m studying Organic Farming at the Scottish Agricultural College, campaigning with the Combe Haven Defenders in Hastings, working on an Organic market garden and community garden in Hastings and exploring the quirky towns of the Southeast.     

sevilla OTESHA: Tell us a bit more about Combe Haven Defenders…

Combe Haven Defenders formed in summer 2012. We are a campaign group of people local to Hastings who are part of the “Stop the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road Campaign,” – the ‘first and the worst’ of over 190 new road projects that the Government, big business & local councils are pushing throughout England and Wales.  We are campaigning for an affordable, sustainable transport system for our area, that improves the quality of all our lives without costing the earth.

The BHLR is a 3 mile road planning to devastate one of Hastings and Bexhills’ most beautiful natural treasures, the Combe Haven Valley, at a cost of £100 million and rising. The East Sussex County Council are prioritising this at a time of mass cuts to public services claiming it will alleviate congestion (when new roads mean more traffic), create jobs (the numbers of which have been grossly inflated) and housing (opening up Trinity College Cambridge’s land for development). It is a road that the Department for Transport calls ‘low value for money,’ in a report that’s been heavily redacted. In fact our next action is called: Operation Disclosure, calling the DfT to release the report’s recommendations on the BHLR to the public by 5th April or we’ll peacefully come and get them ourselves. See:  As the Combe Haven Defenders we’ve been behind lots of actions: organising trainings, setting up and supporting protest camps, dressing up as Zombie roads, running information stalls, fundraisers, ceilidhs, exhibitions, public meetings and more and more, it’s been a busy 6 months but there’s more to come! Sign our pledge and receive updates,  join an action, support us.  The BHLR is the first of 190 new road projects we need to nip this madness in the bud.     

OTESHA: What impact has the Otesha tour had on you?

Oh in so many ways- I’d just come back from a year in Canada and had experienced many incredible things there. I was feeling a little apprehensive about returning to what in my mind was a comparatively boring UK, Otesha blew that concept away. My first tour was an eye opener into all the eco/activisty goings on on this little island- permaculture projects a plenty, transition towns, inspiring youth projects, farms, education centres, bicycle projects. It catalysed my love of bicycles, I haven’t really had a day off a bicycle since my first otesha tour and because of it took off toute seule around Spain, I couldn’t have seen myself doing that without having experienced cycle touring with Otesha. It introduced me to wonderful friends, I’m part of this vibrant community of Oteshites who share similar values, follow their interests, question and work to change the norms and narratives that are taking the world down such a destructive path at the moment. It gives me hope!! Ha!

OTESHA: Are you still involved with Otesha and how?

Yes, once an Otesha member always an Otesha member! I cycled lands end to John o groats as an otesha fundraiser. I keep up to date with otesha shenanigans through the alumni newsletter, go to events where I can and keep up with the friends I met on tour.

OTESHA: What advice would you give to new tour members?

Ooo you’re in for a treat! Take in every minute, make a tour video even, embrace the consensus meetings they will end…eventually! It is such a unique time to have pedalling, performing and skill sharing around the country, every day is so full of experiences. An Oteshite from Canada came to see our play in Edinburgh and said “I’m so jealous, you’ll be hard pressed to find something that beats your Otesha tour” and he’s right. My tours have very special places in my heart. So challenge yourself, get some waterproof socks (my practical tip) and let the Otesha adventure begin!

O moustache

OTESHA: Describe your Otesha experience in 3 words, a picture, an action or video.

 Mad, challenging, hilarious.  In fact this video puts a smile on my face!


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