Gloucester and Newent – Oteshafied!

30th August 2012 by

Having turned our tums into landfill for abandoned bread products during our last breakfast in Stroud (mortifyingly, our picnicbench broke after the third helping), the ‘Five Hills’ that concertina around Stroud greeted us with particular grit as we began the 15 miles to Gloucester- we discovered why Painswick is so named, as our calves burned to reach this sandstone-clad village atop a particularly gruesome hillock. Once past the village of Edge, however, it was mad freewheeling down a treacherously pebbly and steep lane to reach the plains ‘o Gloucester. With such a short distance, we’d figured we could enjoy a relatively leisurely departure and still reach our destination with plenty of rehearsal time, but it would seem that cycle rides are like traffic on newly-built roads- they seem to exponentially fill up the space you give them – time slithered away as we paused for lunch by the canal, to pick blackberries, for a bask by the canal (Spartan living gives an extra appreciation for simple pleasures: sun on tired legs, soft grass in the small of the back…)…The heavens opened as we reached Gloucester Docks, but like a floating lighthouse in a storm, the SULA lightship appeared alongside, offering tea and shelter. Beautifully refurbished ship turned Buddhist centre, it offers holistic therapies and yoga as well as much needed tea for waifs and wayfarers…

The sky was dusking as we rolled up to ‘Lydia’s garden’: our home for the next two nights. Lydia  and her parents Kim and Steve had kindly offered to house us on behalf of Transition Newent and boy, were we in for a treat. Flat ground! Warm water.. from taps! Plum trees, chickens, guinea pigs, and best of all a SOFA! We felt thoroughly spoiled but just about managed to put away a stupefying amount of delicious food, much of it grown and cooked by generous members of Transition Newent. Ann, one of the group’s founders, had welcomed us and left us with an inventory to tell us the provenance of every treat – including veggie cottage pie, roast veggies, polenta cake, brownies, fresh apple juice and a stonking plum crumble. Over the feast Lydia shared told us about her recent cycling exploits, including a 100 mile-ride with her school from Snowdon to Gloucester! Having just aced her A-Levels, she’s soon to begin university but we’d love to adopt her for a future Otesha jaunt.…Cradling aching pot bellies, we waddled to the garden to rehearse the Morning Choices play to Lydia and Kim- thanks for the laughter you two! The food and homely comforts led us rapidly to snooze and a few snores…

After a quick cuppa back at Lydia’s, we had 7 more miles to cycle in the opposite direction to get to our performance for TransitionNewent. Idyllically nestled by the lake in a pretty park, audience numbers were nigh-on non-existent, so an audience-poaching mission was unleashed: the unsuspecting customers of Newent chippy were among those regaled by our offer of free, al fresco entertainment and we did reel in a few, including some high-spirited young fishermen who led a running commentary of the play  but we were secretly pleased that they stayed throughout. It was a good time to develop our message and gauge our reception a bit before we begin visit schools after their summer breaks. What’s great is that these different settings and audiences for the play unleash different energies and helps keep us on our toes. Our performance was followed by a magnificent picnic with some of Transition Newent, hearing about their efforts to engage a wider public with events such as free fruit picking, but it’s no easy task.

The morning began with riding the seven miles to St James City Farm in Gloucester for our first performance of the day. We were welcomed by the very inspiring Derek Wakefield-Brown, who’s been overseeing the farm since its inception in the early Nineties and whose passion for bringing farm animals and young humans together shines through. Bursting with the bleats of goats (best friends of the pony), the farm breathes life into a relatively deprived part of Gloucester. The farm enables thousands of city families to bond with animals in a nurturing environment, while giving young volunteers husbandry skills that have inspired some to go on to study agriculture and take on some of Derek’s mantle. Sadly the farm was on the brink of closure as the council funding dried up, but help from the Friendship Café charity has rejuvenated the project. The performance was a challenging one- our audience consisted mostly of young mums and tiny tots, and we really felt the sense of not wanting to alienate them by harping on too much about organic food- sustainability and affordability can seem oxymoronic, especially for families struggling with low budgets. However, Derek’s enthusiastic response was reassuring, as he asked us to come back next year for a performance in central Gloucester as part of a one-day eco event he’s organising (and suggested we perform in an Asda car park- Sunday opening has robbed the farm of Sunday visitors, he says).

Next stop  – Cirencester!

The Fifth Epic Tartan Trail Journal Entry

23rd September 2011 by

Roll up, roll up, for the next edition of the adventures of the Tartan Trailers coming to you from Luciana and Lucy, the luscious liaisons. When we last left you we were just about to embark on the epic journey of mid-tour retreat. Upon arrival at Hugh Grierson’s farm near Perth we hung up our wet socks and dried out our soggy sleeping bags in a handy poly tunnel and settled into our new home. Mid-tour retreat was a time for us all to reflect upon our time on the road and come up with ways to make us even closer and more effective as a community. And of course we planned to have lots of fun! We kicked off with an intense play rehearsal where we all swapped around our roles. It was really funny to watch people build upon the characters that others had previously played and rehearsal halted many times whilst we all got over the attack of the giggles! The weekend was also spent doing more serious stuff like sorting out the inevitable conflicts that arose from twelve strangers living in each others pockets for 3 weeks (like the strange occurrence that Otesha time seems to run circa an hour behind the rest of the world!). Although this was difficult at times we managed to resolve many of the issues we had encountered and our little band of two-wheeled world changers was much stronger and closer as a result. The only downside to this weekend was the onset of an autumnal turn of weather. Evenings were spent huddled together for warmth in a big breezy barn, partaking in the big Otesha quiz (that included every single obscure fact that Luciana’s brain contains), listening to the guitar and ukelele or snuggling down to hear Zoe’s dulcet voice reading us all another chapter from the wholesome ‘Ecotopia’.

Although mid-tour retreat was very fulfilling and spirit lifting I think we were all very ready to get to Stirling where we would have an indoor place to warm our cold toes and noses, so we set off on our two-wheeled steeds with gusto (actually setting off EARLIER than scheduled). The cycle ride was AMAZING! We rode up onto the moors above Stirling, just us and the buzzards to enjoy the spectacular views all around. Andres bravely took a naked dip in a small stream whilst we all played poo sticks on a handy bridge. Congratulations to those who lugged the heavy trailers up the massive hill at the end. The icing on the cake was arriving at our accommodation and finding a lovely church room with an OVEN (!), LIGHTS (!) and a real toilet. Oh the luxury! In high spirits we settled into our big carpeted room and had a couple of relaxed play rehearsals before our performance at St. Ninians primary school the next morning. From our first real stage we acted our hearts out and had the kids giggling away, especially when Andres the cow mooed his way onto stage with Arthur attached to the back of him making up his back legs. That afternoon we got a free bike check from the extremely kind mechanics at recycke-a-bike (we made them an amazing recycled thank you card) and later we munched our way through vegan pizzas mmmmmm. Next day was our day off, used in a variety of ways. The speedy gonzalez crew (Andina and the boyz) went on a 60 mile bike hike while the rest of us went for leisurely swims and checked our emails. Civilised. Then I (Lucy) left to London for a job interview (sadly unsuccessful), not before handing lots of money over to Luciana to sustain the team in my absence and waving them off to Gartmore for fresh adventures.

Thanks for your enlightened scribbles Lucy! Luciana here again! So after a speedy and uneventful cycle ride (apart from one Everest style hill) we arrived in the beautiful village of Gartmore. Small but perfectly formed, Gartmore had it all – a community run shop, a handily placed pub with a variety of tasty ales and a teeny-weeny school with only 19 kids! It was in the playing field of said school that we pitched our tents much to the curiosity of the local kids. Myself and Catherine got stuck into fixing the rather overgrown willow dome whilst the boys settled down to well-earned game of footie. Next day we pootled over to the school to perform the play, complete with a brand new song. It was a hit with all 19 of the kids! After an old-fashioned school dinner we cracked on with three workshops, food, fashion and transport. That night we discovered we had run out of gas so the cooking team decided to patronise the local pub and came out with tupperwares full of chips which we scoffed in the nearby village hall to shelter from the rain. Morning came and thankfully the weather had dried up as we mounted our steeds once more and cycled over (some very big) hills and dales all the way to the big smoke of Glasgow…. Love from Luciana Banana, Leah-Pop, Jenny Tree, Jenny A, Lucy Colbiz, Zoe, Kimberley (Eco), King Arthur, Colin-der, Dina the Dinosaur, Andres, and Catherine xxxxxxx

Many thanks to the Postcode Trust for their generous support of this project.

Legendary tales from the road – part 1

22nd June 2011 by

At last the team has come together to prepare and bond before we hit the road for our 600-mile adventure from Aberdaron to Edinburgh!

We’ve had an action packed week of workshops; sharing our journeys to Otesha; outreach training; and familiarising ourselves with the ‘Morning Choices’ script to craft our very own version of the Otesha play. We’re beginning to feel well prepared to spread the message of low-impact living far and wide, and we’re excited to learn more from everyone we meet along the way. Thanks to Liz and Calu for facilitating all the week’s activities, and to Matt, Harriet and Sylvia’s Mother for keeping us well nourished!

There have been so many highs with a few healthy lows; we were perhaps all too optimistic in leaving those extra layers behind only to realise that just because it’s June, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be warm! But it was easy to forget about the cold nights with the beautiful rides, learning exchange, bicycle maintenance, cob building, and did we mention delicious food?

We’re very grateful to our hosts here at the inspirational and beautiful Felin Uchaf centre, who have shared bounty from the garden and their enchanting folk stories around the fire. It’s going to be hard to leave but after our first successful play performance, we’re energised and excited for our shows ahead.

Smiles, pedals, peace & peanut butter power,

Meghan, Pete, Erin, Susanna, Holly, Heni, Rachel & Iona
The Northern Soul cycle tour team

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End to End tour journal – Hope for the future

20th July 2010 by

Its time for the second journal entry and the Otesha LEJOG (Lands End to John O’Groats) tour is now in full swing. Yesterday we descended on our third school – the Maynard school for girls in Exeter – and we definitely made an impression on the girls there. And this is what this week’s journal entry is going to be about – the children that we have met so far. Read the rest of this entry »

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