Just back from the MENDRS symposium in the Lake District http://mendrs.com/ where in spite of a deluge of rain and chilly temperatures, a group of strangers became friends over a weekend of talking, sharing, walking and mending.
The symposium was held in the best location possible – a working farm surrounded by heartbreakingly beautiful countryside – that is when you could see through the clouds!
In the small barn we had people shrimping their computers to send them helpful messages such as, “please take a break” In the library we had people darning socks, leggings and t-shirts, thanks to instructions from Tom of Holland (who also knit a replacement sole for a shoe) and we had the gals from Stitched Up and Sue Bamford teaching people how to mend seams in their clothes and customise old clothes to make something new to wear.
In the large barn, we learned about Repair Cafes in Holland; about ifixit.com an online repair manual where you can find simple instructions for how to fix just about anything, including your i-phone (after you have dropped it in the loo!) and about Access Space in Sheffield, where under the guise of repairing computers, people who live on the margins of society have a place to go where they are accepted as someone who has a contribution to make. We discovered that you don’t have to keep buying new clothes; that you can repair the motor of a power drill – even when the manufacturer tells you its isn’t worth it – and end up with a better drill; that there is a world of people out there who are not buying into a consumerist society and are happier mending, and doing it for themselves.
And we went on a walk – and yes, we did indeed find plenty of litter to pick up, and we also found a whole lot more. A chance meeting with plantsman and chocolate maker Ben Popple http://www.mrpoppleschocolate.co.uk/ led to a collaborative walk in which he taught us about all the edible and medicinal hedgerow plants we found as we sauntered along footpaths and farm lanes. We even got to taste some lovely flowers:
And because you cannot disregard health and safety entirely, and because I had a few left over from the quadrat exercises last year, Hi-V vests were worn:
Then we got to the main road. Our empty bags soon filled up with the cans and wrappers and nappies and sometimes unidentifiable items that some people throw out of their cars.
When we got back to the farm we sorted through our collection to separate out the recyclables. (Some people are thoughtful enough to put their rubbish into a bag before they dump it by the side of the road.)
As always it was lovely to be outside walking and especially to learn about plants I have been walking past my whole life without realising how tasty or useful they are. And we cleaned up, and by doing so mended that stretch of road by removing other people’s rubbish. And most importantly for me, I learned that people will come out and clean up – especially if you can provide them with a benefit, such as tasting wild plants.
This walk leaves me with a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks to everyone who came out. It was a pleasure for me to share my crazy obsession with such a kind group of lovely people. Thanks to Ben Popple for agreeing to collaborate at such short notice, and thanks to Luis Fernandez who took all the photos. And thanks to Jonnet, Guiseppe and Beck, who organised the symposium.
(Use the MENDRS link at the top of this post for more details about people and projects I’ve mentioned, and a whole lot more fabulous stuff I haven’t.)