Radical Rumours

Radical Routes has a newsletter type thing called Radical Rumours where members can write about what has been going on. I wrote an entry for Nutclough Housing Co-op whilst I was there and this is it:

This radical rumours entry from Nutclough Housing Co-op is a guest entry written by Nick Sellen who is travelling by bicycle around Britain investigating different cities, areas, and lifestyles whilst pondering how to live a principled, sustainable, and productive life in the modern world. You can find out more at http://ontheroad.nicksellen.co.uk

This is my second alternative living setup I’ve visited but the first housing co-op. Last week I popped by Hockerton Housing Project for lunch which is a co-housing project with 5 houses that are owned by people which generates most of it’s electricity with 2 wind turbines and a set of solar panels. Nutclough is a housing co-op so there is one house with many people using shared facilities.

The first thing to notice is the immediate friendliness – I’d gotten used to interactions with new people being tainted with a slight sense of suspicion, but none of that here. Immediately I was welcomed and fed and watered. In return I’ve tried to help out as much as I can including some bread dough kneading, getting the computer to talk to the projector, sorting a pile of stones, baking a cake, helping a dependent neighbour with his hospital appointments, and writing this article.

On Saturday (16th July) was a Transition Town local economy showcase event. I had not heard of Hebden Bridge before arriving here along the Rochdale Canal and was very impressed with the range of sustainable and community based activities going on. I didn’t have time to check out all the projects but went to an interesting talk about a self build project that was impressive in it’s thoroughness and goal of providing 3 bed housing for £542/month (fingers crossed they can find some suitable land). I fear I lost some of the details of the other projects in the general buzz of activity and enthusiasm though!

Soon after arriving Keith asked me if I was up for a full moon bike ride on Saturday night to which I enthusiastically signed up for – not actually asking when/where/how long, expecting perhaps a gentle canal pootle or similar. I found out afterwards it was to be a 100 mile * ride though the night, eee! I had only been doing up to around 40 miles in a day (although whilst heavily laden). Fortunately I used to enjoy riding the Dunwich Dynamo (120 mile full moon night from London) so I knew what I was up against. This ride is called the flim-flam and the end destination is the stunning Flamborough Head where I managed a quick north sea swim in glorious morning sunshine (that never happened on the Dunwich Dynamo). To quote Keith after his experience “it’s absolutely insane, NOT recommended unless you’re in for some self-hating”. A perfect endorsement for trying it next year! See http://fullmoonbikeride.wordpress.com. * final distance covered was actually 120 miles.

Over the same weekend was the Edible Garden Trail showcase and the Nutclough garden was open to visitors interested in not only food growing but the communal living aspect too. I was sat on my saddle doing the bike ride above whilst all the visitors came round but am told there was much interest in the Nutclough setup – especially as they have enough space to host meetings for interested groups to form around these ideas.

The garden itself has been improving in productivity this year particularly as the fruit bushes are in their second year and given a fine crop of jostaberries which have been turned into jam. There is also anticipation of a good quince and apple crop. A new addition are two bee colonies which have queens laying and workers bringing in lots of pollen. There will certainly be a lot of options for what to put on your toast if you visit later in the year.

The room I’ve been staying in shows clear signs of building work recently done after a bit of questioning found out this was due to a case of dry-rot. The solution involved digging a few feet into the ground and filling it in again which sounds very painful. There had been long debates about how to fill it in with an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete and an alternative local builder and the green building network were consulted. However, there were stories of subsidence with alternative materials and a hardcode/concrete mix was used.

You might be interested about my solar setup which has been keeping my many gadgets (iPhone, camera, laptop, kindle) charged. I have a 62w flexible solar panel (“sunload” brand) which will sit on top of my Carry Freedom bike trailer with 80% of the surface in light and happily provide 20w of power (in reasonable sunlight – not all of it is always pointed at the sun as it’s folded round) but still a useful 5-10w in lower light (by comparison a hub dynamo will provide around 3w). It charges through a Genasun GV-5 charge controller into a Deben 14Ah lithim-ion battery pack. All the devices are then charged via cigar socket connections coming from the battery pack.

Part of my journey is about finding a solution for how to live my own life – how to structure it, but also learning some more general ways about how people can organise themselves to live social, sustainable, and productive lives. One of my approaches as been to learn about history along the way (in particular how Britain has developed) but also through reading ideas/philosophy. I’ve started reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations which is generally thought of as the Capitalist Bible – the world back then (1776) was quite different and it seems his specifically wanted all levels of society to experience improvement. A pure capitalist today would likely argue it is perfectly acceptable to exploit workers if that is what the market allows them to do. I would suggest that if Adam Smiths ideas no longer benefit all levels of society then we need to move on.

Finally it’s been a great place to visit, rest, and get involved in a range of activities. I’ll take a warm feeling with me and a sense of sharing that I will pass on in my travels.