Changing My World, Again (or Why The Journey Made Me Leave Embercombe)

Bye Bye from me! March 2014

Bye Bye from me! March 2014

Back in 2007, I encountered Mac, Joey, Suzie Mumme and Emma Brown at Be The Change conference in London. For me it was ‘love at first hearing’ and soon to be ‘love at first sight’, as it has been for so many others and the start of over 6 years of employment and a totally enmeshed life. They told me about Embercombe and I was there 3 weeks later.

One weekend visit in December was all it took. I was totally smitten.

On Friends Weekends in those days, everyone was left to fend for themselves, bringing a bag of ‘food to share’ and trusting in unreliable postcodes and unfamiliar taxi drivers.  I was one of just 9 attending that Friends weekend. At my insistence, wanting to walk into the place that felt so special, the taxi dropped me off at the top of the track.  Sadly it was the wrong track and I found myself 2 miles up the road at 11pm at night, rucksack on back, navigating dark lanes noisy with pig grunts without a phone signal or map.  Some exhilarating time later, I breached a steep muddy lane, to be greeted by a fierce, “Who goes there?” from a red-pyjama-clad figure with hair and beard streaming in the wind.  I had arrived. Joey was waiting for me, with honey vegetable soup on the stove in the cabin.

Shortly after, the role of Director of Development became mine after volunteering to help Mac with an Embercombe stand at, of all incongruous places, the Daily Mail Ideal Home Show.

My first working day came in May. Mac picked me up from the station and as we drove through Haldon Forest and onto site, everywhere was clean, green, bright. “My favourite season,” said Mac. I could only agree.

Joey’s caravan was vacant and instead of the yurt my friends were expecting to find me in, it became my Embercombe home. So began a year and a half of ‘weaving together the city and the country’, travelling regularly between my home in gritty North London and rural South Devon.

In London, we organised ‘salons’ where we invited interesting and engaged people aboard the Volharding, generously moored in St Katherine Dock.

Back at Embercombe, we hosted London corporate sustainability professionals and my old eco-activist network for Climate Conversation Weekends that mixed people up and generated the Climate Story Tellers group, who still share their stories with each other today, five years on. Some have gone onto become an Ambassador for Embercombe, some stay in touch despite moving to Australia and all of them are working on amazing projects.

I remember treating the Stone Circle with caution and respect and it was several months before I visited it. My patience was rewarded and during a Story Telling Weekend, a stone shared its own story with me, of the permanence and connectedness of all life here – the same material in the rock being bound in the dead plant nestling next to it, and also in my own skin. It was only later that I heard Mac tell the purpose of the stone circle, to provide the eye of the dragon of Albion and so enable the awakening of its people.

Joey taught me the importance of joining in and experiencing life for myself, not just being ‘out there, saving the world’ . He inspired me to really start living life, rather than standing on the sidelines of it, trying to influence other people.  I owe my motherhood to this lesson.

Embercombe in summer was where I grieved the passing of my independence: pregnant, carrying buckets of water across the parched garden, over and over. Spilling water, eyes streaming, saying goodbye to my old self.

It was a fantastic place and the perfect season to be carrying a child. We were looking after an old gypsy caravan and for a precious few nights I slept on its red gingham pillows, out in the meadows. I slept so well, Johannes was sent by the Core Team to come and wake me to join our meeting.

Embercombe brought me to live in Ashburton and gave me a new community. On New Years Eve 2010 it witnessed my wedding with Andy and Doro’s blessing day. The Embercombe family looked out for us whilst Andy’s first kidney transplant failed and through the scary year of his being ill and the euphoria of his second transplant.

And all through this time our influence has grown: we run many more programmes, partnerships and enormous Friends Weekends. Mac speaks to bigger audiences and his and our reputation as a source of inspiration for living with deeper values is growing rapidly. To deliver this we now have a team of 13 paid staff not 5 and there are generally 20 volunteers living on site instead of two. We have an exciting new Ambassadors programme and a talented coterie of Associates.

Last year I realised how much I was struggling to meet my own, and others’, expectations of my role and to deliver all that it had become in only a part time hours. I decided to take The Journey for a second time and take stock of my situation.

The week brought me insights into where I’ve come from, the history of my recent forbears, the struggles they faced and how I stand on their shoulders. How they would want me to make choices that make me happy and bring me fully alive…this resonated with other messages I had received, from a stone in the Stone Circle and from the rock in the Kents’ Cavern, as well as my teachers on the programme.  I also got to see how my choices to date have been so influenced by my concern with how you see me. It’s been your impression that counts, not my experience. God, that was painful. So ultimately, I came to really realise that it’s down to me to take care of my experience here on this beautiful planet. And that by taking more care of myself, I’ll be making more contribution to the whole that any of my old hard work striving to ‘change things’ ever could. Because I realise it doesn’t end there and that the more I take care of me, the more I have to give away, the more I can cherish everyone and everything around me. And the place to start is to cherish myself.

So that’s been my personal history in this magical place. Like many good Journeys, the impact took a while to root but the message of my Journey week in March finally penetrated in December and I realised I love this project and its people but I don’t believe my own purpose is to manage databases, social media, year planners and marketing campaigns. And that is what Embercombe needs right now. My love of telling stories and connecting people and finding ways to make exciting synergies happen kept me satisfied in the role for a long while. But right now, Embercombe can’t provide the space for me to spread my wings and be all I can be.  So, trusting that the Universe supports our unfolding when we dare to let go, I’m stepping into the unknown to see what awaits.

The first project I took on at Embercombe was to create a music album, ‘Notes for The Journey’. I crowdfunded it and so every CD sold makes a direct contribution to Embercombe. I realise that 6 years on, the words I wrote on the cover speak directly to my years in this precious valley and to this point in time in particular. It looks like I have found the resolve to offer my gifts.

Back cover of CD

Back cover of CD

An enormous and heartfelt thank you to all the Friends, volunteers, apprentices, associates and staff of Embercombe who have made my time here so stimulating, enriching and funny.

You can listen to the tracks on the Notes for the Journey CD  here.

Why Do We Need ‘Sustainable Parenting?’

By Joanna Watters, Sustainable Parenting Practitioner.

Joanna Watters at Summer CampJoanna is an Embercombe Associate, mother of 2 grown sons, parenting facilitator, ex-primary school teacher, and a long time worker in family education as a workshop leader and counsellor.

“Global Transformation…. starts with us and how we parent”  (Dr Shefali Tsabary – see

In our privileged consumer culture, the reality of raising children can be more challenging than we expected.

In trying to explain what Sustainable Parenting is all about, I decided to quote from an email I received last week, as it expresses a typical scenario.  It is from a mature, functional professional couple (names have been changed).

We both feel very powerless in relation to dealing with James our 5 year old who is expressing a lot of anger, opposition, forcefulness, not responding to discipline etc. This is at least in part provoked by the birth of our second son Mark who was born 5 months ago.

We need guidance in how to parent from our hearts with skill and consciousness, to hold this little being with as much care and love as possible, in his anger and vulnerability

“Sustainable Parenting” is about supporting parents like these – families who have their basic needs met, and who want to parent consciously so that the generation we are raising are emotionally intelligent, as well as functional.

Parents work in the Stone Circle

Parents work in the Stone Circle

The reasons that parenting is often more challenging than we thought it would be are complex.

Often its because in the demands of 24/7 care, often done by one adult alone for much or all of those 24 hours, we forget to resource ourselves.

And also because children are designed to be mirrors – they copy what they see, and reflect back what they’ve absorbed from us. We might be saying one thing and actually doing another.  This is a wonderful opportunity to grow our own integrity and get real rather than idealistic about being human, if we are willing to look.

And because often there are still “young” aspects of ourselves, in which our parents/teachers were not able to support us to develop (as they themselves had not been supported by the previous generation) – many of us reach adulthood without, for example, having an integrated and responsible relationship with our own anger – so when we see anger in our child, we feel powerless/frightened/angry.

“Sustainable Parenting” aims to support parents to resource themselves, to bring their attention back to them for a moment, and relax.  It aims to break the parent’s isolation, through the sense of sharing with a community of parents who can listen to each other and empathize.  And by helping parents take time to notice what the little mirrors are reflecting, we can encourage them to welcome the opportunity to deepen; And we offer guidance and good listening to support parents to grow any apparent less evolved aspects (which happens very efficiently and effectively, however old we are, when we are really heard and received).

So – Sustainable Parenting exists so that parents, like the ones who wrote me that email, can feel empowered in raising their children consciously, with heart – so that we step up, as parents, and really participate in global transformation.

The 3rd ‘Grow the Grown Ups’ Summer Camp at Embercombe happens this August, for parents with children of all ages.

Every day there are “Sustainable Parenting” sessions for adults, facilitated by Joanna Watters, with parallel ‘Hand in Hand’ creche and age specific activities in nature for the children. And there is also time for families to spend time together and with other families in the afternoons, enjoying the environment at Embercombe with a variety of activities on offer.

This year there will be three certified Parenting by Connection/Hand in Hand practitioners on site, leading the child care and available to advise parents.

Embercombe Summer Camp Monday August 18th to Friday 22nd 2014


For more information on Parenting by Connection see

Energy and inspiration for the new year

On the 6th and 7th of January, 3 of us from Embercombe travelled to Oxford for the annual REAL farming conference. Now in its 5th year, this attracted approximately 550 farmers and folks involved in our food systems from across the country. The event was split in two parts – Farming Futures looked at arable and pastoral farming and how to transition from a high input to a low input system, and Building The Renaissance looked broadly and at the details of how to bring about the Agrarian Renaissance that is seen as necessary.

What energy and inspiration for the new year!
Talks and discussion covered many areas, some looking broadly at the future of world farming systems and culture, and some looking at how to set up and be successful as a grower within the unsupportive economic and political climate we live in (for small scale food producers anyhow).
In sessions about Access to Land, Finance, Markets and Training the challenges were named and innovative solutions that people were coming up with were shared. We heard inspiring and real life stories from many individuals and organisations across the UK, as well as an incredible portrait of what is going on in America from Severine von Tscharner Fleming, director of The Greenhorns who’s mission is to recruit, promote and support the new generation of young farmers. It is truly inspiring (and dead cool) what they are up to.

As well as coming together to build a renaissance, I imagine all went home with a clearer perspective upon the current global position. In many ways this is very chilling, and yet I certainly left having found greater commitment and energy to make a difference.
Currently EU legislation is going through that will make it legally necessary for all Plant Reproductive Materials (seeds, cuttings etc…) not to be sold without a license and to conform to tests checking their distinctness and uniformity. The implications upon a great proportion of our living genetic heritage are huge – it is a law that is designed with industrial agriculture in mind and does not leave any space for small producers. If followed it would drive many small seed companies, and therefore a huge percentage of seed diversity, out of the market and therefore off our land.
Still, ‘cheap food’ is used as an argument against organic food, against small farms, against traditional ways of farming. Still the system where this supposedly cheap food comes from involves ONE THIRD of all food produced being put in the bin (UN figures), involves driving people off the land and into cities or slums, involves turning rainforest and wild prairie lands into monocultures of corn and beans which feed herbivorous animals that are kept in feed-lots which in turn (though incredibly inefficiently) feed people. Still it involves gross animal welfare issues, poisoning land with chemicals, replacing people with machines and robots, destroying rural communities …. this list could go on and on.

I came home from the conference and watched the film about the life of Nelson Mandela. I firmly believe that until we find within ourselves the selfless and committed strength that he demonstrated, we will not be strong enough to turn around these ecological, social and spiritual tragedies. At least it is good to feel clearer about what is necessary.

There’s so much more I could say about the conference, but really you had to be there. SO, if you’re interested, there is always next year!

and in the polytunnel

winter salad in polytunnel - outside leaves are picked repeatedly

winter salad in polytunnel – outside leaves are picked repeatedly

Always a few degrees warmer in the polytunnel which is now full of winter salads – many of the spicy orientals (rocket, mizuna, mustards etc..), hardy lettuces, spinach, lambs lettuce, claytonia, parsley, coriander…
These will have their outside leaves picked off through winter and go on through until april time or thereabouts. In the background, the lemon tree has been wrapped up for winter in its bubble-wrap jacket. Still it has ripe lemons on it alongside unripe lemons, only just set lemons, open flowers and fat buds, all at the same time. Special things in the inner sanctum.

winter in the garden

john weeds the over-wintering broad beans. lots of leeks behind and beds that have been tucked up for the winter.

john weeds the over-wintering broad beans. lots of leeks behind and beds that have been tucked up for the winter.

The drawing in of winter is generally being greeted like a very welcome old friend round here. I particularly feel that as a gardener after this wonderful year. So welcome is this slowing down of the natural world all around us, allowing a shifting of pace and a refocussing. Winter, you are very welcome here.

In this photo, the hardy super aquadulce broad beans in the foreground will overwinter without growing much more and then will be off to a fast start when things warm up again. Behind, gorgeous leeks stand proud, such a wonderful winter sight – we will be digging them up frozen right through before long I’m sure, but they don’t take any harm. Any beds which have become empty by this time of year we have thoroughly weeded and mulched, so that we can come and find them again in lovely quality come spring. Some even get told bed time stories.

Joey’s Appreciation for Community Build Week

From Joey Waterson, who looked after our Community Build team working on The Linhay, our Centre for Land Based Learning. Http://

After an exilharating friends working weekend and council meeting ,the evening was followed by the welcoming of the third community build group arriving to be with the embercombe build company for 5days on the Linhay project .
the evening began with shared evening meal and introduction to accommodation followed by a good nights rest ,
each day a get yourself breakfast followed by a shared clear up,after which we the community build group started with a morning checking in meeting and sharing of ourselves both on a personal and practical nature.
we then ventured forth to the Linhay project nestled down amongst the garden flowers vegetables polytunnels and lake ares of Embercombe.this is where we were met by Phil ireland and his team of builders under whose guidance and wisdom along with valuable instructions we were going to spend the following few days.
After the usual health and safety and site ppe instructions that some of us were getting used to ,you can never hear it enough in terms of taking care of each other ,we met the professionals as we like to call them , who welcomed us with admiration humour and curiousity of who we all are ;within a short time 10 of us in total were all working away on various tasks using tools we couldnt name exploring ways to hold them sharing stories asking many questions of our professional builders, the whole scene was a pleasant experience cold sunshine looking like we all belonged and all looking like wasps in our yellow jackets steel boots and helmets and googles a community build team in action .
our work was mainly around carpentry ,making joints in oak frames for a balcony , we also completed a carvings on two pieces for a gable end apexes which look stunning ,the balcony structures we had started on previous builds and were kept back as our project . this was a very humbling experience for us who had started this part of building ,we were grateful that the amount of responsibility the trust shown to us that we were capable of achieving such task that was going to be seen by many people for lifetimes was such a gift of the professionals of the embercombe building company and its team .very appreciative.
We also enjoyed the wonderful opportunities of the well deserved tea breaks amongst the apples being pressed along with flap jacks /bacon and good humour well needed with cold sometimes wet windy days ,provided from phil and his A team .
We also had some more brick and stone work going on which was a continuation of various techniques, along with preparation of wood for future decking floors,
in our spare time we also helped in putting first coats of paint on some of walls in various rooms on walls and ceilings in preparation for other trades to continue their work.
All in all a very good week full of humour and experience of achievements from teaching instruction from good hearted down to earth people .
All of the builders who helped show us the way ,gave us their tools showed us ways of using them safely and efficiently and also learned from us in this exchange of meeting of hearts and minds .
all of us are so much richer from having worked alongside the embercombe building company team of people .
our team of community builders were a mixture of those who had been previously some volunteers from embercombe some local people trying building for the first time we also enjoyed embercombe’s founder joining us for a short time amongst his busy schedule,
we also enjoyed the beautiful cared for meals created daily from the embercombe garden up in the cosmic kitchen provided for from the apprentices and volunteer team, the evenings were also full of choir singing, womens and mens circles, knitting circles and stories around the fire on sofas sometimes sleeping reading playing music or just wandering out into the night towards our beds via the gift of a beautiful bowl of stars nestling us in the dreaming of this our community build full moon week.
much love joey xxx

Proposed new EU Seed Laws will deepen the commercialisation of nature and greatly impinge upon the rights and needs of small scale producers and home gardeners

Your voice is needed! Deadline December 4th.

New EU Seed Legislation is designed for the big guys at the expense of
smaller scale producers and the ecology of our world.

The European Commision is currently drawing up a new law to regulate the
sale of all seeds, plants and plant material. The latest draft of the
law is even more restrictive than the regulations that we have at the

Every single variety of vegetable will have to be registered on an EU
list, otherwise it will be illegal to sell it. To be registered on the
list, seed varieties have to pass a series of tests demonstrating what is
called DUS ‘Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability’. It costs nearly
£3000 to test & register just one single variety of seed for sale.

Although we have had a system like this for many years, there have been
much simpler and cheaper options for what are considered ‘amateur
varieties’ for home gardeners, and the rules have never been strictly
enforced in the UK.

The EU wants to get rid of these simpler and cheaper rules for ‘amateur’
seed, and make sure that every country enforces the rules 100%.

Although they say there will be exceptions, in current drafts of the law
these are very, very limited.

Right now, the voices of those who see the injustice and the blindness of
this legislation must be heard. You can take action by writing to your MEP
through this website of the real seed company, which also has A LOT of
other very useful information.

In solidarity, determination and the absolute wonder of what seeds are.

free teleseminar


Free Teleseminar for parents and professionals in the field of education
delivered by Zsuzsanna Egry, certified Parenting by Connection instructor
18th of November 5pm (Uk local time)

Our otherwise sweet child drops herself on the ground, cries her lungs out, and shakes her limbs in trance… for some kids it happens in a shop, for others when getting dressed, or when having to leave the playground. What is common in these situations is that we, the parents, live the carousel of feelings : shame, anger, desperation, exasperation, powerlessness etc.
We may try to ignore, shout louder, threaten or bribe our child out of the tantrum, but even if our attempt works for a while, the success is shortlived, as our child – more often than not – starts the same scene all over again.

Why do children cry and tantrum, and what can we, the parents do to help them (and ourselves) with the difficult feelings? How can we handle tantrums in a way that does not erode, but on the contrary, strengthens our relationship with our child so we come out of it with a deeper sense of trust and connection?

This is a free call offered in English by our Hungarian partner in the “Soft Skills – Empowered Parents” Grundtvig Learning Partnership project, of which Embercombe are the UK partners. We are funded by the European Commission’s Lifelong learning programme. For more information, contact:
Joanna on
or Tim on

Zsuzsi Egry is a certified Hand in Hand instructor, living in Hungary. She graduated with an MA in English and travelled, volunteered and lived in Swaziland, France, the USA and Ireland before becoming a mother of three young children, presently 8, 6, and nearly 2 years old. Her own challenging and difficult experiences that she has encountered since the birth of her children led her to find the Parenting by Connection approach, which she now gladly shares with others, so that they too can transform their family experience from struggle and survival to a lot more fun and deep satisfaction.

End of my Apprentice Year

veg garden and rainbow (4)

I have just completed my Embercombe apprenticeship. The end of year ceremony for all the apprentices was deeply moving and the banquet afterwards full of good food, good people and lots of celebration and laughter.

I have arrived at the place I will be living for the first six months of my Journeywoman year, in Cornwall. I will be developing a project I launched at the end of my apprenticeship called Care for a Square, you can find a blog about this at, soon there will be a website.

I didn’t immediately connect with the land here, it is different, no woods and rolling hills. Then today I walked across nearby fields and found a tiny stream with some big stone steps between cornfields. I crossed into another field with more big stone steps, old and worn, there was an oak tree and an elm tree between the fields, and here I started to feel I was arriving into this place. And tonight the full moon came out low in a deepening blue sky, and I was at home again.

Yesterday when I arrived the only place I could find open to buy food was Tesco’s, a big one. As I stood at the till I found it strange to be buying vegetables, wrapped in plastic and I vowed I wouldn’t slip back into the life I had lived before I went to Embercombe, ‘I will somehow remain sustainable in terms of food‘, I thought.

I am not going to get back into supermarket shopping, I want to support small and local food growers. It would be so easy to slip back into developing a mindset that says, ‘there’s no other way‘, when really what I would be saying is ‘I’m not giving the time to work out how to make a different choice‘. Mac always used to say to us ‘It is the small choices we make moment by moment that makes the difference’.

And so, today I have been watering seeds I have planted for winter greens, I have contacted the local transition group that isn’t active at the moment to see if I can help to get it active again. I’m going to find out about farmers markets and local farm produce.

Inspired by Naomi (another apprentice) and Dan, who have been eating only local food for the last month, I am going to see if I can do that here, and I am also going to look at the foods that may not be growing here, but could grow in England. For instance quinoa is a popular food for vegetarians/vegans, and yet it just isn’t ethical.

The demand for quinoa has pushed the prices up so that poor people in Bolivia, for whom it is a staple, can no longer afford it. And yet we can grow it over here and don’t need to be importing it. Seed can be purchased from the Real Seed Company, and they explain how to grow and harvest it.

People without enough land, or any land, could get together with those that do have land nearby. I’m going to see what I can organise down here in Cornwall, near Helston. Anyone reading this who knows anyone down here who might be interested?

The apprenticeship was full, amazing, challenging, full of the pot holes of myself and ultimately rich with growth. I recognise I am a changed person, a grown person, as I watch that full moon rising in the sky and decide to have an early night