Aligning ourselves by just one degree

parent session at Grow the Grown Ups camp 2014

parent session at Grow the Grown Ups camp 2014

Many of us at Embercombe experienced the wise words of Pat McCabe, Woman Stands Shining, this Autumn, speaking about “Thriving Life – Feminine Design and Sustainability”. If you missed her talks – at Embercombe, Schumacher and Findhorn, and her day workshops, I highly recommend listening to the recording made by Schumacher’s Rob Woodford:

There are many things she said during these talks which I return to, and which continue to inspire me.
One of these things is how if I change the way I am facing by just one degree, and then walk, as time goes on I will end up in an increasingly different place than if I had walked without making that one degree turn.
This is not new wisdom – “a stitch in time saves nine” has been said before in many ways. It is spoken by Pat with a vivid presence and open heart.
This is also at the core of the message of the Children’s Fire, close to Embercombe’s heart, about which Mac speaks so eloquently : “The Children’s Fire is part of the Earth teachings of the elders of ancient America. Over time the elders came to understand that all human-created institutions needed to reflect the balance and wisdom observed in nature. The Children’s Fire was a reminder of the first promise: “No law, no action of any kind, shall be taken that will harm the children”. It is now time to re-kindle this fire: in our corporations, governments, religion and education.”

Each shift each of us takes, even if it is apparently small, contributes to a different future.  Each time one of us chooses something life enhancing, something that acknowledges and celebrates Life Itself, we are “revolutionaries” for Life, as Pat says.

I hold this to be true in the work of conscious parenting.

Conscious parenting is a valuable contribution to actively changing our world.
The starting point is that parents all want the best for our children.
We are automatically, biologically, motivated to make the world a better place for our offspring.
When we become parents, we seem to find ourselves both repeating and reacting against things our parents (or carers) did. If our parents were overly authoritarian, we may become permissive parents, with the best intentions, and then struggle to give appropriate limits. If our parents were laid back and didn’t notice us as much as we’d have liked, we might be so diligently attentive to our children that we don’t trust them to find their own way. If our parents acted towards us with violence, we may even avoid conflict for as long as we possibly can, and then snap and find ourselves dishing out what we received, in spite of ourselves. If we are curious, and confident, these moments are golden opportunities to change – to heal our own child-aspects still there inside us, who needed something they didn’t get growing up. This takes time and a willingness to feel vulnerable. And often needs to be done with support.
The effect of us making even a slight change in how aligned we are to our deepest values, how present we are with our children, how able to allow their (and our) feelings to come and go, how much we pass on a deep trust in Life, plays out visibly before us in how open, relaxed and confident to be themselves our children are. And how resourced and ready they are to meet challenges.
And so, our own alignment to what we know to be true, as parents, and as adults around young children, even each degree to which we can align ourselves, will have its influence on those who may become leaders in the next generation.

Learning in the world

A growing number of families are choosing to educate their children out of school (home educate, unschool, autonomous learning, education otherwise). While the movement towards a less formal learning approach is gathering pace in the UK, parents who choose this path are often asked questions that range from the curious to aggressive – Is it legal? What’s wrong with school? What’s wrong with your child? Will they be lonely? What will you teach them? How will you teach them? Very simply the question most asked, is ‘Why?’

Parents of home-educated children answer such questions very simply: our children are learning in the world rather than in the classroom.

15428263869_b6506ed099_zSome questions are simple to answer more fully. First of all, home education is completely legal.

“The respect of parent’s freedom to educate their children according to their vision of what education should be has been part of international human rights standards since their very emergence.” (The Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights 8th April 1999)

Other questions are less simple to address. Opinions about school vary widely among home educating families, some feel strongly that the school system is damaged. Others have no strong feeling about school except that it is not right for their child. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with home educated children at all – some may have different learning styles or challenges, just as many children at school do – but the majority are educated at home by choice, not necessity. Socially, learning in the world is a rich and vibrant community. The many groups and networks available to families mean social isolation is rare.

The ‘What, how and why’ of parents choice to teach their children outside of school is so diverse a simple blog could never do these questions justice.

14004011379_440646dab0_zJohn Holt, famous home educator and un-schooler, said “Children who are provided with a rich and stimulating learning environment will learn what they are ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it. Children do not need to be coerced into learning, they will do so naturally if given the freedom to follow their own interests and a rich assortment of resources. Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”

“We home educate because children are individuals and I don’t believe a one size fits all approach can offer all children the very best opportunities to learn and develop. We are able to create our own schedules and spend most of our week outside, learning through play. Someone once asked me ‘how will they learn?’ The answer seems obvious, how could they not?

“Embercombe gives us the opportunity to connect with others following similar pathways, learning in harmony with the land. The children have the opportunity to build friendships and gain and understanding of vital life skills (such as organic and biodynamic gardening, and survival skills) while the parents are able to recharge and gain support from one another. We’ve been part of the group for two years and it’s still the highlight of our week.” Claire Arnold, home educator, Childminder and parent to Finn (6) Evie (4) and Jude (5 months).

Embercombe as an organization supports many approaches to education. Every Tuesday a Natural Learning group is hosted on site, which is a relaxed group for home educators that holds child-led learning at it’s heart. It provides a space for experiential learning to happen as opposed to setting out to ‘teach’ the children. Families feel welcomed and nurtured by both the facilitators and by the beautiful resources of the land itself. It is a space many home educating families appreciate not only for the freedom it allows their children, but also the connections parents can make with each other.

“Unschooling is about facilitating the child’s learning choice. I only unschooled for a few months with Jude but she has retained what she learned. She went through a real desire to learn about wild birds and insect life and she has surprised me on many occasions about her intimate knowledge of these subjects. As a result of this, unschooling underpins every decision I make about my forest school and is central to developing my policies for the kindergarten.” Emma Byrnes, Forest School Leader and parent to Jude (12) and Nuala (3)


Discovering Catalyst at Sunrise


This blog was first published in

I first heard of Catalyst at Sunrise festival, when a group of sparkling people enticed me into their workshop with contagious smiles. They were buzzing with excitement about this course and the taster exercises we did were definitely enough to get me intrigued.

So 2 years later, after graduating from university and wondering where to go next, I spent a week on this course hosted at Embercombe. Embercombe is a community in Devon committed to inspiring action for a sustainable world. Here, it became clear the importance of providing spaces for young people to delve within, enquire into sustainable living and experience community living, all aiding them to impact positively on society as a whole.

Catalyst is a 5 day residential course for young adults who want to push their boundaries, shape the future and make an impact. Through a variety of challenges, group tasks, working with the land and 1 to 1 coaching, catalyst participants gain a valuable experience. They embark on an adventure that provides tools to carry throughout life’s peaks and dips. In a nurturing environment, participants are invited to develop the self-confidence needed to be authentic in a society that can seem so often to conflict with the ethos behind sustainable living. Catalyst invites people from diverse backgrounds to take the time to explore how best to look after themselves, each other and the planet. Bursary tickets are available to those who can’t afford the full price and the Catalyst team would not turn someone away for lack of funds.


Part of the magic was that although we had an idea of the timing of things like meals, morning routines and daily challenges, we didn’t have a clue what these so-called challenges would involve. This kept us on our toes, excited to find out what would be revealed and open to all possibilities. I can’t divulge information about this particular part of the programme but I can say that each challenge is worthwhile and becomes treasured.

Catalyst 2    Catalyst 3Catalyst 7 Catalyst 8 Catalyst 9

Each day, we spent some time working in the gardens or in the kitchen preparing food for the communal meals. I realised how, in wider society, little time is spent actively involved in the process that food has to go through before becoming a meal for us to consume. This can be said to reflect a larger problem with consumer society where even something as essential to life as food, can become just another commodity. With Catalyst we were all given the opportunity to be part of the vital process of growing and eating, whilst working together on the land, or independently as we wished. Eating food fresh from the organic garden certainly made for an appreciated dinner. No one was left out due to dietary requirements, vegans, coeliac and gluten-intolerant people were all catered for.

Catalyst 4

Towards the end of the programme, strong friendships had been forged, a connection with nature deepened and a strong sense of self-awareness cultivated. There is a network of Catalyst alumni who are active in their communities and share information with each other about other valuable opportunities for young people, such as Bootcamp, a course to catapult students into careers in campaigning and Edventure: Frome, which provides free 9-month training in social entrepreneurship.

Catalyst 5

Embercombe provides many more opportunities to learn about sustainability, with its working weekends and volunteer programmes, as well as offering apprenticeships for young people. It’s easy to become disheartened by the worrying statistics in the news about youth unemployment, and the rise in tuition fees. However it is so encouraging to know that there are also many beneficial available avenues for young people today, enabling them to shape their own path.


By Jasmine Irving



An evening at Embercombe

An evening at Embercombe. September 26th, 2014

Over the years there have many opportunities for the local community to visit Embercombe but this Friday was different. A small group from Trusham had proposed a visit to see how people in their village might become more closely involved  -  and this led to Friday’s welcoming  get together of interested residents from both Ashton and Trusham.

Dominic began by giving us the background to Embercombe’s development and mission.   Outside, on this beautiful evening, we stood and wondered at the transformation all around of a once derelict site: the newly banked and planted hedgerows, the vegetable garden, orchards and fruit trees and the artistry of the small buildings and constructs.


Dan, the main organiser of the visit, told us how all this was used as a major educational resource for visiting school children, their teachers and for adults.  There was a wistful “me too” from some of the adults when a tractor ride was proposed to take the children to the gardens.  We walked down past the yurts to the circular vegetable garden with its blend of productivity, colours and scents.


Those of us who had failed to profit from our desk-bound science lessons at school were given a second chance by Jo standing beside his lime kiln and explaining the whole process of the lime cycle. Such hands-on education is at the heart of what Embercombe does.


Some of us had heard of the Linhay project.  Now we were being given the chance to see it nearing completion.  Phil,,head of the independent Embercombe building company, gave us an inspired account of the process. It is a building like no other we had seen:  much of it from recycled materials and using highly traditional skills of wood working, cob and lime plastering.  This  combined  with the latest technology in solar power, heat retention and water saving  -  and  with the involvement of apprentices, often from challenging backgrounds, trained up on special apprenticeship schemes.  Clearly, the future use of this large and adaptable building complex is something in which the local community would hope to be involved.


And finally, there was the chance to talk about all we had seen and learnt amongst ourselves and with community residents and helpers.  Drifting smoke from the famous Embercombe pizza oven; Jo’s cider; dusk falling on a still warm, late autumn evening.  Where better place to be?


Our warm thanks to all who worked so hard to provide this occasion to strengthen the ties with the local community. A clear Yes vote to “better together”.



In the garden we’re…

SAVE OUR SEEDS – an inspiring gathering of growers

Last weekend Embercombe hosted an event organised by The Soil Association and The Landworkers’ Alliance, as part of The Great Seed Festival.  The event brought together food producers to be informed about the realities of the crisis we face regarding seeds, and to empower each other with skills, inspiration and knowledge to take strong and committed action to reclaim seeds into the hands of people, not industry.

The vast majority of the crop varieties that existed 100 years ago are no longer grown.  The biodiversity of our fields and of our diets has been reduced starkly.  Seeds are increasingly in the hands of – even owned by – large companies, no longer the free, unownable part of our world that they always were.  And the skills of seed saving – once, one of the most important practices of every farmer and grower – are now largely lost in our society.  This is where we are.

This weekend it was evident that there is a strong fire that burns inside people to reclaim control of our seeds, reskill in the art and science of seed saving, and stand up for the biodiversity of our land and of the future.

Seeds are full of wonder – they hold the potential of life within them in all its myriad forms.  They are our inheritance from the countless generations who have gone before and shaped our world.  They are what we will leave for our children.

This weekend we launched a network of seed savers who commit to standing up for our seeds and reclaiming some of what has been lost – who commit to learn the ways of saving and breeding seeds, of recreating locally adapted varieties, of exchanging seeds and knowledge and stories and rebuilding a strong land-based community.

Whether you are a grower or an eater (or both!) the choices that we make about our food are political, environmental and spiritual.  If you wish to learn about open pollinated seeds, about the politics of our seed industry, about the practice of seed saving, about the seed savers’ network or much else besides, then perhaps the following links will prove useful.

A conversation with… Jenny Joseph, Volunteer, Volunteer Coordinator and extraordinary women, Embercombe.

Jenny Joseph, Volunteer, Volunteer Coordinator and extraordinary women, Embercombe.

Where has your life taken you in recent years?

Following a 1st in Environmental Science, my family and I moved to Brittany, France  25 acres where we attempted self-sufficiency. But despite coming close to the dream after we got jersey cows in 2004, the work was relentless (it didn’t help having another 2 children!) and even with a constant stream of  WWOOFers, we decided after 10 years that we needed a break.

So a new plan was formed; rent out the whole farm, animals and business for a year while we went to Africa and relaxed!

jen  monkey

This developed further as we were were asked to consider volunteering for Africa Beecause and go to the Gambia to promote sustainable beekeeping. Another friend gave us 2 knackered Renault 4′s and so the journey began. Within 2 months, we were driving to West Africa keeping the sea on our right in ‘Pinky Ponk’ (an amalgam of the two R4′s), a trailer and two small children.

Pinky Pic

Within 6 months, ‘Kumoo Kunda’ (‘the home of the bees’ in Mandinka) opened – a residential training centre for sustainable beekeeping.

After a year, we were approached by a Norwegian foundation, Africa Start-up to help establish a new project called ‘My Farm’, a sustainable education centre for children and young people. This was a great opportunity to draw together many of our previous experiences and skills and share them with 100′s of young people.


Three years passed very quickly, we had rented the farm again to a travelling circus who wanted to settle down. This time without the animals (very sad day when donkey had to go!) as we knew we never wanted to go back.

Then, life just comes and takes you by surprise – I found a large lump in my right breast.I returned to UK for treatment, leaving Mick and the children in the Gambia to carry on running the project.

A double mastectomy and 4 months of chemotherapy later, I happened upon the name of Embercombe which was only 6 miles from where I was lodging with an old school friend. I applied to be a volunteer for a month but explained I would need regular time off for  treatment.

That was March 2012. I arrived here, completely bald and probably looking like death, and became part of this vibrant community. It also gave me an outlet for my still significant energy.

Mick (my lovely husband) came to see me and we both realised that we needed to bring the family back from Africa as it’s here in Europe that we really need to make the change. Being part of an organisation dedicated to just that was absolutely perfect.

Why volunteering?

I believe that money plays a major part in what’s wrong with the world and I would love to see a more gift-based economy.

It seems to me that when people are contracted for a certain number of paid hours, they become resentful when giving more than that. I don’t count my hours, as a volunteer I give what I need to to get the job done and enjoy every minute of it.

jen at embers

What is your greatest fear?

Not much scares me. Maybe being redundant, having nothing to do!

How do you relax?

I’d like to say listening to Bach but the truth is more often it’s with a glass or two of Embercombe cider and some friends, old and new, around a roaring fire and maybe trying to remember song lyrics and singing very badly.

What really winds you up?

Apathy & Laziness: these human traits have allowed society to become dependent on all the trappings of a capitalist consumption-based economy. Without overcoming this, there’s no point in ‘tackling climate change’ or any of the other symptoms.

What song always makes you get up and dance?

Really hard to chose one; ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ by The Clash

What is it about Embercombe that inspires you?

The mission; it’s that which drew me here and its the thing I keep in the front of my mind with every decision I take.

And that view when I come through the top gate – down the valley and out to Haytor – I see that in the any weather and I think, thank god I’m alive.

You live a pretty simple life, what’s one thing you can’t live without?


What got you out of bed this morning?

Knowing the Open Day is only 3 days away and there’s loads to do.

Working with the soul of Embercombe

socialmedia_squareWorking at Embercombe is an adventure.  One day you might watch a group of tough, savvy, scared inner-city teenagers arrive on a coach, and as the week rolls on you watch them drop into themselves, take steps in new directions, connect with the land and those smiles change from a jokey defensiveness to an awakening sense of wonder.  Another day you’ll see people on the Journey programme eating quietly in the dining yurt: the deepest questions of their lives calling them to make the most significant changes they can.  The Combe thrums with potential.  And some days you just sit in the morning circle and listen to one anothers’ truth.  You’re touched, you’re triggered, you laugh at someone’s joke, you share someone’s hurt.  It’s just laid out there; people speaking simply and from the heart, then getting up and throwing themselves into another day.  If you’ve spent any time there, you know: Embercombe’s special.

I’m part of a little group of whose role is to shepherd Embercombe’s soul.  I might be sitting by a little fire in the water meadow with somebody who’s at the threshold, ready to dive deeper into life, and they just want a witness, a guide, the right words at the right time.  We might call that “coaching” or “mentoring” but no word really does justice to what happens at those times. On other days I’ll be sitting in Centrefire with the other Council Chiefs, and we bring to life the ancient roots that underpin Embercombe and her philosophy, and we talk about the deeper questions that are surfacing within the charity and in the wider world, and we reaffirm our commitment to the Children’s Fire.  I co-run an aspect of the Apprenticeship programme where we take those courageous women and men deeper into the connections with themselves and each other, forging the most significant year possible.  Those are the kinds of things I do for this extraordinary charity.

Embercombe is taking bold steps into a challenging future.  We’re a long way from a booming national economy; it’s not an easy sector to work in; and across the world there’s a growing inner crisis as people wake up to the unhealthy choices we’ve made and inherited, even as the outer crises of environmental devastation and social disintegration accelerate.  Embercombe is an expression of hope at this difficult and exciting time, and it’s a clarion call.  If you’ve ever been there – to a Friends’ Weekend; on a programme; at an event – never be fooled that things are happening effortlessly.  There will be teams, experts and passionate people planning, creating, holding, digging, cleaning and manifesting everything that happens around you.  For myself, it’s an honour to be part of that, doing my quiet, sacred work, watching the charity I love grow, change and thrive.

Alexander has just moved to the Brighton Area and is available for coaching and mentoring.  Please see for more information.

The spirit of the Eco-Build

As the bite in the air intensifies and high winds whip up the forest around us, our thoughts at Embercombe are turning to one of the most basic of human needs – shelter. Making sure our community is warm, dry and safe is high on our priorities before the first frosts fall. Ensuring that all our buildings work in harmony with our land is even higher.

Achieving this balance between human needs and the needs of the natural world around us is a challenge we embrace wholeheartedly. In Dec our build week will give a team of enthusiastic volunteers the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and raise a building up out of the ground. In the experience, we know they will build something unseen too. Community, a sense of belonging, shared ownership and joy in the experience of creation.

laying foundations“Like all the best things at Embercombe, build week pulls together so many skills and talents of our community to create the space we love. Whether we live here or visit as a friend or for a program, the experience of creating something together is as surprising as it is simple. Eating together, washing up together, sharing the morning meeting – these things combine with the opportunity to learn real skills.” Jenny Joseph, Volunteering Coordinator, Embercombe.

Eco-building is a term that covers all kinds of structures from yurts to hobbit houses, timber framed structures to repurposed shipping containers.

In general, eco-builds use locally sourced and sustainable materials that have a low impact on the environment. Often materials that would otherwise be waste, such as car tyres, glass bottles or aluminium cans are worked with.

Natural renewable resources such as timber, bamboo, earth, clay and straw take the place of industrial materials. Second hand resources found at recycling centres, on gumtree or craigslist cut costs and are sustainable, ecologically sound choices.

Eco-builders also think about how the structure they build will work in harmony with the land base on which it is built. Living roofs, passive solar, rainwater collection systems, rocket mass heaters and excellent insulation may all be part of the design.

Here at Embercombe we have been installing solar panels wherever possible over the summer and regularly review the water use and energy consumption across the site.


It is not just the materials that make a build sustainable or ‘eco’. The ways in which the building is raised have just as much impact on the environment. Limiting the use of power tools, motorised vehicles and electric powered machinery all have an environmental impact. It’s true that to use truly sustainable building techniques does take longer and require more labour hours, but there is a growing movement of skilled and unskilled laborers willing to do the work this way. is an exchange. In return for volunteer help, self-build project hosts are encouraged to offer food, accommodation and opportunities to share sustainable self-build techniques.

“The fun thing about thePOOSH is that the website was started by a group of friends looking to learn and experience more about natural building. After a year of POOSHin’ ourselves while creating the site, many of us have set up our own projects, homes and communities based on the skills we learned during that period. For me, thePOOSH is about getting out there, getting dirty and realising that new found interests can have one of the most significant impacts on your life to date!”

Jim Self, Co-founder, Innovator, thePOOSH

If you have ever wanted to be part of an eco-build or harbor a desire to build your own home, you are not alone. Build week bookings at Embercombe are open now, and you’ll meet a whole community of like minded co-creators, from the expert to the total beginner. Could this be the start of your own eco-build vision? What could YOU create with just a little help from your friends?

13754594693_851b2c0e15_z“There is a primal desire for shelter. I work to bring the initial vision of a self-build to life, exploring all the ways this can be done in harmony with the location.

“Having a home that you are a part of and is a part of you is within the grasp of everyone (with the caveat of land ownership). Everyone wants shelter and natural materials are very easy to adapt without needing particular skills, it is a question of putting the time in.

“Not outsourcing something as personal as your home to an external or corporate world is an empowering experience. In addition, when people have the confidence to build their own home using natural, local resources they become part of the local economy.

“The whole planning system is opening up in ways that have never been done before to genuine self-builders who plan to live in their homes. I welcome the change – the more people who understand it the better.”

Nick Squire, architectural designer, Passive house eco builds in greenfield sites.



The Fifth Crime

The publication of WWF’s Living Planet Report this week makes for shocking – or even horrifying – reading. The plummet in wildlife species and populations on such enormous scale is overwhelming.

Over 50percent of vertebrate species and over 70percent of freshwater fish species lost in just 40 years, how can we even grasp the enormity of the loss?

“It’s hard to take it in, and give it some perspective. It’s more than depressing.” Jo Clarke, Head of Land and Learning, Embercombe.

“If the news that in the past 40 years the world has lost over 50% its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) fails to tell us that there is something wrong with the way we live, it’s hard to imagine what could. Who believes that a social and economic system which has this effect is a healthy one? Who, contemplating this loss, could call it progress?” George Monbiot

We do not, and humankind as a species, cannot continue to call this progress.


The four Laws Against Peace, core international crimes set out in Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, are genocidecrimes against humanitywar crimes, and the crime of aggression.

Each of these crimes recognizes the death and destruction of peoples as a ‘superlaw’ that surpasses national laws. Ecocide is the missing fifth law. A law that would protect and uphold the right to life of all inhabitants of an eco system. Not just human life, but the right to life that all living things possess. A law that extends our focus from human tragedy, to the global tragedy we are in the thick of right now – the tragedy that the global human community is barely cogniscent of.

To make Ecocide illegal would be to create a law that recognises there is no human life outside of the interconnectedness of all life. Polly Higgins is spearheading the campaisn to make such a law necessary, now when it is more urgently needed than ever.

“The earth itself has a right to life” Polly Higgins

Ecocide is not a green issue, a political issue or even an economic issue. Protecting the biodiversity of our planet is a life or death issue. With each species lost mankind is sleepwalking towards our own destruction.

This inertia, apathy or ignorance of mankind must be challenged.

We must wake up!

If you see no meaning in your own resistance, but your spirit rails against this news, take heart. Know that you matter. Your voice counts. You can be part of the healing of our planet – and you can start by healing yourself.

bold loveThe Twin Trail is how we at Embercombe describe taking an inner journey that enables you to take an outer journey, living an impactful and connected life. Out of overwhelming fear and sadness, where the scale of the problem feels insurmountable, turn first inwards. Find the place where you feel love for yourself, so that you can turn that love outwards and sweep away the feelings of fear and insignificance that prevent each individual from making a change.


Language of the soul, rooted in the soil

What does your community, your birthplace or your country, mean to you? 

How do you express your own belonging? Do you feel you belong at all? 

What is the language of your soul, and how would you like it to be heard? 

Where is the homeland of your heart?


This morning Scotland voted ‘No’ to independence, with nearly 85 per cent of eligible voters casting their lot.

In an era where apathy and disillusionment among voters is widespread, the question of independence has sparked passionate debate and purposeful action like no other.

Among the political commentary have been lyrical expressions of belonging, ownership, and what it means to live authentically. Individuals and politicians alike have written and spoken in words close to poetry, describing their personal beliefs about independence. For many, it runs so deep that they feel the very soil of Scotland has grown its people. It is in this soul language that we have seen the unifying effect of community expressed.

The loss of connection from self, and in a wider sense, from community, is one of the root causes of societal sicknesses. Feeling that we not only belong to our community, but that we have authority and autonomy to live within it, is a birthright increasingly denied to many. Witnessing the outpouring of emotion, both for and against Scottish Independence, has shown how deeply felt are the bonds that tie us together.

Community ties are powerful, magical and meaningful. They bring beauty when they are nurtured, but can also inspire violence and hurt when they are not honoured. In communities where individuals do not feel bound to each other in any meaningful way, crimes against each other and their environment soar. Conversely, in even the poorest and most challenged communities if there are strong bonds, people flourish.

Here at Embercombe we draw on the rich history of indigenous populations. We value ceremony, tradition and spirituality. Our community is built upon a core belief that we are all equal, all of intrinsic value, all capable of contributing to the place where we live, work and grow.


We sit in circle every morning to welcome the day. Acknowledging that all members of this community have a voice and a presence that is both welcome and needed. This daily meeting is held no matter the weather, touched by the warmth of the morning sun, or the soft breath of the fire. Our connection to each other and to our land is called to our attention every day, reaffirming that we belong to this place, and we belong to this tribe.

Scotland is a place of extraordinary beauty and wildness. Sun-bleached beaches, wind-worn stone circles and rain-lashed mountains have indeed grown communities who feel deeply rooted in their land. This connection with land, life and love is as old as human society itself, and we celebrate it. We would love to know where home is for you, please share your story of soul (and soil) with us in the comments box below.