Permaculture Design Course #5

Saturday 24th June

After ride-share pick-ups in Edinburgh, and drop-offs at IKEA, we glided, excitedly along the sun-drenched, early quiet of the A68, alive with possibilities – to the Rhymers Cafe, Earlston, where the remainder of our perma-tribe greeted us with camaraderie and joy.

The weekend mostly involved travelling around the Scottish Borders in glorious sunshine visiting inspirational places.

At the Micro Hydro plant on Ettrick Water
At the micro-generation, Archimedes-screw hydro plant on Ettrick Water,
photo courtesy of Gayle Baird

Our first port of call was Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre. Here we saw the rusting old water wheel, sat beside a gorgeous stream and pool, and we walked along a wildflower meadow flood plain to the locally developed hydro-electric, Archimedes screw turbine sitting astride Ettrick Water – a fine example of micro-generation that powers the saw mill and other local homes and businesses.

We then stopped at the local cafe for coffee and a delicious German Apple Cake before making our way to another inspirational permacultural site that Graham was involved in developing – Tweed Horizons by Newtown St Boswells.

Overgrown orchard at Tweed Horizons, Newton St Boswells
Overgrown orchard at Tweed Horizons, Newton St Boswells

In the overgrown orchard we picked walnuts and marvelled at the serene, beauty of the place. The project no longer runs and it was interesting and somewhat sad to see what happens when a permaculture site is no longer maintained. You can read about the project in it’s original form via the 1996 article, ‘Tweed Horizons: permaculture growing and living in the Scottish Borders’ in Permaculture Magazine. We also investigated the adjacent agroforestry project, again a vibrant intervention returned to the wild. The location of the site was idyllic, nestled into a hillside on the banks of the River Tweed opposite Dryburgh Abbey. I’m keen to investigate how this centre can be revitalised.

The last trip of the day was for a late lunch to Scott’s View, an astonishingly picturesque view of the Tweed Valley, where we mused the wonders of the day.

In the evening, five of us merrily camped outside Kelso.

Scott's View - Scottish Borders
Scott’s View – Scottish Borders

Sunday 25th June

A groggy start and meet-up at Rhymers Cafe before we headed to Tim Stead’s house.

Tim Stead's living room, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird
Tim Stead’s living room, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird

Tim Stead was a visionary wood sculptor whose influence is felt the world over. He died at 48, some years ago but his house and workshop are a living testament to the man. His widow Maggy made them available to us to view and so a big thanks is due to Graham and Nancy for making this awe-inspiring trip possible. It is difficult to put into words the elemental creativity of the place – every object and surface a masterpiece of organic design that breathed a sensual life. Everyone was awed by the experience. The place certainly affected me deeply, and I spent the remainder of the day in a beautiful, inspired, contemplative mood that will stay with me for many years to come.

Tim Stead's sun room, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird
Tim Stead’s sun room, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird

After a meandering, glorious, sunny, life-affirming drive back to Grahams, we had a wonderful, alfresco Sunday lunch and spent the remainder of the day harvesting strawberries and cherries and talking about water in terms of the permaculture view.

Tim Stead bedroom. photo courtesy of Gayle Baird
Tim Stead bedroom, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird
Tim Stead's house. photo courtesy of Gayle Baird
Tim Stead’s house, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird
Sunday lunch at Garden Cottage, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird
Sunday lunch at Garden Cottage, photo courtesy of Gayle Baird

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