• The Story Behind Bridgedale360

    I just had to leave…

    I had been walking aimlessly, as if my body just carried me along, for what seemed like forever. I still didn't know where I was heading or what was propelling me forwards. Except the reverb of that thought - I had to leave - and a name. Bridgedale360. My fist tightened around the scrap of paper on which it was written. I didn't have to open it, again, to see it. By now the name and the X that marked it on the spidery map was already etched into my mind. Instead, I looked up and wondered whether the turn in the road was starting to look - not exactly, but still - like the curve of one of the lines on the map. Like one of the spider´s legs. All roads lead to Bridgedale360? I first heard about it from a friend a few months ago and then later, overheard it in a bar. Just people talking over loud and dull pop - but I heard it for sure - and then I found this map, or it found me. I had to leave, my heart needed to believe, I had to believe.

    I picked up the pace, my heart beating out a rhythm for my legs to follow, and my right side stung. Exhaustion and fear tugged at me, and perhaps it was regret that made me look back every now and again, but this time I wasn't going to let it get the better of me. Not this time. I threw some of what was left over from my bag of dried fruits into my mouth, hoping it would hush my hunger. My feet yelled out in pain; my new boots had still not been broken in. Instead, the boots seemed bent on breaking me in. Blisters and all. My insides screamed at me in revolt.

    Suddenly I heard voices. I got cautious, a bit afraid, but my curiosity brought me closer. My ears twitched like antennae, trying to figure out where the voices came from. I stood still. There. “Bridgedale360”, I heard it. My heart rattled my ribcage. “Over there, not so far anymore.” I had to get to them. “Wait!” I think I said and cut through the row of trees, hesitantly at first, but then found myself pushing and shoving shrubs aside, until I saw them and they saw me. “Hi,” said the woman, smilingly. I gasped and smiled back and my insides kept quiet, for once.

    We were walking for days, mostly quietly. But there was a sense of unity that I had never felt before. We were all following our dreams somehow, but without really knowing what it was. Layla showed me some pictures of her family, and said that she didn’t know any longer where they were, if they were alive. Could we blame the “system crisis”? But I also felt conscience-stricken, because I saw how privileged I was. Yet, I was unhappy. But happiness does not come with abundance, I learnt it the hard way. I could not imagine myself continuing like before. I desperately needed Bridgedale360 to be more than a silly fairy tale…

    Once we started off together, everything fell into step so to speak. We moved as if we were one, people from the west, people from the east, just people...fleeing the old system and searching for that unknown place. Conversations bubbled up here and there, naturally without any haste, but then we would retreat into a silence again, as we mulled over things we had just heard, and I imagined how life was for them before in the countries where they were coming from, and how much it sounded like my own in some ways; while in others, mine was completely foreign to theirs. I remembered the things I used to enjoy, but that was in the past, I told myself, as I shook off an all too familiar sense of heaviness. Excess does that to you, somehow. But, here on this dirt road to Bridgedale360, I was just like them. Bridgedale360 was and will be the great equalizer for us all.   

    Arriving happened by surprise. We came to a stream and a little further up a girl was playing in the water, singing for herself. We came closer and when she saw us she smiled. “Ahoy there, comrades!”, she said. And she smiled and waved at us. I was surprised by the openness with which she was greeting a bunch of strangers. In the middle of nowhere! But it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, we soon found out. Further up the stream we saw a mill and some mechanism pumping water. And then it all just opened up. Without waiting for us, the girl skipped ahead and we followed, not skipping like her, but feeling a slight hop in our own step. We exchanged glances and before we knew it, buildings and gardens and people working appeared from behind the trees. Everybody stopped to greet if only briefly, and smiled before they got back to doing what they were doing. Cows grazed past us. Even they seemed to smile.

    Our little guide, we could see, had come to a stop before the most impressive of all the buildings that we had passed. A man stood there rubbing his hands and then approached us, as if he couldn´t wait for us to get to where he stood. “Welcome,” he said, while his hands rubbed and patted our weary shoulders, ”first some rest and then I´ll show you around Bridgedale360, ok?”

  • The Garden and the Farm


    “If you look out your window and don’t see food growing, you have a problem.”

    -Bill Mollison


    John, organic gardener

    As I got here, I really came from the Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat. Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat culture... I was physically and emotionally drained. For me, it felt that food is not as scarce as the time it takes to eat it! Actually, I was so disconnected from my food and the people I bought it from, that I started ordering it online and had my pesticide-gmo-rich food sealed in seven layers of plastic wrap delivered at my doorsteps in a jiffy! Sometimes I was wondering if it was even people that produced it and wrapped it up so nicely in plastics for us... Looking back, now I see how absurd it is that even the breakfast I was eating was brought to me through a gigantic global food system, operated and handled by machines and hundreds of people severely exploited and underpaid; so that it can then be transported all over the world. To reach my table. For me to enjoy those wonderful early mornings, stressed and totally exhausted. Before literally running to work!

    When I came here, the thing that first fascinated me was that everyone here is involved with handling the food - in one way or another. Not everyone is a farmer, of course, and some are sitting in front of the computer most of the day, but everyone seems to have a direct connection to food. They might have a small garden; they might be part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and help the farmer a few times a year, for example during the harvest, or maybe they just bring their kitchen waste for their neighbour’s chickens and receive fresh eggs in return. At least everyone gets to witness that no workers get exploited or exposed to chemicals, as we personally know the workers that produce our food. We all live with a general awareness about the seasons and the natural cycle of life and death. Every year a new cycle begins, seeds are being put into the ground, animals are being born -  nature is doing its best to grow strong enough to survive the rapidly approaching winter. Summer is full of life, but already in autumn, the cycle ends for many. The harvest begins and calves and lambs are being slaughtered. The ducks have hopefully grown strong, but the winter is harsh and many are caught by the fox or other wild animals. All of this was of course commonplace for most people in the history of humankind; but for me, who had lived all my life in a city, it was a revelation. I didn’t know anything about gardening or how nature “works”, but I was mesmerised. Soon I joined a neighbour to help out in her garden, and she gave me my own little patch to experiment. Such a joy to see the first pumpkin seedlings sprouting out of the soil! Ever since, I’ve become addicted to gardening. It’s true, every time I see one of my plants really thriving, I’m filled with a deep sense of joy! Isn’t that love?

    You should meet my friend Tim. He’s actually more obsessed with gardening than I am. He also came here without knowing anything a few years ago but soon got hooked on permaculture. The concept of permaculture was developed by Bill Mollison in the 70ths and came out as a response to the western monoculture food system. It’s a philosophy and a practical design tool on how to create holistic food systems and human habitats. Tim has now designed his house and his land using permaculture principles. That means that many different species and plants are growing together, supporting each other, like in a natural ecosystem. There is a forest garden where vines are crawling up fruit and nut trees, and bushes that give shade to strawberries cover the ground. Chickens are tilling the soil, and the ducks help eat snails and insects. Water is flowing through the land and is retained in ponds and swales. Bees are pollinating the trees and producing honey while wild birds help spreading the seeds. The result is an incredible garden and a living ecosystem producing food that doesn’t need much maintenance! But to make it work well, you really need to know your land. And you need patience. The first year you have to just observe your land, how it behaves, how water is running through it, which wild animals are there, how the wind and the sun are moving throughout the year, etc. Tim is dedicated to it, and now it’s his life.

    Moving through the farms and the gardens in Bridgedale360, don’t hesitate to put your hands in the soil. You can see how the worms are processing the soil and how much life there is on this microscopic level. Building up the soil and keeping it healthy is really important for anything to grow. When you eat here in our community restaurant, you’ll know that it all comes from around here. Every carrot, every potato, every tomato or aubergine. From here. No chemicals, no artificial fertilisers, no GMOs! And certainly no workers’ rights abuse! Brought to the table by people you know, who are happy and well-fed, by the care they’ve put into their work, and by the rain and the heat of the sun. That’s quite a different story from how I used to spend my lunches and dinners! Instead, here, you see permaculture ethics in practice - it is all about earth care, people care and fair share!

    Learning Outcomes

    • To experience that you are what you eat - know what you eat

    • To understand the global industrial food system

    • To have a somatic experience, an embodied experience of food

    • To understand the basic principles and ethics of permaculture

    • To recognize qualities and importance of healthy soil

The River and the SeaThe House