• 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 House


    “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

    -Nikola Tesla

    “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

    -Winston Churchill

    “Good buildings come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design.”

    -Stephen Gardiner


    Tom, young permaculture enthusiast

    This is my house! It’s what’s called an earthship. I know, it’s pretty cool. And I’ve built it myself! It looks hard, but really, it isn’t that difficult. The original vision of the earthship is simple. It should be a house that uses local and reused material wherever possible; it should rely on natural energy sources and be independent from the grid; it should be easy to build. Even for a person like me, who had never built anything like it in my life! The basic principles are quite simple. The walls here are built from old car tires packed with dirt; local and reused materials that provide a lot of thermal mass. The windows are south-facing to use the heat of the sun. The walls are sucking up the sunlight during the day while the heat is released during the night. Thus the temperature stabilizes and is kept nice and comfy most of the time. You can also see how the house is sunk into the earth to provide extra insulation. Energy is absolutely essential. Except for the energy that is passively stored in the walls from the sunlight, electricity is harvested from the sun and the wind. If you look at the roof you’ll see photovoltaic panels as well as a small wind turbine. Electricity is stored in batteries and later converted and used for house appliances such as a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner. It’s absolutely enough for me. Also, it’s designed for water. Rainwater is harvested from the roof, filtered and stored in a cistern. The water can then be used for drinking, cooking, showering etc. In an earthship, the grey water, used water from cooking and showering, is often used for flushing toilets. I don’t have one; to me it doesn’t make sense since I need both the manure and the water for my forest garden. Besides, no one is using flushing toilets in Bridgedale360. What is important is that I love to live in this house! I view it as a living system, totally integrated in its environment, and I can feel how energy, humidity and water is moving through it, meeting all my needs without wasting anything! I can’t change the entire world, but I know that if the world would start applying this kind of thinking, many problems would be solved.

    Of course, it’s a fact that the world needs to adapt to a more natural and energy-saving mindset. Energy might have been an infinite resource in the past, but it’s not anymore. At least not in the form of fossil fuels. Peak oil and global warming are a wakeup call that our old ways  are unsustainable, incessantly taking from the earth without ever giving anything back. Energy must once again be regarded as something valuable and finite and our ways of harvesting energy must change dramatically. The global energy consumption increases every year and that needs to turn around very soon. At the same time, we need to develop our means and capacity for harvesting renewables. And be smarter! Here in Bridgedale360, we take used olive oil from the restaurants to run the local bus. That is the type of clever design that the world needs.

    Being independent in terms of energy, as I am now, is a great freedom. Over the last hundred years we’ve built a society where we as individuals are totally dependant on it to cater to our daily needs. Shut down all the provisions from society: no water, no electricity, no food, and you’re most likely dead within a couple of days. Not only do we lack the infrastructure and design to live independently, we also lack the skills, knowledge and confidence. I feel much stronger now, harvesting my own energy. It gives me a sense of autonomy and confidence. And less fear, since I know how to use the earth and sun to keep me alive. After all, they are much more reliable than any government, economy or welfare system could ever be.

    But for us it goes beyond one’s own independence. Do you see any beggars or homeless people here in Bridgedale360? If you wonder how we managed to do away with homelessness or poverty, the answer is pretty simple - all resources are owned by people for the people, not by governments or corporations! Everyone here is empowered to cooperate with and rely on nature, houses of natural materials that are much more energy efficient, using solar energy for solar cookers so nobody is hungry, solar showers which do not run on electricity at all, and everything is being re-used in closed loop systems, even our poo! There is simply no room for social injustice or economic inequality!

    By the way, are you hungry? I’ve put some rice in the solar oven; it should be ready soon. Come with me outside, and I’ll show you. On a great sunny day like this, it should be done in a jiffy!

    Learning Outcomes

    • To understand the house as a system

    • To be aware of your own energy / ecological footprint

    • To have an experience of building something using sustainable methods

    • To have an expanded notion of your habitation needs

The Garden and the FarmThe Town Hall and Community Centre