Heather Walley provides an update on the new co-operative community at Newbold House.
Newbold House has always been a centre for transformation and education, ever since the Findhorn Foundation began to use the house in 1979 as an additional workshop space for their educational programmes. After its purchase in 1983 by a separate charitable trust set up by Foundation members, the house has continued to provide space for guests and workshops under the guardianship of a group of Trustees, plus the management and operations skills of a resident team of core members.
A new era for Newbold House began on the 1st October this year with the forming of a new cooperative community whose aim is to be sustainable ecologically, economically and spiritually. With a larger body of members working full and part-time, the aim is to spread the load of running the day-to-day business of Newbold, whilst generating income from outside to help make the business and community more sustainable economically, and more vibrant on all levels.
Just two months into the new adventure, plenty has been going on. In the first few days Newbold played host to a wedding, and the following month was the venue for a murder mystery party, as well as workshops, events and an ongoing yoga class.
Continuing into the New Year, Newbold is offering a 3-day New Year Celebration Gathering led by Jane and Philip Rogers, starting Thursday 30th December. If a conscious, creative and calm transition into the New Year with a silent meditation at 12 midnight and no alcohol appeals, please see their website for more details, or Newbold House website and contact the Newbold Office to book.
Since September, when the core membership group consisted of four people, there has been a steady stream of people coming to join them, the last new member arriving in November to bring the current number up to ten.
Christopher Raymont, a founder member of the new cooperative and visionary gardener, works full time and says: “The beauty and potential productivity of the walled garden was what first drew me to Newbold and is still a daily inspiration. Add the chance to help create a small and vibrant working community of peers and I feel that I have the opportunity to apply all that I have learnt over two decades of gardening and community life… and learn a lot more in the process!”
Jane is an example of someone who lives at Newbold and also has a business of their own. She runs Rich Thinkers, helping people who love to be of service but struggle with growing their business or project. She says: “I’ve joined the Newbold community because I’m really excited about this opportunity to help guide Newbold in a clear and purposeful direction over the next years. I’m passionate about marrying spirit, business and sustainable living, and as that’s what we’re wanting to do here at Newbold, it seemed the perfect place to be.”
Whilst maintaining Newbold as a wonderful venue for workshop leaders to use as a resource (and a ‘value added’ bed and breakfast or longer stay guest stop), the aim is also to develop and share skills from within the community, which are all focused around the theme of sustainable living.
Christopher has some ambitious plans to extend the capacity of the gardens and also to use them as an educational resource, developing ideas and programmes to teach people the skills they need to grow their own food, using permaculture and organic principles, both through the Findhorn College and through seasonal gardening courses and talks.
As the garden is a major resource for the kitchen, James Wallace, the resident chef, will also be developing courses around seasonal cooking, where participants will be able to be involved in the whole cycle of planting, harvesting, cooking and eating food that has travelled less than 200 metres to get to their plate! There are also plans for courses in wild food gathering and meal creation for those wishing to add some seasonal variety to their diet, whilst learning about the nutritional value of many of our native species of plants and fungi.
Already underway are plans to convert the heating systems for the house to a more sustainable combination of a new bio-mass boiler, wind and solar power. The community sees the installation of these systems as an additional educational resource, for people wanting to know more about sustainable energy, as well as being part of ‘walking their talk’.
Staying at Newbold House is an educational experience in itself, and a wonderful opportunity for people to experience the vibrancy and richness of community life, whether for just a short overnight stay, or for a longer period as part of the working guest programme.
Newbold offers the experience of being held within a community of people from different backgrounds, who share the common vision that sustainability is about the quality of our relationships: with ourselves, each other, with spirit, and the earth that supports us.
The environment and the structures provided within the community provide both balance and an opportunity to connect: Daily meditation and Taize singing in the sanctuary are an uplifting way to begin the day. Shared meals provide the space for sharing and getting to know people, whilst the environment surrounding the house, from the walled garden to the woods and the countryside beyond, provides a source of connection and nourishment from the natural world.
David Hunter, a recent guest and participant in the Bioneers conference at Findhorn commented on his experience:
Before I came to Newbold I didn’t realise that community had anything to do with sustainability. Now I realise, that it is at least fifty percent.