Sunday, 30 September 2012

20th Anniversary of Twyford Down ~ No New Roads!

Yesterday I went along to the event commemorating the 20 year anniversary of the protests to stop the M3 being built through Twyford Down, near Winchester, as part of the Conservative Government's 'Roads to prosperity' programme back in the early 90s. It was shocking and sad to revisit the results of Government disregard for one of the most protected landscapes in Southern England, an area that was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, contained Sites of Special Scientific interest and Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

This had been a huge protest which although it did not manage to prevent the road being built and its non-violent activists being subjected to prison sentences and violence from both police and private security guards, it brought the devastating impact of the road building programme to a global audience, and was effective in significantly reducing the numbers of other proposed road schemes.

A full account of the 1990s road protest movement can be read here:
An article looking back at the Twyford Down protest by Becca Lush Blum, a Twyford Down campaigner is here:
Becca Lush Blum, being interviewed yesterday
It was also a day to reconnect with people who still actively care and are committed to defending landscapes and communities from the destruction of the new roads programme being planned by the current Government. We tied yellow sashes round us, each marked with the name of a different proposed road in the current plans.

We walked up the hill to where a huge banner was fixed alongside the motorway, reading '20 years since Twyford Down. Don't go backwards. No new roads'

This photo was taken by Adrian Arbib and shared on the Roads2Nowhere Facebook page:!/roads2nowhere
I find the numbers of proposed roads shocking, particularly at a time when money is being withdrawn from so many essential public services and when the environment is already being effected by the impact of cuts in many areas of important conservation work. It's up to us to get informed about these plans and the campaigns opposing them which need our support.

Sian Berry at Twyford Down yesterday, who writes the roads blog for the Campaign for Better Transport, a good place to stay informed of what's happening:

One such campaign is the Bexhill-to-Hastings link road, where a sister event took place yesterday:
A map of the proposed road plans can be found here:

Further Media reports:
I'll add further media reports here as I come across them.
There is a big feature in today's Sunday Times but no web link.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Not the first day back at school ~ looking for aliens instead

Time probably felt quite different to me and my brother growing up, than it does for my son. Our year was divided into terms and 'holidays'. Our week was divided into school days and week-ends.  Our day was divided into units of class time inbetween bell rings and breaktimes. First days and last days of school took on almost ceremonial significance, just as it still does judging by all the photo's on Facebook of children standing with school uniform holding their bags ready to begin the new school year.

Me, circa 1980

My brother, 1976, aged nearly 12, about the same age my son is now
I can't truly remember how it felt but I think the new school year in September was an exciting time - reaching a higher rung on the ladder, not only measuring our academic development, but providing a fresh opportunity to take on new challenges, make new friends, possibly reinvent ourselves a little. I can see some value in the structure that I grew up with. However, it contrasts strongly with the time structure we co-create with our son, and this can be one of the more liberating aspects of home-educating.

My son, 2003, aged 2, not going to pre-school!
We never had to adapt to the school routine because our son has never been in school or pre-school.We still have the structure of adult work to fit around and our diary gets filled up with events and activities, camps and 'out-of-school' classes and all kinds of random things which pop up that we decide to do. But there's perhaps more of a free flowing of 'time' and no daily necessity for early morning starts or late night endings. Because his time spent doing something (eg, animating) isn't necessarily interrupted by artificial divisions, he can carry on with a project until he's finished with it or wants to do something else (though we do place inconsistent limits on screen time, depending on what it's being used for!).

One possible consequence of this is that our son doesn't have a strong awareness of clock time or calendar time and combined with my time management wobbles can mean that we're often rushing about trying to cram too much in or squeeze one last minute into the seconds we have before getting out and being late! Most of the world runs to quite a strict timetable and it will obviously be necessary at some point for him to learn the value of balancing and organising his time and aligning it sometimes with those convenient yet controlling numbers which are constantly ticking by. A tardis would be more than useful, though perhaps a bit distracting.

Today (Wed. 5th Sept) was his first day of not starting Secondary School! It was also my Mum and Dad's 53rd wedding anniversary!

We decided that this called for a joint celebration and as it was a gorgeous sunny day, the most appropriate thing to do seemed to be to go out in the country to find a crop circle and see if we could get beamed up by aliens... It's true, the intoxicating effects of no school combined with over half a century of love, put us in a dizzying, crazy mood! We don't know if it was this, or whether there was in fact a paranormal phenomena occurring. It produced mugshots which were very different to those old ones of me and my brother with our uniforms and bags.

We definitely felt there was some kind of strange energy in that field
We were drawn higher and thought that maybe up there, they would reach for us through time and space, to take us home...
My mum was wondering why despite all her attempts, they still haven't come to take her away...
To be honest, I'm very relieved she's still here!
The corn had been cut but we could still see the imprint of the pattern and the flattened areas where the design had been made. Before the crop had been harvested, the formation we were standing in looked like this:
Photo from
Copyright of Jason Patterson
When I looked up information on this crop formation later, I found out how appropriate a place it had been for us to be today. When we're reflecting on the effects and meaning of time and relationships in our lives, it was interesting to read how this labyrinth crop design has been described as an ancient Tibetan Buddhist symbol, that of an 'endless knot' which signifies the eternal flow of time, an unbroken interconnectedness and unity, with neither beginning nor end.

It has also been described as a Mayon Qunicunx which is an ancient alchemy symbol representing the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

And this is how I see education and life! And this is maybe what my parents were thinking when they 'tied the knot' 53 years ago.

We came home. Neither our earnestness nor our silliness led to a journey into the stars with alien friends (though we know they're out there somewhere). The hands on my watch are still moving round. I keep an open mind for who makes the labyrinths and circles in the fields but we continue to walk our labyrinths and our interconnections through our lives, and we are each always so much more than the sum of our parts.

And whether we go to school or not, we never stop learning *•.¸¸

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Wales Environmental Home Education Camp... We weren't square ~ we went there!

This August/September was our 5th anniversary of going to 'Welsh Camp', a week of home ed fun in a beautiful crazy place between Carmarthen and Newcastle Emlyn. Even though the weather was GRIM for the first half of the week, and our tent flooded and we had a mudslide across our floor and there was a time we thought the wind and rain would never stop (it is on a Welsh hilltop after all), there's just something very special about it which makes it all worthwhile and an essential part of our year.


This year I found myself offering a poem at the last night cabaret, under my lesser known identity of Bardic Betty ;-) I'm sharing it here to give a personal glimpse of our Welsh Camp experience illustrated by some of the photo's which I've taken over the last 5 years of being there. And no the lines don't all scan perfectly but Bardic Betty doesn't really care because she had great fun all the same! I realise there's an element of 'you had to be there' but, well maybe that's the point... you have to be there ~ see you at the next one!

 A Sort of Love Poem to WEHEC
(Wales Environmental Home Education Camp)

Well it's that time of year - it's WEHEC again
The tents all went up and down came the rain.
Gotta love the Welsh weather, surrender to its charm
Or we're going to spend the week in a state of alarm.

Yes the tent flooded and dripped through the roof all day.
Water is sacred but we prayed "Sun ~ take it away!"
We lay awake listening to the wild music of the night
Creaking, straining tent poles; nylon walls flapping like a hundred birds in flight.
Then after waking, it's off to the straw bale for a pee
Or to donate your liquid nitrogen to a hedgerow tree.
And it's not just men and boys you may stumble on looking shy,
'Cos sometimes girls and women like to wee beneath an open sky.


Then if you make it across the field in time, to the compost loo,
I'd advise holding rosemary oil to your nose as you sit and have your poo.
'Cos someone must have been peeing in there (I swear it wasn't me)
And made a wicked cocktail, a most horrid alchemy.

Compost loo ~ 2010

Now our boy has lost his wellies and has mud-encrusted toes
And you really don't want to look at what's coming out of his nose.
But he's away with the Pyro-Pixies, happily swirling his fire staff,
Hanging out in the cafe, playing cards and having a laugh.




Doing incredible string tricks with that rainbow circle of string,


Squelching across the bog to where the swing-boats Ding-Dong, Ding-Dong, Ding...


Meanwhile the dog is trembling, shivering as she sighs,
Curled up on her rug and staring, accusation in her eyes.
I remind her of her ancestry, of the wolf in her DNA,
To harden up and howl with me, at the blue moon in our Milky Way.


Then when I'm sitting relaxing, admiring the windfarm sight...


A procession of people most strange appear, announcing a cordial invite.

And supposing I want to remain at my tent, with my ginger beer just there...
Well apparently that's not permitted, if I don't want to be very square.

So 'Play For The Day' is a must you see, it's inspirational, chaotic and funny.
I especially cheered the lesbian Princess and even applauded the evil bunny.

2012 ~ Older kids 'Play For The Day'
And we learnt to never have our backs to the audience, no, not EVER!
And I learnt that sometimes a cup of tea with friends in the cafe can take your mind off the weather :-)

Sock monkeys in the craft tent, wooden rafts to build,
Tree house in the woods and solar shower for the stronger-willed.

Solar shower 2011 (There were also a couple of very hot gas-powered showers this year for the weedy ones)
Stories around the fire, bats around your head,
Music in the party barn, arguments about going to bed.




Someone brought a paper back with news of music beamed from Mars,
But despite all the awesomeness up there amid the stars,
And the piece remembering Armstrong and the first moon landing,
All my wonder's being focussed on the fact our tent's still standing!

2010 Labyrinth
Heard talk there was a hot tub, secret jewel in WEHEC's crown, hidden somewhere here
But I went to bed and missed it - RATS! Perhaps they'll let me come next year.
And so too soon, it's time to go, to pack up, say goodbye,
To WEHEC's magical mayhem and head home to the warm and dry.
Oh! There's a tear in my eye!

And there's so much more that could be mentioned... the wooded river valley just across the field...

the exceptional parental support...

and all those unexpected special moments...

And I haven't even mentioned the Bumblebee song...

Thank you to Helen, Amanda, Nick, Kirsty and all the other fab people who make it happen  

For more info. check out their website at