The Findhorn Community

In global terms, Scotland is a small country. (In terms of size, it’s apparently smaller than Austria, Tasmania and the US state of Maine.)

Although I’ve spent virtually all of my life in Scotland, there are still many parts I haven’t yet visited and a number of long-held ambitions as yet unfulfilled.

I did manage to tick one off recently though, when the delightful assistants and I buzzed up north towards the Moray Coast, to visit the Findhorn Community.

One of the many nice things about the area of Moray is that the council provide cheerfully coloured bins, and these were in evidence in the community’s streets:

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The Findhorn Community is rather an unusual place, and has grown considerably since it began in 1962.

Findhorn Community Centre near the entrance to the community.

In its early days, the founders created a bit of a stir by growing enormous vegetables, herbs and flowers, the girth of which they said had been achieved by communicating with the spirits of the plants.

For example, an average sort of cabbage weighs about 3lbs, but some of the cabbages grown in Findhorn weighed in at a whopping 40lb! That’s about 18kg, or nearly 3 stone (or the weight of an average 4 year old child).

I wish I had a picture of one of these enormous cabbages, but we searched the grounds of the community during our visit and found not one single outsize vegetable.

These days the community is more concerned with hosting environmental and spiritual workshops and promoting environmentally friendly practises in its ecovillage, so perhaps their days of growing gigantic vegetables is past, I don’t know.

As interested as we were in having a wander round the place, luncheon was calling so we headed straight for the community’s Blue Angel Cafe, tucked in amongst burgeoning foliage with seating outside as well as indoors:

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Soup of the Day was green split pea, and delightful assistant no.2 and I both went for that.

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He had his with cheese and onion sandwiches on the side, and I had rice cakes. The soups came dished up in bowls made in the community pottery:

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Delightful assistant no.1 had cheese and tomato sandwiches, which came with a lovely fresh salad, but unfortunately my photo of it is a bit blurred.

When we’d finished our savouries we went for a trot round The Park, the area of the community containing ecohouses, various small enterprises and gardens.

Beneath the signpost at the entrance to The Park there was an encouraging message:

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As we walked around, I must say I didn’t feel in the least bit worried. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and there were lots of interesting things to look at.

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The Findhorn Pottery Shop, a place to purchase a souvenir or two.

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The weaving studio, where you can perhaps buy woven things to take home with you. I didn’t go in, but I did see some colourful woven items hanging in the window.

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The Boutique – a small building with all sorts of things in it. I believe it’s a kind of swap shop where you can bring something you no longer want and swap it for something someone else has left.

In addition to the businesses there were many ecohouses of interesting design, some leading directly off the quiet paths through the village and others popping up from amongst clusters of trees.

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A curious roof emerging from the canopy.

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An unusual little house nestling beneath its curious roof.

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One of several ‘barrel’ houses, made from massive recycled whisky vats. Very fitting, since Moray is home to the world’s only Malt Whisky Trail.

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The Shire: currently for sale, at offers over £159,000. The outside wood is Scottish spruce and internal wall partitions are filled with sheep’s wool, which no doubt keeps it nice and cosy in the winter. If you want to see the full specification, you can find it here: http://www.lightbringers.info/eco-house-sale.asp

Perhaps my favourite building was this one, the Park Maintenance office:

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A smiley whale, brightening up the ecovillage.

In the middle of The Park there was a wooded garden, designed for contemplation.

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In the middle of this wooded glade was something quite magical, a low stone built house with a grass roof and a small garden, where I daresay the forest folk come of an evening to sit and tell stories.

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Little fairy house in a wooded glade.

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The doorway into a magical kingdom.

Just outside the Peace Garden there was another garden, which was fenced off and had a most unusual gateway:

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No outsize vegetables to be seen here.

This garden contained several minibeast hotels (the little wooden boxes attached to posts in the picture below):

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A Mecca for minibeasts

Having exhausted ourselves strolling around in the sunshine, we headed back to the Blue Angel Cafe for a little refreshment.

Most unusually, delightful assistant no.1 didn’t want anything, not even a nice cup of tea, but delightful assistant no.2 had spied a lemon roulade on our previous visit and had been dreaming of it ever since:

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It wasn’t quite as lemony as he’d been hoping for but it seemed to slip down quite well with a cappuccino.

As is often the case, I was lured in by walnuts; on this occasion they came embedded in a toffee walnut tart. It was sweet, sticky and highly acceptable. In company with a cinnamon chai latte it disappeared without any trouble at all:

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All the way round The Park we had noticed little wooden houses a couple of feet off the ground, which I initially thought were mail boxes and then realised were in fact lights. Each one was wired up and had holes at the front with a light bulb inside. I suppose they must double as hidey-holes for wee beasties.

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Unobtrusive street lighting in Findhorn ecovillage.

Before leaving the Findhorn Community we called in at The Phoenix community store:

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I was amazed by the range of goods for sale, particularly in the food area which had the most extensive range of nut butters I think I’ve ever seen, as well as many other interesting goodies of the sort you find in a wholefoods shop.

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They also had a good variety of wines and locally produced real ales, apothecary items, cards, books and gifts. I was prepared for the prices being higher than you’d find in towns and cities, but in fact in some cases the opposite was true. They were even competing with supermarket prices, which I thought very commendable.

Another surprising thing about the Findhorn Community is that it has its own currency, the Eko (1 Eko = £1), although the pound sterling is equally accepted.

Ekos

Various Eko notes (courtesy of http://e-info.org.tw/node/70731).

According to an article in The Scotsman last year, several pubs in the Moray area accept the Eko.

In 2012 the Findhorn Community celebrated its 50th anniversary, and I wonder what it’ll be like in another 50 years’ time. Perhaps this sort of community living will have grown in popularity by then and there will be other similar places dotted around the country. I suppose it’s possible that I might just live long enough to find out.

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Categories: Architecture, Cake, Findhorn Community, Gardens, Healthy eating, Inspiration, Lemon, Moray, Nature, Organic, Photography, Scotland, Soup, Tearooms | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

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42 thoughts on “The Findhorn Community

  1. :-D An interesting view from the outside. Which is not to say I am on the inside at all, but I used to be a frequent visitor to the Phoenix Shop some years back, before organic became more mainstream. With the supermarkets cutting back I may have to resume my regular trips to Findhorn…
    It is a pity I didn’t know you were in the area, I might have joined you as I don’t live far away. As for the colourful bins, well, yes, hm….They are a fairly recent addition and the average collection now amounts to brown, green, pink (or purple, depending on your perception lol), blue, plus an orange box. It is becoming a job and a half to move everything to the roadside on a Sunday night while trying to remember which ones have to go out when ;-) Changing times, we will get used to it, no doubt. Beats having to drive to the recycling facility I guess.

    • It’s a great shop, isn’t it? I was very impressed, and if I lived up your way I think I’d be tempted to make frequent visits. I didn’t realise you lived so close to Findhorn. I was wanting to go into Findhorn village too, but it’s quite a way from where I live, a 6 hour round trip, so we ran out of time. I’d be better off having a proper little overnight stay up there really. What is the pink/purple bin for? We have green, brown and blue, but no pink or orange. I would like to have a pink one. :-)

      • Lol, Lorna, the blue bin was recently promoted from a blue box which is for our paper and card, making the box redundant. The orange box previously collected our metal cans and glass bottles, but now the metal cans go into the pink bin. They are joined by recyclable plastic bottles, which is a new thing to us. Unfortunately, probably because they would all smash in the process, the glass bottles can’t go into that bin, so our orange boxes still have a job, well half a job, to do. Brown bins are for garden and food waste – we also have a little grey caddy to collect the latter in the kitchen so we can carry it to the brown bin (of which I have three as we have a large garden). And then there is the green bin for everything else. Because in our area everything except the green bin go out on the same day every fortnight you see this colourful array of refuse bins and boxes all along the street on those days lol. We have a very generous council ;-)
        It will be most interesting to see what happens if bin day is a stormy day….

        • That’s most interesting. I’ve often been a bit puzzled by our recycling arrangements in Perth and Kinross, because our blue bin takes cardboard, paper, tin cans and plastic, and I wonder how they separate all that out and why it is that all of these things can go into one bin when they’re composed of such different materials. Presumably they have a sorting place where the different stuff is split up but it seems more sensible to have what you have with different containers for different items. It also makes me wonder if all of our stuff really is recycled…. We don’t have any glass recycling collection here, we have to take it to a recycling centre ourselves, which I find surprising as I believe making new glass requires a lot of energy. You’d think they’d want to make sure people didn’t just bin it but I’m sure lots of people do because it’s too much trouble for them to recycle it. I have a wonderful picture in my mind now of a stormy bin day in Moray with colourful bins all over the place. :-)

          • It will happen, of that there is no doubt. It already did, but we didn’t have as many bins then. Had to hunt down boxes and lids from the other end of the street, and once our bin blew into neighbour’s garden somehow. Fun times to come. I agree with you on the recycling side, I often wonder how much is actually recycled. But will let the council worry about that, they are the ones who insist we have to save on landfill fees and taxes.

            • It could make for a very colourful little video if flying bins were recorded during a hurricane, although I don’t think I’d be volunteering to shoot it.

  2. I’m slightly concerned for the health of delightful assistant number 1 – unable to partake of a hot drink and a nice cake.

    • Thank you for your concern, I was concerned, too. I kept asking her if she was all right and if she didn’t at least want a cup of tea, but she was adamant that she was neither hungry nor thirsty. Thankfully, on the way home she did get her appetite back and managed to scoff a plate of bacon, egg and chips at the Ballinluig Motor Grill.

      • Ballinluig is a popular stop on that route, particularly when you are travelling outside hours where the quaint little cafes along the road are closed. Not my favourite stop but a reliable place and not too pricey.

        • I have a soft spot for the BGM, they do such a good mushroom omelette and the service is extremely quick. It’s nearly always busy, which is a good sign, and the prices are remarkably low. It’s not your dainty fine bone china teacup sort of establishment, but it occupies a different niche.

  3. This is a great blog post! I have always wanted to go there, and this gives such a good idea of what it feels like to wander around. I love your blogging style with pictures, and just enough text. xxx

    • Thank you very much, Sarah! :-) I hope you do get the chance to visit Findhorn, it took me years to get round to it but I’m glad I’ve been and wouldn’t mind another visit some time. It really is a most interesting place.

  4. Now, isn’t that funny, my dad went to stay at Findhorn in the 1960’s. Really interesting to see it, I’ve always been intrigued to see what it looks like. Now I know, thanks!

    • That’s interesting, did your dad go for a retreat? I think it was all caravans and hippy campsite style in those days. As it happens, my mum also went in the ’60s, and this was her first return visit. She said it had changed beyond all recognition, it’s grown so much and it’s now a commercial venture, which is wasn’t at that time. The commercialism of it was one thing I hadn’t been expecting, but it’s obviously working well as a business as well as a community charity.

  5. Very interesting – I’d heard of this place but I didn’t know what it was all about. That was quite a long trip from you – or is the drive to Moray not too bad? Do people have to apply to live there, and are the houses rented or owned? I could do with one of those ‘Stop Worrying’ signs right on my desk! :)

    • Good questions! I’m not entirely sure about how it all works but I believe that if you agree to abide by the ethos of the community (and whether that’s just expected if you show an interest, or if they grill you about it, I don’t know), you can buy (or possibly rent?) a house there. There’s a big housing development being built at the moment and there was a sign up saying that properties would be available to buy in due course and people were invited to put down a deposit if they wanted to secure a plot. I didn’t include that in my post because I thought it was already quite long enough, but there appears to be a substantial amount of property development going on. It was quite a long trip, 6 hours there and back, with a break en route. I’d like to explore the area further but I think I’d need to stay overnight.

      • Thanks for explaining! Sounds as if it’s all very well run and organised. I’ve often wondered about the Moray coast, somewhere we’ve never been (well, excluding a very brief stop in Inverness!)

        • This is the thing about Scotland; it’s pretty small but it packs so much in. Despite my best efforts, there are loads of places I haven’t seen and I imagine I’ll go to my grave without ticking them all off the list. Hopefully I can come back as a bird and get to all the places I missed this time round. :-)

          • That sounds like a good idea! I mean coming back as a bird. There are so many places in Scotland that I want to see, too. I often think that Scotland is under-estimated in terms of land area because of all the mountains – if you ironed them out flat, it would be ten times as big!

  6. A very interesting post. I quite liked the barrel buildings and the fairy house with the hobbit door. the lemon cake looks really smashing and I always love to find a pottery shop so I think I’ll be making a note of that.

    • Thanks Alison, there’s certainly a variety of things to interest the visitor, and just wandering around looking at the different buildings was good entertainment, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. The barrel houses are very pleasing, I think, and of course to find a nice cafe on site was a considerable bonus.

  7. What an interesting place! I’m glad you had such nice treats too. It looks like you all did a lot of walking… :)

  8. The lemon roulade looks yummy and mouthwatering. How neat to live in a whiskey barrel house. What a unique town. You did an awesome job of giving us a feel for the whole area.

    • The roulade did look good, and there were a couple of others too, including a chocolate one that I might have gone for were it not for the walnuts grabbing my attention. Thank you for your kind comments, Linda. :-)

  9. I read a book called Magic of Findhorn by Paul Hawken way back in the 70’s, and I believe it is about this place! Glad to see that it has been kept alive – looks fabulous to visit, even if the cabbages aren’t giants!

    • How interesting, there seem to have been quite a few books written about it, I must read one some time. Not only has it been kept alive, but it appears to be constantly growing and attracting more interest, so it’s certainly a success story. I would love to know if they still grow giant cabbages.

  10. What a magical little place!

  11. A beautiful day trip and such heavenly homes too. In the northern part of NSW there are communities who exist on a barter & shell system. It’s a very unique system which allows for an idyllic life and simplicity.

    Loved the little stone house by the way, magical creatures afoot & all!

    • I didn’t know Australia had those kinds of communities but they sound very interesting and enterprising. It would be a big step to leave ‘normal’ life and commit to that kind of environment, but I’m sure there are lots of us who like the idea of it. Sometimes life seems far more complicated than it needs to be. I’m sure there are magical creatures at Findhorn, there must be. :-)

  12. I missed this post somehow. That lemon meringue roly poly thing definitely looks like it has potential. Unconnected to your post, I just put oats in my pancakes (my husband thanked me for not putting them in his) as an experiment and in order to feel that I was being somewhat healthy. I’m not sure that it was such a very good idea, although I could see the potential if one had to, say, muster sheep in a blizzard.

    • Oats in pancakes? That’s a novel idea. I’m wondering if oatmeal might have worked into the flour more easily, although you wouldn’t get the flaky oaty bits. I sincerely hope you never have to muster sheep in a blizzard, but at least if you do you’ll know how to keep your stamina up. Who’d have thought it, oat pancakes for sheep mustering; the more I think about it, the more I feel you could be on to something there.

  13. A woman that I work with was recently talking about how she lived in the Findhorn Community with her daughter in the 1970s. I had never heard of it before, and here it is again in your blog. It’s funny how things sort of rise to the surface at the same time, isn’t it? I can see whey they were drawn to this place. She had just gone through an ugly and exhausting divorce, and this community looks like it definitely possesses restorative properties.

    • What a coincidence, it is odd how things pop up at the same time. I can imagine that the Findhorn Community might well be balm to the soul in such a situation.

  14. goodness you were right on my doorstep here – I have wandered around here loads of times

  15. I’m writing from California and all of you sound so friendly and gentle…wish I could have tea with you! We have the Big Sur community which has some very idealistic people in beautiful surroundings trying to live simply which is not easy when you’re halfway between Hollywood and San Francisco on highway 1.

  16. HelenM

    There is also a vilage of Findhorn – separate from the ‘community’. Shame it gets overlooked by this commercial enterprise.

    • I’m sorry I didn’t have more time to investigate the village, because from the little I did see of it, I thought it looked lovely. Next time I venture up that way I’ll make it my priority. :-)

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