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:
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:
Soup of the Day was green split pea, and delightful assistant no.2 and I both went for that.
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:
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:
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.
The Findhorn Pottery Shop, a place to purchase a souvenir or two.
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.
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.
A curious roof emerging from the canopy.
An unusual little house nestling beneath its curious roof.
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.
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:
A smiley whale, brightening up the ecovillage.
In the middle of The Park there was a wooded garden, designed for contemplation.
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.
Little fairy house in a wooded glade.
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:
No outsize vegetables to be seen here.
This garden contained several minibeast hotels (the little wooden boxes attached to posts in the picture below):
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:
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:
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.
Unobtrusive street lighting in Findhorn ecovillage.
Before leaving the Findhorn Community we called in at The Phoenix community store:
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.
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.
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.