I don’t blame you, the leaders of Trees for Life, for my problems on the tree planting week. I brought my demons with me. I certainly don’t regret doing it, and there were many positives. There were also some things which I think you got wrong. Here then are my thoughts:
As a way to appreciate the beauty and complexity of this part of Britain a working week like this is hard to beat. I greatly appreciated the chance to get to know and photograph this extraordinary place.
Our two leaders were also extraordinary – not only competent and knowledgeable, but unflaggingly cheerful and supportive. Well done both of you.
I experienced great kindness and friendship and very much hope some of you will keep in touch. I certainly have no intention of doing another tree planting week, but would like to get to know Dundreggan and Corrimony, so may well be back.
The Bothy – what ever were you thinking of when it was upgraded? What on earth is the logic of top-quality insulation, heating, toilet, decoration, solar power and lighting but no hot and cold running water, and no shower? From my experience with van conversion and building our own eco house, it would have been easy and not expensive to install at least constant running water. A small well-insulated gas-fired hot water system would almost certainly use less gas than cooking up kettles on the stove. It will cost a lot more to retro-fit such a system, as the architect would have known. So why? Perhaps because the volunteers come here for the experience of living in a remote spot, off grid, no phone signal, all mucking in together and making the best of it – life enhancing? If so, why bother with insulation? Why not huddle round an open fire? Why the sophisticated electrics, the modern LED spotlights? Why not paraffin lamps or candles?
The all-male group. I was seriously worried about being in such a large group anyway, but to find that there were no women volunteers was very dispiriting. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding single-sex groups difficult. Since the volunteers have made such a large commitment in time, energy and money to work for you is it asking too much to ensure that the groups are mixed in both ages (which this one was) and gender?
The “spiritual moments“. There is a big argument about how political campaigners should present themselves, but this does not feel like the right place to dip my toes into that turbulent stream. Though an atheist I do believe that there is an essential spiritual side to our nature which we need to nurture. However, I do strongly object to being told to do so!
That’s it. I will publish a gallery of photographs. Full high-resolution versions will be available by request at no charge. All I would like is an acknowledgement. If I can work out how to present videos online then those will be available too.
Have a good winter everyone.