People Permaculture Adventures in Learning

by Delvin Solkinson

Adventures to the wild - a group walk along a path in a woodland glade"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit"
- Edward Abbey 
Driving through the endless country backroads of Herefordshire through a pastoral landscape of stone farmhouses, we went by fields filled with sheep and lined with hedgerows. It looked the same as I imagined it looked a hundred years ago. On pilgrimage with my permaculture partner Grace, we are questing towards the next level of facilitating, teaching and mentoring. 
Beginning with a tour of the Applewood Permaculture Centre, we explored the a gardens, orchard, fields, pond, structures, tents and a herd of semi-wild rams. As the group journeyed together we felt a sense of kinship, not only with each other but with this natural place.
Taking time to integrate and set intentions, we began by a great ancient oak tree, the perfect setting to begin the next level of our lives and a year long program with Looby Macnamara and Peter Cow. 
The journey has taken us both deep into ourselves and into our connection with others. Being cloistered at Applewood, living and learning, eating and sleeping, doing chores and taking care of practical matters put alot of attention on group dynamics and interpersonal relationships. 
Looby and Peter introduced to a toolkit of methods, principles, strategies and techniques for teaching and learning, mentoring and coaching, consulting and designing. For each of these we integrated, discussed and explored. Visiting our edges, the group went through many challenging initiations into using song, dance, games and creative facilitation techniques designed to inspire emergent learning moments.
One technique regularly used was ‘teaching through questioning’, a process offering core concepts then leading into a group brainstorm to support the students to understand and apply the concepts. Breakout sessions were common, where dyads or triads of participants had interactive discussions to unpack and integrate concepts then reported back to the group. Visualizations, reflective writing and council style ‘go-rounds’ created an environment which was totally inclusive and alive. 
Spending time by the ancient Grandmother Oak, our live classroom was filled with birdsong and squirrel chatter. We learned with countless plants including a heritage orchard of many different kinds of apples. Eating autumn harvests from the garden, we considered our own diet and how to design this key part of our regenerative lifestyles. 
3 women gather round focused on a task. With log, bracken and apples in shot.Coming together from Germany, Croatia, Bulgaria, England, Scotland, Canada and the United States, the class participants came from a variety of backgrounds united by a common set of values and dedication to becoming better teachers, facilitators and mentors. The training was completely out-of-the-box. focusing on visionary techniques for activating both sides of the brain and connecting with all different kinds of intelligence. 
A key learning from the program illustrated the difference between transmission style teaching and the facilitation of learning. Using brainstorms and interactive discussions, Looby and Peter mentored us to be an active part of the learning process. Instead of just being told information, we were led through an experience of discovery that used experiential learning to transform the information into knowledge. 
Eating from the garden, sleeping in beautiful stone buildings and doing morning stretches with the sunbeams surrounded by many varieties of apple and pear trees laden with fruit, we were in permie paradise.  Bird song was our soundtrack all day long and from time to time we caught a glimpse of the elusive Hebridean Sheep that helped maintain the old fields of Waterloo Farm.
Stepping outside of the patterns of our everyday experiences, this course was a reset for our lives and livelihoods, giving us a new perspective of what was possible. 
See some videos made by the brilliant Olly Boon on the Roots Project YouTube.
Delvin Solkinson was a participant at the People Permaculture Facilitator’s Training. He is currently doing a Diploma with the Permaculture Association under the mentorship of Looby Macnamara.

Applewood Permaculture Centre

Looby Macnamara

Envoy: Delvin Solkinson
Photographs: Olly Boon