Two years ago, again, I was on my widest travelling expedition, spontaneously decided to come to UK and try squatting in London for a while. I have met beautiful and interesting people but they all agreed on one thing – city can be devastating. So they would go visit this eco village outside of the city on some of the weekends. Once I joined them too. It happened that I stayed where for the next 9 months.
What did this place have so incredible that I chose to quit my existence in Lithuania as a student, leaving my friends, colleagues, flat in the city centre, tax and my hobby – staying in a cafe till late, drinking coffee or beer and philosophizing on leftist topics while smoking one cigarette after the other? Did this place have unicorns or gave away free candy? Are man where unbelievably attractive? Well...
There isn’t just one reason why Runnymede became attractive to so many people. Personally, I stayed where because I fall in love with Charlie, the forest, the lifestyle, the people, the freedom and my new growing self. Nature definitely has healing properties and Runnymede is a living example of that.
The forest held all the outcasts, unsuccessful city dwellers, artistic souls, independent personalities, activists, nature lovers and people who literally did not have anywhere else to go. But it was an intended community nevertheless wishing to live peacefully and survive the winter. Every member/family had built his/her/their own little cottage or a bender or a tipi. Each household was run individually; there wasn’t any religious beliefs, neither any rules on which the routine of the community was shaped. At some point we did have a weekly meeting but personally I hate meetings – I think they are the birthplace of arrogance. We also had another tradition – sometimes would cook a big meal and invite everybody to eat together by blowing the horn. We used to gather by the long house kitchen or grab a chair in a communal geo dome and sit all of us, share stories.
I remember being constantly surprised when I first arrived to the village. Only in England I faced this disappointment, this rage, the expression, the sense that around you where is so much going on; people sitting next to you might have travelled all over the world twice or have been lecturing how to built straw bale houses and live off-grid since 90s. For the first few weeks I’ve just been gasping and speaking very little because I’ve felt so weak and small, with no major interests or revolutionary dreams how to change the world for the better. After catching up with the true English which includes big amounts of slang and Shakespeare type of riddles I was able to join in the conversations and participate more in the communal life. Having loads of spare hours brings you a lot of responsibility and also inspires creativity what to do with your time. You are on your own in a supporting and always ready to help family frame. Nobody is going to bring you cakes and tea on golden plates – you have to go get your spring water, go skip food from the town in night time, built relationships with others, collect wood, saw wood, cook food on the fire, charge car battery in order to have light on the evenings, get necessary supplies, improve your house insulation for winter, fill pockets with forest’s treats like chestnuts, berries, herbs, tidy your environment and communal area. Your rhythm is dictated by nature seasons. Your head is clear from worrying how to pay the rent or mortgage and is constantly tuned on a reggae radio station.
I do agree that we were not a perfect example of a proper eco-village. Some of the people used Runnymede as a place to hide, some came by choice, some bankrupt and some to recover emotionally. So just a few of us actually had little bit of knowledge how to make an A house frame, start a fire without firelighters and grow vegetables. It was a huge experiment which gave a lot of feedback to deal with. I left this place with new mindset and strong wish to actually do something good. Now, after being a city kid for all my life, I really wanted to gain practice in permaculture, tree surgery, beekeeping, cow milking, robes weaving, wood carving, building, bread baking, etc. The masks, the fake facial expressions fade away and you start rediscovering yourself, who you really are, how happy or angry you can be, what is deep deep inside of you, locked for years that even Mr. Froid himself would freak out. You stop pretending that every day is a beauty contest day – no need for makeup, perfume, shaved armpits and legs, creams, hair conditioners and wearing tight bras. You start questioning society’s rules and stereotypes, governments and regimes, laws and policies. You become free from all the crap taught at school, information invented to keep woman in captivity, animals in cages and lies of human ‘’evolution’’. Universe provides. All time I was living in the village I was never hungry, nor thirsty, did not feel lack of anything, nor felt alone.
Previous statement gives you lots of food for thought. Coming back to historic setting does make you want to pick up a book on mythology, fairy tales, folklore, makes you wonder, how not so long ago we were living like this happily ever after and now village imply only pictures of dirt and boredom. How did we so easily loose all the interest in the world? How did all the motivation and caring vanish? As living in a forest you don’t own house full of stuff and unnecessary items from Amazon, you start appreciating little gestures, value simple things and handmade gifts. You start listening to what people have to say and see more beauty in flowers and long conversations warming by the fireplace. You start respecting the earth and protecting the land. You become a human being.
Nowadays sustainability, organic and off-grid are the key words to sell books, holistic science is taught in universities, alternative schooling is the way to educate your kids and different volunteering programs are more available than bananas in Soviet Union. Runnymede was the best possible world to start our eco warriors’ career. Now is the actual time to go out where and make wider connections, gain more outstanding skills in order to maybe... just maybe open wooden gates one day of our own eco community.
Runnymede eco village
Cooper's Hill Lane,
At the moment inhabitants of Runnymede eco village are dealing with court cases and trying to postpone the eviction.
''Runnymede's next court date has come through - ironically on the date of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Our case will be heard on the 15th of June at Guildford County Court.''
Anybody with advice, help, support is very welcome.
About Runnymede eco village:
Festival for Democracy is happening on 12th June: