Sustainable Families change of plan

we have again changed our minds about the next step for Sustainable Families, and decided to postpone the AGM until later in the year, after the Summer Camp in August.
We had feedback from several that an evening meeting wasn’t ideal, so we will make a future date one morning.
Apologies to those who have made arrangements to come to the meeting in June.
And apologies to the 2 families who I hear turned up at Embercombe today (May 13th) for Sustainable Parenting.
Do email me if you’d like to make sure I email you directly with any new dates/developments.

An Invitation from a member of Embercombe Council

We’ve just had an Embercombe Council weekend, I hold the female seat for healers.  I experience the healing aspect of this seat in the widest sense, not just representing healers, but the need for healing across the planet, and Embercombe’s part in that. The idea that underpins holding the seat, is that I speak when it feels there is something that needs to be said from the seat I’m representing, rather than from myself.

This is my first year on the Council and I have been feeling my way into this seat.  To step aside from my own voice and speak only when I feel moved from somewhere deep and collective, waiting until words want to emerge, rather than thinking of something to say.

Yet, as I do this my ‘I’ is often reflecting and engaging with the different topics of conversation.  And so it is a dance of hearing, listening, emptying out, feeling, staying centred, keeping the presence of the seat alive, holding a still space inside me for this, and then allowing thoughts to emerge .  This process continues beyond the Council sessions.

On Saturday we had conversations around the things that concerned us most in the world and whether our work within Council should continue beyond our meetings and lead to action in the world.  One of the Council members introduced the brave subject of how we bring the soft, gentle, loving energy within us, and weave it with the fiery energy, the energy that can kill, but chooses not to; in a way that can honor the Embercombe mission – touching hearts, stimulating minds, and inspiring committed action for a truly sustainable world.

I awoke on Sunday morning as the sun came up and watched as clouds began to part to let patches of blue sky emerge.  Outside my cabin are trees with new spring leaf growth. The green branches were being swayed by the breeze and golden sparks of sunlight wove through.  It was mesmerising to watch this tapestry. As I was watching I found myself sinking down into the female seat of healers, what it represented and reflected on the two concerns I had brought the day before – soil depletion and loss of the rain forests.

I realised that I don’t experience myself as separate from nature, I feel towards the natural world as I do towards my own family and friends – deep care.  When I see the images of rainforest deforestation, the ground bare and barren, I feel it as if it were my own body, or the body of someone I love.

On this golden sparkling morning as I moved deeper into a feeling of the female Council seat I felt three things, grief at the thought of the human destruction upon the world, rage that could kill but chooses not to, and a deep peace and connection to the natural world outside my cabin. I felt deeply into this feeling of connection with nature and found that the feminine with the psyches of both men and women, and nature, felt to be one and the same.

As I held the grief and the rage metaphorically in the palm of each hand and emersed myself into the deep peace, I felt these three things.  Complete connection to the absolute joy and abundance of nature, it’s ancient and timeless quality. Grief at the human destruction of this, along with a rage that didn’t want to kill but did want something.  I asked what?  What is wanted here?

The words that came into my head were reconciliation and healing. Then I had two visions. The first was of a process of reconciliation acted out over and over again, publicly, across the world.  Where the decision makers of organisations and governments that are making choices that are destroying our planet, move through a process of reconciliation with those of us who feel moved to stand and represent our planet’s ecosystem.  I realised this is not likely to happen soon because before reconciliation can come there has to be acknowledgement of what is being done.

I often feel very small in relation to organisations and governments that make choices or act in a way that harms the earth, but as I stood in the place of stillness, holding grief and rage in each hand, I didn’t feel small anymore.  I realised that organisations and governments are made up of people. And people can make different choices, when there is a big enough field in the collective consciousness wanting it.  So how about raising awareness in a way that touches hearts and stimulates minds? How about creating that field in our collective consciousness. How about staging these reconciliations with actors playing the parts we cannot find government or organisational leaders to take up, all over the world, with good media coverage?

The second vision was in relation to healing.  I often have big ideas that on my own I can’t carry off and end up not following through on them.  So I wondered what small thing I could do, what small thing could lots of people do, that amount to a big thing and perhaps, a really big thing.

I thought, well I can go out and find myself one metre square of land and dig it, and tend to it, put compost in it, grow something in it, take care of it.  If it gets trashed, do it again, and again and again. If my access to this small piece of our Earth is blocked to me I can move to another piece of land and do the same thing, but every day take myself to this square metre of earth and give healing and prayer to it.  This doesn’t have to be in a formal way, it can be as simple as just digging a metre square of earth and being with it each day for 5 minutes, it can be whatever I make it to be.

Just imagine if 10 people did this from the same area, if a hundred people did this across a region then others joined them, a thousand, a million across the globe, a billion. Imagine how that would look from above. What an incredible collective message it would send out into our collective psyche and how powerful the prayer of this would be for the Earth, if we kept on doing it, over and over again.

And so I wanted to ask if anyone feels drawn to either of these visions, to help me realise them?

Lucy – female seat of healers, Embercombe


The Journey programme has been running this week, I have been doing some cooking in the kitchen. The whole of Embercombe has felt held to me, as the Journey participants made there way through their personal journeys and those of us who are working here as volunteers and apprentices, held the supporting structures – garden, site and kitchen.

When people have participated in the Journey programme they can come back and support new participants on future programmes, they are called back-rowers. The backrowers work really hard. I felt such appreciation for their input into the kitchen, along with the volunteers that gave their support. Annabie and Ruth were with me all week working tirelessly and creatively.

I find it so amazing that the community here is transitory, people come and go, but always there is a sense of having an amazing team of people working away, allowing Embercombe to do all it does.

The sun has been shining all week, green is starting to return to the land. I have been spending time recently in the bee garden, watching the bees. There is something so timeless and ageless about bees. I’m going to learn the craft of bees with Jessie and Tim, who hold the bee and medicine garden here.

Today is wrapped up in sunshine and blue skies, dandelions and daisys. It feels so good to gather these for cooking and salads. I made a nettle lasagne earlier this week and the salads have been full of plantain, wild sorrel, hawthorn tips, ladies smock, young dandelion leaves and gorse flowers. I’m enjoying drinking a spring tonic made from cleavers, nettles and mint. And I’m looking forward to the summer bringing tomatoes and basil, cucumbers, strawberries, summer squash, baby beetroot and broad beans.

I’ve been thinking about my own experience of the Journey. It set me off on my travels, bringing me first to Embercombe. In four months I will finish my apprenticeship. I have learnt so much, about myself, about the land, about food, about people, about facilitation, and I have learnt more than this, but at the moment I can’t put this into words. I think that’s because I still have another four months of learning and growing, of myself and the ideas.

I feel full of gratitude for being here, for the learning, the people, and today, for the sunshine on my face.


Sustainable Parenting on hold til AGM on June 14th

We were delighted to have an enormous turn out to our last morning, but this pushed our current space to the limit and we were unprepared for the numbers. We want to ensure a really great experience for everyone, so until we have found an ideal space and put in place a booking system, we have decided to postpone these sessions. This means we wont go ahead with May and June dates as advertised.
We’d like to encourage all parents who would like the sessions to continue to come along to the Annual General Meeting on Friday June 14th, in the Mezzanine at 7.30pm
We’d love some more input from a core group of parents to keep the momentum going, to take on roles so that the meetings are supportive for everyone and so that we can extend and develop the good ground work we have done so far together. Do come along if you’d like to get involved and do come along if you’d like to support the continuation of Sustainable Parenting groups even if you don’t have the time/energy to take on an active role.
It will be possible to book in for supper that evening (usually at 7pm) if you like (it’s the Friday before a Working Weekend) – please book with Clare (
Please email me, Joanna to let me know if you are coming to the meeting. Thank You.

Kitchen Rhythms

The Embercombe kitchen is full of bread smells, wheat sourdough rolled up in tea towels starting to rise, rye sourdough in tins beginning to reach the top, spelt focacia just out of the oven, and a basket full of rolls ready for soup made on an open fire down in the vegetable garden.

We have a school in this week and the pupils have been making wild garlic pesto, beetroot muffins and cheesy scones which everyone enjoyed eating.

The rhythm of the kitchen has upped in tempo this week to a grand serving of lunch for 100 on Wednesday. Jessie has been holding the kitchen, her calm and centred heart bring warmth and nourishment to the food.

Saturday will see a still moment, the school will be gone and Embercombe volunteers and apprentices will be cooking together with music and party spirit. Then on Sunday the Journey begins, Dolly will arive with her healing heart and hold the kitchen for the week, the tempo will become deep and still, where doing becomes being, sometimes rich and full, matching the rhythm of the Journey.

It is a varied kitchen, a fun kitchen, a rich kitchen. The Embercombe kitchen is a place where conversations are had, friends are made, ideas are discussed. Today the sun was shining through the large window that looks out towards the woods, skyline hanging low, I leant out of the the half open doorway at the valley view just before delivering the rolls down to the garden soup, and thought, life is rich.

Eating the wild

This week foraging is a little simpler after 2 nights of The Feral Kitchen Wild Food Pop-up Restaurant here in Dartington. This week the focus is on what to teach for this Saturday’s Eat The Hedgerowat Embercombe – when there’s just SO much to share!



The Pop-ups were full and fun and a crazy 5 courses (see below for the menu). This season there is so much variety and it’s a real pleasure whetting appetites “It was a delightful evening with an engrossing procession of unaccustomed and intriguing flavours.”

I popped over to my neighbour’s last night with a plate of beer battered hogweed and alexander shoots and a full-power wild garlic, chive and hedge mustard salsa verde. The plate came back licked clean with Joseph (aged 8) now my biggest foodie fan!! I love finding recipes that get wild food in to kids’ bellies. Dinner tonight is celeriac and nettle soup with crispy hawthorn leaves. Mmmmmmm….

Hope to see some of you Saturday – novices and chefs alike!

Start time: 10am
Finish time: 5pm
Cost: £50 ONO!
Includes: Refreshments, ingredients and lunch
Please contact Clare to book on 01647252983/5 or

Click here for more course details.

Toni Spencer


Feral Kitchen April Menu
Beer battered alexanders buds, hogweed shoots and primrose flowers (Quercus beer from South Hams)

Parsnip and alexanders soup with chiffonade wild garlic and spicey fried alexander root garnish

Slow cooked rabbit with Embercombe cider, root veg, English barley (or with chestnuts, acorns and beans for veggie option) + a wild garlic salsa verde + beetroot w. hawthorn leaves
+ a salad of blackberry shoots, jack-by-the-hedge, ivy-leafed toad flax, navelwort, cress, lambs lettuce, ground elder, primros, dandelion and sorrel

Birch sap brittle (frozen shards of concentrated birch sap) served on oyster shells

Carragheen, vanilla, honey and hogweed pudding made with local un-pasturised goats milk with gorse and primrose petals
Or apple sauce with sloe and feral raspberry compote and dark chocolate shavings with gorse petals

Them and Us: Our Shared Values

At Embercombe we are often asked why we engage with ‘Big Business’ when ‘they’ don’t share our values.  Our answer is that we don’t believe in ‘us and them’. Last week, we met Common Cause, a project which seeks to understand the role that our values play in influencing our individual behaviours and that of organisations and wider society. Common Cause gives us the tools to understand that it’s not a case of having different values, but that the priority we place on our values may be different. We all know people who work in big businesses; you might even be one of them. Surveys show that our values are likely to be shared.

The good news revealed by Common Cause is that the more we discuss and focus on the reasons for our values, the more likely we are to see them as important. Research shows a discernible difference in the importance people place on the values they have explored in depth, some months after they did the exploration.

When someone visits Embercombe or listens to our founder, Mac, speak, they have an opportunity to focus on their own ideas about a sustainable society and consider the reasons why this is important to them.  If this has a positive effect on their values, doesn’t it make sense to ensure that amongst our diverse audience are some of the people from the corporate world?

This meeting with Common Cause was courtesy of the students from the Economics for Transition MA at Schumacher College. Richard Hawkins, Director of PIRC (Public Interest Research Centre) visited to discuss the principles and science behind Common Cause.In their own words: “More than ever, we now realise that working towards a sustainable society is about much more than environmental sustainability. A sustainable society doesn’t just consume less, recycle more, use renewable energy and take the train. It is also more community-focused, less prejudiced, more equal, and happier – because it values people and the environment.

Embercombe is offering a new leadership course for businesses this Septemember: The Heart of Leadership.


Sustainable Families AGM

Sustainable Families will be having an AGM on Friday June 14th at 6.30 – 9pm, in the Mezzanine, above Centre Fire.
This is an Open Meeting – and there will be opportunities to join the team and vote (or re-vote) people on to the roles of Chair, Treasurer and Secretary for the coming year.
We are especially looking for new parents who have energy and interest to help Sustainable Families take its next step towards being a stronger part of Embercombe’s contribution to touch hearts, stimulate minds and inspire committed action towards a truly sustainable world. The commitment will be to come to as many SP mornings as you can, which are currently monthly, and to meet 3 or 4 times over the year, and to contribute in other ways as agreed by you and the core SF group to develop and extend what we do.
(children will be welcome at the AGM but as this is a talking/listening space so if they want something to do, other than listen/snooze, could they bring something quiet to entertain them)
Please let joanna know if you plan to come.

Heart Listening

toni and joannaCommunication  – how to do it better, how to get more of it, how to get less of it (!) – is on everyone’s lips here at the moment. So it was a fantastic co-incidence that Joanna Watters had offered to run a session in ‘heart listening’ for our long term volunteers and staff today. Supported by Toni Spencer, she ran a session to enable us to get present to ourselves. It was fascinating to hear Joanna explain how much we long to to be touched by our lives, but yet are scared of the feelings that this brings  -  so we both want and fear it. It rang true for me. And this place of ‘embodiment’ is a great place from which to start our communications with each other. Over lunch afterwards,  I was introduced to Emma and Keian from The Princes Trust who are doing work experience with us. Emma explained how she’d been moved by Mac’s words this week, that she loved just hearing him speak. I was able to invite her to imagine herself speaking and coming from a space so connected with herself that people would listen to her in that way too…and thanks to Joanna’s work with us this morning, I was so present to myself as I told her, she ‘got it’ and was really moved by this vision of herself. And so the impact from our Heart Listening rippled out.

Joanna Watters delivers Sustainable Parenting sessions at Embercombe and runs our Summer Camp for families. Her website is
Toni Spencer runs Eating the Hedgerow Reskilling Workshops at Embercombe. Her website is



Relationship, Connection and Celebration

Connecting with what we eat, the seasons and community feels like an essential part of how we fit into the bigger picture of the world. To celebrate food and growth in all stages, from seed to fruit, from grain to bread, helps to develop connection and understanding of our relationships with everything around us and the earth. Humanity is just a small part of something much bigger and when we can stop and remember that we are part of something and not it’s manager or manipulator a greater sense of relationship, care and connection can be formed.

There is such magic in following the journey of our food and acknowledging and celebrating its existence. To wassail the apple trees in January and wake them up for spring, to watch blossom form and bees fly, to see fruits develop, to harvest and scump, to make cider and store apples in straw in autumn is just one example. To follow such a cycle – even if not physically – connects us to our food. A rich process full of stories and connection so different from picking the ‘perfect’ apple out of a plastic tray in a super market. It is much harder to throw food away if you have developed a connection to it.

People for hundreds of generations have been connected to the land, to the seasons and to the food that they eat. It feels a relatively new post-industrialised reality that has severed the connection between resource and consumption. It is with this disconnect that I feel so many societal dysfunctions stem. The plastic packaging that envelops our food, our cities and our interactions is forming so many literal and metaphorical barriers with basic connection to land and community.

Tonnes of food get wasted each year; a third of vegetables grown in the UK do not reach our plates because they don’t look right. It is so easy to dismiss that which you don’t have a connection with.  So much of these carefully grown crops from around the globe are packaged only to sit on supermarket shelves and find their way to landfill. Walk in to a supermarket – stocked, overflowing with bounty; I wonder with dread how much of this food ends up in the bin, just to maintain this seeming abundance.

mandala small

It is from these thoughts that the Wild Waste Mandala was dreamed for the Edinburgh Do. We wanted to draw people’s attention to the theme of food waste from a place of beauty and creativity. I wondered how creativity could spark conversation and action in the opposite way that fear based information can stifle it. The Mandala, a celebration and acknowledgement of waste food, was created out of morsels salvaged from bins and skips, out of date treats given by local shop keepers; food that would otherwise have been forgotten. An astounding array of vegetables and processed food became the pallet for our creation. Circles of leaks, oranges, squash and many other delights radiated out from a centre of sugar coated popcorn and sliced white bread. Participants drew elaborate patterns with burst bags of custard powder.  Conversation and thought flowed about the stories of the food and how we had found it. Candles were lit, beauty admired, songs were sung and thanks given for what was going to become a delicious feast.

That evening sitting with over 150 people eating the feast that Foodcycle Bristol cooked up from the mandala I reflected on the importance of honouring and celebrating food before it becomes waste. I thought about the importance of working from a place of creativity and connection and felt how deeply important it is to bring something of the sacred into the mundane; to acknowledge things which so often get rushed and forgotten; to always take time to acknowledge what’s on my plate and nourishing my body.