In 2007 (I think), with a group of friends, I visited a place not far from Shrewsbury in Shropshire, UK which was called ‘Karuna’.
Karuna is a land-based permaculture project and forest garden, created by Janta and Merav Wheelhouse, along with their two sons. The Wheelhouse’s had purchased the 19 acres of former sheep grazing fields at auction, selling their previous house in Wales to raise the funds.
They started by planting trees – literally thousands of them, by hand. When I visited, the trees were between 3 and 5 feet tall, but already you could feel the positive change on the land. When I re-visited back in 2012, the difference was staggering – trees were now 10 – 20 feet tall – this was a thriving mini forest!
The surrounding area is a fairly typical agricultural ‘green desert’, being mainly fields of sheep. The local community is very conservative when it comes to new ideas and anything radical, so you can imagine their reaction when the Wheelhouse’s put a ex-showmen’s caravan on the land to enable them to live and work there!
A public footpath crosses part of their land, and at one point, someone had put down a herbicide in an attempt to kill some of the trees. It was impossible to prove who was responsible, so the Wheelhouse’s just had to carry on, repair and replant and hope that common sense would win.
Planning enforcement and appeals became a daily struggle, but after many years of blocking and obstruction, they slowly began to get permission for sheds, polytunnels (things which local farmers have no problem obtaining) and eventually a strawbale, reciprocal roof roundhouse.
There’s still work to be done. Lack of money means jobs take much longer, but they are nearly ‘there’ with the roundhouse. Check out their website at www.karuna.org.uk and please consider helping them in some way.
In the meantime, just look what you can achieve in 10 years – from a green desert to the largest forest garden in the UK!