Perhaps in honour of WWOOF turning 45 this year, WWOOF UK co-ordinator, Scarlett, got herself a very special present… a beautiful smallholding in the Shropshire Hills! Not wanting to be left out, the rest of the staff and WWOOF UK directors paid Scarlett and her husband Philip a visit for the June Council meeting. Holly Cross describes the weekend.
Scarlett and Philip have put in some seriously hard graft; together with some WWOOF-style volunteers, they’ve worked through the harsher shorter days of winter and spring to transform the fields and farmhouse after four years of them being untended and unlived-in. The house is now habitable, the land has newly planted trees and abundant raised beds built of hay bales and muck. Even I made some attempt to get involved; receiving my first ever scything lesson and reclaiming some paths through the meadow-grass which had grown thigh-high, to lead visitors up to see the deep, peaceful view.
As usual the weekend’s meeting agenda was packed and much of our time was spent in discussing the changing membership patterns we’ve observed over the last couple of years; both anecdotally and using data drawn from our website database. At this council meeting we agreed to make it a priority to continue to monitor our membership and do our very best to carry on recruiting quality WWOOFers and to support hosts to attract the kind of volunteers they need.
There have been more new host applications this spring than in all collective WWOOF council memory. It’s great to think that, despite being almost 45 years old, farmers, smallholders and gardeners are still driven to join WWOOF UK – we’re not over the hill yet!
Sometimes council meetings are tough, but the hours of sitting and thinking and making decisions were tempered this time by Philip’s flawless provision of provisions! His homemade dandelion and nettle cordial gave us strength; his delicious wholesome meals inspired us with their home grown veg. After eating our fill, and spending Saturday evening round the campfire under the mistletoe, moon and late-night bats, the weekend was rounded off on Sunday morning with a rainbow of post-it notes. Alex Lee, our very IT-savvy director, provided multi-coloured stationery to cheer us through a group analysis of how to make the most of WWOOF’s place in a digital world through the web and social media.
It started raining as we parted ways on Sunday afternoon, and the grass flowers drooped in the reddish meadows – it’s always sad to say goodbye after a council meeting spent not simply with colleagues but with like-minded people. Seeing Scarlett and Philip in their place, with the hay harvest coming and more seedlings to plant out and a barn to fix up, reminds us that all our behind-the-scenes work is worth it when it supports all the hosts and WWOOFers toiling to make every corner of the country greener.