warning to WWOOFers

May 27, 2017

Ellen Lessner and Daniel Scharf are living proof that WWOOFing can change your life…

In 1978, in the week before I was due to go WWOOFing at Postlip Hall near Winchcombe, writes Daniel, I stepped on an upturned harrow in the corner of the village football field. It was only when the hole in my foot was mended that I was passed fit for the rigours of organic gardening and finally arrived at Postlip. After my rather painful equivalent of a ‘sliding door’ I enjoyed sharing a weekend with Richard (Hazell, see appreciation in Winter 2016 newsletter), Brian Smith, and Ellen.

The weekend was memorable for rounding up pigs ‘wheel-barrowing’ them by lifting their rear legs, and weaving wattle fences. As a fence panel literally grew between us, Ellen and I shared our thoughts about life, as WWOOFers do, and our liking of John Fowles. We shared a lift with Brian and went back to our urban lives. About a month later I wondered whether anything between Brian and Ellen might have worked its way out and chanced a letter asking whether she might fancy a visit to Oxford. I was living in Drayton, a village to the south of Oxford, and Ellen was living in Drayton Gardens, London and I thought that we could try a punt together in Oxford. Unfortunately I forgot to put ‘London’ on the envelope.

Waiting a month or two without a reply I was thinking that the offer had been rejected when a rather battered envelope was returned having been around all the many local roads with Drayton in the name. I have no idea what Ellen had been doing over the previous months but she responded positively when the correctly addressed letter arrived. The next hiccup was the failure of an alarm clock which meant that instead of a relaxed meeting in central Oxford I had to intercept Ellen as she returned to the station believing she had been stood up (those were the days before I even had a land line). I have been told that it was the sandwiches made with home milled flour that did the trick.

The next forty years have been relatively uneventful. We have run a wholefood café called Harvest (an adjunct to our WWOOF ‘farm’ of seven allotments called Drayton Organic Growers), we are still friends with two people who came WWOOFing at the gardens thirty-five years ago, we have raised two children, enjoyed several further visits to Postlip, Ellen has done a stint as a WWOOF organizer, I have applied my knowledge as a land use planner to land access issues and agroecology and I am now part of another WWOOF community garden where I can issue warnings to young people about the potential of romance while fencing and handling livestock.

photos: from Ellen and Daniel

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