cheeks that hurt from smiling a lot

Nov 24, 2018

That is what one WWOOFer was taking away from the first ever WWOOF UK Meet-up, and a stomach full of tea and cake. Isn’t that what WWOOF is all about? In all seriousness, this was a day of learning, connecting and enjoyment.
A great start to these new look members’ gatherings.

New WWOOF UK trustee Alice Law joined several members of staff at host The Abbey in Oxfordshire on 28th October to welcome everyone to the Meet-up.

The day started with tea and biscuits (or coffee and bourbons in my case) – some nervous faces but all so friendly to one another. It was lovely watching people walking into the beautiful Abbey courtyard, clutching their bring-and-share lunch contributions – and what a lunch it was, a big thank you to everyone.

Next a tour of The Abbey, ‘Which is not an Abbey at all, and never was!’; a gorgeous building full of character and exposed beams. Built from the 13th to the 16th century with Victorian and more modern additions. Wooden floor, creaky stairs and multiple wide open fireplaces all features of our host venue. The community there was founded by Fred Blum and Stephen Verney, both eccentric clergymen. Attendees then got a chance to choose their afternoon activities. Bread baking, apple juice making, weeding, wood splitting or talking (questions for staff and hearing a brief history of WWOOF from Sue Coppard with a tour of the new website).

Conversations highlighted a few important points:

How should we be describing WWOOF to new people? ‘Work’ seems to be a negative word to use – we were talking instead of ‘helping out’, ‘joining in’, ‘volunteering’, ‘exchanging’, ‘learning’ – these were all more positive ways to spread the word about WWOOF.

‘Older’ WWOOFers need some recognition from hosts – Vibrant, useful, knowledgeable, life experienced people! One interesting comment was ‘I was probably slower than the younger WWOOFers around, but I made less mistakes’.

Something I personally noticed taking pictures throughout the day was the power of female WWOOFers. So many comments are made that hosts need men to come and do ‘strong’ jobs. Don’t underestimate the strength of women; chopping wood, wheelbarrowing, lifting heavy sacks, intense digging and sheer willpower and commitment. All very possible, just communicate what you need from your WWOOFer.

During the day there was plenty of time for conversations between members, host to host, WWOOFer to WWOOFer, potential WWOOFer to host, WWOOFer to potential WWOOFer and to staff as well. From our feedback it seems that this is what our members want from a gathering: a time and space to meet other like-minded people.

Overall it was a very positive WWOOFy Meet-up. The event was fully booked but just over half of people who booked turned up. Where were all the rest of you? How could we have made it more accessible for you? Get in touch to let us know your thoughts.

Some feedback from attendees:

‘I came with no expectations; this is the kick-start I needed to actually start doing some WWOOFing!’
Potential WWOOFer

‘I am going away with a renewed hope for the future of humanity and the next generation.’ WWOOFer

‘A lovely event. WWOOFing is very important to The Abbey. It’s lovely to meet and connect with WWOOF (the team) and be a part of it, to give something back.’ Dylan Hayden, member of The Abbey / hosting the Meet-up

photos: Alice Law

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