WWOOFing at Soillse Cohousing, Findhorn

Jun 20, 2024

By Graham Meltzer and Monica Betancourt

Graham writes…

Christopher (Soillse’s head gardener) and myself (WWOOFer coordinator), picked up Monica (our first WWOOFer of the summer) from the bus just two days ago. We were happy and grateful to receive her since we’d left it  late in the season to take applications. Our WWOOF UK membership had lapsed during the winter and took  time to renew. As it was, Monica, a Columbian woman living in Sweden, was already travelling in Scotland and, thankfully, could come at short notice. Just as well, because in our very seasonal North Scotland climate, the garden goes crazy during Spring.

Main vegetable garden

First, we settled Monica into her accommodation (a spacious, self-contained yurt) and gave her a quick tour  of our cohousing project comprising 6 owner-occupied houses and 3 rental flats set within an acre of shared  gardens. Soillse was built by its owners (in true cohousing style) just 12 years ago, but is set within a very  much larger community and ecovillage, established 62 years ago, which in turn, is at the southern edge of  the 300 year-old traditional fishing village of Findhorn. Soillse’s ‘common house’ is an outdoor kitchen-dining facility where we enjoy a shared meal every Friday night. We also share a communal laundry, biomass  boiler, district heating system, industrial composter and flock of tufted ducks.  

Our yurt – home for WWOOFers

Super cosy yurt interior

The next morning, Monica spent her first shift in the garden, weeding and preparing beds in our poly-tunnel  for planting up with capsicums and cucumbers. Her assistance as a WWOOFer is hugely appreciated because, particularly at this time, there is so much to do: propagating, weeding, preparing beds, planting and tending. The scale of our vegetable gardening is ambitious, given our small population (12 – 14), so we are  dependent upon the support of WWOOFers and also volunteers from within the Findhorn community. Monica  will be with us throughout June before heading back to Sweden. Then we’ll be joined by Freya (an  Australian) through July, followed by Natasha (who’s English) in August, both of whom have also approached us through WWOOF UK.

Christopher and Monica on Day 1

As a neighbourhood (one of many) within an ecovillage, we benefit from community-owned and operated  sustainable infrastructure such as wind power (three wind generators), a biological sewage treatment plant  known as the Living Machine, and even our own green burial ground. The community also has it’s own wholefood shop, café, performing arts centre (the Universal Hall) and visual art gallery and studios (the Moray Art Centre). There are weaving and pottery studios as well as unique and iconic buildings such as the  Whisky Barrel Houses, Singing Chamber and Nature Sanctuary. As anyone who has spent time in the famous Findhorn eco-spiritual community will know, we enjoy a rich programme of spiritual, cultural and recreational activities: rituals, meditations, story-telling, music-making, choral singing, dance, yoga, sauna, hot-tub etc. I, for one, feel truly blessed to be living here.

Whisky barrel houses
Universal Hall
Soillse Cohousing
Nature Sanctuary

Monica writes…

As travelling is written into my destiny, my soul is tremendously happy, every new place that I go. I keep discovering the magic of this land, Scotland, easily one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. Volunteering around the world, as I’ve done, has to be one of the most fascinating activities that anyone can do, since it allows you to meet the local people and learn their traditions. It also gives you the chance to  enjoy the fantastic experience of helping others in a certain way, in exchange for staying with them. I believe  that this is one of the best ways of exploring a foreign land. Before going back to my home in Sweden, the  last volunteering gig of my sabbatical is being spent in the Findhorn eco-spiritual community, located on a peninsula in Moray, surrounded by more than ten kilometres of beach – perfect for long walks on the sand. It is a spectacular, amazing landscape for sure.  

Findhorn beach
Beachside sauna
Findhorn village and Bay

As soon as I arrived, I was stunned by the warm welcome of the community, the cosy yurt where I am  staying, the three imposing windmills of the ecovillage that provide much of the energy that the community uses, the garden from where I can take vegetables, the forest full of bursts of yellow flowers, white horses, and hundreds of birds with their unstoppable singing. This is clearly going to be a unique experience. Every morning, Christopher explains to me the daily plan for the garden, He is a wise and charismatic person who teaches in a very simple way: how to sow, how to weed, how the composting works etc. You can’t help but  notice his great passion for each of the plants here. Supervising the garden during winter and all through the year is a big project that demands lots of time, work and dedication; I am super grateful for the honour of  learning the art of cultivation with such a master.

Friday night shared pot-luck and BBQ

At time of writing this article, I am still quite new here and haven’t yet experienced the traditional Findhorn Village. But I have plans to ride the bike that Graham lent me to visit the village, see the seals, and be as  much as possible in the surrounding area. As a journalist, exploring the world by myself, this is one of my biggest passions.

I want to thank especially Graham, a member of the Soillse community, who has arranged  for me to be here and prepared the yurt for me with all the details and the equipment of a little house,  including groceries in the fridge, and then showing me around the area. Last, but not least, I notice  something else about this experience, which is that living in this community is about appreciating the value of each human being. I have faced during my last three days, an intense headache, and during all of this time,  there has always been someone at the door of my yurt offering me some food, ice or painkillers. Thank you so much for taking care of my life; my heart is full of gratitude to the Soillse cohousing community.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and would like to give a big thank you to Graham for agreeing to write an article for us. Not only did Graham provide us with a really exciting snapshot of life at Soillse but also had the idea of asking Monica if she would like to contribute too. We think the concept worked really well! Graham also provided all of these amazing photos for which we are most grateful too.

If you’d like to find out some more about Soillse Cohousing, Findhorn click here.

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