The Choice Is Yours

There’s a certain kind of madness that comes from living within the wilderness of the land, such is the beautiful complexity of nature. Here I feel an intangible understanding that that madness is the spirit which resides within me, within us all, telling us where we belong. Before the hum of the industrial machine and the enclosure of man’s spirit, our connection to nature was whole, we were one with her. We are born, we grow, through nature and nurture we evolve.

Our spirit grows with us, staying close to the triggers that will one day remind us we are part of the whole.  They can tell us to fear our surroundings and flee or to stand and face the foe before us, but if we cannot recognise our foe and know which we should do, how do we begin to understand the actions we should take? How do we know what tools to use to cope? How do we know when we have enough, when our lives are full? How do we know what choices to make on behalf of our children? When do they have a say? How do we learn to not be swayed by whispering, corrupt, hypnotism? At what price do we make choices to help others, knowing there will be a price to pay? Therein lies another kind of madness. A solitary one.

ANXIETY is an intrinsic part of our biological makeup, an instinctual trigger to tell us something is wrong, to stand or to run from hairy mammoths. A few days ago my husband was browsing through books in a library, when he sent me this message from his phone. There was an image attached.

“I opened up a book on seedbombs and discovered this slip inside on a page with Fukuoka. Seems significant to find this today”

He had discovered a small, piece of white paper, which read,


has 2 meanings

Forget Everything And Run

Face Everything And Rise

The Choice is yours”


This card was…and is…significant to the challenges we are currently facing. The card is now in a prominent place to remind us both to make a collective choice.

We have no need these days to run from mammoths, [at least not the hairy kind] so not much of a need for our instincts to tell us to do so. But our psyche still tells us something is wrong. How do we face with strength, the things which break our hearts or shatter our dreams?  Whoever we are, whatever we become, we cannot stop  the natural connection we have to the earth. We still need to breathe the air, we still need to drink water, we still need food, shelter and clothing…..we still need companionship and community. Taking one or all of these away, does not mean we are not connected to them, it means we may struggle or go mad trying to find the whole in the connection again. Some of us never do and instead battle in the darkness alone.

I would say ANXIETY has a new purpose now. No need for to it to tell us there’s a oversized elephant about to trample us to death. I believe it now tells us we have to make choices about the way we choose to live, about the values we choose to live by, about how to cope with the challenges we are faced with.  

When, in a world twisted by fake truth,  a person tells us what they think we need, takes away our ability to be who we are, our ability to be true to our nature, we have to nurture it back at whatever price it takes. We then strive to settle the ANXIOUS child within us, to once and for all be whole, be accepted and valued, we forget that our spirit, our madness, is there to remind us where we belong.  The land is key to our wellbeing. We belong back with the land.

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Wenderlynn Bagnall

Permaculture Practitioner

Believer of the inner truth


Time For Change

In August, we passed the year mark since moving down to Devon.
Now seems like a fitting time to look back over the last year or so, and consider what we have achieved.

Of course, we have continued to build up our systems at Wishtree Agroforestry & Permaculture Centre, planting several hundred trees and numerous edible and useful plants, while reinforcing our own knowledge, and putting into practice some theory.

The first year has been our first full observation year, and with a ludicrously wet winter we were given the opportunity to learn how the land deals with such high rainfall. But, despite the terrible winter, we have still been able to harvest 14 different types of fruit since the Spring, as well as countless other crops.

Over the last 13 months, we have run Permaculture courses, provided Permaculture design consultations, run market stalls selling edible perennial plants, and given talks on Permaculture and creating edible food forests.

In the community, we ran a little shop for a while, volunteer in our local Ruby Way visitor centre, and we are developing relationships with local schools and charities, to provide both land-based and social Permaculture services.

So, all good.

Unfortunately, last week we had a visit from a planning enforcement officer regarding our living in our caravan residentially. This is disappointing, and could well cause us some upheaval. Where that will lead, we do not know yet, but we appreciate the opportunity to assess our wants and needs, and examine our designs with even more scrutiny.

Curtsy of

Just as we are processing this, we heard the news that Bill Mollison had died, the co-founder of Permaculture. In honour of his memory this is now the Time For Change.

Consequently, we have spent the last few days going back to some basic Permaculture principles:

How we can achieve the greatest effect for the least input – where should we direct our energies?

The problem is the solution – how feasible is it to consult with local councils to advise and inform them on planning issues relating to low/positive impact projects such as ours? Even if it doesn’t help us, it could help others in the future.

Catch & Store Energy
This sudden, uninvited intervention into our lives, even at this early stage, has led us to very strongly question the transparency and logic of the planning system. Now we are going through this process, we will aim to direct any feelings of anger, injustice etc that we may encounter, into affecting change. There are numerous groups involved in pushing for planning reform, and we may look to support this work in the future.

Every Important Function Is Supported By Multiple Elements (redundancy) – if we, ultimately, are unable to live on-site 24/7, how else can we meet our needs? We have been discussing this at length, and will continue to do so.

Perhaps most relevant here is Creatively Use and Respond to Change.
“Vision is not seeing things as they are but how they will be…the butterfly, which is the transformation of a caterpillar, is a symbol for the idea of adaptive change that is uplifting rather than threatening”. (David Holmgren)

It is a shock to have a stranger climb over your locked gate question your lifestyle and to some extent, integrity, but we will be aiming to use this experience to help us to transform into the butterflies that will bring greater beauty into the world.

In the year that Muhammad Ali died, it may be apt to consider one of his most famous quotes: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Those who float like a butterfly, can also sting like a bee.


The Prime Directive

“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility

for our own existence and that of our children”

~ Bill Mollison

Bill Mollison – Image –

I wonder if there could possibly be a more succinct, thorough and apt phrase by which to live our lives. This, to me, demonstrates the genius of Bill Mollison. We have heard many criticisms of Permaculture, but these are always criticisms of the efficacy of people’s application, or queries regarding someone’s interpretation.

A good friend of ours once said to us “Permaculture is just common sense”, and although there is probably a grain of truth to this comment, it ultimately demonstrates a lack of understanding of what Permaculture actually is. A lot of the principles and techniques that have come to be associated with Permaculture could be described as common sense, but it is the conscious, deliberate, considered application of these principles as part of a design process, that makes Permaculture effective.

But for us, the brilliance of Permaculture is in its ethical underpinning. Any design must pass through the filter of its three ethics – Care of the Earth, Care of People, and Set Limits to Population and Consumption. Again, we have heard criticism of the ethics: primarily that they are too vague, too easily interpreted in a way that can excuse unethical behavior.

The Prime Directive addresses this concern, by teaching us to make decisions based on the principle of taking responsibility, not just for our own lives, but also for future generations.

I am reminded here of the ancient Greek proverb:

“A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they shall never sit”

Both this proverb and the Prime Directive demonstrate an important truth: sometimes we must make short-term sacrifices, for long-term gain.

Indeed, the very word sacrifice is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as

“An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy” and this is something that we have become more aware of as we transition to our own Permaculture life.

The word sacrifice has negative connotations, as we tend to concentrate on the “giving up” aspect, rather than the reason for doing so.

We are now facing a reality, that we must leave huge quantities of fossil fuels in the ground, in order to prevent potentially devastating climate change. Such a decision could have enormous implications for modern society across the globe: economically, politically, socially.

But this is an example of a sacrifice that simply has to be made, whatever the cost, as the alternative is suffering on an even greater scale.

The wording of the Prime Directive is very clear: “the ONLY ethical decision…”

I do not think any sensible, rational person would take this to mean that we should immediately switch everything off, ditch all our cars and planes, and reject all of modern society overnight.

But it is important and useful to be mindful of the concept when making decisions, as it is easy to get caught up in the moment, and let ourselves be led by our immediate needs and desires. So we can use the Prime Directive of Permaculture as a set of design “blinkers” that we put on ourselves occasionally, to ensure that we are able to look further down the road, and implement our designs accordingly.

Last week we bought some little Monkey Puzzle trees from a small local nursery. Even if these trees survive and successfully bear fruit, we will be very fortunate if we ever taste the nuts that they produce: that is a yield for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children”
“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility
for our own existence and that of our children”

We were also given some Maidenhair trees last year, which we understand can take 20 years to bear nuts, so this again is a long-term design element, and when we put all these trees in the ground next week, we will very much be planting for the future, and can look forward to watching them grow into mature trees as the years pass by.

In his lovely Observations film:, Ben Falk explores the idea of “harvesting time” and discusses the non-material yields we can experience by planting trees, and the pleasure we can derive from enjoying seeing their growth.

We experience this pleasure when we plant something like wild garlic on our land. It is wonderful to know that this will spread and become abundant, and with each passing year we will take joy from seeing its growth.

There is a huge amount of spiritual satisfaction that comes from this thought. The beauty in planting a living legacy for future generations is unique and intangible, and it is something to cherish.

Such actions can even give a purpose and enjoyment to the ageing process itself and allow us to enjoy the passing of time, rather than lament it.

By Iain Bagnall


Councils please don’t be bribed by the

Councils please don’t be bribed by the bullies who want to frack your communities to death. It may bring jobs but Britian will not have a future if there is no clean air, food or a healthy environment for our future generations. Our children will know nothing except disease, concrete and malaise. Wildllife will suffer. Please for once take a risk and say no. Be a shepherd and not a sheep. You might be surprised at the positive changes it will bring, sincerely North Devon Permaculture.

The beginning of blogging

This is the first blog post for Wishtree wood since first acquiring it in Aug 2011. Hopefully you will have read ‘About Us’ before reading this blog post if not please do as it makes the story flow better and gives some insight into our story.

On arrival of our first 6 hour trip of the year we were glad the rain had ceased. It makes it difficult to trudge from the parking area to The Social, the area we take breaks in; in the thick mud carrying pillows, quilts, blankets, food and containers of water. We had decided to sleep in the van rather than the caravan. We knew after a long period of absence from the wood it would be more damp than usual and we were right to make such a decision.

The van was cold, not yet insulated but it was dry and the weather was a reasonable temperature so as not to leave us freezing in -7 conditions as it did last February. We settled down for the night under the West Country starry sky, so beautiful after the light polluted skies of Hertford. We snuggled down fully clothed under numerous blankets and two quilts, shivering a little before finally getting warm, hoping for dry weather the next day.

We weren’t disappointed. As we rose to a sunny Winter’s day, tinged with a fresh chill in the air, we were greeted by a robin’s song and cheeky inspection of our actions. We took a walk through the wood to survey the work to be done (there is always plenty) and to enjoy the splendours of the Winter season. Usually it’s Iain who gets to see the deer or any other creatures, a “man thing” I always thought, but this time even I was lucky enough to see two roe deer gently pacing up the West side of the wood. One stopped for a few seconds, turned and moved on, the other stared for what seemed quite a while, waiting for us to move it seemed but we didn’t. We wanted to capture this moment together, me for the first time.

After a quick convenient breakfast of doughnuts and coffee; an alternative to eggs and herbal tea; we spent the rest of the glorious sunshine sorting the caravan out and dealing with the rather large additional leak we had found. We were beginning to feel very much part of the elite of the leaky caravan crowd making us feel like we had finally had our initiation as woodland owners. Having already combated the mouse problem (we hoped, although they still do take a fancy to the tarps covering our fire wood), this was something we knew, annoyingly, went with the territory.

We decided to paint the side of the caravan where we thought the leaks were with special paint but one dry day wasn’t quite enough, needing 16 hours to dry completely.  With this and layers of newspaper inside on very wet floor boards, we just had to hope and pray!

Whilst the half painted caravan was drying we carried on with checking the wood, making a note of the work to be done, some skills needing to be acquired we thought before we started certain tasks. Whilst Iain mended the tarp that had ripped in the strong winds, I checked the Winter wood store and fixed yet another ripped tarp to protect the wood from the elements, keeping it dry.

With distance and time always an issue our ability to fully manage the woodland is against us, especially when trying to set up suitable conditions for basic living needs such as being dry, sanitation and fresh drinking water.  We can spend almost half a day just preparing these facilities which is frustrating when we have such little time.

A very big part of our plans for Wishtree are to give what we can back to the community, from being a WWOOFing host to sharing our experiments and Permaculture designs and ideas with the local community. This is always under discussion between us as to how we will do this with ideas developing and growing. Just as things do in Permaculture, designs are always changing.

Our feelings for community have always been the same having been steering members of our local Transition town but since buying Wishtree these have been reinforced by the people we have met and the relationships we have come to develop over the last year or so. Without such kind and like-minded people as these we would not have moved forward in our transition to a West Country way of life so easily.

These people are always on our minds when we visit the wood and when we can, we take the time to visit them. Time being crucial for work needing to be done, this happens all too infrequently but people are an important part of Permaculture too, “people care” being the second ethic of Permaculture. With this in mind we paid a visit to see the first couple we met in Devon who are the owners of the B&B we stayed in when looking for a woodland.

Their friendly manner and West Country hospitality have meant that we have stayed friends ever since. So much so we acquired the caravan from them. Without these people we would have got a lot wetter and colder than we currently do. We learned the poor weather conditions of the last year had taken its toll on their business so they may have to sell. The need for community seemed even more apparent and we wanted to know what we could do to repay their kindness.  We will stay in touch with them, making them a very important part of the Wishtree community as others we have come to know such as The Bulworthy project and the neighbouring farms and villages nearby.

We spent the rest of the weekend going over our plans and ideas for the wood planted in our heads and on paper. Our visits always end with tears from me, usually as a result of having to leave something that is now so ingrained and natural to be a part of and frustration from both of us having to battle the mud all the time, making progress slow and things left undone. This visit wasn’t as product as previous ones.

On returning to our home in Hertford, there is usually a feeling of being defeated yet again by conventional jobs and stresses. Our dream is so close yet at times so very far away. I seriously consider on occasions how on earth we will ever reach it.