"Kindling Trust stop", says the driver and as you get off the bus I am there to meet you. We walk in through the beautiful entrance created with local artisans and pass the eco homes. "It's amazing", you say, "there's still a hose pipe ban in Manchester, it's too dry to have flowers".
We start with a tour of the site. The compost heated green houses produce a range of vegetables and fruit. Between them, the kitchen garden, and the box scheme (run by a couple from the local village), we are supplying organic, seasonal fruit and veg to everyone who lives at and visits the Kindling Trust, the local village and families from the nearest town.
We walk along the nature trail spotting birds and animal habitats in the native hedges and trees. I explain that the field of flowers to the right is managed by a social enterprise supplying weddings, funerals and romantics across the North West! The field to the left is part of another enterprising project growing hemp to supply a small network that produce textiles, oils, and construction materials.
You ask about the carbon positive element to the site and we talk about the highly efficient buildings and heating system, the production of our own energy, and our zero waste policy. We are researching the possibility of setting up an anaerobic digester (AD), which will be part of this system, and also one of our rural-urban partnership projects. Working with Manchester-based Fairfield Anaerobic Digestion Ltd, we will take food waste from our nearest town and supply a growing network of local farmers with liquid fertiliser.
A small group sitting on a bench are in the middle of a heated debate. As we pass them I explain that at times it is hard to balance the needs of the different projects here. At the moment one of the fledgling projects is struggling and there has been an ongoing discussion about winding it up so that another financially stable project can expand. “That's the sub group that has been asked to come up with a proposal for the next Kindling meeting. If we can’t reach an agreement then we’ll be bringing in an external facilitator to help us look at it afresh.” You look horrified at the thought of making decisions like this by consensus. I say, "It can be pretty hard going but over the years we've developed a good process. Conflicts and differences of opinion are fine, it's how you deal with them that matters".
We pass by the kitchen garden and two people stop work to chat. One is a long term volunteer spending a year with us before setting up their own project in Lancaster. The other, a Somali refugee introduced to us by the The Medical Foundation for the care of Victims of Torture, came for some recuperation and has helped set up a new drip irrigation system.
We are just in time for lunch and as we walk into the dining room it is bustling with people. You hear people talking in Spanish. The Guatemalan project of Peace Brigades International is hiring the space for a week to train new volunteers. You also overhear a group in animated discussion about how to engage different communities in the great climate change debate. "It all sounds very interesting in theory", you comment to one of them, who responds that it is far from theoretical. They say that it has been hugely useful for them. “I can't wait to talk to people at home in Birmingham, about the ideas that we've discussed. It won't all be easy, people don't usually like change, but I'm building a good network of support here”.
After lunch you agree to help get the barn ready for the party tonight. It is the end of an ecological self-build training project, which also means that the participants can afford to stay living in their own area. I excuse myself as I need to go into a meeting about our Radio 4 series on the challenges of living sustainably. You look surprised and I smile, "that's nothing", I say, "they're holding Question Time here next week and that's loads more work!"