The Past

First stages of building; clearing rubbish,levelling the ground down to the clay and laying railway sleepers as foundations

Silent Haven started on the first night of a move to a new house in Leicester when I was 5. My joy and inspiration at having an open fire in the lounge and sitting by candlelight because the electricity hadn’t been switched on…

The land healed me in a way that no other therapy did, it connected me to nature, to my nature and the world. Through doing the ‘earth stories’ ecotherapy exercise, I realised how disconnected from nature I was throughout my childhood. This pattern pervaded through to my adult life. Now I see the pattern. The lack of connection with my parents and the lack of connection with nature compounded to literally ‘bring me to my knees’. At 38 I ended up in a crisis centre, telling the counsellor that I wanted to ‘hear the birds sing’. Her answer was ‘oh we’ve got some birdsong tapes’. That comment compounded my depression, no one could help me! So I empowered myself. I got an allotment. My boyfriend had one next to me. One day he said, “I want to build a cabin in a woodland” and a light bulb went on above my head. “I can do that” I thought. I had been trying the ‘make money, get a mortgage’ route for years and beating myself up when I was getting nowhere with it. As soon as I had this revelation, everything fell into place. I was offered my flat on the right to buy. I sold it two years later for £114,000. I went woofing, I did permaculture, forest gardening, thatching courses. I read extensively about land, nature, plants. I looked for land and two years later bought my land here in Devon. My new partner, Matt was dealing with environmental mental health issues too and together we built a house. Here, I healed. I found a safe place. My connection with nature was deep and profound. I lived in a tent, built a house ground upwards, collected rainwater and I feel doing this brought me to the core of who I am.

In traditional tribal societies, explanations about nature and its language are integrated with humans. In the west, humans and nature are separated. This resonates strongly with me because after I started building my cabin, I was visited by the planning department and advised to apply for planning permission. There began a 7-8-year battle which was expensive and very complicated. I had to justify every moment of my existence there whilst dealing with the resentment and fear it brought. Imagine tribal people having to survive their day and then having to write about it! It felt insane. The reason I was doing it was simple, it felt sane and connected. I never found the outer simplicity I was looking for, the planning system saw to that, but I gained a lasting and profound inner simplicity and feel so healed by the experience.

Industrialization has left very few wild humans in the world. By reconnecting with foraging, making fires, building shelters etc I am empowered to a life which I am capable of living. The other way has always felt incongruous. I can easily go for a walk and find food on the land. By comparison, I would have to earn money to buy that same food, which means dealing with extra complications.