The Lazy Ecobreak
by Catherine Baker
Going out in your wellies in the rain and digging someone else's hedges is so last year - especially if you've been doing environmentalist stuff for a while and are a bit wary of paying for the privilege of working all weekend. So about an environmental weekend where you get to hang out with big happy brown pigs and work without PAYING for it, courtesy of TribeWanted?
Is the choice really just wellies, tea, and digestives with Nigel, the slightly odd bloke from accounts, or endless hours getting a bit bored actually in the Jacuzzi of a 5 star hotel "somewhere in the Norfolk Broads"?
There is a new breed of mini break available, which combines environmental idealism, inspirational ethos sharing, and sexy young things. All this, without having to actually PAY to WORK, a concept that I, like many ex volunteers, have already learned the hard way.
TribeWanted.com as seen in the BBC series "Paradise or Bust" is based in Fiji, but is running new mini breaks nearer to home. I headed down to a camping based weekend in Cornwall to investigate, (and not work, and drink cider).
On Friday afternoon in glorious sunshine, people start to arrive at the campsite in ones, twos and threes. Some are members of the larger TribeWanted project, but many are just here for the weekend. There is an assortment of doctors and nurses, two personal assistants from London, a landscape gardener from Bognor and people ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties.
A real community spirit soon starts to develop, and everyone helps each other out with putting up the tents. That night we all swap stories round a cosy camp fire and get to know each other. I get chatting to Clemmy, who has just finished her Master's in recycling technology.
Later I turn in for an early night with the chatter from the fire drifting across in the background.
Of course camping does have its downsides. It's freezing, and somehow the balmy sunshine has been replaced by torrential rain!
Don't tell the Pigs
On Saturday I wake up feeling like the Michelin man, due to the fact that I am now wearing every single layer of clothing I have brought with me. After a steaming shower aided by a full campfire breakfast I defrost. Then it's off to our first stop of the day, New House Farm (from the BBC's "It's Not Easy Being Green" series).
After a workshop on green living, we tour the farm to see a whole range of green technology in action.
The farm sports a water wheel, which powers the buildings lighting. It also boasts a wind turbine, a small scale plant for biodiesel made from local waste, and a compost toilet.
The garden is producing almost all the fruit and vegetables used on the farm. They also have a delightful array of oinking, quacking, scratching free-range animals, contentedly roaming around. These include rescued battery hens, ducks, geese, and two very lovely big brown pigs.
The pigs are known only as 'the girls'. A sensible decision has been made on the farm not to name anything that will eventually be eaten. Sad for the girls, but no one seems to have told them the reason for their anonymity, as right now they are two very visibly happy pigs indeed.
Onwards to Eden
After lunch we depart for the giant gleaming biodomes of the Eden Project. It's like Disneyland, but for plants.
Eden has recently given birth to the Biodegradable foam filled surf board, and surfers being the right-on dudes that they are I'm sure they'll embrace this. I'm told it's not water soluble.
As we finish our tour I am starting to feel all educated-out. It's a good job we have a very basic pastime planned for the evening - the pub.
We are minibused to the local watering hole and an intercountry pool championship ensues. We have possibly the most raucous game of the "Who wants to be a millionaire" pub video game ever. Shrieks of "we've won! We've won!" greet our £1 sweepstake. Eventually we are all driven back to the camp site and gradually fall into our tents.
The next day Clemmy, her mum Elaine, and I walk across the beautiful cliff tops past wheat fields, wild grass and flowers. The sun changes its mind and we wander happily while we swap names and recipes for wild plants.
But, alas, it is time to go and I jump back on the train to the Big Smoke. The countryside flashes past and my mind speeds just as quickly, full of inspiration and ideas. Green ideals are not just for old hippies, and more and more people are using their leisure time as an opportunity to incorporate these ideals into their lives.
For details of further tribe wanted events see www.tribewanted.com.