All we knew as we stepped off the train at Tain was that we were looking for 'Henry', a man who was going to escort us to our second Wwoofing experience in Scotland. Having had quite a bit of experience of looking for Wwoofing hosts at train stations I had a good idea of what I expected him to look like and I wasn't disappointed. Glancing over the potential faces we were going to meet, my eyes spotted a guy with short, curly hair and dungarees with a big grin on his face. After a friendly greeting we were on our way, discussing an array of topics from music to earthy matters and lamenting on the domination of supermarkets. Despite the fact we had not even arrived at our destination we had a good feeling about our hosts and on arrival our hopes were reconfirmed with a diversion off the main road which was followed by an old, white stone building that could only be described as quaint.
We were met by Geoff (our host) at the gate and in the midst of his beardy exterior lay a warm welcome and a friendly face that immediately made us feel more relaxed. This is not to say that we were tense but merely that his appearance and demeanour encouraged us that we were at the start of yet another positive volunteering experience. His wife, Fuggo, who arrived the next day was more of the same only without the beard! Their small-holding was essentially a reclaimed barn that they had dedicated their time and effort into over decades in order to live what is a sustainable lifestyle. They had acquired life skills through practical experience and subsequently were achieving the goals of what they set out to do in their youth. As well as being avid gardeners and successful vegetable growers (albeit in the harsh climate of bonny Scotland) Geoff and Fuggo were also knowledgeable and patient people who knew how to have fun....images of being dressed as aliens at festivals are just one the things that come to mind!
Being naturally skilful with his hands Geoff spent the majority of his time in his workshop producing what can only be described as the prettiest and most intricate items of jewellery one has ever seen. This self-taught pursuit involved using the tinniest tools to create the most perfectly designed trinkets predominantly from pieces of wood which can be seen on his website http://www.woodlandtreasures.co.uk/. Fuggo was of a lively and energetic disposition, a keen gardener and with whom we spent the majority of our days, partaking in tasks such as weeding, picking fruit and even creating our own strawberry bed. Splitting her time between working in the garden and administration duties for Woodland Treasures she often gave us a task to do and left us to our own devices in order to be creative. Interacting with the natural environment always seems to release endorphins and there is no better place to do it than on a secluded splodge of land that is less than a five minute walk to the sea.
We were there two weeks, not that I really had any idea of space and time whilst we were there because life was such a far cry from what is usual for me. The food was excellent and the conversation was interesting and there is nothing better than being able to sit outside your house for lunch, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of nature after spending a morning cutting grass and finding caterpillars. Unfortunately time came and went and we left Geoff, Fuggo, their three magical cats and a cosy caravan to return home feeling refreshed and inspired that we could one day eventually live a similar life.
Increasingly I have found that of all the many good things about Wwoof, one can usually rest assured that the hosts will have strong morals and embracing personalities who are living an environmentally friendly existence not because they feel they have to but because it makes them happy. People like Geoff and Fuggo give me hope that it is possible to live what may labelled by some people as an 'alternative lifestyle' and it is all about finding the key which sets the process in motion. I'm currently searching for the key and may be doing so for some considerable time in the future but thanks to people like Geoff and Fuggo at least I know there is one.