Another massive factor, for my undertaking the move, is geography and demography. Now, this is a somewhat tricky topic for me to relay to you. I fear it may come across overly negative towards the place I'm leaving - where a good number of family and friends make, and enjoy, their lives.
This is not my intention and all the writings here are just my own experiences and opinions. If you agree with them, great; if not then that's fine too and I'd enjoy reading your comments on it all.
Here & There, for a place to dwell,
No traffic, no stress, no sell-sell-sell,
Edge of the wild, where rough seas swell,
Some land, a boat, and Bruce as well.
The town of Huntingdon, in Cambridgeshire is the home of Oliver Cromwell and Samuel Pepys. Well not any more, as they'd be a bit old by now - but no doubt still congregating in the town centre at lunchtime, along with, seemingly, every other humanoid on the planet; leading to my queuing for everything and wasting my small 45 minute window of freedom, before returning to work.
Huntingdon was once a nice little market town, where most people knew each other (well my Dad was infamous anyway!) and there was a sense of community, that I just don't feel any more. People seem to rush about, oblivious to their fellow man and his feelings. Now this could well be (and probably is) a problem with me and my - worrying about other people more than myself - personality. I seem to have an uncanny knack of managing to put myself in the mind and position of every other human (or animal for that matter) that I meet.
For instance, the grumpy checkout girl: she's had a hard day, her text count is down to only 300, she's watched America's Next Top Model and can't work out why she isn't 6 feet tall and stunningly beautiful etc. etc. Of course she's going to be rude, unhelpful and annoying; but I forgive her and end up blaming myself for being another nuisance in her life.
For me, its lost that home 'feeling'. Seeing familiar faces, such as old George pointing at the Japanese bombers, or my Grandma's best friend Daf, riding past on her bike shouting a hello. Add to this the very poor planning decisions that have been made over the years, that have scant regard for heritage or environment, only money and profit. Its just not a nice place to be, or to look at, like it once was.
Forgive me for sounding judgemental of how (some) others choose to live. Huntingdon has its fair share of decent, hard-working people and I'm glad to know some of them. But, sadly, there is a sizeable group, who's lives are being wasted by (in many cases) choosing not to work and spending their days watching Jeremy Kyle, wishing they were a celebrity - and I know some of these too! Its a sad fact that Huntingdon actually appeared on the front cover of a book entitled "Crap Towns II". Cromwell would not approve, but Pepys would relish writing about the social aspect of it all, I'm sure.
Added to the above erosion of all that was good about 'the old home town', there is the infrastructure problem the area is now facing. It has seen an unprecedented explosion in both people and traffic. A combination of a large influx of other EU citizens (with sometimes 1 in 3 in the area now coming from a different culture) and a seemingly relentless upsurge in Heavy Goods vehicles - being the North-South/East-West crossroads for the country, with the A14 and the infamous Spittals Interchange being its epicentre; the whole place finds itself in grid-lock on many occasions.
It now takes me up to 50 minutes, to travel 7 miles to work, at a job I don't really like, to afford to live in a place that doesn't feel like home any more. There comes a time when - in the words of Thunder:
I don't wanna spend my whole life in this town
I can feel it driving me away
Baby you and me we're meant for higher ground
We got to steal away
So, thats all the negativity out of the way and, again, I apologise if my feelings on the subject offended anyone. On to the positive part of this post... why Guardian Croft?
I have always enjoyed Scotland, its wild places, its scenery, its people and its sense of identity. Having visited different locations over the years, I knew the West Coast was where I wanted to be. I wanted to be far enough north for the population to still be small, with real communities allowed to still exist, and for the scenery to be as dramatic as possible.
I have always been inspired by Mountains, Forests and the Sea. In Britain this is a relatively rare combination; unless you venture above the wall, John Snow fashion.
On one of the visits, with my Son and Brother, we camped on the Sleat, on the Isle of Skye, in a very unusual and inspiring place called Rubh Phoil. Here they are practising Permaculture and offering a different way of doing things. Having already decided that, as a race, we need to change - even if its only one person at a time - I found this fascinating and decided, then and there, to find a place where I could do the same: live in a more sustainable way, get back to the basics and have somewhere where people could come and recharge their 'batteries'.
On finding Guardian Croft, on the Permaculture Magazine web site, I was immediately drawn to its size, potential and 'off-grid' nature. But I didn't know anything about this part of Wester Ross, or that Scoraig even existed. After speaking with the present owner, researching the place and people and visiting (on a mad whirlwind weekend), I realised we'd found it...
Here was the sense of community I was craving. People willing to pull together when needed. Meeting up to have fun, work for the good of the people and place, but leaving you to your own devices when necessary - not some hippy commune, where you have to be vegetarian (I do love my meat!). Added to this, I had found one of the most incredibly scenic parts of the British Isles - with the holy trinity (mountains/trees/sea) on my doorstep - with enough acreage and variety of land. With an off-grid existence, no longer at the whim of large, profit-obsessed energy companies; I'd found a 'home' where we could exist on our terms; no longer at the will of 'authorities' with wildly differing priorities to ourselves.
As you've seen, from the images on this web site, the Croft is a place of immense natural beauty and we are not going to corrupt this just to make money. The intention is to enhance what is there, add to it, complement it and make it accessible enough for others to enjoy. If we were trying to do that 'down south' the pressure of trying to make a profit at it, and to afford it, would lead to the same problems and stresses we have faced for so many years.
So, northwards we go, to join the Wildings. But lets hope there aren't too many White Walkers.
On the third and final part of this exploration into my head, I'll explain the final and main reason(s) for making the move - the bigger picture. My personal feelings on the reasons why everyone should be going at least a little way down the same road, if they want their children and grandchildren to enjoy this beautiful, but besieged, planet of ours.