Rick first became involved with environmentalism when he read E. F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful in his teens, almost fifty years ago. By the late 70s he was reading Bill Mollison’s first writings on permaculture. He trained and practiced as a landscape architect for 14 years before eventually taking on the Groundwork Directorship for nine years. Fifteen years ago he retrained in Human Relations, a coaching and counseling technique.
Four years ago Rick acquired a smallholding, ‘Danaway’, outside Cockermouth as a base for his counselling work. At Danaway Permaculture Homestead is a demonstration site where they are developing a programme of workshops and training events in permaculture, nature connection and cultural emergence. “Mentoring others to find their path is a key focus now for me.” He wanted to reconnect his clients to the natural environment: “The intention is to offer opportunities for people to both learn about themselves and about permaculture in a more integrated way. Most therapy is done indoors whereas actually one of the biggest things that people are in recovery from is their disconnection from the land.”
At the same time he began to commercially breed rare Ouessant sheep, which he says are the perfect permaculture sheep; small, easy to handle, low maintenance and friendly. His Ouessant flock and the breeding programme was inherited from Val Grainger when she sold her flock. Plus, he breeds Golden Appleyard ducks.
Rick says his links to the local community have been key. A decade ago he set up a community sustainability project in the town which connected him to a wide local audience.
He also had a wonderful mentor who understood what he was trying to do, “He was behind me every step of the way and that I think when you’re exploring new ground, you need that sort of force of people who believe in you.”
He is very grateful for the skills and self confidence Groundwork gave him. Now he supports others to set up their own businesses as part of his coaching work: “The people who fly through to find their place in life and become entrepreneurs on their own are actually relatively few. Most people have a rocky start… but it’s at those phases where they get stuck where the right intervention and support can be transformational because it’s when people are stuck that there is the biggest opportunity for change.”