Gathered Knowledge

The bicycle generator

How we make electricity

Being a detailed account of our experiences with electricity this winter, and how to build your own simple bike generator.

Peddaling hard

Food energy pumping directly into a battery.

Living in the woods, there are no convenient plug sockets. It is of course pleasant to live in a house without walls full of piped electricity – but it is also a fundamentally difficult thing. We know we don’t need much electricity to survive – our kettle, oven, hot tap and central heating are all provided by the wood-fire, and our lighting is most candle-powered. But, a little leccy does really make life easier.

Our daily focus, this winter, has been on the more obvious commodities – wood, water, fire and food. But the intangible force of electrics, in trying to document our findings, tell our tales and sell the CD, is still very important. We need power flowing into our two mini laptops, fairly alrmingly regularly. These devices are also used to charge our telephone. They are our main electricity requirement.

Everything else, such as head torches, cameras and voice recorders, are so infrequent to need charging that they can be carried to a local friend’s solar and wind inverter station.

But we wanted to become a self-sufficient group, and so for this electric issue we decided to put our faith in one of the cheaper and more hands-on forms of electricity generation – the bicycle generator.

None of us knew much at all about this sort of thing, but with Rose as our driving force of discovery, we soon found that it was very easy to bodge a machine that will gather (make?) the electricity we need.

To find out more, please read on…


On herbal medicine

It has been a naive assumption of mine that when we talk of herbs to heal ourselves on this website, those reading will have some knowledge of what herbalism is and its relevance in health, healing and a closer integration with our natural environment. Thinking about it, this is unrealistic with the voices of pharmaceutical giants resounding loud, and oft drowning the soft whispers that beckon as we pass the humble hedgerow. So here i will attempt to remedy this ommission of ours with an outline of herbal medicine within a modern context,  if thats possible.


St. John's Wort. A great healing herb.

Read on to find out more………


Thought for the mile vol.7

“If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference. ”

R. Buckminster Fuller

Paul Cummings Vs Paul Cummings

The first Paul Cummings artist lives in London, and makes digital art. He is closely associated with Saatchi.

His single piece of art, “Road Side”, seen below, is shortlisted to win the  £25,000 Threadneedle prize. BBC tell more here.

"Road Side" by Paul Cummings

Road Side by Paul Cummings

The second Paul Cummings artist lives in Wiltshire, and often paints with coffee, toothpaste, and cigarette ash, the only materials available in HMP.

His work, called ‘Lydon’ or ‘We’re So Pretty’ (below) was also in a competition. It was made with chalk pastels, during a period of liberty. and Paul took first prize, to walk away with a cheque for £100. Local papers tell more here.

<a href=”” title=”Lydon by Paul Cummings by A Walk Around Britain, on Flickr”><img src=”” width=”400″ height=”378″ alt=”Lydon by Paul Cummings” /></a>
Lydon by Paul Cummings

Lydon by Paul Cummings

SO…the question is NOT which do you prefer, though tell us if you want.

The question is: what puts Paul Cummings the first in position to contend for a prize fund 250 times bigger than Paul Cummings the second?

Two pictures, two artists, one name, and 250 times the money. A very marked difference.

If, like us, you feel a desire to even things out (but unlike us have the means to do so) email us here, and we can arrange contact with Paul 2.



Ribwort Plantain and Greater Plantain

Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major

Folk names: Way bread, Lord of the ways, Wodan’s Herb, Slan-lus (plant of healing)

Ribwort Plantain

The flower heads of ribwort are used as ammunition by children and adults alike.
A very common wild plant, it likes to grow on compacted soil and is always found around human habitation. It grows abundantly on tracks and by foot paths hence it’s title of “Lord of the Ways” and “Way Bread”.
It is resilient and resistant in its character.


Thought for the mile vol.6

“These families, who had formed the backbone of the village life in the past, were the depositories of the village traditions, had to seek refuge in the large centres; the process humourously designated by statisticians as ‘the tendency for the rural population toward the large towns’, being really the tendency of water to flow uphill when forced by machinery.”

Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Petersfield Physic Garden

Just after parting from Ginger we went to take solace in the Petersfield Physic Garden.


It is set out in the traditional geometric garden patterns of the 17th century, and the plants grown there were all also growing in physic gardens 300 years ago. The old lady who was looking after the place told us of the terrible trouble they had in keeping all these “new plants” from moving in.

It was thrilling to see all the plants labelled and separated in their new spring growth.

Ed got over excited and took hundreds of identification pictures. Here are some of the plants we found. The plants here are all in their early spring stages, without flowers and summer growth. To look at pictures of these plants in flower, try typing the name into google images.



Petasites hybridus

Other names:  Sweet Coltsfoot, butter dock, dog rhubarb, exwort


I sow, I sow,

Then come, my own dear,

Come here, come here,

And mow, and mow.

To find her husband, a young maid sows Butturbur before the sunrise upon a Friday morn.

Her man will appear with a scythe in his hand, yet if her nerve should fail she may say ‘have mercy on me’ and so the vision departs.

do read on….


Carving a spoon

This is a series of pictures documenting Ginger’s process of carving a wooden spoon in the Ashdown Forest.


Please click below to read more.


Window Tax – an illuminated socio-archaeology

“A year after Waterloo, income tax was repealed ‘with a thundering peal of applause’ and Parliament decided that all documents connected with it should be collected, cut into pieces and pulped.”

Politicians never did like people prying into their ‘private’ incomes. That seems as true today as ever.

So the window tax was concieved as an alternative.


Winchester cathedral precincts - a wink at the tax laws...