The Woodberry Wetlands Centre also runs courses in green woodworking, illustration, wildlife photography, natural cosmetics, survival and bushcraft, bee-keeping, wild food and remedies and wildlife gardening in Stoke Newington, London.
"It’s a murky grey spring evening in London that I’ve been rushing through as I finally find the entrance to Woodberry Wetlands. I’m breathless and late, but there’s a note on the gate with my name and a number to call. Edwin comes to fetch me and I walk into a room of people knitting plastic bags with great wooden needles, transforming garbage in new and uh… different ways.
Our instructor, Victoria, is friendly, engaging and efficient, so within minutes I’m knitting – something I haven’t done since I was 12, which is a lifetime away from this ‘more than 30, less than 50’, semi-professional, semi-deluded, semi-stressed London man.
The activity of knitting doesn’t have the buzz-laden weight of meditation or mindfulness, but that’s exactly what it is in an entirely unsophisticated and unpretentious way. A busy city brain can be quietened by the methodical march of stitches across needles, until the woes of commuting and the angst of hurtling late through crowds become neutralised into lines and loops of colour.
By the end of the course, my annoying day – the third day of a new job – wasn’t contributing anything to my state of mind anymore; I was happy, chatty and dying to see how the fabulous plastic-bag colours I’d chosen would melt into the bold, avant-garde piece of “clubbing jewellery” I’d crafted in my mind, if not quite in my hands.
Well, some of us got some very nice plant pots. In my haste to wrap up, I cut my creation into the shape of a fish tail and, like something you fall in love with on sale, when I got home I was left wondering when I would ever use it and how I could have loved it in the first place. But that made me make another one. And that’s the point, really: knitting strips of plastic bags together one evening might seem like a one-off attempt at hipster worthiness, but I learnt a repeatable skill in just a couple of hours, a different way of looking at something supposedly worthless and also had laughter and conversation with people I didn’t know. How often do you do that in your average week?”
Our thanks to Penny Dixie and Victoria Woodcock for the images.