Land project inspires ‘compassionate living’

A permaculture project in South Shropshire is attempting to promote ways of living that are more caring towards all life.

Run by a dedicated family crafting a sustainable existence, Karuna – meaning ‘compassion’ in Sanskrit – weaves together 18 acres of mixed woodland, forest gardens, fruit tree nurseries, an arboretum, water areas, low impact dwellings and horticultural activity.

Janta and Merva Wheelhouse and their children have planted over 7,500 trees on the site near Picklescott and for the past 5 years have been taking active responsibility for meeting their needs through growing food, generating all their energy from onsite renewables, as well as recycling rainwater and waste to build the land’s fertility. They also hope to grow enough fruit and vegetables to sell to their local community in the near future.

However, they see their ability to act as an example of living lightly as more than this. “We know that any real solutions must embody a change of heart, an empathic connection with the fullness of life,” says Janta. “Together we are creating an age of restoration, guided by shared values of interdependence, kinships, cooperation, community and mutual aid.”

As part of the Permaculture Association’s LAND learning centres network, Karuna welcomes groups and visitors. “This helps permaculture get more recognition as an accepted way of farming and a way of life,” explains Janta. There are also opportunities for volunteers, with one describing their experience as “truly humbling” in the “peace and tranquillity” they had found.

Practical courses at the centre include workshops on how to make an earth oven, hedgerow basket making, forest gardening, apple tree grafting, preserving fruit and making juice. This year they are also hoping to host a major permaculture skill-sharing gathering.

Schools groups have also engaged with Karuna. “The children are seeing and experiencing things at Karuna that we often talk about but cannot show them,” says a teacher from Long Meadow Primary School in Shrewsbury.

Many visitors come from urban areas but local people are also benefiting, says Janta, as many are looking for ways to best support the development of rural enterprises and find productive employment.