About the Doon.

After many years of environmental campaigning in England, Scotland and Ireland, founding director Jeff Colhoun came to the realisation that it was vitally important to put energy into presenting solutions to the current environmental degradation that had so abhorred him.

The Doon of May came out of this realisation. With the support of three ethical investors, was purchased from The Forestry Commission in 1999. A company, limited by guarantee called Tinne Beag Workers Cooperative was established in order to take on the land management responsibilities of the one hundred and seventy five acre forest estate in such a way as to allow structured participation in this project. With co-founder Damhnait De Brun, the co-op was managed for several years, involving many members of the local community.

In 2006, Damhnait De Brun returned to her homeland to put her energy into the "Shell To Sea" environmental campaign in Co Mayo, Ireland where she is still active in this stand against colossal environmental destruction of the pristine Atlantic marine ecosystem.

After ten years of ups and downs, it is clear that the co-op in its original form was dysfunctional. This was a long and arduous learning experience. People had become upset, disillusioned, hurt and burnt out trying to make it work, including the founders and directors. However, the priority in this project has always been the natural environment and this has flourished.

The forest is home to red squirrels, woodpeckers, ravens, jays, slow worms, otters, badgers and many more creatures which all are part of this environmentally sensitive area. The creation of a working community, living in a respectful, sensitive and creative union with the natural environment is a very complex task, and is one of the major challenges which currently faces humanity. Ten years of learning to live with nature has shown us that in order to sustain human co-existence in the wilderness a strong, like minded and well motived core group that can pull together to get through any adversity is required.

Learnings, Insight, and Experience

Obtaining a piece of land, and having a vision of making a positive difference in this crazy, modern world we are all living in is one thing, being able to successfully involve others in this vision has proved to be quite another. Much of society is in a state of illness, Michael Odent, author of Primal Health and leading Obstetrician in natural childbirth terms this as "diseases of civilisation".

Our calling back to our roots runs deep. The need to be once again in harmony with our natural environment is crying out inside many. This can manifest in some strange, even twisted ways. Thus is the way when we're unwell. Bringing out anger,depression, abuse, self abuse, destruction, and despair...

What we have seen in action here at the Doon of May is that being skilled and motivated to work with and benefit the environment is all very well. Guiding, educating, healing, living and working with others who might mean well but are not well is a separate skill. Living in a temporary workstation in order to work in the woodland is not easy. Chopping wood, fetching water, washing clothes by hand or carrying them in and out to the launderette and all the other physically demanding tasks required to do this takes a huge amount of energy in itself. In other cultures and in ours in the past, living and working like this works because of teamwork or community.

In a romantic vision or an ideal world anyone can join in and be trusted to work hard, have respect and all will be wonderful.

This is how this project began...

Over the years good people have come and gone. Many have been inspired and have gone on to realise their own dreams and visions. Inevitably in the real world it's sad to say that not everyone knows how to be respectful or a meaningful part of a team. Many people look for a 'catch' and can become offensive and defensive.

Being thin on the ground and over faced with the enormity of the task ahead, and faced with serious internal politics is not a good place to be. This is the point at which many similar projects have failed and died. We are pleased to be able to say that we have somehow managed to pull through and learned invaluable lessons along the way.

The land has now been cleared of people, all except founder Jeff and his family. We now have some regular volunteers who come to help with essential woodland work. Old workstations are being dismantled and removed from the woods and much unnecessary junk cleared up. The way forward and how to involve people in a way where they don't become more of a hazard to the environment than a help, is being very carefully thought out. Often this has happened simply through ignorance.

Where one person may share the same ideals as another and may have what you could call common sense, others may have different ideas and think for example: that leaving a small encampment somewhere in the woods with a foam mat as a mattress that they are helping because its there for someone else to use. In actual fact this sort of thing will quickly be set to work on by nature and between the rodents and wind, a scattering of plastic and minging material is the resulting effect. This then has to be cleared up by someone. When trying to point this sort of stuff out to people some, perhaps through embarrassment can become rude, defiant or even aggressive.

We've realised it is essential to have a structure and a strong core group who are united in vision and can pull together in the same direction towards one common goal/aim and a very clear set of guidelines stating in no uncertain terms, what the project is about, and what is and what is not acceptable.

We are in the process of producing a guidebook, a contract for volunteers and a system of trial and assessment to identify useful skills and compatibility with the project. Also, the many essential things needed to protect the welfare of the environment and animals, wildlife, people and children here at the Doon of May must be in place.

Where we are now

We are now basically at a fresh starting point. Almost! We have had an intensive training course in the potential complications of human beings and how to live and work responsibly in a woodland. There are still old workstation structures which were built without the necessary planning and forethought. These are in the process of being dismantled and the areas surrounding them cleared up.

This sort of work needs to be done before any more workstation structures can be created.

A lot of work has been put into the garden areas over the years, just changing the PH balance of the soil after the spruce plantation to increased the acidity in a slow process, and the gardens have come a long way. However, due to the lack of people power at this point of transition, the gardens are being reclaimed by the wilderness surrounding them. The potential of this magical place is truly inspiring. With the right people and a lot of hard work the possibilities are endless.


There is always loads of work to do here at The Doon, requiring a variety of different skills. If you think that you have useful skills to offer and are interested in helping out contact Jeff on 07549 490658 or send us an email at info@doonofmay.org.uk. You can also follow and contact us on our Facebook page.

Future Plans

We are now working towards having a volunteer bunk house, shower block and wash house, canteen and kitchen, and are looking at beginning to recruit new volunteers, who have the necessary skills and the right attitude towards the project to help it flourish.

In this way we hope to slowly, but surely and steadily, build a motivated team capable of working hard and living harmoniously whilst here in the forest.

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