PENNY EASTWOOD / DONGRIA KONDH
Bloomin' eck, she's gone - it's pretty hard to fathom.
Dear lovely friends and comrades Dongria Kondh, also known as Penny Eastwood, died peacefully after a long illness on Monday 14th June around 7.30pm. Nagakusala (Billy) and Kate were with her. Her last coherent words the previous day were 'I'm so happy'. There was a small funeral in July and a much bigger memorial weekend at Samhain, October.
You can read more about how we remembered her further down.
Below that are a bunch of messages sent to her in the months before she died, and memories and photos and links - please use the form at the bottom to add yours if you want to.
Here's are links to the funeral programme and the obituary we wrote at the time.
Here's a link to a 2011 interview she did talking about her life, Hebden and the work of Treesponsibility
Here is information about the Dongria Kondh Bursary, launched in February, and funded by Calderdale Council, the Environment Agency, National Trust and Slow The Flow
Here's the 21st anniversary issue of the Treesponsibility Newsletter, with lovely photos and memories.
Here's a link to her obituary in The Guardian's 'Other Lives', due to appear in the 18 September print edition
This is an article she wrote for EarthQuaker magazine, ca. 1992, 'Juicy Puritanism'. It would have been interesting to hear her reflections on it later in life.
30-31 OCTOBER 2021
30th October 2021 Knott Wood Coppice
CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Sat 30 October 2021 Hebden Town Hall
QUAKER MEMORIAL MEETING & BRING & SHARE LUNCH
Sun 31 October 2021 The Birchcliffe Centre
If anyone wants to make a donation to cover the costs of the weekend, please transfer money to:
Treesponsibility sort code: 089299 a/c no: 65287923 Ref: DKMW [your name]
FUNERAL AND WAKE
This was a lovely day. Here's her funeral programme to download.
Saturday 10th July
From 1pm There will be a small, invitation-only Quaker funeral.
From 3pm there will be a picnic on the football field near the station. This is an opportunity for friends and comrades to get together and remember Dongria and probably drink beer, which is what she would want us to do. Bring what you expect to find. Also bring plackards, banners, flags and poles to stick in the ground to support said banners and flags - early arrivals will be roped in to decorating :-)
Dongria was very concerned not to be the cause of COVID-19 spread. Please be careful to maintain distancing, wear masks if you want to be closer to friends and be respectful of those who want to be there, but are unsure about joining a big gathering for the first time.
Please share this invitation widely.
MESSAGES AND MEMORIES ...
DK wrote this in mid-April:
I have been totally overwhelmed by all the kind and lovely emails I have received (I guess that is one advantage of having cancer rather than
dying of a heart attack!). There have been so many that I hope you don't mind me doing a "reply all".
The situation is that I have left Hebden for good, and am now comfortably ensconced in Cheshire with my daughter, who has nursed me back to health somewhat, after a gruelling hospital stay. I am surrounded by my family and grandchildren and I am not in pain (at least nothing four lemsips a day cannot manage), but I am pretty much bed-bound which is rather tedious (at least I have a super dooper
do-it-all hospital-type bed provided by the district nurse team). All in all, things are not too bad. It is just a case of waiting round until my kidneys pack in altogether - the doctor cannot be sure how long that will take.
I have had the most wonderful life, and I would like to thank you all for being part of it.
Goodbye lovelies, keep up the fight.
I'm not saying I believe in afterlives but please have a beer with Dave and give him a huge hug from me when you get there.
I've always been in awe of you, I hope I can make a fraction of the difference you have in the time I've got left.
Also I hope these last times are gentle for you.
Em Weirdigan xx
Hey Dongria, its been great to know you and I will certainly miss you when The Trades reopen (whenever that fucking happens!) for little chats with abrupt endings! This land will remember you for longer than any of us will be here for. Glad we met. See you next time!
Funnily enough I was thinking of you recently. I can't remember where we were - maybe an EF gathering, maybe climate camp, and we were hanging out on some gate somewhere, and we were talking about helping people, having not been able to give someone directions to somewhere. And I remember you saying how you got an almost physical pain when you could see someone needing some help and you weren't able to help them. That really stuck with me, and I reflected back both on the times I'd seen you around, and in times since, at how pretty much every time I saw you, you were doing exactly that - helping someone, trying to sort something out, get things moving, making sure the thing that needed to happen happened. What a gift ot have shared with us and with the world.
Sending love and solidarity to you, your immediate family, and the bigger family you have built round you over the years
Becky from Norfolk xxx
I'm going to be thinking of you as I set off to sea tomorrow, and all the fun and conversations and zaniness I associate with you.
Xmas dinner at yours where you plated up all the meals for the assembled boaters, and then put a plate down each for Stella and Tuel and the dogs couldn't believe their luck. Coming to support you in court after you single handedly stopped riot police coming onto the Heathrow site... And being nicked for attempting to superglue myself in court (it was just my bike repair kit they found!!) Joking in the pub about sabbing the hebden bridge duck race, to find this "exclusive" on the front page of the Hebden Bridge times!!!
Love you lots, thinking thoughts and memories of you
You have been such a massive influence and presence in both our lives. In fact if it wasn’t for you we would never have met each other! Tree planting weekends have been one of the highlights of our year, and it was great to get up last year before the lockdown. Great to see the influence on the valley and that the trees are still getting planted. You have been such an amazing force for fighting to preserve global and local environment- you are an inspiration and are so lucky to know you.
All our love
Sarah Gretton and Neckie xxx
Brave, inventive quirky and inspiring.
The queen of superglue against the powers of darkness!
Jim, ASS (not the cop, the other one)
I'm always so glad to see your face pop up in a field, or a community hall, or a random action, because you're fucking hilarious, and terrifyingly capable, and a badass and a beacon. But also because I'll be getting another snippet of what you chose. To see what comes from committing to trees and people. You know you've grown something beautiful and real. I don't know how much you realise that such a ludicrously ambitious life plan changes the thinking of everyone who knows it and you. So ta.
The other day I read for the first time (how is it the first time?) the creation story of America, of Skywoman and the making of Turtle Island. It crops up early in Braiding Sweetgrass, which someone gave me as a present. I'm reckoning someone's given it to you, though if you've had time or inclination to read it is anyone's guess. Anyway, I had a rather surprising moment of properly connecting with it. To a story that is about generosity and sacrifice, gratitude and joy. And I started sketching how I would illustrate it for my sister's smalls.
It's about a woman who dances and plants, and makes the world. And I realised as I drew it, that she's you.
I hope you're not too bored. Cancer is, among other things, really fucking annoying. It wasn't so long ago we were walking up past the stream in that hot village in Catalonia, and you were sleeping in the afternoon so you could dance at night. I think they're the only times I've not seen you at a version of Work, but work is after all a relative concept. Not many people can swagger out whole camp police liaison and the tactical solo deployment of superglue and still come out beaming. I suspect that having been so very good at living, you will find a way of dying. I hope it's everything it needs to be.
I'm so damn proud to know you. Thanks for being.
It is still strange to think of you as not Penny, that dervish of energy and passion, warning the world about the threat from Climate Change, so generous with everything you had; whether that was a rollie, or a glass of home-made wine. Number 10, a smoky paradise of energy and learning, and waiting - for volunteers, to gather, ready for the real work.
I’m so proud to have spent some of my time working with Treesponsibility, and even helping with one of Kate’s essays as I recall (the poet Tony Harrison came into it at some point)….
I’m sad that you won’t have more time for the Picos de Europa (or other parts of Spain), but I’m pretty sure you drunk deeply of the spirit of the mountains while you were there, and enjoyed every minute of the whole adventure
Go well, you are an HB ledge! All the folk we have lost recently will no doubt turn up at a Gathering somewhere, plotting and working out what to do next, saving a paralell universe from itself. You will all be missed so much.
Much love, and always respect, for a great life, well lived.
Stuart C x
It's been a good while, friend. The memories that come to mind are mainly food/tea related... Eating avocados in your room at the hive, you striding over the hill with a big flask of soup and/or tea on a tree planting weekend... a stop off on the way home from an EF in east anglia, where you were desperate for tea and I was desperate to get the just released final book in the Harry Potter series (2007, apparently). You were around when I was looking for examples of what to do with a life, and while we might have disagreed on literature and caffeine intake, your choices, projects and conviction were, and always will be an inspiration.
All my love to you and all of team Dongria
You have the rare gift of being the type of person who makes me go' fucking hell - this is a badass force of nature!' Even though we have only met a handful of times at Cornerstone, I have found myself in deep admiration of your bold spirit, the richness of your life's adventures, and the bravery of your tongue! That's all waxing lyrical for saying 'I love how you've torn up the rule book, rolled it into a joint and put two fingers up at all this nonsense'. Women like you spur us all on in life - I mean it.
Make sure to give Prince Philip hell!
Infinite love and respect, Amrita
I first met Penny long before I moved to Tod, on an early Treesponsibility tree planting weekend in the mid 90s (I seem to recall a charcoal burn being part of it too). Since that point, I always associated Hebden Bridge with the figure of Penny, and I wasn't wrong. She was a linchpin in the town, and her legacy is spread large across the bleak and beautiful moorscape of this valley, which is progressively getting less bleak as the trees grow. Every time I walk the dog and see the acres and acres of planting, I will bring Penny to mind. Few of us could hope to leave behind such a remarkable permanent and positive change both in the landscape and in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants. Thank you Dongria for your life's work. It will be appreciated by generations to come.
Cath in Tod
For dear Dongria
Well firstly, I do so hope you are getting lots of legal but pleasant drugs at this point, if you fancy them! I am glad to know that you are with all the family and being well looked after. Thinking of this has reminded me of my very first visit to Hebden Bridge, in 1997 or 1998 I think. It was (of course) a Treesponsibility weekend and I remember how welcomed and comfortable I felt in your house. Over the years I have always felt a sort of Earth First!/Hebden share in you, and therefore a great deal of pride and gratitude for the consistency and thoroughness of your Trees work. Not to mention a great deal of pride at your supergluing skills.
I know the best thing most of us can do now is just stay out of the way, but I hope you know you are surrounded by our love and our thoughts. I have no idea where you might end up next, and I can't decide whether to hope they have a complete excess of trees there, or maybe not quite enough... But as for this world, you don't need me to tell you this, because your work is so tangible. But you have helped fix the place, and taught others how to do this too, and on behalf of myself and my recently acquired daughter, I can only say, thank you with all my heart.
Hi Dongria. thanks for being an awesome part of our community, friend and and general inspiration. Treesponsibilty gathering and plantings are one of my favourite things to do and retuning to see the few spots I've helped with.. I can only guess what its been like for you to daily see areas all over the Calder Valley areas you have re-forested and will change ecosystem and lives of the community there for generations.
DK, dear Comrade
Last weekend I went up to the source of the river Lugg with a friend. We didn’t quite make it up to the source, but we got to the point where one can put one leg on each side of the stream, without getting wet. This coming weekend we’ll visit the other end, 70 miles downstream, where the Lugg flows into the Wye just South of Hereford. It’s all part of a campaign to protect the Wye and its tributaries from agricultural pollution.
The Lugg one of short named, medium sized rivers that flow from Wales into England to join the Wye or Severn, whose sources rise within a couple of miles of each other and who meet again in the Bristol Channel. Here in the borderlands we live on a hidden peninsula.
This appreciation of land and water takes me right back to my time in with Trees, living in Hebden where I really learned to understand both the devastation and the beauty of the British uplands, and where we worked together to change them for the better. I still tell people Treesponsibility is as rock’n’roll as tree planting can get. That particular blend of well-organised anarchy has stayed with me for good, and we’ve been putting it to good use at Earthworm since we arrived here in 2011.
I look at what people do and talk about now. Just yesterday I spotted an article about plans to plant 25 Million trees across the Pennines! The world is catching up with our ideas from 20 years ago – maybe too late, maybe just in time. All the more reason for us to stay ahead of the curve, ask “what isn’t getting done yet” and then go and do it.
More recently, our lives were entangled in unexpected ways. That made the easy camaraderie of the early days difficult to sustain, but I have never lost that deep sense of comradeship. Not in the old Stalinist sense, but in it’s best sense that means the knowledge that below and beyond anything that makes us different we recognise the shared concern and love for land and people. Rock on, comrade!
Lots of love,
and ever restlessly yours
I just wanted to say a big thank you for all your work with the White Rose Forest over the years. I could always rely on you and your team to deliver and lead from the front. The “Forest after the Flood” scheme at Midgelden was my favourite as it was years ahead of its time and showed what we could do.
There were only ever a small handful of us in the WRF who were truly dedicated in the pursuit of planting trees in our small patch of west Yorkshire. We always had to battle for everything to get anything done but we won those battles (more or less) and now we are collectively in a really good position to transform the landscapes at scale.
As much as we had our differences Dongria, I'm really proud of our efforts and I always enjoyed talking and meeting with you cos we wanted to succeed and deliver good projects and I knew if you were on board it would work (see Gorpley et al).
Good luck with your next journey
Much love and gratitude
Programme Director White Rose Forest
Hi Dongria, glad that you are in a lovely place with love all around you.
Your legacy will live long here and thanks for all the wonderful work you have done over the years - I look up at many of the plantings schemes and think of you often. I cant imagine anyone will ever match that. I'll do my best from inside the "system" to keep up the work - 1500 trees in march this year - many more to come. Calderdale will never be the same without you.
Moy & the Countryside Team
You are an inspiration and have had such a positive effect on so many. Thank you for all you have done and for making the world a better place.
See you on the other side.
Calderdale Partnership Manager
Flood & Coastal Risk Management
You are very much in my thoughts at this time, and I'm sure that I can say that on behalf of the many YW colleagues who have also met you over the years. I know that I have only known you for about five years, but the memory of your passion for the work of Treesponsibility will remain with me for a long time. Our Saturday morning site visit to the upper Calder Valley shortly after I took on my role with the NFM Operational Group is certainly a day that I will remember for a long time – and, indeed, my daughter Hannah will too. We have recently planted a number of trees with the local Wildlife Trust in our village, which were saplings that Hannah has grown from seed and conkers – someone else who has caught the tree planting bug…!
And of course there is the Gorpley project which wouldn’t have seen the light of day were it not for the persuasive powers that you and Guy brought to bear on Geoff Lomas and me. Our managers at Yorkshire Water were immediately keen on the idea and, I would like to think, your inspiring plan for the site played a big part in Richard Flint's subsequent commitment that YW would plant 1 million trees over a period of ten years. We're well on the way towards that target and will keep on planting – all the while remembering your passion and inspiration.
Clean Water and Catchment Strategy Manager, Yorkshire Water
I just wanted to say thank you for being such an inspirational and dynamic person to work with, it has been a pleasure to work with you over the years. You and treesponsibility have made landscape scale differences to Calderdale, and the hillsides round here continue to get greener and leafier!
Penny Bennett, Landscape Architect
So many great times come to mind when I think of you: from the first time we met, in a little tent at an early Climate Camp where you gave a Treesponsibility talk, to the very nice chats we used to have about death, at the bus stop in latter days. And so many terrific ideas you had, as well as your hard works campaigning and digging little trees into hillsides.
Untouchably slimy in a beach-pool will have to be revived at some future blockade.. Even though it didn't quite happen as intended, what did happen in Salem Fields is indelible in my memory. I shall not forget running up Foster Lane and Windsor Road to arrive on Rach and Ian's doorstep dripping, all the way, with blue emulsion. Such a good blue too!
And all those banners you inspired, especially the Drax banner. I was so glad, after at first being daunted, that you insisted NOT CLEAN, NOT GREEN had to be pictorial. It was a brilliant visual idea of yours. I was distraught when I lost it one miserable London night, but it did have many a good outing before that, the best being the first, in front of the filthy chimneys of Drax (photo below)
I do hope, Dongria, you are as glad as you should be of all the unusually wonderful things you have done in your life - including the wild dancing! With very fond love,
The world is a lesser place for your passing. And yet the world is a much better place for your being here. I shall plant some trees and they will have your name on them...
We stormed Weir Minerals wearing hard hats and high viz vests saying "climate change Inspector". Humour, creativity and principles. People like Dongria don't come along very often. I'm honoured to have known her
Was an honour to have known DK.
First met her at Climate Camp in Heathrow when a very sheepish Met officer came to tell me they couldn't leave the site as they had just agreed to do, because someone had glued themselves to the gate. Couldn't believe there was someone out there with such determination and courage. She definitely started something there.
Always admired her dedication to putting her beliefs into action and just getting on with things, big and small.
And she made the most amazing braised cabbage we all looked forward to when she stayed over. Genuinely one who will be sorely missed.
Ah, Donal, I remember that too, but unlike you I had met Dongria before. So as soon as the word "superglue" was mentioned, there was only one person it could be!
Big thanks to Cath and / or everyone else who contributed to putting this memorial site together. Moving tributes and lovely, evocative photos of Dongria doing what she did.
One other thing some here may not know. In that photo of Dongria cheering on the Yorkshire team in the tug o' war at the 69ers party, you can see Big Brendan prominent in pulling as only he could for Yorkshire. Sadly we lost Brendan, too, in October 2018 from Motor Neurone Disease, which was not survivable. He went at a time and in a beautiful place of his own choosing. Solidarity to everyone else inspired by Dongria, especially those closest to her.
thank you for your dancing, your work, your learning, bravery, passion and delight. Scrabble and booze, planting and tea, soup, cake and walking for the Earth, working for the Earth, with diligent glee. So glad to have known you, proud to have helped you, sorry to have pissed you off! So glad we had our last hang out at number 10, talking about The Source, death and progress. Circles and straight lines. Certainty and mystery. Ease and Wonder. Thanks again,
25 years you have been my friend and inspiration.I loved you very much.I will miss you and the planet will miss you.
A family of Wrens have literally just fledged onto my bedroom window as I write this.New life.You will not be forgotten.Condolences to your family who you loved so dearly.
Dongria, you are an inspiration. You have shown us how to live and die well. Your valley, and beyond loves you, as you have loved it and beyond. May we all have a little of your vision, tenacity, and kindness. Have a drink with the universe tonight dear Angel.
Dongria, your legacy is all over the Calder valley and it will outlast us all. Thank you for inspiring me, and the benefits you've given my land for me and my children. Your hard work and will power to swim against the tide and succeed in many cases were truly admirable. Thankyou. X
I first met Dongria at Climate Camp at Drax where she and Treesponsibility colleagues gave a beautiful, funny, enjoyable, empowering workshop about energy. I thought I knew a bit but learnt so much - not least about doing workshops. I was hugely inspired by Treesponsibility. Later she joined us back at Drax protesting about their burning of biomass - producing magnificent banners.
A gentle but no-nonsense doer with a sense of humour. She will be missed, but leaves a huge legacy.
What a privilege it was to have known Dongria. I have many great memories of tree planting and transport campaigning. An early one, even before Treesponsibility, was a wonderful Feet First day in St.George’s Square when we demonstrated how much nicer it would be without parking and two-way traffic. We got our way on that one! Thank you for making the world a better place and for giving us hope for the future.
I never knew you well but planted trees with you over 20 years ago and saw you around Hebden. I mostly remember you with Rowan playing a demon game of scrabble!
You made many wonderful contributions but I want to thank you deeply for the creation of our woodlot in the fields above Lumbutts. It would never have happened without you and Treesponsibility. Awesome in intent, execution and impact. Laurence
I'm grateful for the time we spent that summer day planting trees above Todmorden, your energy and passion was one of the things that inspired me and made me question my choices in life. Rest in peace and thank you for allowing us to be part of your journey.
You and the legacy you have left us all are massively in my thoughts at this time. I know I speak on behalf of all Upper Valley Councillors both at Calderdale and Hebden Royd Town council who have either known you through tree planting days, pints at the Trades or through funding Treesponsibility when i say what a loss we all feel. I realise that I have only known properly for maybe seven years or so, but the huge impact you have had on NFM and climate resilience through your work with Treesponsibility (and wider Climate Activism) will remain with me and many of my peers for a long time. You and others have helped to make community climate activism mainstream locally. You empowered others to be part of the solution in greening our landscapes and protecting against flooding. I know we shared a big passion in pressuring landowners away from burning moorland, in protecting our peat and more recently in pushing the WYPF to divest from fossil fuels. I vow to continue that fight in your honour, to protest and make a bloody nuisance of myself. I was up at Gorpley recently - your legacy will be the incalculable amount of new life that sprouts across Calderdale and further afield by you, your group and those organisations that now exist after you inspired their creation. Your ability to bring people with you and not take any prisoners will truly be missed. Be at peace and know you leave this corner of our planet in a far better place than it was before. Thank you for everything.
CMBC | Lead Climate Change & Resilience
May Dongria's soul rest in eternal peace. She was a gentle giant, non-assuming and an affable character. Worked so well with her during my brief NFM cover role. Will be sadly missed.
Penny, you taught me everything I know about superglue. You were an absolute legend. Rest in power x
Thank you Dongria for all that you have achieved and all those you have inspired. Few people have such a lasting, tangible impact on their world.
Would it be possible to name one of Calderdale's new areas of Treesponsibility planting "The Dongria Kondh woodland"(or Penny Eastwood woodland). Dongria made it possible to start healing my hillside land that slipped down in the 2015 flood. No fuss - she just made it happen - I was and am so grateful . I've attached a photo of Dongria giving a very early BBC Morning TV live broadcast from the newly built fascines.
Dongria was such a down to earth, inspiring, wonder woman! She has left a legacy of thousands of trees growing to protect our environment and inspired hundreds of people to pick up their shovels to do the same. Awesome person. X
Memory of Dongria
Dongria always had so much energy, whether she be out on site working on a steep hill tree-planting, back at base looking after the volunteers' needs or out campaigning on an important issue.
She has left behind a real legacy in the Calder Valley, not just in the physical presence of the trees soaking up carbon and operating to stop erosion or to provide wildlife corridors; but also through the social action that she initiated which has benefited local people, highlighting the issue of climate change and enabling school children to learn about nature and climate at an early age in their schooling. She was also involved in other campaigns, such as 'No Moor Mines' and 'Ban the Burn' to prevent further degradation of the moorland above Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, plus she turned her attention to other causes, on both a local scale (such as the need for cheaper housing) and on an international scale - even changing her name in solidarity with the struggle of a hill tribe in India against the power of the multinationals.
Dongria never shied from making her views known, whether it be lecturing the police at Climate Camp, to supergluing herself or the revolving doors at Last Minute.com's London HQ - she utilised the 'superglue' technology - first developed by the US for patching up soldiers' wounds in the Vietnam War - quite widely, even leaving her 'mark' on the shelf units at Boots the Chemists in Hebden Bridge for a time (a protest against the company moving their accounting HQ to Switzerland).
It is true that Dongria usually concentrated her mind and efforts on 'the job in hand', thinking ahead about what needed to be done on site or working out the logistics for a planting weekend - but there were times when she could relax, listening to Carol King's music whilst cooking for a residential or dancing with great and crazy abandon when the mood took her at a social event. Maybe there was something in her past that made her want to 'let her hair down' - I remember her telling me in the 'Blue Pig' at Midgehole, during one of the residential weekends, that she had been trained at school in the 1960's to keep her feminine decorum and walk around straight and upright - (a feature I noticed when she was dancing) - by practising balancing hardback books on her head. Dongria was forever kind-hearted and no. 10, Broughton Street was always 'open house' for the tree-planting group; and she had a great love of children, in particular enjoying the school plantings.
She will be sorely missed by her family, by the environmental community in the Calder Valley and by everyone that knew her.
I took these photos (with the orange tent) in September 2019 at an XR Leeds outreach event in the main shopping area of Leeds. As D was speaking loads of little kids were planting trees so it was a nice bit of synchronicity,
Wow, what a life!! It’s been such an honour to know you & to have you here fighting for justice, goodness, and common sense!! Such a big big heart, clear thinking and tenacity is inspiring. Your presence here will be very much missed by so so many. And what a legacy of brilliant positive action you have left us, here & now, & for many future generations, Thank You
As you leave the earthly planes I was motivated to find out how the Dongria Kondh are- I was incredibly & deeply moved by your action to hold their cause to protect their lands by your name change. Here’s to common sense prevailing and justice being served. A green and pleasant revolution
Rest in Peace, you deserve a good rest after all that action
love, Hilary Chadwick
I first met Dongria at Drax, back when Climate Camp was called Camp for Climate Action. And Climate Action is what she did - with passion and with compassion. What an inspirational force of nature! I'm a bit shy in large groups but just spotting Penny/Dongria at a gathering, action or protest, with her warm greeting, always put me at my ease and I know I'm not alone in experiencing that kindness.
Thanks to all who posted photos here - lovely to see them x
If the phrase 'force of nature' applies to anyone it is Dongria. It is bittersweet to hear of her death, to never see her again, but to know that she died feeling loved and cared for. I wrote this to her when I heard about her illness:
Dongria, I was so thrown by hearing about your illness. It came out of the blue to me as I'm sure to many and I was very glad to be able to contribute and to get the chance to contact you now to tell you something of what you mean to me. Its been a long time since we have seen each other, but you really are an inspiration to me. I put it down to your energy. You are a fighter but you are always having fun with it. You are crafty as a fox and tenacious as a nettle, but your determination is always accompanied by a wicked smile and a laugh. It has always inspired me that you are someone who has kept at it for decades. That you had a grand vision with treesponsibility and made it happen in a collective way from the grassroots, never letting funding get in the way of the principle of how work should be shared. I have loved working with you on climate camps and the coal caravan and EF gatherings and actions as well, obviously, as getting wet on steep hillsides, mattock in hand and drinking hot soup, then having some ales back at the woodcraft folk barn and telling stories. I will go and buy some superglue and carry it around with me wherever I go to remind me of you. God knows there are enough uses for it on a boat :-) I trust that you know how much of a contribution you have made to our movement and to hebden and to the lives of your friends. I dearly hope that what time you have left is as comfortable and joyful as it can be. So much love Dongria!
I can't remember when the first EF!/ Treesponsibility weekend was that I attended, but many visits followed over time. You and Billy were always so welcoming. I'll miss your smile and humour, your authenticity. It was lovely to bump into you at a a slow the flow conference a few years back and reconnect, I am very glad I had the privilege to see you one more time.
I'm glad I actually sent this to Dongria back in February:
Dongria, you are such an inspiration. I love how your brain takes in the whole landscape here, and you have truly paved the way for natural flood management. I was just a teenager when I first met you nearly 20 years ago. I feel lucky to have met you so young and you have helped shape my thinking around environmental issues so much. Treesponsibility is such an inspiring organisation that has required so much hard graft both physical and mental! Thanks for being such an inspiration.
One Love Tuff Dong, the pot is full but the food is not enough. Raise in peace spiritual warrior.
Heya DK! It's been a while.
Remember when a bunch of us went to the Shay to watch Halifax Town play? Think we had pie and peas at half time, and we screamed like banshees all the way through. On the platform coming home you told me about actions you and crew did on the Nestlé factory over the tracks.
Or when I came and did some work for Trees on Bluebell Lane putting deer netting up? Those trees are going great now, especially the willows. The others will take a little longer, it's brassic up there. The ones on Hywel's farm are taking their sweet time growing, but they are growing! Flows are being slowed, and voles love it there, so there's a few kestrels about as a result, and a barn owl.
Your house was awesome, me and Nagakusala went ratching round the cellar looking for tools and you made me a brew in the mean time. I think of you from time to time, and likely will forever. One day I'll go into the trades and look for you, and then realise why you aren't there. I'll buy someone a pint for you. You're on the hills.
Safe journey mate, an honour to have known you.
SHAY MEN!!!! Nos da x
Hi Penny, we met on Walk For The Earth when we followed as support Vehicle in our red Van Morag, You and the others refused to walk through Marble Arch when we got to London without Morag, Another example of your indomitable spirit.
Rest well. Will miss meeting you in Hebden for lunch.
Christine and Paula
(An attempt to capture a memory of Dongria, on a train between Bradford and Mytholmroyd for me, Leeds and Hebden for her.
In the 1980s, she'd been a student in Peace Studies, where I studied some years later and still work now. When I brought students on field trips to the Calder Valley, Dongria was one of the most inspiring people we met, and one of the stories she told was of how she decided to stop researching international climate talks and get on with planting more resilient landscapes and communities. I'm grateful for the ways in which, from time to time, our journeys intersected.)
Last time we spoke was by chance, on a train. You on your way home from what wasn’t a cure, from a day made long by almost forgetting some thing, by retracing your steps. I from the work you'd decided not to pursue. I remember we talked about soup. Soup and students and trees and the work you could no longer do. And the work that you could: Make soup.
I am reading these messages and looking at the lovely photos on the train, on the way home from Dongria’s funeral, which I am honoured and humbled to have been at - what a surreal feeling that she is gone. It is clear that she will live on through so many people, such a legacy she leaves. I’m glad I sent this note to her in April, whilst I still could:
Your work in Calderdale has been so important, and inspiring, to so many people. Slow The Flow has benefitted hugely from your/ Treesponsibility’s experience and support, you have really allowed us to hit the ground running. You have inspired and motivated me personally, from the time we met shortly after the Boxing Day flood event, it’s been a pleasure and an honour to know you.
Your enthusiastic welcome of me to the Source group, and generous sharing of knowledge and contacts, are certainly partly responsible for my position as a founding trustee of STF. Whilst that takes a huge amount of my time, I wouldn’t change it, because I have made good friends along the way, and it has enabled me to start feeling like I can make a real difference in the area that I care about. If I can end up feeling I’ve had half the impact that you have, I’ll be very proud and happy. When you do leave us, you’ll leave a huge hole, but we’ll all do our best to plant a ginormous tree in it... Love Amanda x
Amanda McDermott (Slow The Flow)
I would most like to thank you for being and sharing your wonderful self in this valley. I was so glad to see you on rare trip out this Spring in a friend’s garden sunshine. Down to Earth matter of fact as ever, you conveyed good common sense clearly presented about your present painful life and coming transitions. Talking so openly about your scary situation just echoed how firmly grounded and calmly prepared you always were for whatever fearsome unknowns faced you – stoically strong and amazingly inspirational valley woman you were!
We first met September 1986 at Central Street school gates, when our 3 year olds, Kate and Rowan sat together in class. Didn’t take us long to discover both were distracted radical academics - you, Penny Eastwood struggling with Bradford Peace Studies PhD whilst I as out lesbian taught well-being and women’s studies. Both curious oddities, restless in failing relationships and systems, but with younger babes, we quickly clicked laughing over happy plans for our kids’ futures whilst knowing we’d have no say. Our paths have crossed in many ways over the last 35 years as we both searched out ways to return to greener, more natural ways of living. You, Dongria built such powerfully positive ecological awareness in this valley, serving our community in so many precious ways.
In your wonderful ground-breaking Treesponsibility Project, I helped when I could with planting and even a bit of planning research, but from your studies, you dreamed up this planet protecting scheme to educate and shift values by urgent, essential doing! And in your powerfully dynamic initiation and maintenance of efforts to protect our precious peatbog moorlands and prevent flooding – you were ever such an incisively progressive thinker and brilliant organiser. Always calm, clear and confident, whatever your own circumstances, an excellent public speaker, you convinced with both passion and logic. Your tenaciously persuasive persistence has transformed life in the Calder valley life and beyond, nurturing saplings and imaginations into hope for better futures.
Over the last twenty years, we have both been Hebden Bridge Quakers – and struggled with similar, but seemingly unrepresentative concerns and reluctant responses. Each needing our own nourishment, our stances were always respectful of helpfully kind spiritual concerns and business methods. We both variously got involved with Trades Club matters, you as ever out there leading from the front as I trailed off in other directions. As in frack-free campaigns, at times we’ve used different tactics but still seemed to stay mutually trusting of shared aims to proactively rebalance natural and community life, I am proud to believe we’ve both worked in weaving webs towards more naturally aware ways of living - many positive change contexts. But you Dongria were and always will be an outstanding star! As in your impressively victorious last solo super-gluing, you always had such a clear grasp of core issues and the courage and strength to get out there with them, effectively achieving objectives.
So I thank you from my soul for sharing your remarkable awareness and dedication to restoring nature and positive life values, probably giving more than anyone ever to our bit of the planet. I am so glad to have so long shared snippets your life, certain that your wonderful energies will remain and grow… with best care, respect and trust Blessed be xxx
I first met Penny, as she then was, right at the start of Treesponsibility, when as a Quaker I was looking for something useful and worthwhile to do. She persuaded me to be on the committee, a good group of like minded and diverse people, and there followed 10 happy years planting trees til I left the Calder Valley in 2003.
I think what I remember most was her steadfastness. She knew what she wanted to achieve, and worked tirelessly. It was hard getting enough funding in the early days. However it wasn't all work - like others I remember having fun at planting weekends. Her inspiration and commitment, together with her vast knowledge, about which she was very modest, changed my priorities and stayed with me. I am so sorry I didn't know about her illness, and so didn't get in touch. With love to family and friends