A cycle trip to buy a fire engine

Von NNA Staff

The Mulberry Tree Early Years Group in Cromhall, South Gloucestershire, runs a thriving class 1 and 2, kindergarten and parent & toddler group which aims to provide children and their families with an unhurried approach to early childhood. When it needed to expand its premises, the initiative found an unusual new classroom with the help of dedicated fundraisers, as Clare Benson from the project explains.

CROMHALL (NNA) - Since 2001, the Mulberry Tree Early Years Group has provided education for over 150 children and their families from a village hall in rural South Gloucestershire. In the spring of 2011 it became clear that there were a few committed parents who required the choice of Steiner education beyond kindergarten. Thus the idea of a class 1 and 2 was born.


Our motive has always been to provide education working on a not-for-profit basis. What small savings there are, are very small. The site itself has a car park and the idea of using a bus for a classroom began to germinate. But instead of a bus, something much more interesting came along: a former Fire Services Command vehicle (strictly speaking, classified as a fire engine). The reason we ended up with a “fire engine” was because buses are more difficult to insulate. The fire engine is a cross between a panel van and a bus. It was sourced through eBay, and bought after a series of bids which terrified the buyer and shocked the school community. It is twenty years old and has 11,000 miles on the clock because it was only used for major incidents. It is still taken out for a drive and cost £4,500, with another £4,000 for the conversion into a classroom.

The financial challenge to collect all the funds to support this endeavour was taken up by all touched by the need to provide this facility. Individuals and trusts have dug into their pockets and contributed to our project. Others have kept us in their meditative thoughts and prayers. Others still have been inspired to take on a personal challenge and be sponsored.

An ex-Waldorf pupil at university ran a sponsored half-marathon, and a dear single parent cycled on the Winter solstice from the kindergarten in South Gloucestershire to Rudolf Steiner House in London with the intention of using 160 miles of cycle paths.

It was a challenge. Her experience wasn't easy because she and her companion found the cycle track to be in such a bad state that, coupled with the wet weather, their progress was slowed down so much that, although they left before dawn, the chance of making their destination during the shortest day began to recede as the sunlight dwindled.

But they persevered and made it to hospitable overnight accommodation kindly offered by a parent at the Alder Bridge Steiner-Waldorf School near Reading, about 50 miles from London. The next day was easier because they had to abandon the cycle track and use the old A4 route and in the afternoon when the cyclists arrived at Steiner House it was quiet and still as the evening light was waning.

I wonder what inner challenge our parents, friends and others who care for the Mulberry Tree will find the courage to do next this year. There is a Michælic quality in those who take up a challenge for the sake of others. There is an inner gesture which to me is kindled by the generosity of giving yourself to a deed.

The Mulberry Tree “fire engine” provokes questions about the siren, blue lights and water hoses. Little children say “fire engine” gently and smile. The sound of rain pattering on its roof gives one a sense of wellbeing as one listens to the outside from inside.

The fire engine engages the imagination. The story ignites delight in people's hearts generating enthusiasm to engage. It's strengthened our community because it gives parents and teachers hope, and inspires courage and grace. Most of all it brings joy and Waldorf education to the class, their parents and their teacher.


If you would like to support or help these endeavours, contact details can be found on the school's web site at

Item: 120216-01EN Date: 16 February 2012

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