We celebrated another year at Wilderness Wood with our annual Bluebell party. Rose, last year’s May Queen, crowned Bonnie, this year’s May Queen. Bonnie comes to Friday Club, Monday Club and the Rites of Passage Group – and lots of other things as well. She makes a massive contribution with her music, artistic work, cake-baking and big smile. She was a very poised May Queen at the party and opened the dance with her Mum on the tin whistle.
Photography by Beth Mercer
Each year at our bluebell party, we give out ‘Wilderness Wood oscars’ to individuals and families who have made heroic contributions over the year. This year we thanked:
- Darren Sander – husband of Rachel who runs the cafe – he gives up a lot of weekends to run delicious BBQs at the woods – and generally bring Nothern humour to the woods
- Yoni Suissa – amazing young chef who bring flair and experimentation to the culinary side of our working parties and party parties
- Wriggly Barkaway – who has kept the Lucy’s Little Forest School show on the road with great style while Lucy has been on maternity leave
- Isobel Dormon and family – for an amazing achievement running The Forum in Tunbridge Wells for 25 years but still finding the time and energy to lead country dancing, spanish classes and lots more at our Friday Club in the woods
- Jenny Goodson for being the cheerful and kind face of Wilderness Wood in the cafe and now also helping Andrew Coates’ Woodland Products
- Katy, Teo, Bonnie, Pippa, Ruby and Fern for huge family contribution this year to the woods – working in the cafe and woods, leading Mother’s Fire and so much more
Thanks to all – and to Emma, Sara and Friday Club for the lovely baskets of presents full of member-made goodies!
Photography by Beth Mercer.
Around 200 members gathered to celebrate bluebells and the year’s achievements in the woods – including the opening of the new Holly Hut for families to stay in; the re-planting of Bat Park and the new Under Oak shelter – built with Uckfield College BTEC students. We then enjoyed delicious Old Tree drinks; a ceilidh led by Shoal of Lewes; songs around the fire led by Steve, Bea and everyone; and a pot-luck dinner provided by everyone and kept in order by Sara Domingo and her Mum.
Photography by Beth Mercer
Around 400 families joined us over the course of the Easter bank holiday weekend for the famous Lucy’s Little Forest School Easter bunny hunt with the lovely addition of Sara Domingo’s story-telling in the woods. There was also lots going on around the meeting house such as making shingles for the new wood-house with Dan, Mark, David; marbled Easter wishes with Nina, Sara, Bonnie, Rose, Thea; face-painting with Lydia and felting with Karen Rao.
Every Friday afternoon of this school year, the Uckfield College BTEC construction students have been coming to the wood to build a new shelter for the Under Oak camp area. It’s an ambitious structure – as usual with Dan’s designs. But nothing daunted – they’re making fantastic progress. They’ve gathered the materials from around the wood; made the dormitory beds and now they’ve raised the first arch. It’s going to be an amazing shelter for groups to sleep in with views across the valley.
Martin Brockman is a local artist who often works with wood. He comes regularly to the woods to lead workshops on creating life-size withy sculptures and wood-carving birds. No previous experience needed. If you’re interested, keep an eye on the website or contact email@example.com
Always good to see Friday Club back in the woods – a group of flexi and home-educating families – all getting stuck into life in the woods. In the mornings they help out with different jobs – garden, wood-work, forestry, cooking lunch – or spend time with the Friday Morning Craft Group who share their skills with the children. In the afternoons the children prepare drama and music for our community celebrations – winter solstice, may day etc. They also seem to fit in quite a bit of rushing around having fun.
The spring arrived just when we needed it. Members of the wood of all ages gathered to encourage spring by planting hedge-row plants and tree saplings…Cedars, Hawthorns, Giant Sequoias.
We also repaired and improved the sheltered fire circle for a new group of girls doing the right of passage “roots and wings”.
We made a balcony for Sussex’s first ever horreo.
And we ate good food and had a lot of fun.
Member volunteers – and a good sprinkling of interested new people – met for a cold day of woodland stewardship on Saturday. We cleared ditches, made 100 shingles for the new woodhouse, made stakes and binders for a new hedge coming next month and finally got the hurdles in the ground to create a clearer thresh-hold into the woods so that visitors are more clearly prompted to go to the cafe to pay for access to the woods! Hoping it will help….and thanks to everyone who came on Saturday.
With original music, drama and lanterns by Joe Skelton and Bea Everett working with Friday Club kids and then fantastic contributions from all our members in terms of food and song around the fire after the ceremonial burning of the lanterns…and now it’s getting lighter….
Maddie Jessel, our current artist-in-residence, led a workshop with children of the resident enterprises, to make decorations for the tree which will go in front of the cafe this year. It involved a lot of glitter, pasta farfalle and a ball of string. Come and check out the results.
Under Oak has always been the favourite wild camping spot of John Macbeth – DT teacher at Uckfield College. And it’s about to get much better. Mr Macbeth came to us with the proposal of bringing a group of 15 BTEC construction students to the site each Friday afternoon. We suggested that they could help us make a new shelter at Under Oak which will allow small school groups to come and camp in this beautiful spot in the woods. We have prepared the site ready. And we are excited about starting work with the group after half-term.
We have finally taken down the old sign on the road – after 3 and a half years here. And with the creative and practical help of our friend and colleague, Remy Small, who brought us the much loved ‘stick sign’ in 2015, we have made a new 3-D sign to name the woods as you pass on the A272. There will then be a more detailed sign with a basic welcome message and space to advertise the various enterprises based at the wood. Hope you like it….
On Friday mornings in the cafe, there is a scene of busy hands. And some coffee and cake as well. For many years, there has been a Friday Morning craft group meeting in the cafe at Wilderness Wood. Some of its members are also up for doing projects with our Friday Club children. This term Jeannie Bates has taken on the challenge and is making a textile art-work to go up in the cafe. Watch the space above the door between the two halves!
Many thanks to everyone who came along – was another good day of working together. Making shingles for a roof of a new wood house and shingles to create a thresh-hold in the woods. Good lunch and cake as well. We won’t be hosting volunteering days in November and December – unless you want to help with Christmas! But back into the usual routine of the first Saturday of each month from January.