Saturday 5th Aug '17
August Stewardship Saturday
We cleared paths. Closed other paths. Made 100 shingles. And had a good day together.
We cleared paths. Closed other paths. Made 100 shingles. And had a good day together.
We are still working on the main wash-house structure. But in the mean-time, Jake, Dan and Joe have created a very beautiful temporary solution near the yurt on the east side of the wood.
We were delighted that two work experience students joined us from UCTC and the Beacon for the week. They helped out on lots of different jobs – including processing timber for fire-wood, building a new wash-house and helping out in the cafe. If you’d like to do work experience, here just contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Through their hang-overs, 15 stags joined the team for the morning – and helped us move the new huge table into position in the tea-garden. They spent the afternoon in the pub – un-doing all the healthy activity and fresh air. Mean-while, less hung over volunteers made beautiful pegs and split shingles for our new Wood-house structure with wood-turner, Mark Smith. And others completed Estonian fencing job up to the road. Many thanks to everyone – it was a very productive day.
15 students and 3 teachers came for a two week stint of camping, helping out, craft workshops and keeping up their studies from the camp-site. We really enjoyed their visit and appreciated their contribution to the wood and were very glad the weather was kinder than last year. We also christened the lower paddock with some international basket-ball and foot-ball fun.
They are enjoying life in the Christmas Tree Field – we think.
Thank you for respecting no entrance signs. You can come back in when it’s time to choose a Christmas Tree and the sheep will take up residence in the Lower Paddock.
Dan and his team were commissioned to create a table fit for Hadlow Down Village Fayre. It is made from a Hemlock tree. And it’s very, very long. And beautiful.
It’s coming back to the woods soon – but it may have to be chopped in half for normal life.
We came up with some funky ideas for wooden stools for the meeting house – helped along by experienced architect and designer – Tom Westwood. It was very interesting to think through all the issues and then we came up with a range of different ideas. We’ll be trying some of them out over the next months as we furnish the meeting house with 12 hand-made wooden stools. Tom and Frank got started straight away with number one.
Exciting to get started on a wash-house for use by apprentices and campers in the wood. It’s long over-due as currently the only showers in the wood are in the Morrish home. We’ve had all kinds of help – including from the highly motivated and skilled couple who are getting married here in mid-July and would like to use it for their matrimonial preparations!
Darren, of Wilderness cafe, initiated the new cookhouse with a bank holiday BBQ for the general public to enjoy. The BBQ works a treat. But still more work for Dan and his team to make a table, seating, sink, cupboards and pizza oven. The work never ends….
At end of April, we mark progress, crown a new May Queen and appreciate the wonderful bluebells with a ceremonial walk, a pot-luck dinner, a bar, ceilidh and songs around the fire. This year, Rose Graham, took on the role of May Queen – aged 12 – she opened the new Cook-house and launched the party with a beautiful poem written especially for the occasion by Joe Skelton, our writer-in-residence. The ceilidh was great fun and songs around the fire were amazing. Thank you to everyone for bringing delicious food and getting into the spirit of the occasion. Photography by Beth Mercer.
Dan and his team have been squaring up the frame and bracing it ready to receive roofing planks. They have also been building the central structure to support fire-bowl, grill and flu which have been made by local metal fabricator, Ben Floyd, and Bristolian fabricator – Olly Hallett. Thank you to them both.
Photography by Beth Mercer.
We are creating a sheltered fire-circle deep in the woods where groups, such as our current Roots and Wings group for 11 and 12 year old girls, can gather and cook around a fire, even when it rains. We made good progress over 2 days – collecting the chestnut poles from the nearby recently coppiced area, peeling them and framing the building around a metal ring. Next step will be to put in the straw bails for the walls and the planks for the roof.
The kids (aged 8-17) helped peel poles and then hold them in place to create the frame for the new sheltered fire-circle. And then they were tired….
We had a good turn-out – including lots of families who attend Lucy’s Little Forest School. We set to clearing up the ‘Secret Path area’ which included some demolition (popular with all the family!), edging paths and creating more Estonian fencing!
Photography by Coen Dijkstra
We held our first AGM on 1st April at 5pm. It was well attended. We had promised it would not be boring. And I think we succeeded. The progress report was presented as a pub quiz, mastered by Frank Morrish, so now no-one can forget the facts and figures. We discussed in some detail the pros and cons as Pay As You Feel versus a fixed admission charge. And then in smaller groups we brain-stormed ideas on organisational structure, play area, improving the woodland as a habitat for plants and animals and dreaded dog poo subject. Thank you to all those who came and made us feel that we would want to do it again!
Photography by Coen Dijkstra
Massive thanks to the indefatigable Sarah Kelleher who has re-done the whole alphabet trail so it makes sense with our new lay-out. We’re now working on the new map and information but you can already walk the trail without getting lost!
After a false start, in which wood beat metal, we have raised the outdoor kitchen frame. It was a lot of concentrated and hard work by Dan, Jake (our new apprentice), Will and many other volunteers. Thank-you everyone. It looks fantastic – a cathedral of an outdoor kitchen. Just need some heat, water and a roof…last week of April, we’ll have another big push.
Our new apprentice, Jake Reed, and ex-Ben-Law apprentice, Will have been working hard to get poles ready for raising. Will be great to have a place for the cafe and member’s meeting house to use – with new BBQ, re-worked pizza oven and running water!!!!
All about the edges. We laid hedges. Finished the Estonian fencing around the work yard. Made hurdles for moveable fencing with the brilliant round-wood-turner, Mark Smith. And made a celebratory poster/invitation for the upcoming members’ may day party.
Photography by Beth Mercer.
A group of 25 members between the ages of 5 and who knows, joined us for a very satisfying working day in the February half-term. Andrew Coates and Philip (aged 13) hung a gate for the new sheep paddock; a big team worked on Estonian fencing around the work yard and meeting house while others made posters for our Mothering Sunday event, planted seeds for the kitchen garden and cooked lunch.
We layed a new hedge – under the guidance of Tom Simmons, forester. And stacked more wood…..Come and see what a difference it has made to the light and views around the paddocks and marquee.
Luśka Mengham, ex-resident of the wood, led a guided walk to explore identification of trees in winter without their leaves. They had a great morning of stomping around the woods and stopping at different specimens to look at different clues – including bark, buds and overall shape.
Andrew Coates has been coppicing and making gates out of chestnut at Wilderness Wood for 25 years. He now runs his own woodland products business at the woods , including selling and installing gates, fencing, trellises. Frank lives at the woods and is helping Andy make a number of chestnut gates needed for use at the woods – the chestnut will end up where it grew.
The hardy ones turn up for volunteering in January. We were killing rhododendra (excellent work for 11 and 12 year olds), fencing the lower paddock ready for sheep and stacking wood. Everyone was rewarded with extra big lunch and a small number of delicious cup-cakes made by the 7 year olds on the team.
Members of Wilderness Wood gathered at 3pm on a day where the sun only seemed to be shining in Hadlow Down. We lit the individual lanterns and huge sun lantern which had been prepared by Friday Club and After-school Club and then set off down into the woods guided by Tess Garrett of Suitcase Theatre and her flame-bearing family! We chanted some of the way down to give us heart and then became silent as we entered the misty lower areas of the woodland. Through the silence, came the sound of the girls in Roots and Wings singing to guide us to their camp near Woodglade, where they had prepared a huge moon lantern and poetry about the moon. We then headed back in the dusk up to the area in front of the Meeting House where Dan had prepared a ‘pyre’ on which we set fire to the lanterns and sang the Halsway Carol about winter solstice. The celebration of the longest night continued with home-made mince-pies, mulled cider and apple juice and lots of contributions by the community. Steve Martinez started off the music around the fire and we had a lovely evening of songs and instrumental musics by musicians of all ages – including a surprise Russian song. Many thanks to everyone for making it such an enjoyable way to see in the winter. Photography by Beth Mercer.
We have been really lucky with the sunshine on our two busiest weekends of the year. Lots of christmas trees sold, chestnuts eaten, christmas decorations made. As well as the sunshine, many thanks to all the stall-holders and musicians who helped create such a festive atmosphere. And, of course, the amazing scout stewards who make it possible for so many people to get into the woods at all.
Signage. It always takes longer than you think. This was a re-use of the template for the main entrance stick sign. Friday Club set about christmasifying it for the Wilderness Wood market stall. The results were much appreciated.
Artist, John Woodberry, regularly comes to work with Friday Club on the latest project. This time it was a poster for the Winter Solstice Event. The process was simple and satisfying. And the results beautiful.
Andrew Coates Woodland Products is responsible for the maintaining of the coppice cycle at the woods. Each year, he and Dan agree the next coop to be cut according to the plans laid out in the Yarrow era and taking into consideration any other new factors. This year, the coop is down near Stream-side. Most of the cutting will be done in the new year but local boy, Ralph Hissey on the chain-saw with help clearing and sorting from wwoofer, Joe Skelton, made a start this week.
Dan and his helpers are working hard to get the ‘shack’ previously known as ‘Easter shack’ ready for its new role as the ‘Christmas shack’ for all the amazing craft stalls coming on the 3rd/4th and 10th/11th December. Other children in Friday Club are preparing decorations, signage,their own stalls….come and see the end results.
After another sunny day on Sunday, we have reserved as many trees as possible for this year. But the good news is that you can still buy a tree at the woods as we will be selling pre-cut local trees from the yard outside the cafe every day from November 26th onwards.
It was a bit of a scramble to get it ready but just in time, the doors were hung and the windows put in. The registrars really love the space and have signed it off as a licensed space for wedding ceremonies – even with the hay bales in! Hurrah.
Over 300 families came to the woods over the weekend – one family in their pyjamas – to reserve a Christmas tree which they will come to collect in December. Some families have been coming for over 30 years, others came to the woods for the first time this year. They all seemed to enjoy themselves – in spite of some heated discussions about which tree to reserve.
There are still plenty of trees but head here as soon as you can to maximise your options on species and sizes.
John Woodberry, artist and regular at Wilderness Wood, worked with Amy Coombes to create this brilliant flying installation above the fire-pit at Stream-side using materials to hand. Amy is going to use it as part of her A level textile course work. Mean-while, make sure you pay it a visit when you next come to the woods.
Through the international network of wwoofers, we were contacted by a Japanese family with four young children who wanted to come and stay and help out at the woods. They came for 10 days and helped on all fronts – even the three-year old!
Becky Doe, usually based in Devon, joined us during half-term to work with a group of 12 member children between the ages of seven and thirteen on creating out of clay. They got their hands in clay from 11am-3pm and made clay heads of each other. Others made pots. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of quiet concentration. Becky was able to help the children individually and work with them as a group to start thinking about the possibilities of clay…The good news is she is willing to come again. In the Easter holidays so contact Emily on email@example.com if you would be interested in a clay workshop either for children or adults.
Brilliant team of local volunteers and not so local volunteers have helped us finish the floor, back wall and beautiful stairs up to the first floor. Nearly there. Just need the windows in and then we’re ready to host members meetings, classes, workshops and wedding ceremonies! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would be interested in using this beautiful and cosy new indoor space at Wilderness Wood. Photography and dog-ownership by member of the wood, Beth Mercer.
At the last wednesday after school club session before the nights draw in, we started preparations for our member’s winter solstice celebration. Tess and Jonah Garrett of Suitcase Theatre came to work with the group on making a sun lantern and rays out of willow and tissue paper. We also worked on a chant which will open proceedings on Saturday December 17th before we process down into the woods as it gets dark. The children worked hard and noisily. Bodes well for the actual event. We hope as many members as possible will join us.
We met up top. But then organised all the tools and food that we would need into the dumper and headed down to the bottom south-east corner of the woods to work on repairs to the main wooden structure, improvements to some of the outdoor furniture in the camping area, clearing the heath-land and paths to the Woodglade area where educational groups meet. We had a delicious lunch cooked on our camp-fire. And thoroughly enjoyed our stint deeper in the woods.
After a hard day’s outdoor work, members gathered in the cafe to hear about and discuss Emily’s PhD on the relationship of self-build and radical education – exploring places where children have created and shaped their own physical environment. We also talked about how the ideas from this research relate to what we are trying to do at the woods – creating a space and a community with people of all ages. The discussion was lively – with lots of questions and ideas and challenges. I attach a synopsis of the research.
We switched to our new reed bed system today. After months of very hard work to dig out the area, set out the pipes and sand, fence the whole area, we finally planted out the reeds and the sewage is now being processed through the sand and reeds. You can read all about how it works by the expert on these kinds of systems, Chris Weedon, in edition 3 of Wild Times.
Andrew Coates has worked at Wilderness Wood for 25 years and runs his own woodland enterprise based at the woods. He often takes his skills and chestnut wood to sites in the local area. But over the past month, he has been contributing to projects at the woods itself, by making gates for the new fence to protect our new reed bed filtration system. He has made the gates with help from volunteers of all ages. He started hanging them on Saturday and they look very happy – made from local wood and local hands.
Photography by Beth Mercer.
Another big group of willing helpers. We worked on gates, protecting trees in the car-park, stacking wood, harvesting apples from the orchard and making new steps up to The Meeting House. In the evening, we celebrated with a BBQ in the tea-garden and sat around our new fire bowl. Very cheering on a rainy night.
Photography by Beth Mercer.
Lucy’s Little Forest School has put on a great summer programme this year – including lots of new activities such as Hapa Zome (dyeing fabric with leaves) and Wild Jewellry with Mel, bug hunt and sculpture with Lyn Merrick, Saxon’s quest and hedgehog trail, Explorer days and all the old favourites such as cast-away and bear hunts….next year, we are thinking of a week-long holiday programme for younger children so let us know if you’d be interested.
The Giant Jam Sandwich premiered as a play for children in the Meeting House building in its new position- written and directed by Christy Hawkins, based on the book by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway with original music by Bara Zmekova. After a week of fun but hard work rehearsing – and with an additional moving stage challenge – the children put on a brilliant performance. We had a fantastic audience of 80 people sitting on hay bails – family, neighbours and those who had been working hard on other projects all week. It was a wonderful way to end the week. Thank you to all those involved.
Christy Hawkins, the director and script-writer, would love to hear from people who are interested in future productions or collaborations at email@example.com.
Mark Smith, local wood turner, has helped member families build the woods four new shave horses. They are absolutely beautiful and fit-for-purpose. Great work. And now we can have more volunteers helping us shave wood and turn pegs for future projects. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Mark directly at email@example.com if you would be interested in making one for your own carpentry projects.
After some terrifying false-starts, we did it. We moved the Forestry Building. Dan described the process as ‘unbearably stressful’. But it worked – the building is well-made and survived the process. It is now The Meeting House – looking out over the woods rather than the work yard – and to be used for licensed ceremonies, indoor workshops, meetings and who knows what else. And looking much happier where it is now – thank goodness! Martin Lilley not only was a crucial part of the team that moved the building, he also somehow managed to make a film about it.
Ed Heusser and his team were first to complete a project in this year’s working-with-wood-week – a wooden see-saw for the tea-garden. The children tested it within an inch of its life that evening. And Ed had to introduce some new safety features the next day.
We were a group of 50 adults and children from as far as the Czech Republic, South of France and as near as the home-team at Wilderness Wood. A huge mix of skills, talents and previous experiences. And a huge amount of willingness to get stuck into the various projects going on including – building four new shave horses with Mark Smith, carving a new Green Man, moving a building, making a seesaw in the tea-garden, building new gates and putting on a play to entertain the team at the end of a hard week.
Our members brought renewed energy to the seemingly never-ending job of fencing around the new reed-bed so that when we plant the reeds (on the september stewardship sat) the rabbits cannot undo all our work. We also pruned the Christmas Trees – some people love that job! We were also joined by Lyn Merrick, local artist, scientist and member of Wilderness Wood, who shared some of her tricks for how to identify and draw illustrations of trees. Thank-you Lyn.
Golnessa and Glen were blessed in a woodland clearing, barn-danced in front of The Meeting House and had a delicious meal in the marquee cooked by the Wilderness Cafe.
Photography by Georgina Piper.
Music by Dusty Bees.
A group of 12 teenagers with 3 teachers from an alternative school in Germany, called Kissori, have come to camp and help out at the woods for a fort-night as a way to improve their English and have new experiences outside of the classroom. The weather has been shockingly bad but they have resisted the temptation to check into a youth hostel in Brighton. And we have managed to do lots and lots of work with them to look after the woods and progress various projects: fencing the new reed-bed, storing fire-wood, creating a shower in the yurt area, weeding the garden, cooking on fire, chipping and chopping, clearing paths and helping in the Christmas Tree field. It was the first time we have hosted a residential school visit. Not sure if the Kissori students will want to brave our weather again, but we’d love to host them or other groups like this again.
We were staring at the Christmas Tree field in despair. Weeds – fuelled by fertiliser and unbelieveable rain – were overwhelming all our newly planted Christmas Trees. Everyone was telling us to bite the bullet and use pesticides to get the weeds under control. And then along came Mattieu and Marie. They contacted us via the volunteering website www.wwoof.org – they have come to England to travel around and have new experiences. They have a beautiful camper van and two really well-behaved dogs. We invited them to come and tentatively asked them if they minded tackling the Christmas Tree field. They not only didn’t mind. They set to work with strimmer and billhooks and occasional teams of young volunteers and transformed the field. We just need to tempt them back in another few months…
On Stewardship Saturday, members learnt how to to make traditional Sussex post and rail fencing – which will keep the rabbits away from the reeds. Other volunteers fixed a hand-rail across ditches, chipped the play-glade and tea-garden, chopped up pine wood and created new sleeping policemen to try and help the rainwater run-off – not a job we expected to be doing in July. Also, Christmas Tree field very nearly under control. We ended the evening with delicious pizzas cooked by our chef-in-residence, Yoni Suissa. And a raucous football match in the front of the cafe. Thanks to everyone for all your help and enthusiasm. If you would be interested to join the team, contact firstname.lastname@example.org about our membership scheme.
Photography by Beth Mercer.
A break in the rain gave us a lovely day in the woods yesterday – Mark Smith demonstrated his pole-lathe, Dan Morrish made a picnic table with help from fathers and children, Lucy’s Little Forest School built dens and the Wilderness Cafe laid on a delicious BBQ.
When we arrived at the woods 2 years ago, we took down quite a lot of signs and thought that we didn’t want so many. But now, every single meeting ends with the decision to make a new sign about something or other – up-coming events, pay-as-you-feel, opening hours, dog poo, explaining the reed-bed – you name it, we need a sign. Friday Club often has to make signs too – Halloween, Concerts, Plays. So I commissioned Friday Club, helped by Sam Purton, to come up with a beautiful new sign for the cafe. She has started by teaching the children some basic sign-writing calligraphy. I’m hoping to hand the long list to them soon.
Usually our activities are out and about and practical and related to the woods. But this week, we felt we needed to join in the wider debate about Europe. We had two speakers for and against leaving Europe. The group were majority in favour of staying. The debate was good. And a few people even changed their mind through the course of it.
We started on projects for 2016/17 – and made a much-needed new picnic table to Dan’s design from start to finish – many thanks to Chris, Phillip, Anton, Victoria for helping Dan. The Christmas Tree field weeding project for this summer began. Thanks to all the volunteers who have helped us to avoid treating the field with pesticides.
On bank holiday Monday, we were delighted to welcome Robert Fallon to Wilderness Wood to bring his amazing archery skills to the woods. Robert and his team at Wild Nature
are going to come back with more archery and other bush-craft activities over the coming months.
Photography by Beth Mercer.
The Pioneer Health Foundation exists to encourage people to learn from and apply ideas from the Peckham Health Centre, 1935-1950. It sought to create the conditions of active good health for local families. Emily, with her historian hat on, has researched and written about children’s experiences at this centre, and has since become a trustee of this organisation. We were very delighted to host the annual general meeting this year. The trustees were shown around by member children. And then the trustees told the children something about the Peckham Experiment. We explored how the Peckham Experiment has influenced our approach here – in terms of trying to practice the values of freedom, community and self-reliance.
Anita Graham is an experienced herbalist with a herbal practice based in Sevenoaks, Kent. She is also a member of Wilderness Wood. This term, she has offered to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for plants and their uses with the Friday Club – a weekly group of flexi and home-educating families. Each week we are looking at the properties and uses of different plants which grow in the wood or local area. This week, we started with Silver Birch. We couldn’t believe how many uses it has. We enjoyed a cup of birch tea to spring clean our systems and are looking forward to using the infusion which is now doing its magic. If you would like to contact Anita for a consultation or to arrange a herbal walk or workshop, please ring her on 01732 749789.
This was our third May Party for members at Wilderness Wood. We repeated some of the favourite ingredients like pizzas, cake-table, a ceilidh and big fire. And we added some new ones – a May Queen whom we crowned and then led on a walk around the main new projects of the year – new notice-board for members, the timber store, the withy deer, the coppiced site, the new cross-ride, the reed bed filtration system, the Northern Ride, the first horreo and the new 3-D information board. Joe Chambers of Pizza Laundry cooked pizzas for far more people than expected and the ceilidh musicians and caller got most of us on the dance-floor. We then had a beautiful fire in the area proposed for a courtyard in front of the cafe with guests offering songs, hula-hooping and Wild Bar keeping everyone happy with foraged cocktails and craft beer. Thank you to everyone for coming and getting stuck in.
This merry troop are getting ready to dance for the May Queen as the opening of our annual members’ May party. Thank you to Isobel Dormon, who as well as being a Friday Club regular, runs with her husband, Jason Dormon, the dynamic music venue, The Forum in Tunbridge Wells. Isobel’s day job on Fridays has been to help us all get ready to lead the dancing at the May Party. And thanks to Jeannie from the Friday Morning Craft Group who has helped us make the costumes. It’s been fun.
Jessie - - wwoofer, felter, hula hooper and now, chestnut coppice sculptor – has taken on the project, started by Maddie Jessel last Autumn, to make a 3-dimensional map of Wilderness Wood to act as the orientation point for visitors to the woods. She has been working tirelessly to shape hundreds of trees out of wire and then ‘planting’ them in the map. It will be unveiled at our May Party this year. We are delighted that Jessie will be wwoofing with us over the summer and looking forward to lots more creative input – maybe not involving wire.
Each Friday morning, a craft group meets in the cafe. The members of this group take it in turns to share their skills with Friday Club children and their parents. The macrame rope is beautiful and useful.
Ed Heusser has been leading a group of children in the development of an aquaponic system here at the woods. If the experiment works well, we will look at rolling it out on a larger scale to help with the irrigation/feeding of Christmas trees and other new saplings.
Fencing was the theme of our working parties over the Easter holidays: fencing the new reed bed filtration system, fencing the lower paddock for sheep and fencing the garden against rabbits. We’ve mainly been using post and rail. But Dan experimented with some Estonian fencing in the garden which uses up coppice product which is otherwise too small to use. Thanks to all the volunteers who came to help out.
Each holiday, Ed Heusser, master of self-reliance works with a group of kids between the ages of 11 and 14 – in the mornings they develop their survival skills and in the afternoons they learn how to work with wood - using hand-tools. This time, they learnt how to make a range of useful knots out of rope and then crafted handles for various tools from the Wilderness Wood workshop which desperately needed the attention.