So, apart from my post of 4th October, it’s been a while since I was here on the blog. A couple of years, in fact. How’ve you been? Look, I don’t have any excuses other than that life – including hands-on HW-related activities – has got in the way, but now, galvanised by firstly, a couple of nice comments on this blog and secondly, a well-deserved kick up the pants from fellow committee members, here we are again.
I won’t write a full, chronological history of events for the last couple of years, because you’ve either already had the newsy emails from Hil (if you’re on her Friends of… list), or, if you’ve got the energy, can look up our meeting minutes under ‘FHW Committee’ and despite my dereliction, our main events have been written up here, such as Open Gardens (and we didn’t have one of those last year, because Ditcheat wanted to have one and thought the two would clash, so some of our people helped them with that in exchange for a donation to our coffers). Instead I thought I’d take the opportunity to look both back to see what has been achieved so far and forward to let you know about things, hopefully, in the pipeline.
So, Haddon Wood has been standing for six years now and what was once five fields with thousands of tiny sticks in plastic tubes, surrounded by a variety of dodgy wire fencing and rusty gates, is now a proper wood, some of the trees more than twenty feet high, threaded through with numerous winding grass paths to make the walking more interesting. The wire and original gates have gone and been replaced by smart wooden five-barred jobs with generous kissing gates attached. We’ve had to put up excessive amounts of signage on these, but not everyone has the same ethos, so it has been felt better to have the odd reminder of what the place is about and on the whole it’s been worth it. We’ve even got dog poo bins at a couple of those (we didn’t want to have to, but the dog poo situation seems to have improved since they were installed, so, hey ho).
We have to follow a few Woodland Trust rules in the way we do things, but we’ve got certified people on the team to carry out general maintenance, like brushcutting and Mark has continued mowing, which I always think is the thing that has made the biggest difference to the look and feel of the land – borne out by the ever increasing number of dog walkers. Added to that we’ve had monthly events dedicated to the removal of the plastic tubes – which don’t split, as advertised and/or biodegrade and in some cases were making the trees rot. It’s amazing how many pile up by the paths after a couple of hours with just half a dozen people working, quite often kept going by supplies of coffee and homemade cake. Not only that, but a team that used to work on local footpaths has given their Friday mornings to de-tubing and the difference is phenomenal. We might even be tube-free by Christmas! When we’ve got enough, we load up Mark’s truck and take them to a local place to be burnt for energy. Not ideal, you may think, but a lot better than landfill, which would be the alternative.
What else? Along the way we’ve had to have conversations about Risk Assessments, Insurances and various trainings, including First Aid, so in a way it’s amazing we’re still at it, but even so, you’ll have seen the two picnic benches and smaller perch-on ones dotted about too (built by Mark), which were put in a few years ago now, but have you seen the willow teepee and dead hedge in F2? A snow ignloo appeared on site a winter or two ago and whether or not that was her inspiration for something more lasting, Jo found a local woman who holds willow workshops, so she and Rose spent a few hours with Angela Morley (https://www.wildgardens.co.uk) learning how to make them and a few more ornamental bits and pieces that may join our list of merchandise in the future. …as possibly will walking sticks, as and when he has time away from his real job, made by another local resident from material he finds in the wood.
Actually, with the mention of merchandising, this might be an opportune moment to bring up fundraising which we’ve been doing from the start, with a view to taking a lease on the wood (in 2013 the Woodland Trust was almost insistent that we did) and the expenses that would have entailed. A few years later and policy has apparently changed, so we no longer have that pressure and are sitting on a reasonable amount in the bank and lately one or two volunteers have been asking what the fundraising has been for after all their hard work.
It’s got us all thinking and our main priority, after keeping everything as user friendly and appealing as we can, is using the space to help the wildlife there – there’s nothing lovlier than to see the barn owl skimming the trees, or broods of chicks on the pond, or more gratifying, the hordes of frogs and toads doing what frogs and toads to in ponds in the Spring – so it seemed an obvious next step to look into installing hives for wild bees. It’s not something the Woodland Trust has done before, but with a bit of nagging from us they’ve agreed that we can go ahead. Matt Somerville of BeeKindHives who was at our Open Day, is going to instal two log hives as soon as he has the materials and time.
A long-term hope is to build on the community aspect of the wood and with that in mind that it can one day be used for Forest School work, so almost our last (for the moment) project for the immediate future is putting a roundhouse somewhere, probably in F2. Maybe you’ve seen the sort of thing – a five metre circular structure with a pointed hat-shaped roof, part open to the elements for both fresh air and the view, that a classroom’s worth of children can sit in to learn whatever it is Forest Schools do. This would, of course be subject to the usual permissions from the Woodland Trust and our local planning department and is unlikely to be straightforward, but watch this space and one day we might all be amazed. Oh, and the ‘almost’ I mentioned above is that a logical extension to such a facility would be a composting loo, so we’re looking into having one of those too.
Who would have thought, six years ago, that we’d be where we are now, but the wood has taken on a life of it’s own and all we can do is stay with it and go forward…