This nearly ended up an every picture tells a story post – regardless of the lack of artistry in the photographs. The thing is, having had such a good day, I thought this would be an easy one to write, but I’ve sat down to do it two or three times now and ended up binning everything as either too heavy-handed or simply uninteresting. In fact I’m more than a little tempted to let the pictures do the work even now, but a big part of me feels that would be a weasel act, at odds with the spirit of the whole project.
The thing is, Mary’s bench is a major marker in the life cycle of Haddon Wood. There would be no wood without Mary and Gert and though Mary left us in April, her presence is very much with us all, particularly when we walk the fields of saplings and this was a happy, but undeniably emotional day. So, no pressure then…
Almost from the very first, Gert and his family had wanted something tangible within the site, to remember her by – a place for contemplation perhaps – and for some time now, through all the plantings and mowings and rakings and seedings, the bench has been growing quietly in the background, under the skilful hands of Stewart Gould.
Then, on Friday 29th November, he was ready. It was installation day.
We’d had to jump through a couple of hoops first, of course: the Woodland Trust have a standard bench design that we all wanted to deviate from for various reasons, so permission had to be sought for an alternate design the family were happy with; plus WT regulations dictate that these things need to be sunk several feet into the ground, so someone would need to deal with that too. In addition Stewart had warned that the green oak made the structure very heavy and he would need extra muscle to help put it together on site, so we did the obvious thing – delegated Mark and Nick. …and then some of us decided to go along on the day too, to give invaluable assistance, spurious advice and generally get in the way. Gert, of course, was there as of right.
We were lucky. Though cold, it was relatively bright and blessedly dry, so Mark was able to drive his pick-up almost to the site, with the precious cargo on board and towing a digger behind. We already had a rough idea of where the bench should go but, needless to say with such a garrulous lot, there had to be a certain amount of last minute debate: high enough to have a good view, while the trees are still small enough; backed by the comfort of a hedge but not too close to existing hedgerow trees that might fall etc etc, but fortunately Gert cut through the ordure and the final decision was taken.
Actually, from that point the pictures do tell the story of that day – except to say that the sunflower forms part of the design because it holds significance for the family and that I should have taken a picture after Gert back-filled the soil round the legs to bed it in – except it was nearly dark by then. While he was doing that, the rest of us were down the other end of the field cutting up the fallen ash for more possible seating and reducing the canopy to chippings for a carpet to give the project an appropriate finishing touch. I’ll be adding more pictures of the bench as it changes through the seasons, but in the meantime can report that it was a long, but very happy and satisfying day.