The Friends of Haddon Wood

Everything interesting we can think of about Alhampton's community woodland. To leave a comment on a post, click on its title and scroll down…

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Rose managed to get some shots of this year’s ducklings, though, sadly, their numbers seem to drop by the day. There is/are? a surprising number of predators about anyway, but it’s yet another reason to keep dogs out of the pond!

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How do you walk in Haddon Wood …and in fact anywhere else?

At the moment the answer should be ‘I don’t, if I have to drive there’.

If you don’t agree/believe me, see this post from the Woodland Trust .. ..It says, among other things, Our estate remains open but only if you can access it from your home without driving

Not only the Woodland Trust, but the National Parks are closing for the first time in their history and the National Trust has retracted its offer to open parks and gardens, because people are taking advantage and ignoring the social distancing rule.

The reason that they’ve all felt the need to do this is that people don’t seem to understand that this is the worst worldwide crisis since the Spanish flu pandemic at the end of WWI. It’s like the Foot & Mouth catastrophe, with knobs on.

As for my headline, I’m not referencing anything to do with Monty Python ministries in this post, as I hope the rest of it clarifies. Perhaps I’d have been clearer if I asked why you walk, but the answer to that more than likely would be the obvious: ‘because I need to get from A to B’; or ‘because my dog needs the exercise’; or even a sarky ‘because I can’. At the moment, though, with Coronavirus so much at the forefront of our minds, the answer is likely to be because ‘I’ve been told I can go outside once a day to exercise’. All of the above seem like perfectly reasonable responses to me. …at least I thought that was what I thought.

But exercise is the point here. We’re told that at the moment, while the country is in virtual lockdown, we are allowed to go outside once a day for exercise. So what I mean by the original question is do you walk with purpose, or wander vaguely? Do you stroll, chatting to others from the group you’re quarantined with, stopping to wait for others to catch up? Do you block gateways or junctions of crossing paths, to send text messages? Until the recent lockdown none of this was a problem, anything I thought about, but suddenly, in the last week or so, whilst living restrictions have been relatively simple, walking the dogs has become fraught.

More people than I’d have guessed think exercise is just a good excuse to go outside. On the other hand I’ve realised that I walk, not just to enjoy the countryside and watch the changing seasons – I work outside anyway, so can do all of that then, after all – but because my dogs need to get out, only once a day at the moment, read the local peemail and break up their day from the usual four walls and small yard they’d otherwise be confined to, but mostly to stretch their legs. We don’t go for gentle, vague strolls.

There are people around right now who aren’t normally here in quantity and some of them really do seem to be treating this critical situation like a holiday. They go for walks in large groups. The rule is no more than two at a time, people! The thing is, other people need to walk their dogs in Haddon and the lanes around on a regular basis but Alhampton is a tiny village! Lots of residents are permanently local, self-isolating and afraid. Add to that that spaceous as the wood is, the number of pinch points – like gateways, hedge-obscuring sightlines, slip throughs and path crossings – there are in Haddon make walking at a distance from others difficult. Can you begin to see their problem with groups of people just getting outside.

You may have noticed that in present circumstances I’m not as tolerant of others as I’ve liked to think I am. I’m not walking in Haddon at the moment because the friend over there I often walk with is self-isolating and it seems a bit selfish to drive there and add to the numbers anyway, when I can walk from my house and as it turns out, according to the Woodland Trust, I’m doing the right thing. Go me! But, even where I live, all sorts of people who wouldn’t normally be seen in a field are wandering about, ignoring the two metre rule and generally aggravating the sh*t out of the rest of us! There, I’ve admitted it. I’m both self-righteous and selfish.

The bottom line is that we’re lucky, aren’t we, to have such a lovely place to walk, in Haddon Wood and even luckier, in recent days, that the weather has been smiling, after such long and dispiriting period of rain. It’s been the easy option for many, but it’s the only one for quite a few and maybe at the moment, just for a while, the rest of us need to stay away. Either that or pray for the foul weather to return…

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A Patchwork catch up…

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 ( 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…

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A date for your diaries!

It’s that time again – Alhampton Open Gardens is coming up fast – come and look around this year’s selection on Sunday 12th June, see how Haddon Wood is progressing, check out the photographic display in the Chapel and then recover with a cup of tea and piece of cake.

Parking this year will be in the Orchard field behind the Chapel in No Through Road and tickets (including map), available this year from the Chapel itself. BA4 6PZ.

Open Gardens poster 2016

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Open Gardens 2015 – a glorious day!

Weary, but oh, so worth it, at the end of a long day of Open Gardens, didn’t our gardeners, cake bakers, signmakers, ticket sellers – all brought together by Hil – do us proud! It’s too late to write anything sensible and considered but here’s a taster…

…and here’s a selection of Rose Hubbard’s pictures from the day. It’s good to have an official photographer on the committee!

…and finally, the good news, from Hil…

Once again we used this as a fund-raising opportunity for Haddon Wood, and on 7 June we were blessed with three things: weather, the results of advertising on a free website, and Monty Don’s reference to Somerset having great gardens to visit.  All that meant more visitors than we’ve ever seen, and a total profit of over £1660!  A lot of people put in a great deal of effort and it was well worth it.  If you’ve never come along to this, we’ll be doing it all again next year; we do have some different gardens each time (and some everyone always wants to see).  If you’re not keen on gardens, come for the tea and cake – delicious!  We’re building an excellent fund for taking us into leasing, and allowing us to do some things as we go along.

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7th June 2015 – a date for your diary!

Open gardens poster 2015It doesn’t seem all that long since the last Open Gardens day in Alhampton – particularly, no doubt, to the hard working people allowing us to invade their privacy – but here we are again! Gert Schley and Charles Dowding are opening again, but to ring the changes and spread the load, the others are all different from last year.

With parking and tickets at The Alhampton Innn, by kind permission of the landlords (sat nav – BA4 6PY), we have 10 gardens to see for only £5, plus our ever popular teas. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

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Final community planting day! Saturday 22 November

So it’s finally arrived – the very last planting of the native broadleaves, delayed until now because of construction of the pond.  There are around 200 left, all heeled in at the end of the March planting by Gert in his garden (did you spot them on open gardens day?  Bet you didn’t!)  They’re alders and willows, so they’re appropriate for round the pond which is where we’ll be planting – on the eastern and southern perimeter at the bottom of the bank up to the pond (if you use our site maps, the pond is in field 4 and the plan showing the pond needs updating as the pond is further north and east than shown).

If you’d like to come along and help, please bring a spade as we don’t have many spares!  If you haven’t done this before, no previous experience required as there’ll be someone to show you exactly what to do. In fact, please find either Gert or Nick for a planting demo. Join us and you can tell your children and grandchildren that you were part of the creation of our fantastic wood.

If you need to drive, please park in the Castle Cary Rugby Club car park (BA7 7PF).  Turn right as you walk out and use the pedestrian gate into the wood across the road on your left as you walk away from Castle Cary.  Follow the hedgerow which runs alongside the road and you’ll find us.

Hope to see you there!