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…


Our first beehive has arrived!

The wait is over – see  Rose’s brilliant photos below of our new wild bee hive. As of yesterday it’s sitting in state at the top of the hill in F4.

The pictures speak for themselves really, but they show Matt Somerville, his daughter Beth and her boyfriend Spencer working to assemble and install the hive. We haven’t been able to put signs up yet, but please give it a wide berth for the moment – particularly because with this fine weather we may be lucky and see a swarm take up residence over the next week or so.

The body of the hive is made of larch, the legs are sweet chestnut, both of which are the best woods for the job. The hackle (thatched roof) is sewn on and is insulated with straw, the hive has been primed by Matt with some pieces of old comb, and rubbed with lemon grass oil and resin from old hives to attract new bees. If you’d like to know more, look at Matt’s website It’s fascinating stuff – bees are extraordinary.

This is the first of two hives we’re putting in the wood. The timing of the second will depend on Matt, who, like so many of us, has had work turned upside down by you-know-what, so we’re letting him come back with the second when he can.

Isn’t it great to have something good to celebrate!

Rather than the public event we had wanted this to be, the hive raising was attended only by Hil and Rose who supplied this post, observing all relevant social distancing constraints

NB Please note we’ve been advised by a local beekeeper that it’d be aswas to stay at least 30 feet from the hive, because Some colonies can be extremely defensive and as their provenance isn’t known, they could be pussycats or tigers. Temperament can also change without warning. Passing this on in the interests of high bees and people.

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Alhampton Open Gardens 18 June 2017

With any luck we’ll have good weather for the Open Gardens this Sunday, 18th June.

Alhampton_Open_Gardens_2017_in_aid_of_Haddon_Wood.jpgThis year there’ll actually be nine for you to see for your £5 entry fee (one has had to drop out for personal reasons) including Charles Dowding’s famous organic veg and Gert Schley’s organic everything – both back by popular demand – and a potpourri(!) of others from Paul Nicholls’ classically immaculate garden to Jinny and Stephen Wessel’s wonderful, free-flowing mixed borders and endless variety of spaces.

Our usual delicious teas, with something to suit most dietary requirements, will be available at a couple of locations along the route – why not sample both?!

Free, attended parking will be in the Chapel field off the first bend in No Through Road (look on your satnav for BA4 6PZ)). Incidentally this is the best access point, via the orchard – on this day at least – for the wood itself if you want to have a picnic on one of our two benches, or have the energy to take a stroll and see how it’s coming along.

£5 entry tickets will be at the Tin Chapel, by the entrance to the car park.

Gardens Open from 1.00pm – 5.00pm

Proceeds in aid of Haddon Wood.

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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?


The pond is complete …you can’t miss it!

Yes, it’s a pond that, at the moment, thinks it’s a reservoir …or at least that’s how it looks to me. I hasten to add, that isn’t a negative, more an observation.

I’ve been holding off from writing this post in the unrealistic hope that I’d be able to accompany it with an attractive picture, but that isn’t going to happen in the near future – at least at my skill level. Having said that, the topsoil, back in place round the edges and covering the banks, is starting to green up already, specially from a distance and committee members have scattered pond-specific wildflower seed around – quite a lot in fact, but we thought it worth raiding the budget for.

The great thing is that there’s water collecting in the bottom already, by now all round the island and filling the three deeper pools.

I say great thing and it is, because that’s the point after all, but what none of us took into account from the beginning – and it’s one that makes me more than grumpy – is that our wildlife pond would be adopted as a handy, regular swimming pond for dogs. This was never the idea and whilst we thought it possible that one or two might flop in to cool off occasionally in future years, it simply never occurred to us that, if we put up yards of tape and clear notices asking people to stay off the area – for goodness sake, the place is big enough without it! – while soil settled and seed germinated, that people would ignore the request and any possible reasons behind it and follow their own agenda. Naive? Obviously!

To be fair there have been only a few transgressors, probably not in the Friends group and who almost certainly won’t read this, but they have been regular and persistent and accompanied by the larger (and therefore more destructive) breeds.  If you see if happening, please feel free to have a word, if for no other reason than to find out why they do it. Personally, I don’t get it because apart from anything else the water is grey and smelly and will be unless and until it gets deeper – probably in the cold weather when no-one, canine or otherwise – feels much like swimming. But there you are. There will always be a few who have to be different.

It’s a shame because our wood is being enjoyed by increasing numbers of people, most of whom are brilliant in all other respects – picking up dog poo, pulling and cutting back thistles – but I’m guessing this will be a longer and more drawn out battle and I really don’t know how it will turn out. Perhaps a pair of particularly aggressive swans will take up residence on the island and repel all borders….


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The digger is in! July 2014

As yet another marker of summer whizzing past, the pond construction is nearly into its third – and possibly final – week already. It seems an age since the community first put the idea forward as an adjunct to the Woodland Trust’s part in the woodland, but suddenly it’s taking shape – loud and proud.

In week one you would have noticed the Friends’ warning signs, followed swiftly by the contractor’s, but you can’t possibly miss them now that the Woodland Trust have added theirs to the gates too! If, however, by some bizarre chance, you did – landing, perhaps, by helicopter – no-one could fail to see the earthworks erupting in Field 4.

It’s going to be big – 50 x 100 metres – but not as big as the space suggests at the moment. Topsoil has been removed from a 20 metre strip all round, so that subsoil can be banked and spread, before being re-covered and re-planted. We’ve seen other, much smaller ponds that probably seemed large enough on paper, but have either shrunk over time, or been blotted out by surrounding vegetation and we wanted something that would make a proper contribution to wildlife habitat, with an island. Happily it was a concept that our then Woodland Trust manager took on board way back at the beginning, although on his plan it was higher up in Field 5 (before we found the land drains) and even bigger!

It’s going to be ephemeral too, so probably will only hold water for the wettest months of the year and yes, it won’t be so pretty for the first year or two, but it’s amazing how quickly grass – and other things – will creep into the space and we’ve got two hundred more trees waiting to go in below the Eastern rim, when conditions are right in the Autumn.

So, our biggest project yet  and one we’re immensely proud of. I’m no expert, but I know bad ground works when I see them and Mark has pulled off quite something by identifying one of the most proficient and hard-working teams I’ve come across. Yet again we’re lucky to have so many knowledgeable, helpful locals to get stuck in to help with Haddon.  Week one’s mysterious heaps in are beginning to make sense, the island has taken shape and there’s even a dribble of water in the bottom!

Just one last – but very important – thing: for those wondering why we’ve sited the pond where it is and a few other things, there’s a brilliant explanation, supplied by Roger Hutton – HERE




Grass cut – June 2014

Haddon’s had it’s second annual haircut. Or rather it had it more than a month ago, but the Summer is racing past – the newly green, shorter areas already bear testament to the amazing weather we’re having with long stretches of gloriously warm weather and a very few – probably too few for the keen gardeners among us, but who’s complaining – crashing downpours.

This year the hay crop was taken by the Barbers, cutting one week, leaving to dry and collecting a few days later and it was a really tidy job, so many thanks to them.

I just thought it worth mentioning, if only to mark the passage of time. It doesn’t seem possible that this wood was pastureland only sixteen months ago. Some of the trees from the first planting are already more than twice as tall as their plastic tubes and nearly all seem to have settled well.


Alhampton Open Gardens – How it went

Where to start, really – so much went incredibly well. Whoever arranged the weather did a perfect job; the tea & cakes were outstanding, and the people were all friendly, smiling and just plain nice.

2014-06-07 18.08.58jIn case you couldn’t make it, here’s a flavour of what you missed. In this tiny village of 65 odd houses, we have some outstanding, nationally-known gardeners as well as some incredible gardens you’d not otherwise see. The contrast between the formal, intimate garden around Highbridge House and The exuberant, lush mix of flower fruit and food at IMG_0807Meadowside couldn’t have been greater. In between you could visit the beautifully designed and maintained Bridge House, Alham House’s very individual garden with the house seeming to grow out of it, and Canada House with its quirks, foibles and (I love this) special seating area for a glass of wine with friends in the evening!

2014-06-07 19.12.38If you’re not already regretting missing it, let me tell you about a few more things you could’ve seen. The classic garden at Ashley House, the huge open natural space bordered by 2014-06-07 18.08.58dthe River Alham at The Mill House where you could also have sampled some truly great cakes and dainty sandwiches and seen the fascinating hydro-turbine, explained by experts who bring to life a brilliant way of generating power from a natural resource. On from there you’d have found Homeacres where Charles Dowding produces more food than you’d think possible, and all by avoiding digging. And a final contrast in the truly child-friendly White Chimneys, where the children (sorry girls I know teenage is here/beckoning) were dragooned (sorry, volunteered!) to bake, along with a host of other willing helpers, to provide yet another extraordinary spread.

2014-06-07 18.08.58fThree hours disappeared in a flash. Never have so many people said how much they enjoyed open gardens, and very pleasingly that includes those who let us all troop through and have a good look around. Huge thanks to them, it was brilliant. There are two more things to be said about the day – the first is massive thanks to the people who did all the other work that isn’t always much recognised (though again, this year moreso than ever before). That means Louisa’s stint at the pub selling programmes (I know, I know, she didn’t have a glass of wine till quarter to five!); Ronnie for sitting outside Highbridge House for three hours (by my reckoning you didn’t wait quite as long as Louisa for, shall we say, refreshment!), bakers who supplied wonderful cakes (I don’t know who they all were, so forgive me for the omissions, but I can mention Clemmie, Mags, Emily and Holly), really good-looking posters and programmes Tony, putting up signs Nell, Rose and Tony for a great photographic exhibition of Haddon Wood in the tin chapel (still there for a short while if you’re interested) and of course the Alhampton Inn, without whose space for parking and ticket sales we’d be a bit stumped.

And for those of you whose interest is in Haddon Wood rather than gardens, here comes the really good bit. We took £560 in ticket sales, and with amazing sales of tea and cake, and Gert’s plants and tools (I’m still curious as to what you were selling to make that much!), plus very generous donations, our total proceeds for Haddon will be £1000. Wow. Seriously.

These are my snatched shots, mostly taken during the Gardeners’ preview – hence the angle of the sun and weird exposures …or at least that’s my excuse. For the more professional approach, see Heather’s pictures under the main Gallery tab at the top of the page…tr3planter

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Not another thistle…


Half of us started below Mary’s bench…

…but there is.  And another thousand or so.  And probably a lot more.  Despite the efforts of those hardy Friends who turned out on the beautiful, sunny and rather warm morning of Sunday 18 May to pull as many as possible (and we pulled a lot) there are still way too many.  Despite the intrepid brush-cutting by the Jacob’s Lane gate, there are still too many.


…and half the team worked by Rose’s Gate…

So here’s the thing: if every time someone walked the wood they pulled ten, after 100 walks there’d be a thousand fewer.  So that’s the challenge – remember your gloves, and pull just 10 thistles the next time you walk the wood.  The smaller ones pull easily.  You don’t have to take them anywhere; you don’t have to leave the path as there are loads alongside the paths, just leave them on the path where you pull them and either someone will pick them up or they’ll get mown when Mark does his next cut.

That’s it – a gardening glove gauntlet has been thrown down!  I wonder if anything’ll happen…


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Open Gardens – Sunday, 8th June, 2014

Just a week to go… Spread the word – and cross all fingers for good weather at BA4 6PY!

OG Poster 2014Nine gardens this year, including in No Through Road – by popular demand – Gert Schley’s lovely garden, which proclaims his lifelong experience of and love for everything horticultural in every leaf and twig, at the same time demonstrating how organic principals can supply a feast for both body and soul. Next to him is Charles Dowding’s prolific no-dig, organic vegetable garden – a true educational experience and if that’s all too much to digest, you’ll be able to get tea and cake across the road at White Chimneys to sustain you.

At the other end of the village and new this year, are Mill House (another tea and cake stop!) with its hydro turbine – that some of you may have seen before, but worth another look – and just over the bridge on the Ditcheat road, our local celebrity racing trainer is generously allowing us a snoop too – though the sensible man will be absent himself.

Between the two extremes are another five individual and contrasting gardens, each and every one worth a look and a little envy.


….STOP PRESS…. I’m told that Gert will be selling both plants and surplus garden tools too!


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Not such much the elephant in the room…

…but, all the same, something you might not want to read about – dog poo has become an issue.

It’s not news to anyone who uses it that Haddon Wood is a great thing: a green space – even in its current, futuristic, plastic-tubed state. It’s a lovely place to spend time in, with no silage crops, no livestock, no fear of being chased around by crazy horses (don’t bite me – I love horses, but some that inhabited the Chapel field displayed distinctly psychotic tendencies, in my opinion). We can go wherever we like in there, whenever we like; take a different route every day, without danger of either boredom or passing traffic – thanks to Mark for cutting increasing numbers of inviting, curvy paths.

As a regular myself, I’m really pleased to see quite how many people are using it, with dogs and without. Fantastic. Marvellous. That’s what community woodlands are for and I think it’s going to be even busier as we head for summer.

…which brings me to the dog poo issue again. You’d be amazed at the amount of time the Friends of committee spends discussing it. The thing is, the more people use the wood, the more signs we leave behind us – it’s inevitable. In fact we’ve been lucky that, so far, very little litter has encroached and that only in the area immediately round the gates on West Lane, where a few people stop to have their lunch and toss the packaging out of their cars, rather than take it home. No, the worst problem by far is the stuff left behind by dogs.

I think most people are aware that not picking up your dog’s leavings in a public place is unacceptable nowadays, but there are always a few who seem to think that because they’re in a field in the countryside it isn’t a problem – it’s natural after all, isn’t it and biodegradable and how am I supposed to know whether my dog has done it or not? Chances are it’s done it in the long grass, away from the paths, so that can’t be a problem, can it? Anyway, one good fall of rain and it’s gone, surely?

Actually, no. A lot of people walk the wood now. Kids use it. In the summer, people might want to sit and picnic on the grass and that’s on top of the number of those of us who are constantly monitoring the trees, straightening stakes, adjusting tree ties etc in the long grass. If you’ve never trod, slipped, or sat in dog poo, you’re lucky. Trust me, it’s vile.

The ignorance argument doesn’t hold up: pretty much all dog owners are well aware of their animal’s constitution – how many times it does it daily and when. …and if they’re not, they should be. Knowing your dog’s mechanics is part of being a responsible owner, the same as training it to come when it’s called, sit, stay, walk on a lead without wrenching your arm out of its socket and all the other things.

Dog poo bags (biodegradable, if you prefer) are readily available, in various quantities, all over the Net and let’s face it, any plastic bag without holes in it, will do. Lots of people swear by nappy bags. The point is, it’s not hard to get into the habit of keeping a supply in your pocket. Pick up the lead, pick up a poo bag. Simple.

The sad fact – and the point of this post – is that, despite the committee’s reservations about putting up bossy notices of any kind on the gates to the wood, this evening we’ve – reluctantly – given in to the inevitable and pinned signs to the gates, requesting that dog owners do the right thing.

You can see more about the rights and wrongs of this by following this link to the Dogs Trust page on Dog Fouling ..

Oh, and please don’t think this is aimed at the majority. It isn’t. I’m also not so naive as to think that everyone who uses the wood reads this blog. So, if you’re one of the many good guys that already cleans up after your hound, perhaps you could carry a few extra bags with you and educate the ignorant minority?

OK, rant over. Comments please…?