Two or three times a year we head off on a Woodland Treasures road trip, usually for a couple of weeks and incorporating two selling events. These working holidays are a great opportunity to investigate different parts of Britain we would not normally visit. It also gives us the chance to catch up with people we rarely see. From university days to the networking we have done performing street theatre at festivals, selling my jewellery at craft and wood fairs, and friends we have made as WWOOF* hosts, we now have pals up and down the country.
Our trip this month took us from our beautiful home in the Highlands to Weird and Wonderful Wood (W&WW) in Suffolk via the Scottish Borders and West Yorkshire, then home via Norfolk, Nottinghamshire and Scotland’s Big Nature Festival in Musselburgh. It was our fourth consecutive year at W&WW. It is such a great event it has become a fixed date in our annual calendar. I often refer to it as a gathering of “the little people”, but I don’t mean hobbits, leprechauns or persons of restricted growth. It is a jamboree of the tree people: all kinds of wood crafters, tool and plant sellers, dealers in bric-a-brac, performers, musicians, artists and other fine folk somehow associated with the world of wood. There are no big companies, quangos or large charities to be seen. The days are busily thronged with enthusiastic wood fans and then in the evenings stall holders and other participants mingle and socialise, often around a fire where it is quite likely musicians and singers will share their tunes and songs for the enjoyment of all.
The following night we parked up at a peaceful and secluded nature reserve, where in the morning we got a rare telling off from the warden, who seemed to think that our example would encourage hordes of live-in vehicles to descend on his territory. Nonetheless, we had a lovely walk in the woods before departing, spotting the birds, butterflies and wild flowers that benefitted from his protection. Leaving Suffolk we headed northwards to explore Norfolk for a few days. Here we visited big old houses, encountered big old trees, wandered through big old woodlands and delighted in big old gardens. For me, seeing the ancient trees was a highlight. Having moved to the North of Scotland over twenty years ago this is one of the things that I miss the most. I am in awe of these gargantuan beings that have survived so many centuries despite the level of human activity around them. Their shapes are a testament to their journey through time and the conditions they have lived through, but also guided by a rough plan of a morphology inherited from their parents. I can’t claim to be able to communicate with these organisms, nor feel the life-force coursing through their great trunks, but I feel something when in their company, though whether this emanates from them or is merely my own emotional response, I cannot say.
Heading north we had a very pleasurable stopover with old friends in Southwell, Notts., and then enjoyed the hospitality of artisan chocolate makers in Haddington before rolling up in Musselburgh to set up for the weekend. Scotland’s Big Nature Festival was a disappointment. It was well organised by the RSPB, the staff and volunteers friendly and helpful, but the problem was it failed to live up to its title – it wasn’t big! From the title of the event and the high cost of our pitch we really had expected a large site full of a huge range of attractions and a very heavy footfall. Unfortunately, we were wrong. However, despite the lack of sales (we actually made a loss) we enjoyed the event, its lakeside location and were extremely pleased to make the acquaintance of the very fine folk Nic and Lolly from Amara Woodland Croft (http://www.amarawoodland.com/). I am sure we will stay in touch and meet up again later in the year.
Returning to our little oasis of blissdom is always a pleasure. In our absence the garden had transformed itself into a jungle, but the impending workload did nothing to dampen our spirits. There is something about this place, revived from former neglect and abuse and then lovingly nurtured for twenty-one years, that lifts and restores the spirit. As I can be frequently heard to say, “I like going away but I love coming home.”
*World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms