This is the first blog post for Wishtree wood since first acquiring it in Aug 2011. Hopefully you will have read ‘About Us’ before reading this blog post if not please do as it makes the story flow better and gives some insight into our story.
On arrival of our first 6 hour trip of the year we were glad the rain had ceased. It makes it difficult to trudge from the parking area to The Social, the area we take breaks in; in the thick mud carrying pillows, quilts, blankets, food and containers of water. We had decided to sleep in the van rather than the caravan. We knew after a long period of absence from the wood it would be more damp than usual and we were right to make such a decision.
The van was cold, not yet insulated but it was dry and the weather was a reasonable temperature so as not to leave us freezing in -7 conditions as it did last February. We settled down for the night under the West Country starry sky, so beautiful after the light polluted skies of Hertford. We snuggled down fully clothed under numerous blankets and two quilts, shivering a little before finally getting warm, hoping for dry weather the next day.
We weren’t disappointed. As we rose to a sunny Winter’s day, tinged with a fresh chill in the air, we were greeted by a robin’s song and cheeky inspection of our actions. We took a walk through the wood to survey the work to be done (there is always plenty) and to enjoy the splendours of the Winter season. Usually it’s Iain who gets to see the deer or any other creatures, a “man thing” I always thought, but this time even I was lucky enough to see two roe deer gently pacing up the West side of the wood. One stopped for a few seconds, turned and moved on, the other stared for what seemed quite a while, waiting for us to move it seemed but we didn’t. We wanted to capture this moment together, me for the first time.
After a quick convenient breakfast of doughnuts and coffee; an alternative to eggs and herbal tea; we spent the rest of the glorious sunshine sorting the caravan out and dealing with the rather large additional leak we had found. We were beginning to feel very much part of the elite of the leaky caravan crowd making us feel like we had finally had our initiation as woodland owners. Having already combated the mouse problem (we hoped, although they still do take a fancy to the tarps covering our fire wood), this was something we knew, annoyingly, went with the territory.
We decided to paint the side of the caravan where we thought the leaks were with special paint but one dry day wasn’t quite enough, needing 16 hours to dry completely. With this and layers of newspaper inside on very wet floor boards, we just had to hope and pray!
Whilst the half painted caravan was drying we carried on with checking the wood, making a note of the work to be done, some skills needing to be acquired we thought before we started certain tasks. Whilst Iain mended the tarp that had ripped in the strong winds, I checked the Winter wood store and fixed yet another ripped tarp to protect the wood from the elements, keeping it dry.
With distance and time always an issue our ability to fully manage the woodland is against us, especially when trying to set up suitable conditions for basic living needs such as being dry, sanitation and fresh drinking water. We can spend almost half a day just preparing these facilities which is frustrating when we have such little time.
A very big part of our plans for Wishtree are to give what we can back to the community, from being a WWOOFing host to sharing our experiments and Permaculture designs and ideas with the local community. This is always under discussion between us as to how we will do this with ideas developing and growing. Just as things do in Permaculture, designs are always changing.
Our feelings for community have always been the same having been steering members of our local Transition town but since buying Wishtree these have been reinforced by the people we have met and the relationships we have come to develop over the last year or so. Without such kind and like-minded people as these we would not have moved forward in our transition to a West Country way of life so easily.
These people are always on our minds when we visit the wood and when we can, we take the time to visit them. Time being crucial for work needing to be done, this happens all too infrequently but people are an important part of Permaculture too, “people care” being the second ethic of Permaculture. With this in mind we paid a visit to see the first couple we met in Devon who are the owners of the B&B we stayed in when looking for a woodland.
Their friendly manner and West Country hospitality have meant that we have stayed friends ever since. So much so we acquired the caravan from them. Without these people we would have got a lot wetter and colder than we currently do. We learned the poor weather conditions of the last year had taken its toll on their business so they may have to sell. The need for community seemed even more apparent and we wanted to know what we could do to repay their kindness. We will stay in touch with them, making them a very important part of the Wishtree community as others we have come to know such as The Bulworthy project and the neighbouring farms and villages nearby.
We spent the rest of the weekend going over our plans and ideas for the wood planted in our heads and on paper. Our visits always end with tears from me, usually as a result of having to leave something that is now so ingrained and natural to be a part of and frustration from both of us having to battle the mud all the time, making progress slow and things left undone. This visit wasn’t as product as previous ones.
On returning to our home in Hertford, there is usually a feeling of being defeated yet again by conventional jobs and stresses. Our dream is so close yet at times so very far away. I seriously consider on occasions how on earth we will ever reach it.