One of the most refreshing things about The Woodland Edge, aside from the fresh air, fresh ideas, and refreshing showers after a night in a tent, was the mixing – on equal terms – between people employed in the environmental sector, local members of the community, and volunteers.
I’d like to thank all the volunteers who took part: Hannah Aitken, Lisa Chell, David Clegg, Richard Cooke, Allan Covey, Sarah Covey, Claire Criddle, John Dryden, Patricia Dryden, Tim Duffen, Michael Fairfax, Geraldine Field, Gordon Field, Jamie Goodwin, John Greenshields, Alex Harding, Charles Hill, Sue Howard, Tricia Hutchinson, Ben Livick, Bob Lloyd, Tim Loosemore, Peter Maben, Nick Milton, Grahame Moses, Jocelyn Murgatroyd, Simon Newcombe, Dee Nightingale, Andrew Quinlan, Sarah Quinlan, Laura Quinlan, Mike Ridge, Stuart Rigg, Margaret Robinson, Anna Spiess, Tony Spiess, Martin Taylor and Rosemary Viant.
On a simple practical level, the event couldn’t have happened without volunteer support. Volunteers cut the scrub to prepare the site, gathered the firewood, laid the ground reinforcement for the vehicles to get in, helped erect the tents, manned the car park, watched the fire, sat on reception, patrolled the site, and then helped take it all down again at the end. And throughout they were ably coordinated by Neroche’s volunteer coordinator, Jilly Ould.
But volunteering was much more pervasive in the whole event than that. Volunteers and members of Neroche’s local stakeholder group, and the volunteer-run Blackdown Hills Trust, took part in all the group discussions, offering a prominent voice for the experiences and perspectives of people who give their time for free to projects like Neroche. As a result, workshop discussions about community involvement and governance weren’t academic – they were grounded and genuine.
In fact, much of the specialness of The Woodland Edge as an experience was down to that very real, generous and human sense of people coming together to create a welcome in the woods. We all have much to learn from that, wherever we happen to be in the woodland universe.