Following on from the main event, young families from the surrounding area came together at Neroche forest to soak up the weekend sun and enjoy the many activities on offer.
Forest School leader Arainn delivered a highly creative workshop for the children which went down a storm. Whilst the original idea was to build sailing boats out of recycled wool and small branches, the kids had other ideas and dream catchers were made instead.
Later on in the day, visitors were taken by David West of the Forestry Commission on a little adventure to see the Neroche Scheme’s own herd of Longhorn cattle. A sense of adrenalin seemed to pass through the group as the cattle became less timid toward our presence and started munching through the dense bramble around us.
Throughout the day volunteers were on hand to offer people a chance to brush up on some traditional woodworking. Thanks to Tim’s enthusiasm to share his skills, the lathes hardly stopped spinning and by the early evening the site was scattered with chair legs.
Saturday’s visitors to Neroche will hopefully have gained a real taste for the spirit of the event, though evidently it wasn’t just humans that took an interest in proceedings.
Preparations for the conference are well underway now, and there’s a real buzz developing as the event draws near. The site is being prepared, with paths being mown amongst the high wood sedge in the magical woodland where much of the conference will take place.
The conference site is on the edge of a 150 hectare expanse of Forestry Commission mixed woodland, some of it ancient, some plantation, and some open space (the latter being grazed at present by the Neroche herd of longhorn cattle).
There is a grove of huge veteran oaks on the site, remnants of a medievaldeer park, and these immense trees are looking down on the proceedings and offering a great atmosphere for the event. A local tree dowser has visited the oaks and dowsed them to find out if they’re happy with the event taking place – thankfully, it seems, they are!
We have three fire pits taking shape in the woodland, one central one which will be the focus for the evening activities, and two smaller ones which will provide venues for some of the workshop discussions – weather permitting! The main covered space for the event, which will be brought onto the site very soon, includes a huge three-domed Kata tent, like a triple tipi; a circus big top; and a large yurt.
From the woodland edge, the view south up towards the Blackdown Hills scarp is fantastic, and the whole location is quiet, a long way from roads or settlements, and feels very special. A band of volunteers will be invading that solitude over the next two weeks as the preparations continue, but we will be careful to hold on to the very special atmosphere we have here – because that is what will give this event its most important ingredient.