Alchemy in the forest?

What an exhausting and incredible five days. I would like to say thank you to Rick Minter who invited me along, to everybody who dreamed up the event and to the catering staff whose famous raspberry crumble was enjoyed nightly by those lucky enough to be in attendance. And what can I say about the weather? Who would’ve thought it was possible to get five straight days of brilliant sunshine one after another in late September. I find the capacity of our island weather system to completely reinvent itself over night strangely enlightening. Moving northwards on a train up to Edinburgh, the passenger beside me reveals the country’s airports are preparing gritters for heavy snow next week.

As we approached the end of the conference it translated that the way we manage our woods was also in a state of flux. Historically we might behave in conferences according to our past experiences, our cultural beliefs and perhaps most significantly of all, the badge indicating the organisation we work for. The Woodland Edge succeeded as a platform to help us express our different views, but I think it simultaneously pushed the boundaries of our comfort zones as well. Ecologist Peter Taylor initiated this process when he spoke with eloquence about the role of the great alchemists in founding the Royal Society during the 1600s. Peter’s criticisms of modern science and government may have caused a stir, but they also ignited a spark.

Fusing together a broad spectrum of organisations responsible for managing the British countryside and it’s forests was an accomplishment of social alchemy that the Neroche team should be proud of. On the periphery of this exciting experiment, I happened to be thrown into the melting pot along with everybody else and I have to say I enjoyed the ride. I’m likely to miss the fireside banter, the warm company and the impressive evening’s entertainment, climaxing on Friday night with an incredible poi spinning show from local volunteers Taesha (aged just 10!), Dee and Stu.

For me, these illuminating words by hunter and philosopher David Peterson help to articulate how our discussions on the edge cause influence both in the forest and beyond.

“When you go into the woods, your presence makes a splash and the ripples of your arrival spread like circles in water. Long after you have stopped moving your presence widens in rings through the woods. But after a while it fades, and the pool of silence is tranquil again, and you are either forgotten or accepted – you are never sure which. Your presence has been absorbed into the pattern of things, you have become part of it…” 

I’m hoping that through this portal, we can amplify some of those ripples and patterns emerging from our interactions with the edge to a wider audience. This blog’s got plenty more juice left in the tank, so stay tuned (or subscribe to get new posts mailed directly to you), as the speakers and participants give their own reflections over the coming weeks.

– James