In the bleak midwinter... Windsor Hill Wood
Yes, it's been a tad bleak recently. Bleak, but beautiful. And probably not the best time to have your heating system stop working! Back in October the problem began and sadly the plumbers that we managed to get hold of at short notice tried this, tried that, kept coming and going, but still with no result. Instead of lighting the boiler and pressing boost now and again to top up the hot water we have to keep switching the immersion heater on again and again. As for the radiators, despite being flushed, bled, and some of the pipework being replaced, they still aren't working. So we've had to shuffle our convectors around. We've booked in a plumber who has been here before and is familiar with this set up and he will come in a week's time. But, the thaw we've all been waiting a long time for has finally come and now we are post Solstice the nights are getting shorter. So there is hope!
There's hope too for the sheep and for whoever is on sheep duty. They now no longer have to try to smash the ice in the trough and reel a roller full of water up the hill.
We hope it hasn't been too cold for the ram that has been spending the last few weeks with our ewes. We'll find out in Spring, but in the mean time our lambs are a bit disappointed at being separated from their mums as you can see.
Feeding chickens and trying to keep their coops clean in three different locations is just about doable, but isn't helped by the return of Avian Flu and having to have their open spaces covered with netting.
We grew a handful of chicks from eggs and had to separate the two cockerels from their sisters at an early stage. Don't mess with the white one!
We continue to fell and process the wood from our trees which have Ash Dieback and I am very grateful to have learned how to use a chainsaw after I arrived here. However, despite having a licence, I have to acknowledge my limitations and there is no way I would have tried to cut down the biggest tree in our ten acres which happened to be situated between two of the shepherds huts. And so a big thank you to Keith who comes all the way from Bath to lend a hand now and again. If you look carefully you can spot him between the two huts on the left.
We now have to decide what to (hopefully creatively) do with the nice length that's left.
We have always been grateful for the different volunteers who come here to help out in a number of ways. Some have skills to offer that we couldn't even dream of having while others come to learn or to just do what they can. One of the great things about Windsor Hill Wood is it is a place where all can give and all can receive. This Christmas we were touched to receive a card from one of the volunteers saying, "To Windsor Hill Wood. Thank you for treating me like a member of your makeshift family and for giving me a place to go. I appreciate you all for everything." It was also touching that a guest who has only just left messaged us to say "Thank you so much for an amazing time in a brilliant community. You all have given me a reason to believe in humanity and love."
Yes, we grow quite a bit of our veg as well as some of our meat but it's still exciting to turn up on a Monday morning to collect our Fare Share delivery. Here's a selection of what we received this week.
If you haven't been here for a while you might struggle to recognise where this is.
It's actually the main entrance with the lane leading out past the house. Now there is space to park! Though we still need funding to re-do the now very pot holey drive as well as a kitchen refurb and other upgrades we are very grateful for the progress thus far. We will always be grateful for donations, small or large, commitments to standing orders or birthday fundraisers (we received £250 recently via FaceBook - you know who you are. Thank you!). A big Thank You too, to our church, who gave lovely bags of presents to our guests. You can see them under the Christmas tree (kindly given to us by Langford Lakes Christmas Tree Farm) at the end of this letter. It's also nice for us to play our part too and thanks to some of the guests' and volunteers' skills we managed to make a variety of items available for sale at Craig's Christmas market just over the road.
By the time this pic was taken the vast majority of pickles and preserves had been snapped up!
THE BIG NEWS!
Many of you will know that the lady in charge for this shift is Hazel who has been part of the warden team for a while now and whose commitment, wisdom and support has been a vital part of WHW moving forward. We are truly grateful that she has committed to continuing for a further period as WHW enters it's next phase. And this next phase will be transition. Having been here for over five and a half years now we have decided that it is time for the Thompson family to begin to plan to move on. We don't have an exact timescale and we don't know what we will move on to, but it feels right for us all to make the change. We are happy to be flexible and will definitely do whatever we can to leave WHW in a solid place with a new team in situ who can take things to the next stage - because we still love WHW and all that it stands for and all that it does. If there are people you know who you think might possibly be a good fit for the warden role then do let us know.
We will always be grateful for all your support in so many ways over this time. We are deeply, deeply thankful.
May you experience a glimpse of the amazement of the shepherds, the dedication of the Wise Men, the wonder of Mary, as we all celebrate the mystery of the birth of Jesus this Christmas -
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.(John1:14)
With thanks and love,
Chris, Katharine, Josh and Natty