It seems a long time ago since we sent you our Lockdown newsletter. Having been put on hold due to Covid restrictions you’ll be pleased to hear the fixing of our dishwasher has now taken place following the long awaited arrival of the engineer. If we thought that this would symbolise a beginning of a return to normality, then we were, of course, somewhat mistaken. What we learned during the original lockdown we have had to choose to live since then. And the first thing we need to do is remind ourselves that whatever is happening we do live in a beautiful place.
And we know that the leaves, full of vibrant life as they are, will eventually slip away.
What we weren’t expecting though, was this:
No, this isn’t Josh and Natty on a trip to a local dingy training centre. It’s actually just the road to the house. In our first newsletter the opening sentence we wrote in our list of things that we had learned was, “It rains a lot in Somerset.” Well, three and a half years in, not much has changed…
During times when the weather isn’t exactly clement the guests (and we!) are grateful to be able to nip inside and tackle the indoor jobs that need doing. Such as…
Making medlar jelly… …or giving the Explosives Chamber a complete makeover.
One of the highlights of the week at WHW used to be volunteer day. A group of local people would join the guests and wardens in the morning and work through the day taking part in a variety of woodland, veg or creative projects. Lunch on those Wednesdays was usually a very happy, noisy and packed (sometimes we had to bring in an extra table from the kitchen into the garden room to squeeze everyone in) occasion. Covid has meant that we have had to try to balance providing these activities with attempting to adhere to the government guidelines and keep everyone safe, so sadly for a while we have had to invite volunteers for the afternoon only with outdoor coffee breaks but no indoor lunch. Nevertheless most of the volunteers have managed to look on the bright side and we have all helped one another to make the most of what we can do and not worry too much about what we can’t do.
Thanks to Somerset Skills and Learning we have been able to facilitate making shave horses and chopping blocks as well as holly wreathes. This has been so helpful, not only to us but also to all the volunteers who got involved.
WHW would not be what it is without our often-changing range of animals. These changes are not always instigated by the hosts. Guests bring a variety of different things. Sometimes it’s an animal. Or two. A previous guest asked if he could bring his chickens with him (in the event carried loose in the back of his car…). And very occasionally a guest might bring a dog. How would it work if two guests happened to bring a dog at the same time? Well, as you can see from the pic, on this occasion it couldn’t have gone any better.
A lesson in mutual acceptance of difference and background to all the humans at WHW.
What about the other animals?
Sheep shifting. There’s more than one way to do it. Pig feeding. How orderly is that!
Having not had pigs for a while we were weighing up the pros and cons of investing in some more. One of our neighbours, Craig, has started to rear them so we came to an arrangement whereby we paid for one piglet and its supply of food and we take turns to feed all of them. This worked really well until because of the outbreak of Avian flu we agreed it was sensible for us not to come regularly on his land, which is a shame as they are so lovely.
Which brings us to our hens. And here’s a question for you: Why on earth would you jam the chicken coop next to the poly tunnel?
Clue: see previous paragraph.
In order to prevent Avian flu being spread government advice is that all birds must be kept inside. So as most of the beds in the poly tunnel are dormant we decided to place the coop by the door so that they could sleep and lay in there and also have some space to move about. They seem to be enjoying it so far.
How long will this last? Not unlike other pandemics, it is difficult to say.
Our big piece of news is that the warden team has grown. Chris and Katharine have been joined by Ian who arrived in July. A relaxed, hospitable man who has fitted in well with our guests Ian has a variety of skills that mean we at WHW are very glad to have him on board. As well as being a good listener, having the ability to turn his hand to a variety of tasks and someone who is able to see the full picture in most situations, he also has far greater tech skills than the current wardens, though that particular bar is a pretty low one! It’s also been lovely getting to know his daughter Grace, who stays for a weekend now and again.
What we have learned since last time:
Whatever we did learn during the first Lockdown we may need to adapt to practicing on a long term basis rather than seeing it as a quick fix.
The simple things of community such as sharing responsibility, taking turns doing tasks and helping and receiving help from one another are extremely precious.
The longer we have lived here and the more people we have got to know - be they neighbours, through church, local organisations - the more we feel rooted.
Covid. Midwinter. However tempting it might be to lose focus, to become anxious or to feel down, there is a better choice which we can all encourage one another, face to face or in other ways, to try to take. Let us hope. We can hope for change. Let us also hope that we can identify and then begin to make the changes we need to make ourselves in order to make the most of things beyond our control.
And let us always seek to look beyond ourselves, to offer hope and help to those we know as we all journey together.
So we hope for Windsor Hill Wood and for the guests, for those who are here and for those who will come, for the visitors and volunteers. And we thank every one of you reading this newsletter for your support and encouragement. It most certainly gives us hope.
In this Advent season we wish you peace and joy in and through all the circumstances of life you find yourselves in.
Let’s remember, Immanuel, God is with us. We hope you have a Happy Christmas.
As you can see we all enjoyed a very happy pre-Christmas dinner the other day. Ian is at the far end of the table with Grace between him and Natty.
With hope and love,
Chris, Katharine, Ian, Josh and Natty XXXX