Greetings from Windsor Hill Wood.
What a blessing it is to be able to spend time in this beautiful place, be it pre-Covid, Covid, or (hopefully) post-Covid. We are grateful to be a part of something which brings together people from many different sectors of society where we can all learn from one another, all give and receive and all find reasons to be thankful. And it’s lovely to be able to say that it isn’t just those of us who live here who are thinking this. Thanks to Somerset Skills And Learning, Windsor Hill Wood has been able to be used by people who host regular Woodland Support Groups.
Below are a few quotes from the feedback that the visitors have given:
“This is the one non-negotiable in my week.”
“This is the best thing I have done for a long time.”
“Getting outside and being with people.”
“It is so important for me to connect with others, it helps my mental health.”
Our Green Woodworking Groups have been beneficial too:
Some of the feedback from the Green Woodworking groups - What I enjoyed and most valuable skill:
“Creating something using new techniques. Confidence using saw, axe and drawknife. Achieving a finished article in one day.”
“Meeting other people and learning a new skill.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed learning a new skill with a great tutor.”
“Found woodworking very therapeutic, also lovely social aspect.”
It’s also really nice at the end of the day, whether it’s been run by others or a volunteer day organised by ourselves, to have a chat and a cuppa.
It’s always good to host events here but it’s also nice to be able to go out into the wider community, in this case just over the road, to where Craig’s Good Life Projects hosted a few groups displaying their wares. Ours included jams, hand-made stools, wooden coasters and some intricate knitwear (can you spot it?!)
A fun afternoon was had by all.
One of the joys of being at Windsor Hill Wood will always be sheep – especially during lambing season. It doesn’t always go to plan though. This year, for the first time, one of our ewes had triplets! Sadly, as is apparently sometimes the case, she rejected the third lamb, so we had to feed her – several times a day and in the middle of the night too. We weren’t overrun with volunteers for the 2am shift…
But, as you can see, from looking slightly fragile early on, she is now thriving! The boys named her Lesley:
Tragedy number two for this sheep family was that mum died just a couple of weeks after giving birth so we had to up our bottle feeding to include Lesley’s siblings as well
Just when the ewes feel they have shed a load, the shearer comes along to make them feel even lighter. He told us he would be here before 7am on the day concerned. On any other day of the entire year Josh would not have been wake-able let alone move-able at that time of day but as you can see, Josh was up for it – literally!
The fleece shifter!
One of our neighbours, Craig, needed some extra space so two of his sows could give birth. So we offered to let him use Pig World and a couple of weeks ago a handful of lovely piglets appeared, three of whom you can see strutting.
After a few years some of our raised beds have needed a bit of an overhaul but both indoors and out the veg certainly seems to be thriving.
Although Windsor Hill Wood can provide a number of things – rhythm, connection, the simple good things of life such as giving and receiving, learning new skills, cooking for one another and being cooked for – in order to address deeper lying issues many guests may need some therapeutic input. We have always been grateful to be able to access funding so that the amazing Annabel Shilliday can come and facilitate group art therapy here. Everyone who attended found it helpful and here is an image that one of our guests created recently and is happy for us to share.
Our other chief therapeutic input is our annual visit to Devon to spend the day with Sarah Stansfield, a good friend and very wise and perceptive (as are her horses!) equine therapist. We all come away with something to reflect on when we visit her and this year was no exception.
As is the case for all of us, Windsor Hill Wood will experience lows as well as highs. An extremely sad moment here happened a couple of months ago when a guest, sitting in the Garden Room, noticed that smoke was coming out of her hut – not from the chimney but out of the window..
The fire extinguisher, a garden hose and buckets of water being thrown couldn’t prevent what had quickly become a raging blaze. Eventually the fire brigade arrived and the inferno was smothered. Sadly the guest, who had been about to leave anyway, had to depart without many of her possessions which had been totally destroyed.
The hut itself was beyond repair and so we wondered if/when we might be able to build another. Amazingly, very quickly, the local and wider community, groups and individuals, demonstrated such generosity that within a matter of days we had been given sufficient funds to be able to begin to build a new hut. Gavin, who had received funding to oversee the building of a new shepherd’s hut previously generously offered his services for free and, though it’s not finished yet, as you can see, progress is being made!
New Framework! Well Underway!
Chris, Katharine, Josh and Natty have been here over four years now. We have learned much – about community, hospitality, different people, woodland, animals, the seasons. Most of all we have learned about ourselves – how we can work together, what makes us come alive, what we struggle with. And we would like to learn more. But one thing we are sure about: It’s OK to take a break, to have time out to re-group, re-envision, re-energise. And having had time to mull over the idea of time away, we have come to the conclusion that for us, it is more than OK. It is a good thing. It is a positive thing. It is what we need, and what will in the end benefit not only us but Windsor Hill Wood too. So, having been hesitant for a while about considering taking a step back, we are grateful to those of you who have encouraged us to consider it. In particular we are very thankful to Ian who as well as encouraging us to contemplate having a Sabbatical, has committed to stepping in to make it practically possible. We are extremely thankful too, to Hazel who, having given a lot to Windsor Hill Wood in her time here, has chosen to support Ian during the time we are away. A massive thank you to you both, and to those in the wings who have offered to help too.
So, on 16th July we will head off and then return at the beginning of September.
Whoever is running Windsor Hill Wood, none of it would be possible without your support, be it emotional, relational, spiritual or financial. It really is a blessing to be part of something so much bigger and broader than just the site itself and what goes on here. Thank you all so much. And we ask that you would continue to support WHW especially during this time when Ian and Hazel will be in charge.
Finally, as most of you are aware, Windsor Hill Wood is in the process of trying to raise sufficient funds to be able to buy the property and land from the owners Toby and Fra. We are aiming to raise enough money to put down a deposit for a mortgage so, in the end, the day to day costs will be similar to what they are now - but will be going towards paying off a mortgage rather than rent. We are grateful for those of you who have donated towards the Purchase Project. The sum we still need to raise is around £50,000 and loans are an option as well as direct gifts. Do feel free to get in touch, though as we are going away, Ian will be managing the WHW email inbox. Should you wish to donate to the Purchase Project or to general running costs, please take a look on the website at our general giving page, or our Purchase Project information page.
Do feel free to arrange to come and visit!
With thanks and love,
Chris, Katharine, Josh and Natty - and Ian and Hazel too!