It's been five years! We arrived here on 30th May 2017 and lived alongside Toby, Fra and their children for the next couple of months, getting to know them and learning as much as we could about Windsor Hill Wood and how to run it. Guests began to come and stay, our children got on well with theirs, and then just as we were beginning to feel settled, the removal van turned up and reality began to kick in: The Jones family were heading off to Italy and we were going to remain to run Windsor Hill Wood.
Shortly before they left, we celebrated their time here and all they had done, as well as taking part in a symbolic handing over of the keys ceremony, which we will forever remember.
Over the years there are many other things that we won't forget from our time here, but it's important to note that the above picture would not have been taken had not the Joneses chosen to buy WHW in the first place, to make space to invite a wide range of guests to share a home, to eat together, to have the opportunity to learn new skills, to live in a beautiful woodland alongside a variety of animals. And underlying all this, to feel a sense of connection, to gain some self confidence and to begin to be able to move forward with purpose. We are so grateful, as are so many others, that you made the decision to begin this project in the first place, to develop it so well, and then to hand it on to others.
Toby, Fra, Benny, Emma and Leo, THANK YOU!
Looking back with thanks, looking forward hopefully
As we look back with thankfulness for these past five years, we also look forward with hope for the future. Our main news, as many of you may know, is that we, (Windsor Hill Wood, the charity) have bought the property and land. So we again thank Toby and Fra for being willing to rent it to us for this long and then for being willing to sell it. And we are very grateful too, for the hard work our trustees and others have put in to making this possible, as well as for the generosity of many who have helped financially in order to get us to this place.
Windsor Hill Wood is here to stay! So again, to all of you, THANK YOU!
Day to day
What's been happening in the day to day at WHW? Well, as is often the case, what we do and how we do it, is influenced by the experience and abilities of the guests currently staying here. Our chickens, for instance: we have always had chickens that lay eggs, usually ex-battery hens. At the suggestion of a guest we have now begun to raise chicks from an incubator which in the end we eat. It's worked well so far so we are sticking with it.
Imminent chicks Mature hens Somewhere between the two.
We had another lovely lambing time this year. However, one of the youngsters became a tad troublesome to his sisters so we had to separate him from them. Sadly, Puffin one of our two goats died, though kindly someone let us have another goat to keep Penguin company, before he sadly slipped away too. So we've put the new goat, Talulah, in with Paul (the naughty lamb) and after some early shenanigans they seem to be getting along pretty well.
We've (again, mainly due to guests with know how and oomph) grown probably the widest variety of veg since we arrived.
Everything from a range of salad leaves, potatoes, onions, leeks, parsnips, carrots through to garlic, celeriac, aubergines, brassicas and romanesco.
Those who come and lend a hand
At this time of year there is always so much to do and we will always be grateful to the volunteers who show up on Wednesday afternoons again and again. We were also very thankful last month to be offered an afternoon's graft from a dozen workers from Charlie Bigham's, whose factory is just a couple of miles away. The amount of nettles they uprooted, as well as the overgrown weeds and grass they processed has made a huge difference. Please come back next year!
Windsor Hill Wood has always been about community and team, and for this past year, a crucial part of the jigsaw has been Hazel. A life time of coming alongside people who need help or encouragement, often in her role as social worker, has meant that she has been able to understand, empathise with, and offer appropriate support to those she is alongside at Windsor Hill Wood - and that includes the wardens! Hazel has been the assistant warden here for the best part of a year and will leave in early September.
It has been really lovely getting to know her and we wish her all the best and are grateful that she promises she will come back to visit now and again. Hazel, you're always welcome. Thank you for everything!
How to move forward
So, five years on, we are grateful for what we have learned, for having been a part of something that many people who have experienced different types of difficulties in their lives, have found helpful. We are thankful too, that now the place has been bought, Windsor Hill Wood will continue! We are well aware that we have been dependent on people's generosity from day one, whether it be to cover running costs or the provision of extra resources such as art therapy. And though the landmark of the purchase of the property means we can breathe a sigh of relief, we are well aware that
WHW will only carry on if funding continues to come in, be it from trusts, foundations, or the generosity of individuals who commit to giving monthly or make one off donations. As fuel bills and the cost of living rises we hope and pray that this will continue. We were receiving £4,000 a year from the government Renewable Heat Incentive, though this was a seven year commitment which has now expired.
Anyone who has visited WHW (particularly if you drove here) will know that the drive really needs a make over. Having tried some short term solutions we now realise that there is no escaping the fact that we will have to bite the bullet and do the job properly. This means we will have to raise a considerable sum of money (around £30,000) if we want vehicles to be able to come to and from WHW safely. All donations will be gratefully received.
Five years. We've come a long way - thanks to the love and support of so many of you in so many different ways. We do consider it to be a blessing to have been able to play a part in the life of Windsor Hill Wood. And we hope and pray that it will continue.
A date for your diary
Finally, if you would like to come to WHW, hear some stories, spend time with the animals, wander through the woodland, have a cuppa and some cake, then put Sunday 25th September, our next Open Day, in your diary.
With thanks and love,
Chris, Katharine, Josh and Natty XXXX
Rock House, Windsor Hill Lane, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4JE
Tel. 07305217150 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Registered Charity Number: 1174810