It's well over six years since we arrived at Windsor Hill Wood. We will be forever grateful to Toby, Fra and their family for having the vision, the belief and the courage to begin, and then to live WHW. And after that, to pass it on. We will always remember our time overlapping with them, culminating in the symbolic handing over of the keys by the chapel.
There are many other things that we will always remember with fondness after we leave WHW, not least of which are all the sheep that have been reared here. Though we would hesitate to call ourselves shepherds, even after all this time, the sheep will always have a place in our hearts. There's nothing better than lambing time!
Josh and Natty will certainly miss looking after newborn lambs (as will we, Chris and Katharine!) and these memories will certainly stay with us. Of course in life (definitely including WHW) not everything happens just as we would like it to. Our boys have in many ways taught us to make the most of whatever circumstances we may find ourselves in. For instance the drive getting flooded. What are we going to do? Sulk? Moan? Or...
Make the most of it!
And we have learned many things during our time here. As well as finding out how to manage sheep, look after pigs and goats, we've really enjoyed having hens, some of them grown from an incubator...
Windsor Hill Wood has always been a place where people can all learn from one another. Many of the guests bring their own skills, local volunteers are happy to share their knowledge and expertise, and now and again someone will come and run a Woods For Well Being course or teach woodworking skills.
So those are some of our memories which we will always treasure. But what's happening now?
Well, our latest project (I say "our" but Matt and Clive have been the chief architects and builders) has been the building of...
Have you spotted a typo? Well, you may think you have but the clue is in the name:
No typo! Our beautiful ten week old ducks, grown from an incubator, roam free but go to bed in Duckingham Palace!
When we came here there were two goats. Sadly it went down to one, and then zero. Now we have three goats who love to have fun, strut their stuff, bounce around and, now and again... escape.
We also have a sow who Craig from The Good Life Projects over the road gave us. In a few days time she will be joined by a boar so hopefully, in a couple of newsletters' time, there will be piglets!
One of the highlights of a WHW year is always a trip to Devon to spend a day with Sarah an equine therapist. Everyone who comes always gets so much out of spending time with her and her horses and this time it was particularly poignant as the theme we explored was Transition. Transition is most definitely happening at WHW and how it affects each of is different in every case, though the processes that those staying go through differ from those preparing to move. From drawing pictures of what we needed to let go of and putting them in the fire, to painting what we could see as our anchor onto a stone was helpful for everyone. At the end we were all asked to use a word to describe each other person there and the encouragement shown and the bond and unity that was revealed will not be forgotten quickly.
Not to mention just spending time with the horses.
So, transition. Why are we moving on? We came here to try to live out our values of hospitality, acceptance, love. To live in an environment of learning new skills, of living alongside different people, of giving and receiving, of sharing the day to day tasks of life, of living close to nature, is helpful for anyone. We have been glad to have been a part of it and to have welcomed in over 150 short and long term guests during our time here. And it does seem that for the vast majority of them, the experience has been worthwhile. And though we have gained much during our time here, for a while there has just been a feeling it might be time for a change. In particular we have to consider our boys' needs and now six years older than when they arrived we think Josh and Natty need a little bit more space and a bit more family time. Since we made the decision to move on, it does feel that this is the right thing to do. There is so much that all of us will miss though and having lived WHW for over six years we are all aware that our new lives will be quite different.
The wonderful thing is, a replacement warden team is in the wings. In fact we have met themselves several times and the overlap has effectively begun. And here they are, Toby and Hellen and their children Emmanuel and Grace:
And this is what they said:
"We come to Windsor Hill Wood with no preconceived ideas or expectations. We are united, prepared to learn and grow with the current community and adapt when newcomers are welcomed. Our foundations are built on love, lifting up those around us and walking with them through the wilderness, as many have walked with us in times of egregious grief.
We don’t profess to be ‘fixers’ but we do make fine tea, strong coffee, cake, bake and break bread, share, listen and just be, be there, be there ready to accept with open minds.
As a family, we look forward to getting stuck in and continuing to build on the great work of previous wardens and guardians of Windsor Hill Wood."
We (the Thompsons again!) are truly grateful for having been able to be a part of WHW for this past six years. We are thankful for what we have learned, what we have experienced, what we have been able to give and to receive. And we will always be thankful to the Jones' for having the vision, the will and the courage to begin this project all that time ago. We would like to thank our trustees for all the support, encouragement, wisdom, practical help that we and WHW have received, not least managing to facilitate buying the site and land so that WHW will continue.
We are grateful too for the support and encouragement we have received from many different people in many different ways over the years. In particular, in recent times it's been so helpful to have had Hazel as part of the warden team. As well as the practical help we receive from so many of you we are extremely grateful for the financial support many of you have given. WHW has been able to carry on doing what it does due to your generosity. And though we understand that there are many things to be taken into account we hope that you would consider continuing your support for WHW and for what it will continue to do as it enters its next phase.
We believe that WHW has come as far as it has due to those of you who pray for place, the warden team, the guests. Please continue!
Finally, what has been accomplished here over the years could not happened without God being at the centre. We are so grateful to have been able to play a part in it and we thank him with all our hearts. And we trust him to take WHW to the next stage.
And so, as the sun sets over Windsor Hill Wood, we trust that a new dawn is already on its way.
With thanks and love,
Chris, Katharine, Josh and Natty XXXX