a taste of Staffordshire woodlands

Nov 24, 2018

Rosemary de Moura and David Beaton hosted a WWOOF taster day at their woodland on 27th October.

We had been watching the weather forecast in the lead-up to this event, hoping for one of those bright crisp autumn days. However, when we went outside to load up the Land Rover, light snow was falling. Grab some extra jumpers and coats from the stock we keep in the WWOOFer room – ‘just in case’. By the time the attendees arrived it had stopped snowing but it was cold and some of the extra clothing came in handy.

Eight were expected, but a couple thought better of spending a day outside in October, so then there were six, coming from London, Ormskirk and Stoke-on-Trent. Nearby host Joy Attwood-Harris from Hurst Bank farm also joined us, which gave the guests a chance to gain an insight to WWOOFing from two hosts.

Our land is about two miles from where we live, and our WWOOFers stay, but for the taster day we arranged for them to meet us on site. After a welcome mug of coffee we set of for a quick tour of the site. We have six and a half acres which is part of a larger wood. Half is woodland and half water meadow; both are Sites of Biological Importance.

On one side of our meadow we have a willow plantation (about a quarter of an acre which we are managing on a five year coppice rotation as a firewood crop. We have just started to take this year’s cut. The trunks and thicker branches become logs, but the thinner comes into its own for hurdle making. Our vegetable plot is adjacent to the willow and is a fairly exposed site. We are gradually enclosing it with hurdles to create a kind of walled garden, using what would otherwise be a waste product from the firewood production.

Working in two teams, our volunteers for a day trimmed branches from trees we had cut earlier in the week, sorting them into rods for the hurdle uprights, thinner weaving material and waste. (The waste isn’t really waste as it gets burnt to give us charcoal and wood ash for the vegetables.) While one team was doing this the other started weaving a hurdle.

Lunch was prepared on our improvised outdoor kitchen (we normally feed WWOOFers at home) and over lunch we talked about the history, aims, mechanics and joining WWOOF. The teams swapped roles for the afternoon session. Both teams managed to complete their hurdle in one and a half hours and had the satisfaction of installing them on the perimeter of the veg. patch to much applause and cheering.

At four o’clock a final cup of tea and one of Joy’s amazing apple cakes (why do cakes always feature in WWOOF events?) then we said our farewells.

A really good day which everybody enjoyed, did something new and left with a sense of achievement. We hope to welcome them all into the WWOOFing family soon. And, yes, we got some useful tasks done!

If you’re a host and would like to hold a taster day at your place, please contact info@wwoof.org.uk

photos: Joy Attwood Harris

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