Originally published November 2013
Hello everyone! Apologies for my extended Summer break, I must have got carried away with the fabulous weather! With those Halcyon days in mind it was the height of irony that windy conditions and threats of heavy showers forced us to postpone our, much heralded, Quarry Wood Family Fun Day back in ‘flaming’ June. The new date, the 6th October, was set to coincide with our Fungi Identification Walk. The days leading up to the great event had many people thinking the worst as treetops swayed and rain lashed against window panes. However the unstinting faith that the Arty Farties had in Ma Nature’s beneficence, meteorological portents and the accuracy off the BBC weather forecast was well rewarded. The resilient band of village worthies planned everything down to (almost) the last detail; tasks were delegated, materials gathered, equipment overhauled, areas designated and loins girded.
The day before saw my old pal, Will Del Tufo, and I struggling to hammer wooden stakes into solid bed rock in preparation for the partial rebuilding of the Saxon Settlement area. We ended up with a rough ring of decidedly drunken looking stakes that we hoped would be strengthened by the addition of the Birch weave material kindly donated by Richard Cope of Powdermill Wood. More effective by far was the erection of the safety fence and basha by Mike Stewart, John Spall and Bruce Cripps; all done with consumate ease. Lorna Neville and Fionn Johnson had spent a busy couple of days sawing, snipping and carrying young saplings and dead branches to the ‘construction’ site and to mark out the picnic area. The scene was set!
Come the day Phoebus Apollo was shining with such brilliance our lovely Ladies of the Wood, the Silver Birch, glowed with an intensity to rival that of the high-visibility fence bordering the more interesting pathways. At start of play it was gratifying to find a number of people waiting for the Identification Walk and our resident fungi enthusiast, Jill Ferguson, launched into action. Armed with an informative little ‘spotter’s guide’ and map complete with ‘ancient’ woodland code, courtesy of Lorna, the stroll around the reserve revealed numerous species. Spectacular displays of Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea), Funnel Caps (Clitocybe sp.) and Amethyst Deceivers (Laccaria amethystea) alongside individual specimens of Russula sp. Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) and ominous-looking Death Caps (most probably the False Death Cap, Amanita citrina) gave flashes of colour to the woodland floor. Looking up into the lower canopy afforded us a view of some fine examples of Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) and the alarmingly-named Bracket Fungus, Bleeding Stereum (Stereum rugosum). Jill did a sterling job of educating everyone and warning them against the perils of venturing into the Kingdom of the Fungi without expert guidance. So good in fact that she took another large group of people around later in the afternoon.
My task was to slip and slide around in the, rather pungent, pond and get some water samples, fully charged with aquatic flora, for the pond dipping. Jan Stewart and Liz McCall stationed themselves alongside the large tray and did an admirable job of protecting the young Newts, Beetles, Water Boatmen, Pond Skaters and Bloodworms from the less-than-tender administrations of the very enthusiatic children throughout the day.
Fionn helped Will put up the Saxon tent he brought along as centrepiece for the stockade and then set to with some willing helpers weaving thin branches between our rather unsteady uprights. A short time later the area was enclosed and log seats surrounded a sturdy fire pit. Will spent the rest of the day bringing out the hunter-gatherer in children and fathers alike as he demonstrated how to light a fire using flint, steel and King Alfred’s Cakes (Daldinia concentrica) as tinder.
Lorna and Jill were the personification of enthusiasm and patience as they helped numerous children create fantastic natural collages and temporary images on the leafy ground.
A short distance from the budding Andy Goldsworthys the woodland clearing was being colonised by an eclectic collection of stuffed animals as Juliet Massey and Katie Spall supervised the excited little ’uns in the creation of an array of cosy looking dens and nests. Willow Johnson and Livi Evenden were on hand to assist with the bark rubbings and help where needed. Further up the pathway the wood took on a distinctly Native American appearance as trees were adorned with colouful Dream Catchers created by Di Stainsby’s army of creative younglings. Meanwhile the far end of the reserve became a hive of industry as insect boxes and mini-beast habitats practically flew off the production line under the watchful eyes of Bruce and John.
By the end of the day more than seventy people, including a group of eager Brownies, had visited our litle reserve. Judging from how busy the band of volunteers was kept they had an enjoyable time of it. Along with all the people mentioned above I must thank Anne and Dave Auger for helping to get things going, and Alan Stainsby for manning the gate with first aid kit (thankfully surplus to requirement) at the ready. An hour and a half after the close of play and the team had everything down and packed away. All that was left were some mosaics, the odd little nest and the beginnings of a small Saxon settlement!
The day was a great success, both in terms of another well orchestrated community event and promotion for Quarry Wood. Dominic Hicks came along to represent the Powdermill Trust and during a stroll around remarked how our reserve, more so than the others managed by the Trust, benefitted from the community input. As always I was astonished at the amount of work everyone is prepared to do to make these events happen and I am delighted and proud to have had a role in this particular one. Bravo everyone!