Then and Now

Originally published May 2013

Hello everyone! It was the Summer of ’02 and the eyes of the world were drawn eastward as South Korea and Japan provided a stunning backdrop for the World Cup. The eyes of Crowhurst were focussed (once England had secured a draw with Sweden) on Quarry Wood, our recently acquired nature reserve.

The four-day Woodland Festival, the brainchild of our renowned Arty Farties, was the perfect grand opening ceremony for our little reserve. For many months ahead of the event working-parties of environmentally-minded people had toiled away clearing rubbish, opening footpaths and cutting back the trees in and around the pond. John Hicks, then head of the Powdermill Trust for Nature Conservation and much missed by all who knew him, had written the first Management Plan for the Reserve and surveys were undertaken in order to get an idea of the plant and animal species present at that time.

Throughout the four days school children had the opportunity to identify trees and flowers, do bark rubbings, get mucky and generally have a good time. Our woodland was given a decidedly Pagan make-over as trees and shrubs were adorned with home-made dream-catchers and ribbons. We even had our very own Viking colony spring up in our midst. William Del Tufo, craftsman, woodsman and self-confessed decendent of the axe-wielding skull-splitters, brought along some like-minded folk and constructed a Nordic hut complete with woven fence and fire pit. It was so well-made and cosy that the one-eyed All-Father himself would have been happy to leave the Halls of Valhalla to reside there, well maybe a short holiday!

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On the morning of the fourth day, John and I tossed a coin to see who would lead the first guided tour of the day. I cannot remember who won but the result was that John set off with seven people (including myself!) for an instructive stroll around the Reserve. It was a rather different picture come my turn in the afternoon. As I stood there contemplating the meaning of pondlife whilst my one year old son was strapped to my back, I suddenly found myself surrounded by an ever-increasing throng of eager villagers. We realised then that the England match had finished! John told me afterwards that he had counted seventy-six people trailing behind me as I self-consciously tried to make myself heard to the masses.

Later in the day we were approached by a number of people with strange reports of talking trees deep in the woods. Intrigued I ventured forth to investigate and came across a pair of rather irascible Ent-like figures who looked suspisciously like John Saunders and Peter Linfield! It was only when they declared that they were off for a pint that I felt it was safe to wander around and enjoy the sight of Crowhurst’s very own nature reserve getting its first official public airing.

That evening the woods resounded to the strains of a local band playing in the shadow of the road bridge. From the other side of the reserve, the beat of Saxon drums could be heard as Will and his Merry Men relaxed around a cheerful fire.

That was eleven years ago, and a great success it was. The good news is that we are going to recreate those halcyon days, or at least give everyone a flavour of what went on. The Arty Farties, still under the leadership of the venerable Mr Spall, are organising a Family Fun Day in the Reserve to be held on June 16th (Father’s Day). Sadly neither John Hicks or Peter Linfield are with us today, but I for one will be thinking of them as we celebrate our second big Quarry Wood event. We are extremely pleased to have Will Del Tufo joining us again. He will be putting our local Scouts through their paces as they rebuild the fence and fire pit using the traditional methods he and his gang demonstrated so consumately in 2002.

Now that Spring has finally arrived and Ma Nature is catching up with the date on our calendars, our little reserve is coming in to its glory. The pond is full, the wild flowers are emerging and the Feathered Folk are in full voice. Let us hope that Flaming June lives up to its name so that we can meet up, enjoy Quarry Wood in bloom and have some fun. Watch this space, the Spirit of ’02 lives on!

Paul Johnson

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