Hello everyone! Autumn has arrived! Hours of darkness outnumber those of daylight, evening breezes carry a chilly warning of things to come and decent log piles are viewed with varying degrees of avarice.
The thirtieth anniversary of the great storm of October 1987 saw another storm rage over our part of the world. This time however, the south east of England was treated to spectacular vistas of golden skies which were preceded by a vivid, scarlet sun that shone through the glowering clouds like an ancient portent of battle. My immediate thought was that the heavens were reflecting the red and gold of the Sycamore trees as their leaves changed hue from the crown downwards. However, as reports came in showing the devastation the tail-end of Hurricane Ophelia was visiting on parts of Wales and Ireland our concern must be for all those affected.
An altogether different number of significance was celebrated at the end of September. The morning of Sunday 24th September found me waking up to the sound of birdsong interspersed by loud thuds just above my head. Moments later I was opening the doors of the delightful little gypsy caravan I had spent the night in and stepped out into Quarry Wood, ready to put the final touches to the various sites prepared for our Woodland Arts Festival, Crowhurst Community Arts’ (CCA) 100th event! The caravan, designed and built by the ever-resourceful Bruce Cripps, was parked at the entrance of our little reserve. Unfortunately for my attempts at slumber, it was parked under a Chestnut tree and my night was punctuated by spiky cases crashing onto the taut canvas of the ’van. Sleep-loss notwithstanding, it was a glorious morning and assorted Arty Farties, Quarry Wooders and Forest School bods were rolling up, bright and early, to start the day.
After a few hours of scurrying around, erecting gazebos, rolling logs into place, putting up display boards and piling up dozens of ‘snack sacks’ to name but a few tasks, we were ready for the start of play at 11.00. Di and Alan Stainsby had very kindly let us use their field for car parking and we had two stalwart traffic wardens in the shape of John Saunders and Peter Cochrane. Two of Quarry Wood’s finest, Will Kemp and Ian Tomisson, did an admirable job of traffic calming outside the gate.
People entering the wood were greeted by John Spall, Chairman of the CCA, whose vision saw this Festival come to fruition. Bruce, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Mr Toad, was seated by his caravan whittling clothes pegs for dolls. He had also constructed five colourful, little doors which were dotted around the Reserve, each hiding a rhyming clue to a character from Kenneth Grahame’s seminal novel, The Wind in the Willows. The trail proved popular with little ones, their parents and even a few grandparents, especially when they claimed their prize from the estimable Mr Toad.
Thanks to Stirling Dethridge and his consummate use of a chainsaw, the entrance was guarded also by half a dozen or so rather striking carved wooden heads adding a soupçon of Paganism to the occasion.
The Viking Camp, epicentre of the Festivals of ’02 and ’13, had been widened and furnished with a couple of rudimentary seats over the summer. Jill Ferguson, ably assisted by Nick Hartnell, Simon Leader and John Green, transformed the space into a Forest School classroom. Children and adults alike enjoyed whittling, peeling, fire-lighting with fire steels, burning Willow charcoal to fashion pencils with Elder twigs and making good use of bow saw, brace ‘n’ bit and coloured pens to produce Ash and Elder jewellery.
The newly-created, and aptly named, Enchanters’ Dell became the arena for a variety of artistic activities. Two giant webs, meticulously constructed by Lorna Neville, adorned the trees while a giant, organic spider lurked menacingly on the edge. Di Stainsby had beautifully crafted several colourful dragonflies, of varying sizes, which dangled from branches and lengths of Wild Rose. Children were busy designing acorn crowns, dream catchers and natural art masterpieces, modelling insects from twigs and feathers and making birdfeeders from Pine cones laden with sticky suet. The gnarled trunk of the Dell’s aged Field Maple became multi-faceted as it was decorated with gargoylesque clay faces. The artists were helped and encouraged by Sarah Miller, Nikki Romano, Claire Webber, Liz McCall, Caroline Johnson, Judy Linfield, Juliet Massey, Hannah Massey and Katie Spall as they took it in turns to run the events.
Overlooking the two main work spaces was the Quarry Wood Hub. This Ivy-clad, walk-through gazebo was brimful of information on the CCA events leading up to the 100th. The history and management of our little reserve was also depicted in a series of stunning photographs of the fauna and flora seen in the past seventeen years as well as a wealth of identification sheets. The hub was the perfect information point and the display so comprehensive we could use it for any future QW Roadshows!
An hour into the proceedings the woodland ambience was enhanced by the strains of flute and guitar floating through the trees as the folk duo, Glashin, started to play. Local young musician Fionn Johnson (yes, my son!) played guitar in between their sets, and joined Jo and Paul for a three-hander at the end.
With Schopenhauer’s ‘food for the soul’ readily provided, it was time to think of a bit of sustenance for the corporeal. This came in the form of the aforementioned eye-catching ‘snack sacks’, assembled by Katie, Caroline and Jan Stewart. The mysterious red and white bundles were opened and eagerly consumed in the ‘food hall’.
Like the Family Fun Day in 2013, we took the opportunity to take a turn around the Reserve in search of fungi. Despite a slightly lesser display then in previous weeks, our local ‘fun gal’, Jill, treated the group to an interesting and informative trail.
By the end of the afternoon around 150 people had enjoyed the magic of art, crafts, music and company in our woods. The Arty Farties can be very proud of the way they celebrated the ton, and it only leaves me to add my personal thanks to all those involved in making it happen. Bravo everyone!
Full set of pics – click here.
Image credits: original Quarry Wood photography by Lorna Neville