One of the things I do is manage a community woodland, as part of a team of eight, with a membership of around 200 to call on as volunteers. I only joined the board in the summer – though I’ve been a member for about 2 years – so I’m still finding my way. On Sunday we had a Volunteer Day to clear brash and other debris, and have a bonfire, and it was marvellous – 30 to 40 of us pulled together in freezing cold but beautiful weather to get a pretty tedious job done. And done it was, we worked from 10am to about 3pm with a soup break at 1ish, and achieved what we set out to. I’m not saying there’s no brash left, there’s tons and we’ll have another volunteer day to do another patch, but we cleared a big area.
When I say woodland I mean hill as the last owner (some lord or earl) chopped down all the trees before offering it to us, the community, for a hefty sum. We took advice, applied for government funding set aside specifically for this kind of project, and will now turn it back into a woodland by planting lots of native trees and shrubs. We’ve started already as you may be able to tell from the tubes in the photo (taken by the Mr., I haven’t even looked at the ones I took yet), and will continue as soon as the next batch of funding comes in. The idea is to create a vibrant, buzzing with life, natural environment for everyone in town to enjoy, and although we have our detractors – the everything except commerce, sport and public toilets is a waste of time and money brigade – almost everyone seems to be behind us, which is such a relief. This feels incredibly important.
When we moved here (21 years ago from Bedford) suddenly my son could run wild in the countryside all day like his literary hero (of the time) Just William. He became a wonderfully wild, energised kid, and this hill was crucial to that. Even though in those days the trees were mostly non-native conifers, it was still bloody marvellous to be able to walk five minutes from our house (which is right in the centre of town) and be engulfed in its sounds, smells, and greens. And I’m sure it must be the same for everyone. Okay, some people feel better in urban environments, but surely being in nature is good for the mental and physical health of every single one of us? Especially children. I’m convinced alienation from nature is the root cause of our main problems from Trump to Brexit, to the ever increasing self harm and suicide statistics. Too many of us have become disconnected from the environment that sustains us. Which is why I got involved: it was too good an opportunity for exploration to ignore.
My big thing is exploring the possibilities for eudaimonia for which I tend to use the arts, but nature… a fascinating departure and not as discrete as one might think, and community, ditto. I’ve never been much of a community sort, I’m shy, introverted, and spend ten hours a day at my desk experimenting with avant-garde poetry techniques. Socialising isn’t my thing. But since I left my abusive 30 year marriage, nearly six years ago, the community has slowly drawn me to it, and it has been extraordinarily kind. So here I am attempting a kindness back.
My next post should be on what I’ve recently learnt about mesostic poetry, it’s cool…