Friday, 4 April 2014

Creative Landscapes at Hallr Wood

When I took redundancy from the council one of the things I was most excited about was LEARNING again! Since 'The Cuts' most council training had been internal or a bit of feedback from a course someone else had been on, travelling out of county for anything needed a special permit and networking with other counties seemed to have faded away. So as soon as I could I booked a few things and the day at Hallr Wood was the first to come up.

I'd connected with the wood's owner Deb Millar on the FEI facebook page but we'd never actually met in person. Tori and I arrived on a bright sunny morning and made our way up the slope to the camp area of the woods. We were met with lovely tea and proper coffee and an explanation of how to make a Nature Book to document our day. This was a lot of folding of wallpaper backing paper, tucking it into a cover and holding it together with a stick and wire.

Performance area
We split into two groups to walk around the site which was truly beautiful. The slope had been well utilised to create a tiered seating area looking down to a stage, paths edged with timber led to a wood steaming machine (I'm sure there's a proper name for it!) made of an old gas bottle and cob. 

Steam machine!
As we walked Deb explained that many of the projects (including a Tardis) had come from comments that the young people they worked with had made. For instance the cob kiln was after someone had asked to make pots and been told they could but they wouldn't be hard enough to use properly so the girl said 'Well let's make a kiln then'

The pee-pit and beautiful beach hut style loo 'shed' solved the question of  'Do bears...?' A quick stop by a pond with tiny pond-dipping platform - where I could have stayed all day - and back up to the camp via a kitchen stocked with an enviable array of huge cooking pots and pans, many ex-Guides utensils because apparently they cook on gas these days.

We then worked in groups of three on a variety of activities - Deb quickly syphoned off Lewis recently back from re-building earthquake torn Christchurch to get stuck into her mud kitchen re-build. The group I was in chose to build a bug house down by the fairy garden to protect the path leading to it. It was  a fabulous sunny spring day and as we created and chatted some of the magic of the wood crept into all of us.

We stopped for an amazing lunch of veg and bean soup - more like a full-on stew to be honest - which Deb topped with snipped wild garlic, also large chunks of bread and more lovely tea and coffee.

Back to work and swapping activities we ended up down at the mud kitchen where we finished off the draining board (I only bent two nails - not bad for me) and started to cob the cooker and pot stand. This mud kitchen was not only for mud play but was actually made of mud too. How very special. The clay was from the wood and just a wonderful consistency, I worked in a pottery years ago and was eager to get my hands into it whilst at the same time being quite frustrated that I couldn't take any photos! So it was a bit of cob, a bit of hand washing, a few photos and back to the cob.

Our group ended the day at the top of the woofinishing off a contemplative space that the others had been working on throughout the day. It was a well defined area so we decorated it with leaves, ivy and twigs. We were feeling that we were the design team of the day after our beautiful bug house and mud kitchen re-vamping. End of activities was heralded by a hunting horn which sounded once more and the rest of the group came up to the top to view the space that everyone had had input into.

The whole wood is a series of spaces, often bordered by live willow arches and you can't see the whole thing from any one point so as you walk around you are constantly surprised and delighted. We all felt at the end of the day that we had added to the spaces and learnt about defining them too.

We finished with a re-cap around the fire, free packets of seeds from Deb - party bags! - and left feeling elated at such an inspiring and collaborative day, and I think we all hope to return to Hallr Wood too.


  1. What an incredible space, love that toilet so much! Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. I want to move in, it's really wonderful!