Serenaded by gentle woodland music against a backdrop of bird-song, delighted giggles could be heard ringing throughout the sun-dappled canopy of Pearcelands Wood at Wakehurst Place in Ardingly.
‘Wild Wood’ which ran from May 28-30 offered some very real and exciting ‘getting back to nature’ activities such camping in the canopy, tree-climbing, stories under an oak tree, plays in a natural amphitheatre and the opening of ‘Treetrunk Trek’ consisting of willow sculptures, huge logs and stepping stones (the latest in the ‘Adventurous Journeys’ play areas at Wakehurst in nearby Coates Wood).
In addition, at Pearcelands there were bush-craft activities, an aerial runway, woodland crafts, chainsaw sculpture and working horses… and ‘The Stake-out’ providing BBQ skewers served in pittas, with ice-cream for dessert, for those with rumbling tummies.
The smell of wood-smoke hung in the air in a clearing where hand-made ‘double barrelled drone-flutes’ were being tried out for purchase and a ‘Green Man’ played the bag-pipes, all to the background beats and quiet rhythmic tapping of a Sussex trug-maker, pole lathe turners, green woodworkers and a lady making personalised colour pencils out of coppiced willow. Wakehurst’s Loder Valley Warden and resident charcoal burner was there demonstrating his craft whilst selling hand carved wooden stools outside a traditional charcoal burner’s ‘hovel’ (home) he had made with wooden frame and turf - it even had a fireplace and a spruce laid bed where he slept over the weekend!
Pearcelands has its’ own natural amphi-theatre in which professional performers put on a family show all about the wonders of the woodland and there were additional ‘pockets’ tucked away amongst the woods, revealing camps where skills such as fire-lighting and making dampner bread were taught. Under another canopy Ed Boxall told his story ‘Under the Old Oak Tree.’ And suspended from the branches of another group of trees where various tents were just waiting to be tested!
“We’re delighted at the turn-out at this natural woodland event”, said Tony Sweeney, Director at Wakehurst, “There was a lovely atmosphere and families really seemed to be enjoying themselves whilst actively participating in a range of engaging events and demonstrations. I particularly enjoyed meeting some of the traditional crafts makers and learning about their trades, but if I’d have had the chance I would have loved to have been on the aerial walkway and abseiling up the beautiful tree that was such a perfect shape for tree-climbing!”
Visitors went away with many mementos – from vintage carpentry tools to fruit tree relishes, hand-made wooden ‘bugs’ to garlic crushers, along with photographs and lasting memories of family fun. As they walked back out of the wood, there were wonderfully decorated trees by local school children from St Peter’s in Ardingly. One little boy cried ‘It was ‘tree-fic’ mum’ which summed it all up!