The Heartwood Project

There is a quiet and steady revolution taking place in British woodlands in which habitat, wildlife and resources are being cared for and enhanced with traditional approaches and skills. People are returning to woodlands for their livelihoods and sustenance; craftmanship is once again taking root amongst the trees. Perhaps the most telling feature of all is the sound of laughter as a precious indicator of woodland and human health returns: the playing child is finding her way back to the woods. Read more »

Charcoal and champions

Long awaited update as we’ve been far too busy to get to a computer, sad I know! So here is a little collection of some of our most recent helpers, old and new.

We have been doing lots of exciting work with wonderful charities and groups such as the Brandon Trust who support people with learning disabilities and Autism, Monkton Combe School, and the Connecting Families team from Bath and North East Somerset. As many of you will know, this is exactly the avenue we wish to pursue to increase access to woods and play for as many members of our communities as possible, and to enrich their experience of our natural environment.

Back to life…

The woodland has come back to life. We’re already enjoying this year’s edibles at Heartwood as we chomp our way through the carpet of wild garlic that covers a large portion of the woodland floor – nom nom. The birds seem more vocal than ever; could this be some of the benefits of coppicing? It’s certainly busier in the airwaves than when we arrived 5 years ago! The third coppice has just been completed; only the net fence to put around the perimeter and we’re done. The charcoal kiln has been put in place for this years production, and, we have some beautiful timber to be milled up for boards: sycamore and bone oak. Our good friend Pete has already gotten his ‘teeth’ in to half of the oak; hopefully when I figure out how to put images up here I can illustrate how lovely the grain is!
Kirby, who stayed with us over 2013 as an assistant, and made such a beautiful contribution to the space, has now moved on to Kent where he is managing woodland and has access to workshop space…’what you going to do with all that beautiful chestnut coppice Kirbs?’ Just a little bit jealous of his chestnut and flatlands…extraction made easy. Best of luck and thanks so much for all your hard work and support mate.
Our young informal apprentice Seymour is still enthusiastically involved with the project (7 months now), and has just begun seeking funding for his chainsaw training and equipment; fingers crossed for him please folks.
Later this year we will have another apprentice coming along; Jason is currently helping us to create a space which may be used by apprentices year after year, as we hope to offer this position to a new young person every 12 months in order for them to experience a complete ‘woodland year’.

In the Coppice

Hello woody folks,

The Heartwood people have been working away for some time now, improving facilities at Heartwood HQ, working with volunteers, visiting groups and schools, and, introducing a potential young apprentice to our woodland ways.

Despite the floods and muds, and the extreme gradient we are working with we are also getting through our third coppice with smiles on our faces. This time of year is a real test of stamina in the woods, and seems to become increasingly challenging each year with the climate in the South West. Physically draining day after day, and yet the battle with overstood hazel stems, spaghetti junction clematis and torrential downpours that soak you through in a moment, is deeply rewarding. Despite all these factors, the charcoal stacks are high and the brash fires burning; the light is reaching the forest floor and, we hope, there is warmth to follow. Waiting for Spring, and some evidence that the Winter’s work has brought hidden treasures back to life; dormant seed, new flora, and with them, increased insect and bird life; is part of the joy of being a coppice worker and of caring for our woodlands.

The log stacks and freshly cut stools also tell of a different kind of conservation, the conserving of the presence of humans working in healthy accord with nature; the preservation of crafts and livelihoods which depend intimately upon the woodlands of our little island. We are reminded by our hard labour at this time of year, of the many woodland workers who came before us, who lived and worked among the trees, and understood their cycles well.

Thanks for reading x

Volunteer days – Woody Wednesdays -You’ve guessed it, every Wednesday, lunch included.
Teen Greenwood Workshops – 2 day events – Easter holidays and May half-term. See Courses and events page for details.

A very late happy new year and a wee update from the woods….

A little late off the mark but nonetheless a heartfelt happy new year to you all. The month of January is behind us already and what have we been up to in the woods…? Brixton based film maker Ollie Wiggins came to Heartwood and made a short film about our livelihoods and relationship to the woods. He’s entering a competition later this year on the theme of exactly that: people and their relationship to forests. If he wins the film will be shown in Istanbul at the grand finale event; good luck Ollie! You can see the film on our homepage; it’s a bit lovely!

What else? Fantastic volunteers from Youth Action Wiltshire have been helping us out with the woodland management; clearing rides and getting involved with the coppicing. They braved some severe weather before Christmas; bit of a baptism of fire into the woodland ways! Some brave souls even came back for more and have created a beautiful rustic fence around the woodland kitchen area; thanks peoples, amazing work!

Kirby has completed his fabulous and innovative yurt; an experimental design which he has crafted beautifully; I’m sure there will be pictures on here soon.

The snows came once again and adjusting to these extremely cold and wet conditions which now appear to be so relentless throughout the year, is a task in itself. Adam and Kirby have pushed on with the coppicing regardless and have even been working on the adjacent woodland to help the owners along with their own management plan.

Infrastructure – a water tower is now in place so there will be far less running back and forth to the spring during courses and events as we can begin to harvest and store water from our kitchen roof surface.

Adam and Kirby are working on an extended course diary beginning in Spring so please watch this space and the facebook page for updates.

Woody Wednesdays is still in full swing so if you’d like to get involved with woodland management and general eating, tea drinking and blethering, get yourselves along for 10am on a Wednesday. Ring Adam the day before to confirm numbers for lunch which we provide, and please wear waterproofs and tough outdoor shoes… 07506201563

Hope to see you in the woods soon. x