Wood you believe it?
On many occasions during the past nine years I have travelled up and down the A46 to and from Lincoln to Newark, usually to get a train to take me away to London. As I zipped past at seventy miles an hour, I would occasionally take in a sign from the periphery of my vision next to one of the many woods which line the road. At first, it was a small wooden affair, barely enough to glimpse as you sped past, now it is large, commanding and confident: ‘Hill Holt Wood‘, it says, ‘Entrance’. I’d heard tell of some of the things that were happening and some of the adventures that were being had in this wood but, in truth, from the road all seem unremarkable. As ever, I was keen to investigate things for myself so, knowing that our environmental officer was a friend of the ‘wood people’ I asked if he could fix up a meet for me. I was welcomed and offered lunch and a tour: what a surprise! As you pull off the dual-carriageway, you idle down a tree-lined drive which leads into the heart of the wood: and there you find a manicured and managed setting with a large tepee, a conference centre constructed from ‘green’ and highly insulating materials, chickens run everywhere and a large pig-Purdy-holds court over it all. There are large areas of raised beds where vegetables and fruit are grown and everywhere the land is dotted with ponds and watercourses created as land was shifted elsewhere or used to make the mud and clay which provide the plaster finish to the self-build housing and out buildings. Everywhere there is activity: here a blacksmith’s shelter, there a team coppicing, cutting and chopping wood. It is a real idyll.
I met with Nigel and Karen, the inspiration and driving forces behind this venture. Both relinquished successful and safe careers to embark on this visionary but risky venture. Committed to exploring sustainable ways of living, they bought the wood and then opened it up to be a ‘university’ for those who could not thrive in a conventional school setting, for those who had infringed the Law and were looking to put their lives back together in a positive way and others who, for one reason or another, could benefit from the soothing balm of a meaningful re-acquaintance with nature. It is truly inspirational and indicative of how one can live and work ethically. Presently, there are instruction courses on all the fungi that spring up at this time of year in the wood.
Later, I penetrated further into the wood to the house and lake which Nigel built himself. A brisk Autumn day was softened by the gentle heat permeating from a single wood burner throughout the whole wooden house. Carp sipped gently on the surface of the water and all manner of wildlife sang, chattered and chirped around us. In a world where so much is wrong this all seemed so right. Hill Holt Wood is worth a visit: if only to soothe your soul and assure you that there is indeed somewhere in this rushed and clamouring planet where time has been taken to stop awhile, smell the roses and think about the future of humanity.