From 11th February this year, for seven weeks, I led a second ‘Woodland for Wellbeing’ course at Hallr Woods near Somerton. This was a project organised and funded by Ace Arts and Somerset Community Foundation. The aim of the project was to act as a mental wellbeing support group using art and nature through the second lockdown (and as such was given special permission to go ahead by the local COVID advice centre).
The first week we met was bitterly cold, minus 2 or minus 5 I think, Cee had made some ice sculptures the night before and these remained frozen all the following day.
That day, we worked at the top of a steep hill where we made narrow shelters inspired by charcoal burner’s huts. The climb helped warm us but several of us had hot water bottles strapped beneath our layers of clothes!
Fortunately the following weeks were not so cold and we saw the seasons shift from winter into spring; snowdrops gave way to Narcissus pseudonarcissus, buds started to swell a feint haze of green from wild Clematis and hawthorn was showing by week 7. Most excitingly two wrens built a nest in one of the sculptures we made before Christmas.
The feed back from one of the participants nicely summarizes our experiences together:
“I just wanted to put into writing my personal thanks for providing a second opportunity to participate in the wonderful weaving experiences in Hallr Woods with Angela Morley.
The pandemic has made life tough for most people, but this experience was such a breath of fresh air, literally and spiritually. Angela was a great tutor; inspiring us with lots of creative ideas (which we mostly followed) and has a patient, calm and enthusiastic approach which puts everyone at ease and unafraid to try something challenging or new. Spending four hours on a Thursday in such a beautiful, magical environment has made me even more appreciative of the wonders of nature and all it has to offer. Apart from the willow and New Zealand flax provided by Angela, to be able to harvest and use the natural resources around us to weave and create really opened my eyes to the scope of possibilities which are right under my nose and readily available in the countryside.
I particularly enjoyed the range of different projects this time, which built upon skills learnt previously as well as adding new ones. The pixie wigwams (not sure whether that’s the correct name for them!) proved an energetic and physical task – and that’s even before climbing the hill to get to the site! It’s also great to know the local children attending Hallr for forest school will benefit from our efforts as well as possibly the wildlife. Learning to weave a nest made me realise just how hard our feathered friends have to work to give shelter for rearing their young ones and creating a bird is trickier than it seems – why do I always end up making such a large object?! The basket I have woven, also rather large, has been admired by a couple of people and now contains most of my spare towels.
This has been such a valuable experience where I have learnt so many new skills, engaged with others who have also been inspired and fully intend to use those skills in future projects in my garden and to make and create. Of course the other benefit was to have something to look forward to every week which I very much regarded as “my time” to absorb myself totally in what was essentially a mindful activity and be able to safely socialise with other people which has been a bit of a rarity of late.”