Newsletter December 2017
2017 has been another busy year for us. During the year we have run 397 days of activity with 3008 people days on our site and have been involved with just over 4000 people in our off-site activities.
Our work was recognised by Living Woods magazine with first prize for Community Woodlands and first prize for our stand and activities at shows all over the country
Our off-site activities included RHS Chatsworth, RHS Tatton, Glastonbury, Blissfields, Woodfest, Caerwys Show, North Wales Country Fair, Holywell Fair, Forest School Association annual conference, Greenfield Valley, Wepre Park, Brickfield Pond and St Asaph Country Fair where we demonstrated traditional crafts and ran short workshops.
We attended 3 interesting conferences at Liverpool, Mold and Wrexham promoting the value of activities outdoors. We gave presentations to the Vintage Tractor Society, St Asaph WI, Llangernyw Garden Society and Nantglyn Ladies Guild.
We hosted visits from Ysgol Rhewl, Ysgol Talhaiarn, Denbigh Civic Society, St Asaph Rotary, Mold Slow Food Group and the Clwydian Young Rangers.
We were involved in a very successful project with Liverpool University School of Architecture to rebuild one of our Forest School shelters. The students made various designs, which we commented on, and they then came up with a final design. Three of the students and two of the staff visited us and we agreed on the final design, materials list and construction techniques. The University paid for the materials (local larch) which we sourced and brought to site. A group of 20 students and 4 staff came for the weekend, camping on site and completed the building over the two days. It looks great.
On our site we had 3 new projects this year. We established a medicinal herb garden which was designed by Cassie Sherriff from Llandyrnog and planted up on a 1 day course in April with about 60 different varieties. The garden has 9 raised beds and the plants grew well. We ran a 2 day course in September when we harvested plants and made a range of herbal remedies. The second project saw the planting of 150 Rondo vines in our new vineyard. Our Community Support groups did the fencing, prepared the land, planted the vines and erected the posts and wires. It will be 2 years before we get a crop! We have completed our second timber-frame Centre building and this is now in full use allowing us to cater for more activities.
We are now involved in the Long Forest project in conjunction with Keep Wales Tidy and the Woodland Trust. We will be one of four hubs in Wales growing hedgerow trees from locally collected seed – another excellent project for our groups to be involved with.
Even though much of the work around the site is carried out by the groups we have here in the week, there are some jobs which they cannot do. This is particularly the case in terms of woodland management and our on-going ecological recording. We have therefore set up, for a trial period, a regular volunteeer day on Mondays. This has been running for nearly 2 months and is proving successful. Each day is run by one of our staff and we hope to make it a permanent feature.
Mindfulness in a woodland setting
We have started running a series of Mindfulness courses. Each session lasts for two and a half hours starting indoors and then moving out into the woodland and ending with a shared vegetarian meal. The courses are going well as we steadily build up numbers.
We have completed setting up the course programme for next year and this is now on the website. The printed leaflets will be ready by mid January.
We are contracted to deliver a range of programmes in 2018 : 2 days a week of Community Support on behalf of Social Services for adults with learning difficulties; a day with 14-16 year olds who are reluctant school attenders; a day a week with a group from MIND; a day a week with residents from a local care home who are all in wheelchairs; a number of shorter programmes with young carers, young people with autism, long-term unemployed, young mothers and children with special needs.
Music, drama, poetry and story-telling
We have run a number of music and drama events in the woods over the years and we hope to develop a more regular programme. We have some lovely sites in the woods and we are looking for artists who want to perform outdoors for a small group – maximum 60 people.
We recognise that we need to do more to make our site and activities accessible to more people particularly those with mobility problems and impaired vision. It presents many challenges but we are making some progress.
Best wishes to everyone for 2018 from all of us at the Woodland Skills Centre.
***** Launch of new course ‘Mindfulness in the Woods *****
There has been a lot of coverage in the press recently about the benefits of Mindfulness on mental health and wellbeing.
A very interesting interview of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBCT (Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) and MBSR (Mindfulness-based stress reduction) was published in the Guardian:
Woodland Skills Centre has supported health and wellbeing for many years in their provision of Social Forestry Level3 OCN courses but also through the work with the various special needs groups that visit the Centre on a regular basis.
As an extension of our programme we are excited to now run this new course:
Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting course
Come and experience mindfulness in the award-winning 50 acre Warren Woods.
We currently offer sessions as an introduction to Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting that are suitable for anyone over the age of 18 who either already practises mindfulness or wants to explore the benefits of mindfulness in nature.
The aim of the session is to become aware of the small changes in the physical sensations in your body, your thoughts, moods and emotions and what is happening in the world around you.
Some of the benefits of practising mindfulness include:
General happiness and contentment – Greater harmony in relationships – Enhanced insight and clarity – Improved analytical skills – Increased curiosity, openness and acceptance – Reduction in anxiety, depression and stress – Improved memory and concentration – Enhanced ability to deal with illness and to manage pain – Reduced risk of heart problems – Improved immune system responses.
The sessions will take place in the beautiful tranquil woodland where we will experience nature at its best. In case of inclement weather we will have the use of one of the timber-framed Centre buildings heated by a wood-burner stove.
The sessions will be led by Sabine Soosten, a Level 3 qualified ‘Mindfulness in Woodland’ practitioner.
Cost £15 including a simple vegetarian meal
For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the session leader, Sabine Soosten, on 01745 710626
The regular Volunteer day takes place every Monday from 10.00 till 3.00 to look after our 50 acre site – woodlands, tree nursery, arboretum, heritage orchard, wildflower meadow, vineyard, Forest School sites.
Volunteers work with one of our staff who ensures that full training is given. You will learn about our woodlands and what lives in them, a range of woodland management skills, habitat creation and wildlife monitoring.
If the weather is bad we have the use of our large workshops and make products from material we harvest from the woods.
We provide tea, coffee and biscuits and we have the use of one of our heated timber frame buildings. Just bring a packed lunch and suitable outdoor clothing and we will take care of the rest.
If you are interested in this opportunity please contact us by email email@example.com or phone 01745 710626.
Live in the Woods
‘what a wonderful night on Friday at Garry’s concert, I loved every minute of it, such a beautiful way of combining music in a natural setting well done.’ (Live in the Woods – Gary Edward Jones)
John, April 2018
‘Just a note to say a big Thankyou for a great evening last Friday. Phil and I and friends Kathy and John really enjoyed it and hope to be able to come to the next one! Weren’t we lucky with the weather too! You must be very pleased that it was such a success……..worth all the hard work getting ready.’ (Live in the Woods – Gary Edward Jones)
Mel & Phil, April 2018
Kids Holiday Club
My girls Sofia and freya would like to thank you after an amazing two days with you . They are genuinely sad it’s come to an end and I would highly recommend you to any parents wanting to encourage kids off gagets and engage with nature.
Diana, February 2018
Bowl Turning on a Pole-lathe course
Just wanted to say thanks again for another superb course at the WSC. Really enjoyable and a great learning environment. Thanks also to you and the team for making me feel welcome. Hope to see you soon.
Martin, October 2017
Tool Sharpening Course
I did a tool sharpening course, one day, with Doug. I found it extremely helpful. Obviously you’re not going to become an expert in a day, but you can bring your own tools and the course is designed to help you learn what sharpening skills are most useful for you. By the end of the day I felt much more competent and had a clearer idea how to look after my wood carving tools. Doug was a patient and well informed instructor and there was only four of us in the group so you get plenty of one on one time. Sharpening is crucial for anyone learning to carve so I’d definitely recommend this.
Eadon, May 2017
Review from a regular visitor
Superbly well kitted out centre with campsite, green woodworking centre, examples of carbon neutral building and well managed diverse woodland. A well curated set of courses and workshops keep our family coming back for more!
David, May 2017
Had a great day yesterday making a shave horse. Lovely friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Help on hand when needed but allowed to just get on with it too. Second visit for a course and I’m sure it won’t be my last.David,
David, October 2016
Hi guys, just a quick note to say thank you so much for an excellent day making charcoal, Helens knowledge and explanations were spot on, can’t believe l learnt so much in just one day, had a really fun day with Sabine and Dylan as well, thank you for your company! Will definitely be returning ASAP and for the woodland courses in October, best wishes to you all till then ; )))
John, May 2016
Recently Llais y Goedwig initiated a pilot bursary scheme to support community woodlands attend Coed Lleol’s Social Forestry OCN course. The course explores the use of woodlands to promote social and human wellbeing, equipping trainees with the tools to apply Social Forestry ideas in practice – suitable for social foresters, woodland owners/managers and health, wellbeing and social care professionals. Here Roy from Beaufort Community Woodlands, a recipient of a pilot bursary reports back on his inspiring experience, and what he will be taking back to his group.
Having travelled up through the beautiful countryside of Mid Wales I arrived at the Bodfari Woodlands Skills Centre (pictured above) to a warm welcome from both Rod and Julia.
During the morning of the first day the group had an introduction to the ethos and belief behind the management of the woodlands; the idea the woodlands should have a Social, Environmental and Financial element: all of equal importance. The initial talk was followed by an overview of the History of the centre and the services it provides to its users. The afternoon session was led by Alan – with a tour of the woodlands, discussing how they managed the site via Coppice to standards or Continuous cover with much emphasis on the benefits to both the environment and diverse habitats. How rational management builds in long term resilience.
The first day was also covered with a mindfulness session – a type of meditation. Walking into the woodlands, trying to empty your mind of your worries, feeling the earth below your feet, allowing your senses to take in the sounds and smells around you. If this sounds very hippyish- do not knock it until you try it.
The course progressed over the next three days: covering aspects such as the human impact on woodlands well-being both negative and positive. A practical series of sessions where covered on: Woodland management – where the group removed pioneer silver birch saplings from a unique heathland habitat, Risk assessment for social forestry activities, Hazel coppicing, leading onto bush craft activities.
Important legal aspects were also discussed, such as woodland protection under law, the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service if you undertake activities with children. The final practical session allowed individuals to investigate their own interests, strengths or weaknesses. Most had the chance to sit astride a shave horse – paring down timber with a draw blade. Others cleave timber to manufacture bespoke artefacts. One or two more adventurous souls created Hazel hurdles; making use of a rounding plane. I am particularly pleased with the mallet manufactured from a solid piece of beech (I am simply pleased).
Following the attendance at the course there are two immediate impacts to my Society; to undertake the planting of a stand of Hazel for coppicing. It became apparent from the Social Forestry course that Hazel is a sustainable species for forest activities. When applying for grants in the future my society will be able to highlight the knowledge and experience gained from the course.
If you have the opportunity to attend this course, it’s a must for all those who are active within their own woodlands. It puts your personal experiences into context whilst filling in gaps within your own knowledge. If it was on trip advisor – I would have to rate it with five stars.
Roy, June 2016
We had a brilliant weekend with you. Thank you so much for everything. See you again very soon.
Nic, September 2015
Yet another wonderful weekend making baskets with the amazing teacher and basket maker Mandy Coates.
Such a beautiful place and the people that run it are so knowledgeable, welcoming and friendly.
I highly recommend any of their courses. Still smiling five hours later, and I succeeded in making a log basket. Very proud.…
Thanks everyone! See you soon.
Kate, July 2016
I have been there several times. Our daughter did a wood owl carving course there and thoroughly enjoyed it. Really friendly and helpful people. I am really impressed with their eco classroom. Its definitely worth picking up some of their BBQ charcoal. Never had anything better. Will be back again.
Andy, April 2016
I recently attended a course at the WSC, and would like to write a few words about it:
I originally applied for the Practical Woodland Tasks course, but not enough signed up for it; however, the WSC suggested I attend the Managing a Small Woodland, and they would adapt part of this for me, to include some of the Practical Tasks course; so I experienced part of each course, the best of both worlds! I commend the WSC for their adaptability.
Managing a Small Woodland is aimed at those thinking of buying, or who have recently bought, a small woodland. Part of the day is spent looking at different compartments of the woodland owned by the WSC and how each is managed, with successes and failures. The day also covers the woodland owner and the law.
I spent the afternoon having a one-to-one session covering some aspects of Practical Woodland Tasks – tree planting and aftercare; and looking at recent plantings to consider which trees should be selected as potential standards and how they could be improved by formative pruning.
Both parts of the day were very helpful to me as a new woodland owner, and I would recommend both courses to potential or new owners. The Centre offers courses for small numbers and the tutors are very relaxed and helpful. Fabulous setting on the edge of the Clwydian Hills too!
Many thanks for your course at Bodfari. Appreciated your patience, fascinating all the way & I am ever so chuffed with the result!
The Woodland Skills Centre was very much enjoyed by the group.
In fact this was the best thing the Cubs said we did during this year.
Just being able to explore a beautiful woodland, cook over an open fire, foraging, understanding more about trees and nature.
Plus they certainly really loved learning from the experts on how to use various tools , making nest boxes, willow and gypsy crafts, so thank you all for this.
Denbigh Scouts and Cubs who came on a series of visits in 2015
I wanted to say than you once again to yourself and Alan for what has been an absolutely splendid day. I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a learning experience so much.
I’ve just arrived home and had the whole family trying out my new ‘shave horse’ in the back garden, along with lots of curious looks from the neighbors!
Everything about the Woodland Skills Centre is brilliant, from the new training block to the incredible workshop and of course the skill and knowledge of the team, it’s like an explosion of sights and sounds that keeps you thirsting for more.
I will be back, and next time I won’t be alone!