Welcome to the Woodland Skills Centre!
Please note that we have launched our slightly reduced course programme for the period January – March 2021 where we are able to allow for social distancing and small participants numbers.
We follow Government guidelines with regards to hygiene with all public indoor areas regularly disinfected, social distancing and non-contact temperature check on arrival.
The course programme for the remainder of 2021 will be published on our website once we have a clearer idea how this pandemic carries on and about Government restrictions.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Woodland Skills Centre.
Wondering what we are up to at the time of Covid-19?
Although we have had to suspend our social prescribing programmes and our craft courses due to social distancing guidelines, we have not stopped operating.
The lovely Spring weather has invigorated the entire site and the absence of the usual number of people meant that wildlife and nature is more evident than usual. The birdsong can be heard loud and clear. We have adopted a slower pace and taken the opportunity to revisit projects that had been put on hold previously due to lack of time.
One such project was the Medicinal Herb Garden.
We created the Herb Garden about three years ago. It is located within the Community Allotments and consists of 9 raised beds that contain over 50 different herbs. Every year we run two courses – the first one in Spring “Plan a Medicinal Herb Garden” and the second course “Growing and Using Medicinal Herbs”. Over time we noticed that some of these herbs grow very vigorously and had the tendency to escape from their beds. Over the last few weeks we spend time sorting, tidying, ‘cleaning’, weeding, replanting, harvesting, laying new paths and we have almost finished. And what a result – a rejuvenated ‘new’ Medicinal Herb Garden!
Another project was the Community Support Allotment.
Our group of Community Support, adults with special needs referred to us from Social Services, has been coming to the Centre since 2015. They have their own large allotment that they tend to. They grow plants and vegetables from seed in our poly-tunnels and when ready plant out in their allotment. Unfortunately, so far this year they have been deprived from coming and working their allotment due to the virus. We have taken the opportunity to completely re-design the allotment. We have installed 9 new raised beds, built from oak sleepers, some beds with wheelchair access. All of these beds have now been planted up with many varieties of vegetables and fruit. We have also erected a new bespoke timber-frame shelter and a small poly-tunnel. A rain water harvesting system is yet to be installed. We very much hope that it will soon be possible that social distancing can be lifted so that the group can return and tend their allotment which they all thoroughly enjoy.
The slower pace allows us to find more time for nature.
This time of year the hedgerows are featuring the most stunning display of colour – red campion, stitchwort, cow parsley, bluebells, dandelions, Jack-by-the-hedge, wild garlic – to name just a few.
Due to the lockdown councils have abandoned cutting the grass in public spaces like roundabouts which has allowed plants to take over. Is it not wonderful to notice a sea of white and yellow? Dandelions and daisies! That view lifts our spirit and makes us smile.
It is a perfect time for foraging and making use of the free food. Has anyone ever made nettle soup or wild garlic pesto? Why not give it a try? Nothing more delicious than preparing food with ingredients that you have harvested yourself from nature.
Nature – the mindful healer
In these troubled times I would like to introduce you to Mindfulness in Nature.
Mindfulness has its origin in Buddhist meditation practised by Buddhist monks over 2,500 years ago.
In Western culture Mindfulness was first applied as a different medical model in the 1970s: through Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy – which can slow down Alzheimers). Both are successful in assisting people with a history of recurrent depression. MBSR is helpful in dealing with stress and anxiety.
In 2008 the UK Government adopted the document ‘5 Ways of Wellbeing’: 1.Connect 2.Be active 3.Take notice 4.Keep learning 5.Give
Our modern lives have become complicated. We are used to rushing from one distraction to another. This affects our abilities to concentrate, perform and live near our optimum level.
Our mind is always racing and consequently we struggle to focus. The busy-ness of our lives means that our bodies and minds are constantly working overtime. Stress-related illness has increased with more anxiety, depression, addiction and physical symptoms of stress like insomnia, fatigue, high blood pressure.
The mind is over-stimulated with technology, computers, TV, mobile phones and these are often used to prevent boredom.
The current situation is going to put even more stress on people who will worry about how to make ends meet and what the future might bring.
Social distancing and self-isolation will have a huge impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.
For many it can become unbearable. This is when we need to put coping mechanisms in place.
We all strive for happiness. Quite often what makes us happy are material things which only provide temporary happiness and clutter the mind. We believe that happiness should be a default setting in life and anything else is wrong. We struggle to chase and maintain that feeling of happiness and get hooked on the temporary pleasure it gives. We feed it with holidays, food, drink, clothes, cars, relationships. Yet how many people are truly happy?
In the unprecedented situation we are in, we are being denied many of these opportunities for happiness that we have taken for granted. We have to look for other ways to respond. We are forced to slow down, learn to spend time with ourselves, face our demons in many cases. It will encourage families to spend time together as children are off school, and as a family they need to find ways to interact with each other, reconnect, learn to be together all day long, listen to each other, be creative, discover new things to do together.
We will be looking for ways to occupy ourselves. I can see a lot of positivity amongst all this upheaval and unrest.
Life is precious – let’s find ways to enjoy it. Yes, we are forced to spend most of our day indoors but during the time we can go outside let’s appreciate nature.
Nature is always there for us, doesn’t judge us, accepts us for who we are, welcomes us. There are so many ways to connect with nature.
Even if you don’t have a garden or allotment you are able to have access to nature.
It could mean opening a window wide, smell the air, listen to the sounds (less traffic, less noise and air pollution), look out for birds, watch the clouds or the stars at night.
If you have a garden now is the perfect time to spend more time there – Springtime, watch nature wake up, gardening, tidying up and preparing for the planting season, but don’t overdo it – slow down, find time to sit down and look around you. You might see all the jobs that need doing – no rush, you have time now to tackle them. Look at the beauty of nature all around you.
Spend time to look at the things in more detail, turn over that leaf by your feet and study it for a while. What is its texture – does it feel smooth or rough? Does it have a scent – delicate or strong?
I never tire of nature – it is always present, it is a perfect stimulus and inspires in many ways. Think about painting, photography, poetry! Maybe now is the time to take up a new hobby?
Spending time in nature awakens our senses. We have neglected our senses. We don’t taste and saviour the food we eat, we eat too fast – slow down..
We tend to only hear unpleasant sounds – what about the quiet, barely noticeable sounds? Spend some time outdoors and listen – is the quietest sound really furthest away? Or is it right next to you?
If you have the opportunity to go to a woodland for your daily outdoor activity, then this will provide you with the most amazing benefits.
You might have heard of Forest Bathing – Shinrin-yoku. This is a form of Mindfulness introduced in Japan during the 1980s to help Japanese people to recuperate from stress and mental health problems. There has been much research that showed evidence that spending time in woodlands improves our mood and wellbeing. Trees produce a natural chemical that is beneficial to our brains. Woodlands provide visual and auditory stimulation.
Have you ever sat on a woodland floor with your back leaning against a tree, feeling supported and held? Have you felt the earth and the moss under your hands? Have you looked up at the tree canopy?
There is so much to notice. Be still. What can you hear?
Spending time in woodlands has many advantages and benefits: space – sensory connectivity – year-round interest – trees there long before us and will be there long after we have gone – trees won’t be rushed, they grow slowly and maybe can show us how to be patient and accepting – the stillness helps us to restore and bring balance.
Our life will never be the same. It has changed within a few weeks and will carry on changing until this pandemic is over.
Change can be daunting. The unknown can be worrying. We are used to being in control. Now it feels that we have lost control. Our work, everyday life, our habits have changed.
Try and see this as an opportunity. Change is good for us. It makes us more alert, more creative, encourages us to become more resourceful and resilient. It can inspire.
Look at it as a positive, as a time for new developments.
We are all in this together, united, across borders, around the world. We are not alone….
Here is to new beginnings…. When all this ends.
Sabine Soosten-Church – Mindfulness in Nature tutor at the Woodland Skills Centre
Newsletter January – February 2020
A warm welcome back to our readers and followers.
We hope you all enjoyed a peaceful festive season and that all the plans you made for 2020 will come to fruition..
Whilst writing this inside our cosy timber-frame Centre building listening to the crackling of the wood in the log-burner, yet another storm, Ciara, is causing havoc outside. Nature is confused by the lack of Winter and the much too early arrival of Spring – Daffodils in abundance in our woodland, the Blackthorn is smothered in delicate blossom and frogs are playing in the ponds.
Where does time go? The second month of the new year and not a sign of slowing down here at Woodland Skills Centre.
During our two weeks of shut-down over Christmas and New Year the team got the Centre buildings ready for another busy year ahead, thoroughly cleaning and treating the wooden floors, general maintenance and minor repair works, re-organising the workshops and completing the new potting shed where all poly-tunnel and bee equipment is now stored. A lot of work went on ‘behind the scenes’, planning new and exciting projects, getting all the 2020 courses on to the website in time for Christmas and getting the new course leaflets printed.
We will be running over 90 courses during 2020 with the introduction of many new ones –
What to do in your Garden this month ( half-day course every month from March to September) https://woodlandskillscentre.uk/product-category/and-more/
Chainsaw Carving https://woodlandskillscentre.uk/product/chainsaw-carving-june-20/
Beekeeping – back due to popular demand – https://woodlandskillscentre.uk/product/introduction-to-beekeeping-may-20/
Oak Spelk Baskets https://woodlandskillscentre.uk/product/oak-spelk-baskets-july-20/
We have also been asked to run several courses on behalf of the National Botanic Garden of Wales:
Constructing Raised Beds (date passed)
Pruning and Grafting Fruit Trees https://woodlandskillscentre.uk/product/grafting-fruit-trees-feb-20/
Water Colour Landscapes https://woodlandskillscentre.uk/product/water-colour-landscapes-mar-20/
As part of our Health and Wellbeing training programme we will also run accredited OCN courses in Social Forestry/Social Prescribing and also Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting:
We are currently delivering nine different Healthy and Active programmes on behalf of Actif Woods Wales in Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham.
Denbighshire: two walking programmes, an eight-week Coppice Crafts OCN course and two programmes of weekly sessions for Flying Start – parents and toddlers.
Flintshire: an eight-week Coppice Crafts OCN course in cooperation with MIND.
Wrexham: just concluded a programme for families and starting a five-week walking programme and another programme for families.
Our involvement with the Long Forest Project is ongoing and a camera crew recently filmed and interviewed us as part of the project.
Our group of teenagers referred to us by TRAC still pose challenges but they are beginning to settle into a routine and are learning basic social skills alongside practical skills. We are not expecting a ‘quick fix’ with these severely damaged young people but we will persevere to provide them the stability they need in their lives. We are starting 3 additional programmes with individual students who have been excluded from school and need some provision.
We have also started an additional one day a week for young adults with autism and will be extending our provision for adults with dementia.
Live in the Woods 2020
We are excited to launch our Live in the Woods sessions again this year with some returning artists but also some new talent.
As in previous years we hope to be able to run most of these music events outdoors, weather permitting, for everyone to be able to experience the idyllic settings.
We look forward to welcoming you to Woodland Skills Centre
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 and ponds.
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.
Mindfulness in Nature – Eight-Week Course
“It has been a real journey for me over the last 8 weeks. I am moving forward albeit slowly, but recovery is happening. Thank you for being patient, kind and wise. With love and gratitude, J X”
J, September 2020
Birthday – Bushcraft Day
We did 2 nights camping and a full day of Bushcraft in the woods for a 12 year old and his friends (and his parents.
“I just wanted to send a quick email to say thank you for last week to you and Alan. We all had a fantastic time on the bushcraft day and camping. You have a wonderful set up there.
Christine and Mark, August 2020
Practical Woodland Tasks course
“Please can you pass on our thanks to Helen for a truly wonderful day on the Woodland Practical Skills course. We learned so much, had a great time and really found the impetus we had been seeking to get us on our way with our own wood.”
David & Julie, February 2020
Mindfulness in the Woods course
I have attended two Mindfulness courses at the centre and absolutely loved them both. I was a little nervous at first but was made to feel extremely welcome. The courses were fantastic and I loved every minute of them. Being quite a anxious person the course has provided me with the skills, knowledge and the desire to practice mindfulness daily and it is now part of my life. I would go as far as to say that the course is life-changing and extremely beneficial to my wellbeing. The surroundings are beautiful and I am looking forward to attending again soon to further develop my skills and practice. That you so much Sabine for sharing your knowledge with me, the impact has been profound. If you are interested in the mindfulness course, I would advise you to take the leap of faith and book, you won’t regret it!
Rebecca, July 2018
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!