National Forest Annual Wood Fair.

At the Annual Wood Fair, Beacon Hill Park, Leicestershire this weekend. Sunday was the right day to go (on account of how it rained heavily on Bank Holiday Monday, the following day).

A thought-provoking day out. Good organisation, good range of things going on (Celtic music, beer tent, wheelwrights fitting iron tyres (fascinating to observe, while trying to keep ash and steam off the camera lens …) to a craftsman-built wooden wheel, horse logging, farmer’s market – and a superb arena display by the Clwyd Axemen).

The “Wild Man of the Woods”.

Head, collar, harness, halter, bridle and hames: ready for business.

Reasonably priced entrance, craft stalls perhaps a little over-priced – the cache of being at such an event maybe ?- and the inevitable lure of, politely put, the richer side of society perhaps seeking status symbols to arrange around the wood-burner or Aga. Because, this is a generalisation and I will try to avoid those – usually (is that a generalisation in itself, I begin to wonder) the majority of visitors are well-heeled, well behaved and well-meaning. Those who have a genuine interest already, those who believe in getting their children out to observe such things, those who can, frankly, afford it! And, er, those categories include me … and sometimes I feel a little guilty about that, though never sure why. The environment needs these people – of course. And these people (how dreadful but cruelly honest this reads as I edit it) need a chance to celebrate and feel good – this long term, successful development is a real success.

The wheelwright, hoping it will all go smoothly. (It did!)

But, in my own seriously considered opinion, there needs to be a more significant presence of the less rich, those who may be money poor and time-rich. Because to be sustainable in the truest of senses these events, these landscapes need to belong to everyone and have everyone actively involved.

That got me thinking,(though rare, this is certainly possible and usually dangerous!) How can such events keep this audience – those who are bringing children who will sit and watch the “lumberjack show”, the Harris hawk display, or listen attentively to the stories told by the “Wild man of the woods”  – and move on?

Work of the on-site chainsaw sculptors, one example; there were many more.

How can the principles and, perhaps more importantly the practices be passed on to a wider audience? Become established, rather than fringe?

What else could have/should have been there?

I worked once with a man who had all manner of mazes. He as responsible for designing a maize maze (that I was lucky enough to overfly in a “press day” helicopter) but had ideas for much smaller mazes with different rules and secrets. Something like this would have been super.

Immediately I thought of schools, but this event is deep in the school summer holidays, so harder to get schools involved. Cyclists? This part of Leicester has fantastic bike ride and walking paths. So, maybe walkers/ramblers too?  Local tourist attractions (Twycross Zoo, the National Trust)? Tethered hot air balloon rides? Kite making? Then, to be honest, my mind started to run out of righteous vigour.

There must be more I kept (and keep) telling myself … then why can’t I think of them? And, if I could, surely because it is me thinking of them it is biased towards what I know, what I would like to see – and that ruins the object of the exercise.

So, some kind of survey/questionnaire needs to be done (different languages, include the physically and otherwise disabled) and get as wide a response as possible … so that here can be an annual wood fair next year and it is not only for the already converted and committed.

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