Wilder Woods

Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership

Basketmaking at Drayton Woods – January 2012

by Hannah Aitken - January 27th, 2012

Ten of us gathered together on one of the frostiest mornings of the year to be initiated into the ancient and traditional craft of basketmaking. Armed with gauntlets and old baked bean tins (?) we set about dethorning vicious bramble stems. The sound of a bramble being forced through a hole in a tin has to be heard to be believed! Once subdued we began to see our garden enemies in a whole new light. No longer were they stealthily attempting to slash our skin to shreds or attach themselves inexorably to our clothing. They underwent a total transformation, becoming instead sturdy green and purple frames and handles for our baskets.
Our teachers, Linda and Hannah, dealt patiently with all our queries, soothed us when willow rods snapped and introduced us to the vocabulary of basket making – ‘slyping’, ‘waling’, ‘tips and butts’ ‘upsett’ and ‘randing.’ Once every rib was slyped and in place we were off. We sat around the fire chatting, listening to birdsong (and from time to time the farmer inconsiderately cutting the hedges with something very loud!) totally absorbed by the rhythm of weaving the willow, ivy or bramble seeing each other’s our creations take shape. Everyone put their individual stamp on their basket design – some enviably neat, others of us going for a rather more rustic and airy look! It is hard to describe how relaxing it was just to simply be outside and thinking about absolutely nothing except getting the weaving right, choosing which willow to use next and seeing our work actually begin to look like baskets. The range of colours was amazing – acid green, deep red, olive green, saffron yellow and purply-green. We could hardly bear to tear ourselves away from our creations when it was time for lunch.
By the end of the afternoon we were admiring each other’s handiwork, all of us now the proud owners of our own unique handmade baskets. The sense of achievement from making something yourself from natural materials (which you could actually use!) was truly satisfying. The fact we had spent the day outside was an added bonus. Click on the basket photo in the Drayton Woods Gallery to see all our creations and get a flavour of the day.

Hedgerow Baskets

by Deb Millar - November 27th, 2011

Lynda Shaw and Hannah Aitken ran a wonderful hedgerow basket workshop on 20th November. Do look at the Hallr Wood gallery to see the photos. Some stages of the process were soothing, some utterly frustrating!

We all managed to finish our baskets except for Cee who was supposed to be cooking anyway!They will be running willow baskets in January at Drayton.

Top John Muir Award for two boys

by Deb Millar - November 27th, 2011

Two of our regular volunteers have recently gained their third and top John Muir Award. This is a huge achievement requiring sustained commitment and the boys have been working towards it since March.

The photo is of Mark Johnson who has been coming weekly to Hallr Wood. He is an expert on bird identification and can recognize and imitate bird calls. For this award he also helped out at Bath & West Show on our stall there. Here he is showing his award presented to him by Juliet our chair person.

Henry Street gained his Conserver Award some weeks earlier. Henry hopes to go into a career as a bushcraft instructor. Do have a look at the photos of the coracle he built for his Explorer Award which was launched this summer (in the Hallr Wood gallery).

Horse Logger and Celebration of access opening at Hallr Wood

by Deb Millar - November 21st, 2011

Nearly 100 people of all ages (oldest was 97) called in to watch Charles and Rosalind Buckler at work with their two logging horses on Saturday. The sun shone and children played on the swings and in the dens. The horses Major and Suzy did a great job bringing timber from around the wood ready for planking on Rupert Furneaux’s mobile saw mill ( hopefully visiting us soon). The Woodland Cafe did a brisk trade serving hot soup, teas and delicious cakes, baked and donated by supporters (THANKS to you all). It was a beauitiful way to celebrate the end of the long battle we have fought for permission to continue our woodland activities. In the afternoon we all gathered around the access so that Juliet (Chair of our group) could cut the ribbon. We were also presented with a giant cheque from CHADS (Charlton’s Amateur Dramatic Society) who so generously contributed £500 from the proceeds of their summer producction to enable us to do the work required. There are so many people to thank for the access. S Morris donated the materials – stone for the car area and the concrete for the ramp. Vera Huxter gave money for us to buy new wooden gates, many people donated individually. SSDC gave £500 and Charlton Parish Council gave £40. We have worked flat out to get the access done as quickly as possible. Special thanks go to Tim Loosemore, Marty Fildes, Mike Whittaker, Mike Smyth and of course Martyn Huxter who built the concrete ramp only a week ago. Roger Cox has done a fantastic job with his digger – and will be back soon we hope to finish off by spreading a bit more stone on the edges of the car area. We still have landscaping work to do but hope to complete the planting by holding extra volunteer days through out the winter on Wednesdays. Do get in touch if you would like to know more. Thank you very much to the Forest Education Initiative Partnership Fund for funding for the horse logger. It aptly concluded the Somerset Twig to Table project.

Hallr Wood autumn update

by Deb Millar - October 10th, 2011

Our family conservation club has sadly now finished. Everyone wanted it to keep going so we hope to be able to start up again in the spring.

We are now focusing on getting our access up and running and have finally received notification from SSDC that we have been authorised to proceed with the work. Our Forestry and Conservation group have been working on landscaping inside the wood – they have designed a path to connect the car area with the green wood working shelter. They have also improved the bridge and started helping Martyn on the shed extension.

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive and helpful. Hopefully our planning battles will soon be completely over.

Family Skills Share Continues

by Hannah Aitken - October 6th, 2011

Due to the success of the Drayton Family Skills Share sessions funded by Grassroots Grants we are able to continue running these sessions up until Oct half term, Weds 1-3pm
contact Hannah@madasafish.com for more details

CSOLP is now signed up for Local Giving

by Deb Millar - September 17th, 2011

CSOLP is now signed up for Local Giving through Somerset Community Foundation. Over the years Somerset Community Foundation has supported our work with children and families in woodlands. They gave us our very first grant in 2007 which helped us get started. They also provided valuable advice about the management of a voluntary run group. Many thanks to Somerset Community Foundation, an organization which empowers communities to help themselves.

Forest Family Sessions

by Hannah Aitken - September 7th, 2011


A friendly outdoor playgroup for 0-5 yearolds with Skills Share for adults. Children can explore woodland & play games with a qualified Forest School leader while adults take part in woodcraft, firelighting, wool weaving & felting, willow craft, drama games & wildlife awareness skills share sessions.


4 week course starts Wednesday September 7th, 14th, Sept 21st, Sept 28th


For bookings & details  contact  Hannah Aitken 01458 252 463

Course subsidised by Somerset Community Foundation

Forest School Fridays

by Hannah Aitken - September 7th, 2011

Drayton Woods After School Club for 8-12 year olds starts on September 16th and runs for 6 weeks until October 21st. 4.30-7pm
A chance to develop woodland skills over an extended period, exploration, denbuilding, whittling & tool work, crafts, campfire cooking

Booking Essential Contact Hannah Aitken 01458 252 463


Grants and donations and update on planning at Hallr Wood

by Deb Millar - August 4th, 2011

We are very grateful to SSDC Community Fund, the Charlton Mackrell Parish Council and the Charlton’s panto group CHADS who have all recently given grants and donations towards our access/planning conditions costs at Hallr Wood.

We are really pleased that the new Parish Council is supportive of our work in the community and thank them for their donation of £40 towards the costs of fullfilling our planning conditions at Hallr Wood. This money will be spent on landscaping the access and on hedging, helping us to minimize negative visual affect which is hard to avoid with highways insistence on a 5m access onto a 3m lane.

It was also especially wonderful that CHADs chose to support us, donating £500 from the proceeds of their recent, hilarious production ‘Inspector Drake’s Last Case’. A big thank you to them and all the villagers who attended the play.

We are still struggling with all the bureaucracy attached to meeting our planning conditions and are disappointed we are not yet in a position to proceed with the work. The tree surgeon has begun work around the access – removing a few damanged Norwegian maple trees. This work is fully covered by our Forestry Commission felling licence. The trees in our tree nursery are doing well and are ready to be planted in the hedge when the work is complete.

Anyone who wants to help with the planting or other jobs associated with this work – do get in touch.