Eco Family Life. Right Here. Right Now. Be The Change.
Ever keen to explore new woodlands, and places promising a great day out for children, in a natural environment, we made our first trip to Wilderness Wood, in Hadlow Down, Sussex, this week. Going on a long walk with a small child can never be planned in any great detail, and I did laugh at the idea of following the mile-ish long trail all the way round, without deviation or hesitation, but this more rambling style suits me fine when we are out exploring. Why yomp for miles just for the sake of covering ground, when you could take your time to experience a smaller area more fully? Taking time just ‘to be’ is so important for experiencing a connection with nature, with the feel and spirit of a place, and is an experience that is sadly lacking in a lot of lives. I know I would like more time for this myself.
Anyway, to say we got a bit lost following the map on the pamphlet we were given would be an understatement. Whether it was more distraction from the small girl choosing her own path or just good old fashioned bad map reading, I’m not sure, but happily, just when we thought we were as far away from the finish as we could be, we stumbled back upon it, having taken a most interesting shortcut. We’ll have to return soon and follow the trail the other way round, and see if we can piece together what we didn’t see.
But what we did see was more than lovely. The scattering and gathering of mossy-rooted trees were fairy homes every one of them. We had perfect weather for enjoying magical surprises around every corner, too. Sparkling shafts of sunlight broke through the leafy canopies to draw our eyes onto wooden carvings, including the most beautiful green woman.
There was also a range of shelters created from fallen branches and in some cases, living trees. We spent a great deal of time crawling in and out of most of these!
So, other than the experience of ‘being’ in this glorious woodland, exploring the trees, plants and scattered sculptures, what else is there at Wilderness Wood? There’s an outdoor shop selling fence posts and other timber supplies, as well as some lovely wooden furniture, all made from their own trees. There’s also a little café, toilets and a children’s playground area, just inside the entrance, full of lovely sturdy wooden play equipment although most of it is for older children, especially the zip-wire-type contraption! We spent some time here at the beginning and end of our visit. A sign promises more play equipment suitable for younger children coming soon, so we’re looking forward to coming back another time and seeing what’s materialised. Having said that, the smallish-but-most-adventurous girl was entirely satisfied with sitting on the various wooden deer, crawling through half a tyre embedded in the ground, having endless turns on the slide, and attempting to climb the rope rigging, with a little help from her dad.
Wilderness Wood is a wonderful place in that it provides families with a real range of experiences that foster interest in nature, such as woodland folklore trails and all manner of practical activities, from fairy stories to bush craft skills. The owners of Wilderness Wood appear to be running an environmentally friendly business, whilst opening their woods to the public. It did feel strange to be paying an entrance fee and wearing a wrist band to go for a woodland walk, but I’d rather support this place than a lot of other visitor ‘attractions’, and of course we did enjoy the playground and sculptures too. So, is this place really wild? I do wonder why it is named Wilderness Wood, when so much of it is managed. Wilderness is an increasingly rare and precious thing in the twenty first century, and for remaining wild areas to stay thus, to be protected from development, today’s children (and indeed so many adults) need to develop an understanding of what wilderness really is – place neither touched nor controlled by humans.