Bristol born and
bred, Dave has lived most of his life in Lawrence Weston half a mile from the
farm. He started volunteering at the
farm some four years ago after losing his job at Bristol Zoo, because he wanted
to keep active. He’d been told about the
farm at the local Jobshare office so he walked round, introduced himself and
joined the Gardening Club, which meets every Friday. His first job, he recalls, was helping build
the greenhouse where a lot of our potting work goes on.
Since then Dave
has proved to be a willing and enthusiastic participant. The activities of the gardening Club change
according to the passing seasons and Dave doesn’t mind what job he’s asked to
do. In fact he says he has no time for
people who want to pick and choose. His
father used to grow vegetables in the back garden and Dave liked helping
him. He says he likes growing veg and
loves working in the greenhouse planting seeds, potting on and tending the
plants. But Dave is an all-rounder; he
enjoys the animals, working in the woodland clearing weeds and brambles,
coppicing, pruning, fencing and weaving hurdles, planting trees and splitting
He has also completed two courses at the farm; Woodland Skills and Herbs For Health. Most of all perhaps, Dave enjoys the camaraderie of the Gardening Club. He has become a valued and popular member always ready for a laugh and joke. He says he would miss working at the farm if for any reason he had to stop and I dare say the farm would miss him just as much.
Emma discovered the farm after Googling ‘farms to volunteer at’. She initially came along to the Woodland Skills course and then stayed on as a regular volunteer.
Emma and her husband would like to set up a regenerative agricultural enterprise, such as pastured poultry, which is where a mobile laying flock follows livestock on a rotation around the land. This builds up soil and absorbs a lot of carbon from the atmosphere – both actions are vital to fight climate change and soil loss.
However, first she wanted to get lots of hands on practical experience of livestock and farming. She loves the variety of animals that she gets to work with, and says that there’s so much you’d never know without first hand experience – such as there’s a right and wrong way to slope a nest box roof! (If it slopes the wrong way, chicken poo will go in the nest box).
Emma really enjoys being outside and with people who are interested in farming. Her favourite aspect of volunteering is the variety of jobs and animals, and the camaraderie with the other volunteers. She really values how much time Ian spends with the volunteers and the knowledge he shares with them. She dislikes – nothing!
In the future Emma would also like to learn about bee keeping.
Ben has been volunteering with us since last autumn. He started coming to Green Woodworking on a Monday, and subsequently became interested in volunteering for the Farm. Ben works in the woodland, and also with the animals. He has worked in the orchard strimming the grass.
He is also doing the John Muir Award. The John Muir Award is an environmental award scheme focused on wild places. It encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment, in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. As part of the award Ben is identifying flowering plants in Water Vole Woodland. He feels that it is important to learn to identify plants as we can then ‘understand the world we live in better.’ He also thinks that ‘in this commercial world it is good to know where things come from’ for example wood and the plants that medicines are derived from. Ben is going going to share his growing knowledge with other people through posts on Facebook, a chart in the volunteer cabin and maybe some leafeltes or an information board.
Ben likes working on the Farm and feels more confident than he used to as he can help with things. He thinks that it is good to deal with food production and animals as these things are ‘the basics of life.’
Ben also feels like he is helping with his local community and has met lots of new people in a friendly atmosphere. He really enjoys volunteering.
It was a brilliant day on the Farm on Saturday with all kinds of ancient woodland crafts being demonstrated in Watervole Woodland.
There was charcoal making in the central fire. Charcoal is partially burnt wood and was once a major fuel source. Producing it provided a livehood for wood colliers (charcoal makers). Although we now only tend to think of it for barbeques, it has been used for thousands of years to smelt metal ore. On Saturday however, we made brilliant drawings with it.
‘It was a fun activity.’ Louise aged 7
We also had hurdle making – weaving willow withies between posts or rods traditionally made of hazel. These trees would have been coppiced, to ensure a steady supply of wood and withies. Coppicing is where the tree has been cut down to a stump and new growth emerges as useful regular sized poles and was an essential part of ancient woodland managment, ensuring a steady supply of wood. Hurdles were used as temporary, moveable fencing. A visitor commented that they liked the willow and seeing how the hurdles were made.
There was also the opportunity to try out some green woodworking techniques – a way of creating beautiful, useful objects, from unseasoned wood.
We also made a well known drink, the old fashioned way. Dandelion and burdock roots were scrubbed, and then crushed in a pestle and mortar for the first stages in making this delicious cordial. People had the opportunity to try some that we’d made earlier in the week.
Crushing the roots in a pestal and mortar
Someone asked about a family workshop to learn about spinning wool – so watch this space!
For Bristol Green Week we opened up our Weekly Green Woodworking Group to anybody who wanted to see what the group gets up to on a Monday morning in our beautiful Watervole Woodland. Our visitors joined in with splitting pieces of hazel and then using traditional tools to shape them into spoons. With a campfire for a farm sausage lunch and the lovely tranquil setting everybody seemed quite reluctant to leave at the end of the session! The green wood work group meets every Monday , please email email@example.com if you are interested in joining. We also have a one day spoon making day on Sat _19th July www.lwfarm.org.uk/learning for more info.
A group of farm staff and volunteers spent a weekend in March with Steve England in the farm’s Water Vole Woodland. We learnt how to tap a birch tree for sap to drink, forage for edible plants to make a spring salad and make a fire using fungus! We also explored the Rhine to see if there are any Cray fish loving in their by making ivy baskets and submerging them in the water for 24 hrs.