Open Days have returned to Alvecote Wood! The winter work is almost over and it is time for us to enjoy the wood and hopefully to share that enjoyment with others. So many of our recent visits have been working visits that sometimes you forget the pleasure of just meandering around and looking at things. And visitors help you see things through new eyes.
Over the last few weeks we have been very busy installing new fences along the field boundary, putting the old wire to use as deer fencing for our coppice, and generally trying to get the wood tidy and safe for visits again. The garden area has also been requiring attention – planting of salads, potatoes and onions, and preparation for more planting to come.
We had a rehearsal for our Open Day last Thursday when the team from the local RSPB reserve at Middleton Lakes visited us. Having had few people in the woods all winter, we suddenly had 24 keen birdwatchers to take round in two groups, testing our knowledge of the habitat and the birds that frequent the woods. The appearance of a great-spotted woodpecker produced a synchronised movement of binoculars to the eyes that would rival the co-ordination of any dance group. The feedback we got was very positive, and from such an expert and enthusiastic group, very welcome too.
The preparation for the Open Day took place amid the Nordic Walking class that I have started running at the woods, and there seemed to be such a lot to do. I also attended the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust WildPlay Leader training the day beforehand. This should mean that I can eventually run WildPlay sessions at the wood, allowing children to experience a really wild environment and learn about the woods, and nature, at first hand while enjoying themselves.
But at last we were ready, and we opened the gate. And nobody came. We didn’t mind that much, as we were both tired, and enjoyed just sitting down, watching the birds on our feeders, and enjoying the unexpected and un-forecasted spring sunshine.
We put the slow start down to the fact that the clocks had gone forward, and everybody had lost an hour of sleep, plus the fact that the road was closed – you could get to the wood just fine, but the signage implied that you couldn’t. But eventually, one gentleman came, and then some more, and finally we had a good attendance which picked up all day.
So we got into the swing of guided tours, explaining what we have been trying to achieve creating our new coppice areas, and generally trying to enthuse visitors about the site.
What was particularly great about the day were the two little lads pictured above. They are cousins and visited with their mums. They had a wonderful time running and playing in the woods. They made their own toys and played a shoot-em-up game with sticks. Their imaginations were engaged, and they were very, very happy. No playstations. No cries of “I’m bored!”. Just enjoying themselves in the early evening sunshine, running and hiding, and playing with toys that were completely free.
If all our Open Days are like this, I shall be happy. It is lovely to have adults asking us difficult questions. It is lovely to get positive feedback, particularly after many bleak and snowy and very cold weekends working with a few hardy volunteers, or even on our own. It is lovely to have our neighbours visit and praise our efforts. But the best thing of all, is to see children playing in the woods. That is what it is all about.