Balnacra Arts by Vicky Stonebridge

Community Woodlands Association Conference

Much of my time recently has been taken up with our community woodlands project. We have 2 hectares(?) of wood already, and some buildings ( including the tree-house ) from which to run various community events, businesses and training. We have until March next year to purchase a 92H woodland from Forestry commission Scotland. This will need harvesting as it is currently mature lodge-pole which is getting windblown. The long term plan is to replant it and create local housing, micro businesses, forest crofts, amenities, wildlife planting and much more.

We are not the only community woodland project in Scotland, in fact there are many, these are held together under the umbrella of the Community woodlands association. This weekend I was lucky to attend their annual conference in Melrose/ St Boswells in the Scottish borders.  Each community has its own needs, with its own solutions. The weekends speakers covered all ends of the spectrum; commercial forest harvesting, legislation, Scottish land reform, funding and grant applications, right through to arts activities in the woods, foraging, health and wellbeing projects. This weekend was also the 25th anniversary of the nearby Wooplaw community woodland, so we went on a field trip out into their wonderful woods.

The experience was very inspiring and reinvigorating for me, sometimes the organisational project management side of things can take over. Actually getting out into woods and enjoying the company of trees tends to me a solitary personal pursuit, to meet lots of other people who spend their time & energy making woodlands available for everybody was very positive.  I have carried quietly for decades seemingly rather esoteric notions  about getting back to nature, eating wild foods, permaculture, the theraputic aspects of the outdoors, sustainabilty and the relationship between people and wild places- i have almost forgotten how to articulate these ideas except through art, as they seem so out of sync with out TV bombarded, market led, product obsessed, over packaged, destructive, corporate dominated, plastic existence. Wonderful to meet again people all working away in very real ways to make a measurable positive change for the better. It is fantastic to see that universities are now evidencing why we need to get back outdoors. Some practitioners under the NHS is starting to work seriously with organisations getting people into the woods and landscape, why gardening and volunteering is good for us. Even Scottish Government is recognising that its not all about money, that community, well being and ‘re-naturing’ people and communities is a vital part of reversing current societal and economic problems.

Wonderful to meet so many trail blazing, long term thinking, dedicated people, wonderful to get out of the conference room, to listen to celtic stories around a bonfire and spend time in the trees.  People have always been around trees, living, working, thriving. The sentence being bandied about this weekend was ‘Every community deserves a woodland’, deserves? needs, has a right to have? when was the last time you just walked near or sat by some trees? go out there & do it, I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.

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This entry was posted on September 4, 2012 by in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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