Woodland Working Retreat 9-15 November 2015 Copy


This  is a regular feature of our annual programme at the Quaker Community. We have a large area of managed woodland, providing much-needed habitats for wildlife as well as wood for our own use over the winter, and also run three organic gardens and an orchard, all on permaculture principles.
The week will be a mixture of hands-on, creative, reflective and learning sessions, including a guided nature walk. We shall be learning old and new skills, finding out about the inter-connectedness of the natural world and exploring how we can work with rather than against this; weather permitting, we shall have a celebratory supper and DIY concert round the bonfire at least once during the week.


The following is what one participant wrote for her local Quaker magazine following a previous retreat:

Mauls, chogs and snedding* – a Quaker weekend with a difference

Each year I try to find a new Quaker experience, to meet a different group of people and join in what they are doing. So at the beginning of November I went to spend four nights with the Quaker Community at Bamford in Derbyshire, for a Woodland Working Retreat. The people, place and activities were all great and I really enjoyed my time there.

The members of the Community were most welcoming and it was interesting to find out how the Community works. There were three other residential visitors besides me and a number of young people came to help too. Others came for Meeting on Sunday or to join us for a bonfire. We shared a quiet Meeting every morning and evening, delicious meals at frequent intervals, poems about trees, our stories, washing up and laughter.

The house is in a lovely valley in the Peak District and I enjoyed the woodlands, views, sunrises, starry skies and autumn leaves. Luckily the days were fine, if cold, and it only started raining when I was going back to the station.

The purpose of the activities was that we should learn something of woodland management by actually doing it to help the Community – 11 acres of woodland and garden need a lot of labour. So, for example, we coppiced hazel and willow, preparing the branches cut off for a wide variety of uses; we carted and split logs, stacked the house woodpile and continued with the building of a new wood store.

I was pleased to learn and to help and grateful to the members of the Community for the opportunities they gave me, and for such a happy Quaker experience. Whatever shall I do next year?

*A maul is a type of axe for log splitting; a chog is a section of a log; snedding is removing side shoots from a branch with a billhook.



4 – 6.30 Arrivals, Tea & snacks, supper preparation
7 – 8.00 Supper and washing up.
8 – 9.30 Introductory session followed by epilogue


7 onward Breakfast. Self help. Porridge available.
7.45 – 8.30 Community Meeting for Worship
9 – 10.30 Warm Up exercises followed by tour of the Community woods.
Introduction to the hand tools we’ll be using plus obligatory Health and Safety talk.
10.30 – 11 Tea break in the Spider Shed
11 – 12.30 1st work session: Coppicing hazel/Pollarding willow
1 – 2 Lunch & washing up
2 – 3.30 2nd work session: Continuing coppicing. Building a wigwam and bundling withies.
4 – 6.30 Tea. Rest! Supper preparation.
7 – 8 Supper and washing up
8 – 9.30 Evening session: What Ecologists mean by ‘Community’. Is this helpful in our search for spiritual community ? What do Quakers understand by the unity of creation? Followed by epilogue.


7 onward Self help breakfast. Porridge available
8.30 – 10 Warm up exercises followed by 3rd work session: Work on the wood store, splitting and stacking logs. Heating with wood: physics and economics, part of our sustainablity witness ?
10 – 10.45 Tea/coffee break. Preparing for Meeting.
10.45 – 11.45 Hope Valley Local Meeting for Worship
12.30 – 1.30 Shared lunch with members of the local meeting. Washing up.
2 – 3.30 Visiting local carr type woodland: opportunity for a walk in the National Park .
4 – 6.30 Tea. Rest! Supper preparation
7 – 8 Supper and washing up
8 – 8.15 Epilogue
8.15 Onward A free evening to rest and reflect, play games in the sitting room, or visit the local! (Not forgetting work in the morning)


7 onward Self help breakfast. Porridge available
7.45 – 8.30 Community Meeting for Worship
9 – 10.30 Warm up followed by 4th work session: Harvesting ash & alder poles
Hopefully getting creative with the products of our labours. Bodging/ greenwood working: splitting poles and making hurdles, willow weaving. Building up the woodland paths.
10.30 – 11 Tea/coffee break in Spider Shed.
11 – 12.30 5th work session: As above.
1 – 2 Lunch and washing up.
2 – 3.30 6th work session: As led. Building the Bonfire.
4 – 6.30 Tea. Rest! Supper preparation.
7 onwards Community supper and epilogue around the bonfire.


7 onward Self help breakfast. Porridge available.
7.45 – 8.30 Community Meeting for Worship
9 – 10.30 Concluding work session. As led
10.30 – 11 Tea/coffee break.
11 – 12.30 Reflection and evaluation session.
1 – 2 Lunch and washing up
2 onwards Pack up & departure