Getting Lost in the Woods
I love spending time in the woods. When I lived for a few months in a community in Shepton Mallet, the view from my bed in my little Shepherd’s Hut was of the path into Ham Woods. In less than a minute I could cross the garden, go through the gate and be submerged in leafy greenness. The woods had overtaken an abandoned railway line and old quarries, so there were wonders of our industrial past to be discovered, as well as an abundance of flora, fauna and numerous varieties of fungi. I would lose myself for hours, sometimes literally, but always be home in time for tea, often laden with wild garlic, hazelnuts or blackberries, depending on the season. I would practice being invisible and sometimes come face to face with deer, who would regard me quizzically, almost close enough to touch. Rarely did I encounter another human.
Sadly there are no woods within such easy walking distance of Glastonbury that are big enough to have a proper adventure in, instead I mainly get my nature fix by cycling to the watery wonderland of the Avalon Marshes, but I know them too well to experience the thrill of getting slightly lost that I get from wandering through woodland. Last time I visited my Viking friends in Wookey Hole, I sloped off alone at two in the morning to explore Ebbor Woods. There was only a sliver of moon, I had a small bike light for illumination, but no idea how much charge it had in it. This led a frisson of excitement to the walk as, though I know the woods fairly well, I didn’t know when I might be plunged into darkness. There is a bear woven from willow in a clearing in the centre of Ebbor woods, he stands upright, arms raised and claws extended, as if about to pounce. Even though I have seen him a hundred times in daylight, I still experienced a primal moment of fear as I saw his silhouette looming before me.
Magical Music in a Fairytale Setting
I didn’t realise how much I was missing time in the woods until I heard that my friend and wonderful singer songwriter Dora Darling was organizing a musical event in Hallr Woods, with a line-up of some of my very favourite folk musicians – Nathan Williams, Dora Darling herself, Sophie Harrison, Jessica Ruby Radcliffe, Steve Potier and Laura Marshall. I had planned to cycle, the woods are only nine miles away from Glastonbury, but we’d had rain for days, the sky was still threateningly grey and then Jessica mentioned she could do with a lift so we set off in the car instead.
Jessica Ruby Radcliffe
I became acquainted with Jessica in the early part of 2020, she got in touch through Normal For Glastonbury and we corresponded by email. I quickly realised that Jessica was a true Bohemian and someone I’d really like to meet, so I was delighted when she made it over to Glastonbury from America in September last year. Jessica is a poet and singer, one time resident of New Orleans and best known for the albums she recorded with her ex-husband British guitarist Martin Simpson. I was excited to introduce her to some of Glastonbury’s musicians – particularly Nathan, Dora and Steve as I felt utterly certain they would love each other’s work. Sadly, the Covid situation cut her visit short so it was not to be in 2020, but she made a heroic effort to get back here for this Summer and had managed to hook up with Nathan and Dora to play together. What I didn’t know, until Nathan introduced Jessica from the stage, was that he had discovered her music quite by accident last year and enjoyed it so much he’d been learning some of her songs, never imagining he would actually be performing those songs with Jessica herself! Nathan was somewhat star struck and Jessica was clearly thrilled, which was lovely to see.
It was a delight to hear everyone playing, the natural amphitheater of the woods made the perfect setting for each and every performance, the audience were spellbound. Even the light drizzle at the start of the performance didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits too badly, so thirsty were we all for music.
Stevie P was the last to play and there was a special request for him to perform his ever popular ukelele cover version of CHIC’s disco anthem “Le Freak” as an encore, which he agreed to do on condition that everyone danced. This made for a funny and memorable ending to a perfect afternoon of folk, fun and friendship in the woods.
Why don’t you go down to the woods today?
Wilder Woods Outdoor Learning Partnership have turned this seven acre steeply sloping woodland into a wonderful event and educational space, I heartily recommend you check out the Wilder Woods website to learn more about their diverse programme of events and educational activities. They are keen to host more musical events in particular and I hope I’ve got across what a perfect fairytale setting this is, do get in touch if you’d like to talk to them about hosting your event.
Do like the Hallr Woods Facebook page to be kept in touch with their events and activities.
All photos copyright Vicki Steward.
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