One day entirely by chance I stumbled upon an event on social media which I had never heard of before. It turns out I've been entirely in the dark because Derbyshire Woodland Festival has been running for some time. Quite how it passed me by I have no idea! I'd be lying if I said I had no reservations about what it would be like, but any concerns were totally unfounded. The event was much larger than I had expected and in all honesty, fantastic! There were so many highly skilled, very enthusiastic craftsmen and women making all sorts, from wood, inspired by wood or relating to the woods.
There were a whole host of different skills on display from chair making, carving, basket weaving, boat building, chainsaw sculpting, wood turning, survival skills plus many more. The Viking encampment alone had; a blacksmith, traditional weaving, ink making (as a fountain pen collector and ink obsessive you can imagine how exciting this was), candle making, food, herbs and cooking, arrow making and of course, battle reenactment. There was always something to see, smell and of course eat (were always happy if we spot Spondon Bakery at an event, you know your in for something tasty!).
It has to be said the friendliness and approachability of these craftspeople was second to none. Their enthusiasm for their craft was nothing short of infectious and I loved talking to the many makers who urged me to join them with my artwork next year. I wholeheartedly support the dedication and passion that these creatives are putting into keeping these skills alive, and in turn getting others interested and impassioned about them too.
My honest highlight was the Wild Man of the Woods wandering in the forest, telling tales and singing songs. He immediately felt to be the living embodiment of the ancient oral tradition of story telling and oral history which most cultures have lost since the advent of the written word. British Folklore was founded on people like this, they held all the knowledge of their world and passed it forth to the next generation using this ancient technique. My admiration and fascination with this Green Man was honestly huge. I hadn't quite expected to react in such a way and feel so moved, but he was truly incredible. It felt as though I was glimpsing just for a while, into our pre-christian past, and I felt very at home indeed.
Another heart warming part of the day was the 'hug a hen' stall. Where ex-commercial laying hens are offered a second chance in life after being saved by the charity 'Fresh Start For Hens' who help re-home them all over the country. I didn't personally partake in the Hen hugging (last time I held a hen in my arms was a small Bantam found lost in the road, whom I subsequently fell in love with, named Effie Millais and sadly couldn't keep - best not tempt fate to go through that again!). Hens are lovely, calming creatures and both them and the charity workers seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely!
The excitement of a Battle Reenactment is something I always enjoy, and the one by these vikings was no exception. An old friend of mine was surprisingly among the throng of battle hardened warriors, which bought a smile to my face and certainly made being a spectator even more interesting. I always enjoy seeing groups such as this bringing a slice of history back to life for us. Best of all they all seem to greatly enjoy beating the living shit out of each other! Perhaps I should take it up as a form of stress relief!
I whole heatedly hope that there will be another Derbyshire Woodland Festival as I enjoyed the event immensely. There was so much to see and do and so many wonderful folks to talk to it made for a wonderful day out I would recommend to any other like minded people. Maybe next year we might even get some fine weather to go with the fine entertainment!