Grand designs and modern art at Hartest Wood
A hidden gem, deep in the Suffolk countryside, Hartest Wood has an interesting history
A dedicated band of Woodland Trust volunteers get together a few times a year to look after the wood for the benefit of wildlife and visitors alike. Hartest wood is no ordinary wood, its layout mirroring the village of Hartest. During my visit, Warden and Woodland Working group leader John Kemp told me about the history of the site, the vital work that the volunteers carry out and hopes for the future.
“Hartest Wood was one of the 200 Millennium Woods created by The Woodland Trust under the ‘Woods on Your Doorstep’ scheme. The three acre plot of land was initially bought with generous gifts from villagers and was then given to the Trust who raised additional funds and provided trees. The planning and planting was left to the villagers who dug in all 1066 trees on one day in December 1999 (1066 coincidentally being the number of the road which bisects the village). A large band of around 100 adults and young people turned up with their spades and wellies and worked until the job was done.
There was an imaginative plan for the wood with pathways to represent the roads of the parish and an oak tree was planted to represent every house in the village – many of which are oak framed. The site of the church is marked by yews and hollies and in one corner of the wood a group of ash trees was planted in the hope one day of providing ash stays for the church bells when needed. That area is called Bell Stay Bottom. Sadly some of the ash are already succumbing to ash die back disease and we wait with some trepidation to see how the rest fare.
There has been an annual Wood Tidy when villagers come to trim back trees growing over the pathways and at last we have reached the stage when a little thinning is needed as the trees reach maturity. The wood is certainly well visited, especially by dog walkers and it’s nice to see that children have been in there making dens, something we certainly encourage.
A great feature of the wood is a delightful sculpture called The Gift which was made and donated by a village resident the late Geoffrey Clarke who is probably most famous for his “witches broom” fleche sculpture which sits on the roof of the new Coventry Cathedral. Mr Clarke also made a miniature sculpture of a mounted spade which was awarded to our champion planter on the day the wood was planted. It still has pride of place on his mantelpiece”.
The Gift by Geoffrey Clarke
Thanks to John and the volunteers of Hartest Wood for their hard work! Thanks to John Kemp and Michael Feather for contributing to this article.