Ruskin Land has seen a lot of creativity over the last week or so. We’ve had many inspiring visitors, including the participants in our first ‘Ruskin in Wyre’ seminar which took place here last Tuesday.
A few days before that students from the Cardiff School of Architecture arrived for their week long ‘making’ residency, a key component of their postgraduate degree course. Part of their brief was to explore the ‘role of material in place making and identity’. They were a great bunch and it was a privilege to see them at work, interpreting and exploring the local area in diverse ways. Their week culminated on Friday when we visited the structures – or ‘constructed fragments’ – they had each created as a personal response to the place. Each fragment was different, fascinating in its own way, but united by a common thread – the material, green oak sourced, milled and crafted in Ruskin Land.
In the midst of all this architectural creativity we hosted our first seminar, more of a workshop as it turned out, to explore with arts practitioners from diverse backgrounds the creative potential of Ruskin Land. The discussion at the seminar, expertly animated by Dave Dixon, echoed in many ways the work of the architecture students. After a short walking tour, we asked workshop participants to consider how makers, artists and other creatives ‘can help reveal and magnify the special qualities of the forest and the work being undertaken.’ And we got a variety of stimulating responses.
One of the most exciting ideas to emerge was to establish a kind of ‘parliament of the woods’ with members representing the interests of all the stakeholders, including flora and fauna, living here. One attraction of this approach is the potential it has to help us negotiate the difficult balance we need to strike between making Ruskin Land more widely known while safeguarding its inherent natural beauty, tranquillity and capacity to inspire.
This was just one of many wonderful suggestions made during the workshop. Another important theme concerned how we can open up opportunities to interact with the place for people from all backgrounds, including those who have never experienced the delights of a campfire under a starry night sky.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, last Wednesday we collected the first batch of fruit trees we are planting in the new orchard at St Georges Farm. With the help of numerous volunteers we’ve already managed to plant a good proportion of them. The orchard will contain apples, plums, cherries and damsons sourced from local suppliers including some varieties planted in the original orchard established here in 1880.
The job is not as straightforward as it might seem due to the need for some seriously robust tree guards and netting to provide protection from deer. We estimate it takes a good hour for two competent people to plant a tree and protect it. Our aim is to have all 150 trees planted, weather permitting, by the middle of January in time we hope for a celebratory wassailing ceremony.