It has been a bitter, sun-scarce winter: fortunately there’s been plenty of physical graft here to keep the circulation pumping. Somewhere amidst all the shovelling, trenching, digging, posting and lifting I’ve developed a nagging muscle strain. I’m not sure if it’s a bicep or tricep, as it’s never been conspicuous enough to be positively identified. Whichever, it meant that this week I was made to assume the unsung ‘holding’ role whilst Annie and Little Ru (one of two Rus at Hawkwood, an above average demographic) had the pain/pleasure of driving ‘rustic’ poles three foot into the solid clay, the last post in a long hard sweet chestnut journey.
It began with an innocent enquiry to Adrian Leaman at Wholewoods Environmental Arts. Wholewoods – Adrian and his erstwhile sidekick Kath – have done with wood what OrganicLea have done with vegetables: that is, taken wood, woodlands and related issues (sustainable building, timber, tools) back into the desert of London with determination, flair and a little lunacy. By the time of the conversation, they had felled a little bit of London and pulled it into the Ashdown Forest, from where they run courses and events that reconnect people and trees.
At OrganicLea we’ve spent years helping reconnect people and food, by disconnecting, in various ways, from the destructive industrial system of food production and distribution. But much of a garden’s ‘hard landscape’ is dependent on equally destructive industrial processes, such as tree plantations, wood treating and cement making. With this in mind, I asked Adrian if he could suggest a source of local, sustainably produced hardwood for fence posts for the St. Pauli garden in Hackney.
The next thing I know, I’m in darkest Sussex sawing down trees in our ‘Adopt-a-Coppice’. It’s a profoundly simple scheme whereby we manage a portion of woodland in return for its product. So the chestnut poles have been sawn, pulled up a muddy slope, bundled in and out of a van, pointed and shaved, and now driven into the entrance field, all by our own fair hands, where they will fulfil their purpose of:
a) Supporting espaliered fruit trees;
b) Supporting a wire mesh fence in the event of deer or even rabbits proving a problem for vegetable cultivation on the field.
After all that, you begin to have a relationship with these odd bits of wood stuck in the ground. They promise to stay true and I have promised to adorn them with pear blossom. Mind, you can never be sure how relationships are going to pan out.