After a nervous week spent watching the weather forecast, Saturday 7th October turned out to be fine, which was a great relief to the Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society and its small army of local volunteer helpers who worked tirelessly to make the second Chapel Lawn Woodland Fair such a resounding success. With generous sponsorship from Shropshire Housing Group, the fair had been in the planning since November last year. It was a joint effort between the Society, the Village Hall Committee and St Mary’s Parochial Church Council, with an agreement to split the fair’s profits between the three. Over 500 visitors paid to attend the Woodland Fair (either at full or reduced price), over £900 was taken in the Village Hall by selling refreshments and just over £200 was collected in selling raffle tickets. Taking into account the various costs of putting on the event and the grant received from Shropshire Housing Group, the profit amounted to £2,400 which will be divided equally between the Village Hall, St. Mary’s Church and the Redlake Valley Community Benefit Society.
Not that making money was the only reason for holding the fair. The Society had been repeatedly asked to mount another since the first was successfully held in 2012. Another aim of the day was for local businesses to promote their services and products. Local firms present included the Clun Log Company, Darky Dale Riding School, School House B&B, Bucknell Nurseries, Prince and Pugh with their log burners, some of the Redlake Artists, and Dodds Logs Ltd.
Learning more about woodland, wildlife and the countryside was also top of the day’s agenda. “In a Nutshell” talks in the church covered topics as varied as the return of the Pine Marten, local history, tree-ring dating, and mammal bones! Display stands on the importance of pollinating insects and bee-keeping attracted a great deal of interest, while live owls and baby hedgehogs drew visitors of all ages to the rescue stands like magnets. Hedge-laying and wild food foraging were two more possibilities. Conservation bodies were well represented by Shropshire Wildlife Trust, The Forestry Commission, Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership and Myndtown’s ‘Life on the Edge’ grassland verges project.
Back by popular request were Bob James’ very difficult tree ID quiz, Elsa the heavy horse, John Sankey and his traction engine, and Keith Meredith’s wonderful walking sticks. A clog maker, two chair makers and three woodworkers helped represent the craft section. Also very popular amongst the stands in the hall were the sewn trees, the Marches Book Art Group and the bug hotels.
A day out for the family was another aim of the day and children were not overlooked. There was face-painting in the school yard, and story-telling and drumming over in the Society’s woodland quillet.
Machinery enthusiasts were rewarded with displays of chain saws, log splitters, an extremely large, farm-based wood boiler, and a mobile saw bench.
Brineddin Wood itself came under scrutiny with demonstrations of how deer fencing has already enabled coppiced hazel and oak to regenerate within the space of less than a year. Visitors to the Community Benefit Society’s stand signed the 2017 Tree Charter while ‘sister bodies’ in the form of the Knighton Tree Allotment Trust and Knucklas Castle Community Trust were kept busy explaining their work.
And finally, the food! Queues rapidly formed for Cob Oven Pizzas, Weobley Ash Lamburgers, baked potatoes from Beryl Palmer and her hard-working team, not to mention Beryl’s thirty, rapidly vanishing cakes of all descriptions. For an afternoon treat, there was real dairy ice-cream from over the border in Herefordshire.
Two people managed to correctly identify all 25 specimens in Bob James’ tree ID challenge. They were Philippa Allenby and Phil Blackburne (does anyone know Phil so that he can claim his £10 prize?). By answering all 15 questions correctly, Moira Knowles of Titley won the Tree Quiz that Mrs Eileen Davies had devised.
Throughout the day a musical backdrop was provided by our very own ‘Mudlarks’, a drumming workshop in the quillet, and roving minstrels in the form of two thirds of the HiJinx Ceilidh Band from Ludlow.
Clearly the day could not have taken place without so much volunteer help over and above the ten-strong planning team. Space prevents the inclusion of all the names, but particular thanks must go to Mrs Mona Owen and to James Middleton for making their fields available, and Sarah and Simon Jameson of New Invention for the formidable publicity and logistic demands. Donors of raffle prizes must be thanked. Some wish to remain anonymous but we’re happy to name the Bromfield Plant Centre and School House B&B who gave vouchers, Jemima Jameson who gave a painting of St Melangell and the hare, Dulcie Fulton who gave a pack of letterpress cards, the Clun Log Company donated two sacks of kiln-dried firewood, Teme Valley Tractors who donated chainsaw oil, and Powys Forest Horses who gave one of Elsa’s massive horse-shoes, polished up ready to grace someone’s front door and bring good luck.
Other activities were also taking place in the village that that weekend. On the Saturday evening 104 people squeezed into the hall for a talk on Chapel Lawn’s Caer Caradoc hillfort by Dr Andy Wigley, Shropshire Council’s head of Historic Environment. A little earlier to conclude the Woodland Fair, and by kind permission of Mrs Brenda Davies, there had been a showing of home movies taken by her late husband of the workings of Bucknell Woodyard in the 1960s. The village hall bar was opened for this and made a healthy profit of £70. Throughout the weekend, there was a steady trickle of visitors to admire the stunning floral displays in the church assembled by Christine Oakley and friends, enhanced by over twenty large, model bugs made by local children. And on the Sunday afternoon the annual ‘Voices of the Valley’ concert in the church wowed the audience with their musical talents. Where else can you hear renditions of Nina and Frederick’s ‘Listen to the Ocean’ alongside ‘She’ll be Coming ‘round the Mountain’, ‘All things Bright and Beautiful’ and accordion solos in the space of an hour? It was hugely enjoyable, and followed by a slap-up tea in the village hall.
It’s been said that Chapel Lawn and the Redlake Valley punch above their weight. That particular weekend rather proves the point.