After a gloriously sunny drive across country from Cheshire, I arrived in relatively good time at the Wilderness Project in Mitcheldean last Wednesday. Upon first impression I really like the place. The drive is fairly long and gated, accessible from the A4136 via a very sharp turning that I missed and had to come back around to. It was absolutely littered with wild garlic and bluebells under the cover of a great many ancient trees, which cast the lane in a dappled half light that well and truly disguised a couple of sneaky speed bumps!
I am due to stay here for a little upwards of a month, working from 9 until 2 during the week and sharing a room with a lovely Australian girl on the home leg of an eighteen month backpacking stint. There are four of us volunteering here currently and although the work is heavy going, the hours are incredibly short, so much so that when we finish up for the day we are left with too much time on our hands! Thus far we’ve been on a walk around the forest immediately surrounding the premises, scouting out a promising path that joins up with both the Wysis and Gloucester way. It is astonishingly beautiful here, the serenity of the site has done such a number on Asier that he has extended his stay here twice already!
Our hosts are both charming and already, during my short stint here, the decoration of building has come on a long way. We’ve painted thus far and done a lot of clearing of weeds to the front of the main door. Trees have been felled, roots dug out, borders turned up and flowers planted. We’ve bottle fed lambs and cleared out the chickens.
In terms of food we are incredibly well supplied. The industrial kitchen installed to feed school visits is ours to use exclusively at the moment, complete with a sink that has a pressure washing hose and a oven that spans several metres. It is far better equipped to cater for groups than the chalet that I worked in was in France. We have plenty of basic essentials and are free to cook together or eat as and when we will, which is fantastic. Last night the four of us combined forces and made a huge vat of vegetable curry with handmade naan courtesy of one of the volunteers, Kyosuke. It was delicious and kept us fed on the second day, whereupon the kitchen was supposed to have been out of bounds due to redecoration. This turned out to not be the case, we were still able to use the kitchen, but the curry tasted even better on a second tasting, as is often the case with such things.
Over the first weekend of my stay we had the run of the place because our hosts went away. We went on a long, lackadaisical walk into the forest equipped with picnic essentials and the weather was extremely kind. Upon our return we discovered the man who was to become the site manager when it re-opened, who had been waiting on site for some time along with his wife. We had taken an extremely indirect route but that doesn’t much matter, returning home some 12 miles later with a bit of an appetite. There is a nature reserve in the midst of the Forest of Dean that features a couple of lakes, one of which we walked around, much to the excitement of the resident geese.
Today I’ve done little except for some personal admin i.e. the cancelling of my gym membership. I went for a run that it would probably be fairer to have described as a jog and ate far more food than the day’s efforts necessitated. The weekend has now come to an end and now I am off to watch some Monty Python before bed, with work again in the morning. I shall write again soon, hopefully aiming to give a little more detail about the project on which I am working here in the Forest of Dean. Until then, goodbye and goodnight.