Blackdown Woodland Fair is a very different kind of summer event. It provides a unique opportunity for children and families to experience first-hand the activities, skills and crafts that The Blackdown and East Devon Woodland Association supports and encourages.
This weekend’s event was the 5th year the Association has organised the show on farmland just below the Wellington Monument. Exhibitors demonstrated skills used for centuries by woodland owners and farmers. Visitors could watch how timber is sawn using steam power and logs are hauled by heavy horses. Amongst the many special activities for children – all practical – were hands-on practice at lighting fires without matches, turning spindles by hand, climbing poles and using ropes to access the tops of trees. They could also try archery and bow-making.
Other activities and displays for families included wood carving, log-splitting, furniture- making, chainsaw-carving, hurdle-making and willow work. Special events included a charity auction in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice with items donated by stallholders and a demonstration of Napoleonic era military drills and cannon and musket fire from battle reenactment society, the 95th Rifles and Royal Horse Artillery, to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. A chair carved from a chestnut tree was made for the Duke of Wellington after the battle, linking military history and woodland activities. Food and drink was provided by local suppliers and makers.
John Greenshields, Chairman of East Devon and Blackdown Hills Woodland Association, said, “Our ethos is to get children to do things, so we’ve sponsored all the children’s activities on the site.”
The proceeds from the event are used by the association to support the management of woodland. John Greenshields explained: “We give advice and in some cases we help owners to manage their woodland. We offer advice about improving woodland by planting or felling. Some money will go to St Margaret’s Hospice and the rest goes into the fund to be dispersed through the association.” He added, “All our contractors and exhibitors here today are local – most from the Blackdowns – and most of the stalls are local too. All the contractors doing work here or helping with children’s activities have donated their time to the show.”
He hopes the event will raise “about £1,000. We don’t want it to be too commercial so we’re not looking to make it bigger. We’re reasonably happy with the numbers which are up on last year.”
The Blackdowns are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Woodland Fair allows local people to see and experience the work that goes on to preserve it and the skills practised by Blackdowns’ craftsmen. And it’s a superb day out for the whole family!