A Day in the Woods by Karyll Browne


Suffolk woodland

Orchard Barn working party in Suffolk woodland

I gave up on the gym months ago – it was expensive, hard work for nothing really and quite honestly, boring! I knew I needed to exercise though and Sarah at Orchard Barn offered the perfect opportunity – a day volunteering in the woods.

No chance of boredom here. No expense and the hard work was all for something – giving back to nature, helping to restore, maintain and preserve ancient woodland, and generally having a good time.

We met at the Church and were taken to a “secret” location on private land – a vast wood that is managed by Graham and Steve, a most charming pair of individuals, passionate about their daily work and good company.

Having parked up our cars, we were informed it was to be “a bit of a walk”. Huh, it certainly was – so this was to be the first part of my Green Gym day. We trudged through the mud and puddles, along tracks that appeared to go on forever ………  We eventually arrived at the spot Graham wanted us to work on – known as a Ride – a long stretch of densely leaf-covered woodland, wide, with trees on either side. Our job was to pick up the felled brashwood and move it to each side, building a natural fence-like barrier at the same time.

The delightful smell of fallen leaves, wood and misty air was a pleasure to work in. Although Midwinter, the temperature was pretty high and soon layers started to come off as we proceeded down the Ride, picking up the ash brashwood, climbing over felled trees and clearing the way for the wood to be managed further. It was a beautiful area to work in, and it was all ours for the day.

We kept up a steady pace and stopped firstly for coffee break, and then the BBQ was brought to life and provided sustenance half way through the day, with Kevin’s homemade bread to boot. There’s nothing like eating outside in good company, mild weather and an interesting environment – the young and the not so young.  Lots of good conversation, no stress and a feeling of worthiness was felt.

Back to work as we passed by our “cleared” section and headed for the end of the Ride.  Still lots to do, but the end was in sight. The party of 7 put forward their best foot – whilst bouncing on some inviting large logs along the way.  By 3.30 pm our work was done and we made our way back to the cars. How come it felt longer coming back? Ah, I remember, Graham said he would take us a slightly longer, but drier, route back, yeah.

Finally, back at base camp, and a little weary for our daily work, but with a lovely, comfortable feeling of accomplishment, we decamped our muddy boots. Certainly feeling a good days’ work had been achieved and the benefits of our Green Gym day would be felt in a day or two.

So, if you fancy spending a delightful day in good company, stress-free, at no expense, then why not get in touch with sarah@orchardbarn.org.uk for the next Orchard Barn Working Party in the Woods – and see how fit and satisfied you feel afterwards. It could be a life changer and it’s certainly never too late for that!

Article and photos by Karyll Browne                                    21st December 2017