2021, News, Weaving Project

Weaving tapestries and stories in the woods – Elders and Intergenerational

We’ve been given some government COVID funding specifically for Elders. Every Monday starting Monday 19th April 2021 for 2 hours in the afternoon, a group of up to 15 elders come to Kaliwoods to explore the magic of weaving. We’ll be building a natural tapestry in the woods physically and metaphorically, through sharing our story of what this past year has been like, our ups and downs, our inside and outside, under the safe canopy of Kaliwood.

Our thanks to both these funders for facilitating this happening:
Engaged Communities Fund – via Community Action Suffolk – Project 28 Marginalised Older People.
Connected Communities (co-financed with European Regional Development Funding) via East Suffolk County Council, (supported by Ian McKee)

Our thanks also to Karen Herridge of Halesworth Volunteers and Jo Bidmead from St Elizabeth Hospice who connected us with with Karen and many of the Elders who come and Halesworth Community Bus and it’s drivers without who transport us.

About the project form can be downloaded from here:

Chris carding

April 19th 2021 – Spinning the Yarn

Our first Weaving with Elders in the wood. The team, Shona, Kally and Rachel were prepared with a loose structure. Lets begin with the yarn, we said and Kally set up her carding combs with her loom tantalizingly under the bender canopy of yet to burst out hazel.

Cups of tea out of white porcelain cups (thank you Tamsyn) greeted the 10 Elders, some of whom came on the Halesworth Community Bus driven by Gabrielle, and some made their own way. Some were recommended by Halesworth Volunteer centre, and Karen came to stay for the day.

Dean (Parkin, the poet) stayed the day too, drawing tea pots over the fire, taking notes, and listening for his project Halesworth Whispers. There was plenty to hear here as it turned out, and not only birdsong – which seemed particularly strong that afternoon.

We began with introductions, where we’d all come from – from Boston (Mas not Lincs), Berkshire, no roots, Switzerland,Cheshire, East London, Norwich, Lowestoft, somehow we’d all arrived in Kaliwoods this day.

We toured the wood (including casing the joint of Clarissa our compost toilet), through the planets from Mercury (gone missing – often happens with the winged messenger as one observed) to Neptune. At the cabin we heard from Rachel the story of wood and specifically Lockdown in the wood, when Sam came and stayed and coppiced.
Back at the fire, we began our weaving with Kally instructing us on carding, carding the wool, and spinning the yarn. Gabrielle turned out to be an expert.

We ended with scones with strawberry Jam and our circle round the fire reflecting the day. Here is what one said:

‘I’ve had the longest conversation in a year. I’m wearing a smile, unlike my usual grumpy face. ‘

‘I’ve lost my sense of smell, but surprisingly I can smell the wood smoke and now will associate it with weaving, trees, spring, the walk in the wood.’

Week 2 April 26th

As the bus (driven by Gabrielle with Cosy) and cars arrived Rachel introduced everyone to the just completed Clive, the ground floor compost toilet, which happened to be next to the WW2 men’s urinals from when the site was a hospital site servicing the local Holton air field.

Cups of tea greeted our group on this fresh spring day. A lazy wind, a cold east wind, kept our coats on. Demonstration of how to use Tippy Taps, was followed by a general out pouring of darning.
Dean – Do you use a tennis ball?
A – Oh bring in your socks I love darning.
It’s weaving after all
So the stories began:
V – I was bought up in a convent in Australia where we had to wear Lyle stockings. Friday was a silent day, when we had to darn – not our own but anothers Lyle stockings!
(And one said ‘Yes some of us have had 6 months in silence’)

Tell us about your name Shona asked

From Shona’s celtic name (that she liked), through biblical origins, the plague of the silent e, those named after the queen, those who almost died at birth and were named in a hurry. A shocking many disliked their name and some even tried to change it.
(The go round started going round again, before Shona looked at her watch and reminded us the day must go on).

We ventured out in to the wood to collect something we knew or did not know, either physically or by description. Rachel started with Garlic Mustard, growing liberally now along hedgerows and delicious in a salad

The Spinning of the yarn

Those who had spun their yarn last week added it to the emerging tapestry with Kally guiding the process. As they became more confident and less fearful of going ‘wrong’ they added more colours.

Brian hurdling

Brian, meanwhile, began the weaving of hazel in a hurdle beside the garden. First he made a few more stakes, (cutting and pointing and hammering the hazel pole into the dry clay earth) before collecting some freshly cut hazel about an inch in diameter and still supple and bendy, and 6-8 feet in length, to weave between the posts.

Dean dallied in the business of over hearing conversations.

Over tea and jam soaked buns, we relayed what we had found in the wood earlier or recalled of the day.

A a brick, incongruous in a woodland and probably left over from the war, now softened with moss. Sticky Willie aka Cleavers, goosegrass, stickyweed, sticky bob, stickybud, stickyback, robin-run-the-hedge, sticky willy, sticky willow, stickyjack, stickeljack, grip grass, sticky grass, bobby buttons, whippysticks and velcro plant. Naomi described it as a kidney tonic: she puts into a jug of cold water over night, it cleans the water of impurities and as she drinks in the morning, and it cleans her kidneys.

So many different textures, feathers, catkins – hard and soft textures. Some bark like foscilised lizard from another time. A feather. Yellow Archangel, from the dead nettle family (Lamium galeobdolon), barren strawberry and so many wild gooseberries.

We talked about photographs, how some of us didn’t want our photograph taken, and this we respected. (Shona vets all photos we take to document the project) This led to the image of huge warehouses of servers which stores our billions if not trillians of photographs we take and never look at.

Dogs Mercury

We ended where we began, talking around Dogs Mercury. Right at the start of the day, while walking up from inspecting Clive, we talked about Dog Mercury, the plant that carpets the woodland this time of spring year. Elisabeth, who knew the plant, described how the word ‘dog’ was like false, like dog rose was a rose without smell, a rose in a way false.
Dog Latin – refers to the creation of a phrase or jargon in imitation of Latin.
Dogs days / Dogs breakfast /

Dog Mercury… Unlike the ‘true’ mercuries (Chenopodiumspecies such as Good-King-Henry), Dog’s mercury is highly poisonous and hence became known as ‘False mercury’ or ‘Dog’s mercury’. Ingestion of this plant can lead to vomiting, jaundice, coma and eventually death.

Woodland Trust

We started our book! Or rather Dean did – writing up his poem in the middle of the page, the page with the imprint of a car wheel on it, as it loitered for a short while on the Beccles Road.

Week 3 – Lockdown stories made into a poem

Week 3 had to be cancelled due to high winds. So this was Week 3 instead, and as Shona explained we’d make up for this missed week at the end.

Gabrielle, after driving the bus, rocked up in her protective bee suit ready to examine the bees in the wood, which may be ready to swarm – no lockdown for bees – and she felt quite overwhelmed with so much to do.

Visiting us this week was Mell from Forest School who by chance had a meeting with Sarah Knight from Forest Schooling back in the last century (!), Karen from Halesworth Volunteer Centre and Jo Bidmead from Compassionate Communities and the Pear Tree Centre. We missed Chris, Armoral, Sally, and Elizabeth all busy with now more complicated post lockdown living.

Lockdown stories

Here was our question: what did you miss in Lockdown and what are you grateful for now?

We heard the birdsong. We missed our family, our son in France, and friends, and giving them a hug. Some were huggers and some were not huggers. Some grateful for avoiding the dilemna of if we should kiss or not! We missed the Cut Arts Centre, Snape music, the art, the people, working there as a volunteer. We missed the gathering of people, missed bumping into people. Missed mouching around. We missed (and was grateful for the missing) the sound of traffic and airplanes in the sky and loved the wood being quiet.

We were grateful to keep working, grateful for the company of dogs and chickens, grateful to find Tai Chi each morning unexpectedly with a neighbour. Grateful for learning to lunch outside wrapped up. Grateful for an unexpected knock on the door and a serenaded Afternoon Tea. Grateful for dancing and yoga, and sowing of seeds, of an apple tree, and making a pagoda that was not a pagoda.

We were fearful of catching the virus, of being arrested driving to see bluebells. Some were surprised at how sociable they were and how much they missed the company of others. How people just disappeared. The quietness.

We rediscovered cycling, discovered zooming, play reading, poetry writing, even Forest School in the wood zooming.

We were impressed with how people came together, with so much need around, so much suffering, how people rose and helped to heal.

(At this point B said: I’ll give you a hug.)

The Weaving of the poem

It took over an hour to hear our lockdown stories, and while we were saying them, Dean scribed them down on coloured paper, then disappeared into the Big Bath Bomb Dome. While some were weaving on the loom, B weaving hazel hurdles, magic happened in the BBBD. With the help of Muriel and Jo, Dean wove them together. In front of our eyes, he unfurled the rainbow of them, and read it to us. He made us a poem. It had an ending, but what was it’s title?

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