Dave’s Log 07.08.17

Since the inception of the Park proper, in 1878, there has always been a keeper that lives onsite in a purpose-built home.

After the departure of Jim a few weeks ago, an election was held amongst the keepers as to whom should have the honour of taking up residence in Hurle’s Lodge.

So named after one of the Park’s first benefactors, very little is known about Mr. Hurle other than he was involved in founding a Gentleman’s Club at some point in the 17th Century. Claiming the vast acreage of land for himself, his club and their ancestors, Mr. Hurle was adamant that the land remain as close to it’s natural state as possible.

The purpose of building Hurle’s Lodge was to guarantee that at least one man remain on the property at all times. At the time Hurle had purchased the land for, what was then, a small fortune. He piled thousands into the Park, ensuring that the Lodge stay in good repair and that there was enough keepers employed so that it was never without an occupant.

Hurle’s Lodge has remained largely unchanged since it was built back in 1890. Taking a handful of fallen trees from the surrounding forests, timber makes up a large part of the construction with light grey slate and granite providing solidity and insulation. Unfortunately, the Lodge is lacking somewhat in modern amenities. A singular phone line is the only point of communication, with no phone signal or internet access, it truly is a lonely place to live.

Each year, every year, since the Park’s inception a grand sum of money has been transferred to the Park’s fund. This money used to be able cover the Park maintenance, the staff’s wages and the upkeep of the lodge. However, over the course of the last thirty years or so, more preference has been given over to the former, rather than latter. As a result, although the Lodge remains structurally sound, certain features and fixings have fallen into disrepair.

The kitchen, once a marvel of Victorian design, has been blackened with neglect and the New World cooker problems, which started out as merely a nuisance, have now deteriorated to the point where only a single gas hob functions. With no television, radio or other means of entertainment – life in the Lodge has started to seem like more of a sentence than a privilege.

Initially, a rota system was put in place. One of Mr. Hurle’s rules, one that remains to this day, was that only one man could occupy the Lodge at any one time. He could not bring his family with him, as the forest was deemed to be no place to raise children – so the Lodge was occupied by single men; usually bachelors or widows. Over time, these became the only types of men that would apply for the role of keeper.

Although the role of Resident Keeper is still seen as an honour (reflected in a significant increase of pay) Mr. Hurle requested that an election system be put in place to guarantee that only the most respected of keepers gain the position, therefore eradicating any possibility of envy. The idea was that the man who was elected would have the favour of the entire keeping staff and would also be more likely to receive the support of his fellow men.

With Hurle Lodge once more vacant (the 5th time in the space of 2 years), the votes have once more been cast. Jim was a good man, but it would appear that the role of Resident Keeper requires one to be more than simply ‘good’.

I’ll soon find out if I have the qualities require to remain in Hurle’s Lodge or if it will prove to be the end of my own keeping career.

Dave’s Log 24.07.17

Summer has well and truly come to Wood Bridge and there’s never been a better time to visit.

We just about made it!

Despite a rather punishing Winter, Spring found it’s way through to our little Park here and with it came life. As I’ve mentioned before, the badger population has returned in full strength, a sure sign that the ecological state of the Park is in good health.

It’s always a pleasure to sit and go through the reams of tapes that we have recorded from the Badger sets. The little ones have grown up so much since their births last August and soon they’ll be venturing out to make their own homes in another part of the Forest.

Future visitors to the Park will be pleased to hear that work on the outdoor swimming pool has now been completed. The mixed-material construction has been tucked away in the South-West corner of the Park and has been designed with the aim of appearing a part of the forest’s natural landscaping. As the Park is privately funded and operated, we’ve been given free reign over how it’s been put together and the keepers here are so pleased with how it’s worked out.

For the sake of safety we are only going to be opening the pool when a trained lifeguard can be present. Thankfully we made the wise decision of installing an aquamatic pool cover to ensure that access to the pool is completely impossible when there isn’t a supervisor on the scene. With the help of our designers, we were able to design a solid-state cover system which mimics the look of the forest floor, so there’s no unsightly tarpaulin in sight.

Readers of this blog are no doubt curious as to find out if we ever got to the bottom of the mysterious sounds and odd appearances of fires that we were plagued with during last year’s hot summer. Unfortunately, despite a combined effort from all of the keepers here, we’ve come no closer to discovering what the source of these blazes was. Despite plenty of clues, including strange models made out of wicker and odd markings on trees, the keepers were puzzled as to who was causing all of this mischief.

The investigation was made even more difficult when we lost a man from our team. Jim, a capable and reliable keeper of over fifteen years, unfortunately had to resign from his post in the midst of last Winter. The Winter months can often be very tough on our keepers and even the most experienced of us are susceptible to the tricks that the forest can play on your mind.

In truth, we were all aware that perhaps Jim was working too hard. The mysterious blazes and tree carvings had perhaps affected him more than any of us and, rather than take an even share of the workload, we allowed Jim to essentially work himself to the bone, searching for clues within the depths of the forest.

Now he’s taken an early retirement, we hope Jim can find the rest that he so desperately needed.

Photo Retrospective: Our Mystical Forest In The Midst of Autumn

Forests have long been known for their mystical qualities.

autumn

These photographs, captured by generous visitors to our park, show the exquisite beauty of Woodbridge.

autumn-wlak

Autumn is one of our busiest times of the year, as hundreds of people flock here every week to walk amongst the falling leaves and gaze at the changing colours of the leaves.

women-autumn-thermos

Just because the temperature is dropping doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy a picnic. 

old-adults

People of all ages enjoy the park at this time of year, why not organise a trip with your family today?

nights

Make sure you’re out before night fall, strange sounds and sights have been reported in the Park’s Southern regions.

Druids & Clearings


druidWood Bridge Park has long been known for its mythical roots, talk to any of the local historians in the area and they’ll agree. The beauty of this place is one of the factors that would have been taken into consideration by these ancient holy men, but were there other details about the Park that would have drawn them there?

The Trees

Beech-pleached-2The beech trees that grow in the forest have great historical significance when we consider the purposes the druids would have been using them for.  Beech is a tree that burns very well – as you probably know, Druids were in need of fire. Just like other ancient races, they relied on burning wood as a source of heat. Most importantly, many of their sacred rituals required fire as their source of power.

Fagus sylvatica was also used for medicinal purposes. It was believed that creating a poultice from its leaves could reduce swellings – treating anything from a sore tooth to a broken leg. Of course, these Celtic methods were soon disproved with medicinal research. Still, the great beech trees of Wood Bridge could have been a significant pull when the Druids of Wales were considering a place to call home.

The River
afon reurhThe Afon Rhiwddolion is quite a small offshoot from it’s bigger brother the Affon Lluggwy. However, common sense tells us that the Druids would have preferred a river that was easier to cross, rather than a larger, more dangerous one. Once more, water would have been a vital resource for these spiritual men – providing a place to wash and drink. However, there were also deeper reasons as to why they might have been drawn to this stream.

The Afon Rhiwddolion runs righ through the Park, creating a natural dividing line between the lines of forests. The Druids would have been fascinated with this divide. In ancient times, rivers were greatly revered for their symbolism. The endless flowing of the water was seen as a symbol for time itself, never ceasing and always moving.

The Clearings

forest walesOne of the Park’s most revered natural attractions, the clearings in Wood Bridge are places of real magic. Whilst the centre of the forests can often feel a little claustrophobic, with their oppressive silences and dark green majesty, the clearings feel completely different. The chopping of trees is now illegal within Wood Bridge Park, but the ancient Druids would not have lived by these rules.

Clearing sections of woodland gave them resources to burn, but also cleared a space of sky for them to gaze at the stars at night. The Druids would have been the earliest astrologers, their records indicate that they understood much about the movement of the stars and even used them to navigate with. They used the changing positions of the constellations to predict omens and would often make important community-wide decisions based on these predictions.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Druids and the role they had to play in Wood Bridge, then you can contact us here for a guided tour of the Park. Local astrologers also organise weekly stargazing nights, if you’d like to take a crack at predicting your future!