Back to nature


Nowadays, you only have to pick up a newspaper to read some sordid new tale of corruption, greed and inefficiency in the world of big business.

Which is why I found my Saturday afternoon a strangely cathartic experience – proof that there are people living an altogether more natural and wholesome existence.

The source of this revelation was the 17th Weald Woodfair at Bentley – an annual event that draws together a wide range of people who seem to have one thing in common. Wood.

We went along, partly out of curiosity and partly to visit a friend (who coincidentally I first met in Sydney and pre-dated me as a ‘returning pom’ by some 15 years or so) who was exhibiting at the show.

(Gratuitous link to his excellent forest-related offering here)

I’m not sure quite what I expected to find there, but I was blown away by the sheer variety of different exhibitors displaying their talents.

From unique furniture, hewn from logs, to sculptures, to a vast array of different woodcraft techniques, to art, to conservation, to education, to machinery, to food, to wildlife, to forest dwellings, to activities, to tools, to musical instruments. An eclectic mix for sure, but all with a common thread linking them back to Britain’s forests and woodlands.

But it wasn’t just what these people did that was eye-opening, but the passion they clearly demonstrated for their craft. That and also the community spirit that it seemed to engender amongst those with a common ‘woody’ bond.

Their livelihoods – where I dare say they earn a fraction of the income of some of the ‘bankers’ at the big end of town – somehow seemed purer and more worthwhile.

Typically they spend their time concerned with issues such as growth, creativity, authenticity, quality, sharing knowledge, sustainability and building relationships with colleagues and customers alike.

(isn’t it ironic that these are often the very same values that commercial marketers from the big end of town are seeking to bestow on their beloved brands?)

Now, I’m not about to suddenly buy a hand lathe or start keeping bees, but I did leave Bentley thinking that there is a lot to be said for leading a life that is somehow a bit more in tune with nature.


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