Fire/Wood: tracing the energy path
(with specific attention to a site of ancient managed woodland)
Please note that this workshop includes over 60 minutes walking outdoors. Make sure you’re appropriately dressed for weather that might be cold, wet and muddy.
Prior to the industrial revolution and the widespread distribution and use of coal, wood was the dominant source of heat and power in most parts of rural England. Wind and water provided some energy for mills, but for cooking, cleaning, metalwork, and domestic warmth, wood was the main fuel people used. Because of its importance, village and hamlet communities managed and protected areas of woodland to ensure a regular and constant supply. This involved woodbanks, coppicing, pollarding and other methods developed over several millenia. With the cheaper and wider availability of coal and other fuels in the 19th and 20th centuries, these technologies and skills fell out of use, and many productive woodland areas were neglected or destroyed.
This workshop will look at a site of old managed woodland, noting the archeological and botanical evidence for this. Methods and practices of woodland management, and the place of this activity within a community will be considered. Through handling firewood, observing formerly coppiced trees, and walking the remains of a woodbank, questions of our connection to and alienation from energy sources will be discussed.
We will then look at mapping the energy involved in some common or shared actions or events, plotting an energy tree, paying attention to side-shoots and branches to get as close to the root as we can.
Richard Lewis is a botanist, ecologist, basketmaker and artist. He lives in a village near Totnes.