Great excitement. A digger has arrived at the wood. In a clearing, stage-lit by the sun, the machine elegantly twirls and pirouettes across the ground, smoothing the surface with its bucket. Hazel stumps are scooped effortlessly from its path, plucked by the graceful sweep of a mechanical arm. It takes very little time for the job to be completed, for the digger to fall silent. How would the old woodlanders have felt on seeing this digger in action – how many days labour have we just been saved?
The children clamber down from their vantage point in the trees to admire the change. It’s not huge, but it’s important. With the three stumps gone and the ground more level, we are prepared for the arrival of a small wood-drying barn. We had hoped to have it up for the summer. The children have been disappointed because we have had to shelve ideas of camping in it before filling it with firewood in the autumn. The national shortage of timber delayed the barn kit’s completion off site; then there was the problem with the haulier’s schedules being completely booked up. The digger needed a part that could not be sourced, and concrete for the anchoring ground pads still seems impossible to find at the moment. But today, the children are definitely happy and having fun. We’ve been up at the wood since early morning so we could welcome the digger on its arrival, and as we stand around for elevenses, we feel as though it should be late afternoon, so much has happened.
Now the digger is leaving. As a tractor manoeuvres with the digger’s transport-trailer, tracks and areas that normally feel vast and open to me suddenly seem impossibly tight for these large machines. I find it strange watching the huge tractor driving past trees I think of as tall – it diminishes them somehow. It’s all in the perspective. And then the machines are gone; the wood reverts to its lofty calm. But there is a difference. We are a little closer to putting up the barn. One step at a time, we move a little further along our journey to manage and conserve the wood for the future.