NB I've left this post on for interest's sake, but sadly the Allotment Forestry website has disappeared and I haven't been able to track it down at a different address.
As Spring tickles our fancies, you’re probably itching to get out into the garden and do something, not just clearing and digging and sowing, but A Project. And there are certainly plenty of ideas on the web.
One site offering interesting ideas is Allotment Forestry a term originally coined to describe the small-scale growing of beanpoles, but which now encompasses the growing, management and use of 'micro' woodlands—individual trees, hedges and small woodlands—to produce all types of wood products. As the site says:
"A sad fact of gardening in Britain today is that it is easier to buy a Chinese ‘twig’, in the form of bamboo, than a locally grown hazel ‘twig’ to support runner beans. Our individual actions as gardeners may seem small and insignificant but cumulatively they have a massive power to do good or harm."
It also points out that we have, in our consumer culture, overcome any shame we felt in not being able to do simple tasks and have become increasingly dependent on the garden centre, instead of using what is growing around us.
So,they’re promoting “Greenwood DIY". This means using fresh-cut wood and twigs and long-established techniques that even the most inexperienced can make a good stab at. You’ll find clear plans for garden projects such as miniature hurdles , gipsy kipsy baskets (see picture) and fencing. The results are rustic, but would make charming additions to the garden.
If you can’t face doing it yourself, though, there’s a directory of Woodland Craftsmen around England, and don’t miss the history of woodcraft which includes a fascinating analysis of Breughel's Hunters in the Snow and how the shape of the trees in the painting indicate their uses.
Meanwhile, for anyone who prefers a bit of guidance, John Waller,Underwoodsman, runs courses on everything from wattle and gate hurdles to hand-tool maintenance, as well as, most relevant here, a Greenwood Workshop, lasting four days, during which you could build a pole lathe and/or shaving horse,have a go at garden seats, use the pole lathe to turn a four-legged stool with woven willow or sea-grass seat, or produce a range of smaller items, including rakes and besoms, carved spoons and bowls.
It looks as if you'd been in good hands. He’s run courses for Kew, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, and the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, among others and, in 2005, made the giant basket that helped Downderry Nursery to win Gold for their display of lavender at Hampton Court Flower Show.