Yoga & Woodland Workout at Hazel Hill

StoveSpring feels like it’s just around the corner, and with that energy we warmly invite you to shake off winter’s hibernation and stretch into our winter yoga and conservation weekend – we’ll be weaving together expansive yoga with rewarding conservation – you can wander through beautiful woods, practice a ‘cat pose’; warm yourself by log-burning stoves, try out some simple meditation techniques – and enjoy great company and shared meals. We’ll be planting Holly and Hawthorn trees, clearing some areas of the woodland to encourage greater biodiversity, and learning about coppicing Hazel.

We have a magical Saturday night planned, led by Agatha Manouche who has many years’ experience of running groups at Hazel Hill. Agatha will be taking us on a personal journey to reflect on what we wish for in 2016, exploring this turning-point in the year as winter transforms to spring.Forest Ark Hazel Hill Wood

Just 7 miles from Salisbury, Hazel Hill Wood is a 70 acre local woodland and centre for conservation, education and community events with a focus on strengthening our connection with nature and exploring sustainable lifestyles.

Our weekend runs from Friday 5th February at 6pm and costs from £70 including all meals and 2 night’s basic accommodation, and we end on Sunday 7th February at 3pm.

Winter woods“Jude, Louisa and I are excited to be running this event which for the first time brings yoga and outdoor activities together“ said Marcos Frangos, General Manager for Hazel Hill Wood and co-facilitator for the weekend.   “We’ll be carrying out fun and rewarding work in the woods, whilst also enjoying some innovative and relaxing yoga in the warmth of our wonderful off-grid buildings.”

More information can be found at or by visiting our Facebook page, and tickets can be booked via Eventbrite searching for Hazel Hill Wood.

Kids in the Wood @HHW: saunter, stumble, climb, explore, trip and get messy

Written by Isobel Jacobs

Silly songs and marshmallows on an open fire, under an arc of ancient trees; a small brown frog passed gently from hand to small hand; wheelbarrow races through leaves. These are moments that many city parents yearn for their children. I certainly have for my curious, happy six-year-old daughter, Aphra.

AAAA0015Kids in the Woods at Hazel Hill has made them a reality for her. Conceived and loosely guided by Jake Farr and Jon Hall as a way for city kids and their parents to spend time in nature, via regular seasonal weekends in the woods, the project has become a soft pulse in our diaries, something to look forward to that’s completely different from anything else we do.

Kids in the Woods gives children the chance to saunter, stumble, climb, explore, trip and get dirty in a natural but safe environment within a watchful, loving community of like-minded people; to allow them to understand the rhythms of nature and how they fit into it.

We’ve had many wonderful times in the wood. Den building was a highlight for the little ones – from searching for raw materials to the final delight of sitting inside a structure that, two hours before, hadn’t existed. There have been rambly walks, discovering the wood’s secret spaces, its hides and clearings, with a sturdy stick in one hand and blackberries in the other. Eagerly awaited meals of bread dunked in freshly made soup and spicy curries take place around communal tables .

IMG-20151005-WA0018If Aphra was nervous to begin with, it was quickly dispelled by sheer fun. Following simple trails through the woods set up by a rival team of adults and children has been brilliant and will be enjoyed again and again – but they weren’t as hilarious as when one of the dads covered himself with leaves and chased the little ones, screaming, all the way back to the Oakhouse.

Have there been tough moments? Yes, when Aphra discovered a tick had burrowed its way under her skin; when she felt a bit ‘left out’; when she got up too early (with excitement) and was, frankly, hysterical with exhaustion by mid-afternoon. But, at the same time, these are moments common to childhood, to be negotiated and worked out, again in the company of those who care about her.

Watching my little girl march confidently back and forth in the dark to the campfire, reach out – a bit wary at first, then nurturing – for that frog, concentrate in a way I’d not known she was capable of on making a bow: all these moments have brought me a satisfaction as a parent that can never be met by games on the iPad or watching Despicable Me for the fourth time.

nature_walkKids in the Woods feels like a beautiful, necessary counterpoint to a life of digital amusements. Children often have an intrinsic interest in, even passion for, nature and its moods and forces (this from a mother of a little girl who goes into a trance of happiness when her bare toes touch grass and still squeaks with excitement when a rainbow appears) but it can be nudged out by the easy attractions of the city.

And the point, it seems to me, is even greater than regaining this interest: it is about learning to value nature from a personal perspective, founded in joy, so that – when and if she is called upon to do so – she will work to protect and safeguard it with a very real sense of connection.

All best, Isobel x

NOURISHING RESILIENCE: professionals need this too

Average daily life and work seems to get more uncertain and demanding for all of us: that includes the professional practitioners who are paid for their expertise in change management, resilience coaching and more. I include myself in this professional group, and my resilience skills are getting stretched and challenged every week.

Hazel Hill WoodWisdom Tree is a small team of professionals helping individuals, work organisations and communities to increase their resilience skills, so their wellbeing can thrive in these challenging times.  The key to our approach is using the natural ecosystem at Hazel Hill as a model of resilience.  On July 21, Wisdom Tree is hosting a day at the wood for professionals, helping them to nourish their own resilience and then take this into their work communities.  The day is aimed both at freelance individuals and those employed within work organisations.  For more details click here

Seeing the point of woodland conservation…

The speed of nature’s growth in Spring is astonishing: the beautiful carpet of wood anemones shown in the picture burst into flower between Easter Sunday and Easter Tuesday. And they are a great example of why we work so hard to encourage conservation work at Hazel Hill Wood.

One of the main projects for our autumn conservation weekend in 2014 was to create open space in the veranemonesges alongside the path connecting the buildings with the heart of the wood. Previously, this path was a tunnel between two tangled messes of small sycamores, brambles and young hornbeam, almost 2 metres high.

The result of the conservation work last year is not only that we now have a path which is a delight to walk along, and has open views into the wood, but also now has these beautiful flowers, which would otherwise have been shaded out. Almost everywhere at Hazel Hill, we find that when we clear the overgrowth and more light gets to the floor of the wood, flowers spring up where we never had them before.

People find that caring for the wood is also a way of caring for themselves. If you would like to join one of our conservation groups, we have two weekends coming up:

May 15-17 Woodland Conservation & Spring Cleaning

July 24-26 Family Fun Conservation Weekend

For more details and to book see our programme of events

‘Like One Big Family’

conservation weekendHazel Hill’s Conservation and Wellness Weekend

All 16 of us had a lovely time on this weekend, and did a lot for our own wellbeing and the wood’s. Many of the group were new to Hazel Hill, and made a really deep connection with the place and with other people.

We did some great conservation work, landscaping and planting the outdoor cooking area by the main buildings: this included planting a wide range of woodland shrubs, trees and flowers, and creating an amazing large wooden bench, masterminded by Roger Bingham.

Other highlights included large amounts of fantastic food, woodland games, and two great evenings around a campfire, with scary stories, and some lovely poems and songs.

These are some great quotes from the people on the weekend:

“I’m going to take away all the fun, and the love, and the family we’ve made.” (Joshua 6)

“I will take away the feeling of everyone chatting and chatting while they were working and spading. Five stars.” (Theo, 10)

“I had a lovely weekend and made some big life decisions. The community feeling and the mindfulness ideas all helped.” (Maggie, 20)

“I take away a sense of peace. I’ve reconnected with nature, and built a really nice bond. (Mandy)


Unwinding with Trees

HHW Women under treeMany of us find it hard to relax and switch off these days: busy lives, change and uncertainty, hours connected to smart phones and the rest, all contribute.

Spending time at Hazel Hill Wood is a great antidote. We don’t have mains power to charge your appliances, the mobile signal is poor, Wi-Fi hasn’t been invented in this neck of the woods.

This week I arrived at the wood after a busy, exciting day in London, with my head buzzing.  I took myself off to sit at the foot of a favourite beech tree, and within 10 minutes I was really unwound.

I can’t explain why sitting with your back to a tree (or hugging it!) is so relaxing, but many people find that it is.  Maybe it’s just being in a beautiful woodland setting with clean air and lots of birdsong, but I believe there is a wisdom in trees which can nourish us if we let it.

This is just one of the many sources of resilience which we will be exploring on the Natural Roots of Resilience Weekend which I am co-leading at Hazel Hill Wood, April 24-26.

Growing Natural Resilience: how can we learn from ecosystems

AHArkClose2 - WebSizeBy Alan Heeks

I talk about resilience a lot, and I hear very varied definitions of it from others.  Some regard resilience as a hard, cold, mechanistic idea, whereas my first images are of a green, creative springiness: the growing through problems that we can see in sustainable ecosystems.

This blog offers my views on how humans can learn about natural resilience from ecosystems, drawing on my twenty-five years’ experience in managing two cultivated ecosystems: a 130-acre organic farm in Dorset, and a 70-acre woodland in Wiltshire.

Magdalen Farm and Hazel Hill wood are both residential centres where people can learn through contact with nature.  The best insights don’t come from nature in the wild, but from cultivated ecosystems: managed to deliver targeted outputs in a sustainable way, which renews resources instead of depleting them.

Think about intensive or factory farming, where artificial stimulants (fertiliser) and suppressants (pesticides, antibiotics) are used to drive outputs, and the underlying resources are depleted and polluted.  Now compare this to a typical work organisation….

My model, the Roots of Resilience, highlights eight features of cultivated ecosystems, and shows how these translate to people in work and life generally.    One benefit of an ecosystem as a model is that is easy to embody as living, dynamic and intuitive, not as fixed or cerebral.  Most of us have a deep felt connection with nature around us, so why not relate this to human nature?

The Roots of Resilience articulates the main principles of organic growth and shows how people can apply them.  For example, here is Principle 3:

  1. The joy of crap: composting waste

The beauty of any natural cycle is that there is no waste: every output becomes the input to the next stage of the cycle. In a wood, dead leaves rot down to enrich the soil.  Organic farms compost both animal manure and plant waste to create a major source of future fertility, and this is a key to renewing resources whilst increasing outputs.

Where is the waste in your life and work that has discarded energy and value? Think about negative feelings like anxiety, or conflicts and failures. It’s often easier to ignore the waste, but it builds up within us and around us. Waste is usually messy: it takes new skills to collect and recycle it, but it can be done. For example, negative feelings can become a source of fresh understanding and constructive energy: both for you personally and in your relations with others.  For many people, a key resilience need is skills to handle increasing conflicts with other people.  This is another example of composting: if conflicts are faced and processed, they can generate growth in a relationship, but this takes good skills, and may need support from a third party.

This model explores resources/inputs, processes/approaches, and outcomes/results.  It offers a linked set of principles and methods useful for individuals, teams and whole organisations.   The benefits include: strengthening and renewing your resources, better ways to handle setbacks, and fresh inputs of energy and insight.

An important feature of the model is the relationship between the forester/farmer/manager and the natural resources they are guiding.  Here, for example, is a short description of Principle 5:

  1. Wisdom from Stillness and Tracker Vision.

If you spend time with organic farmers or foresters, you’ll notice a quiet, reflective quality alongside huge capacity for action.  Their vision, strategy, and response to problems arise partly from listening to the land, or whatever natural resources are involved (for example, yourself).  Foresters and farmers spend a lot of time alone on their land, walking it or just sitting still.

There are two crucial skills here: sitting with stillness, and ‘stalking the vision’.  This relates to the way observation and tracking are taught in wilderness skills: you must learn to sit or walk in total silence, and to cultivate wide-angle vision, so that you can see what is peripheral.  Tracker vision is invaluable for people in all walks of life.  The skills of Mindfulness are another approach to this same topic.

The best way to get into this model is to experience it and actually feel yourself as part of the system, with a guided walk through a cultivated ecosystem, such as Hazel Hill Wood.  This model will be the core of the weekend workshop on The Natural Roots of Resilience, which I am co-leading with Marcos Frangos at Hazel Hill wood, April 24-26.  For further details of the weekend, click here.

The model is too long to reproduce in this blog, and it is better to experience it first: so come to the April 24-26 workshop!

For more about Magdalen Farm, see

Alan’s book: The Natural Advantage: renewing yourself, inspired by his work at Magdalen Farm, which relates the principles and practises of organic growth from land to people and organisations,   is out of print but can be obtained second-hand. See for a summary.


DSCF1591Hazel Hill is a beautiful, secluded 70-acre wood and sustainable retreat/education centre, seven miles from Salisbury, which offers unique scope for people to deepen their connection with nature and learn about living renewably.

The programme includes retreats, conservation, men’s and women’s groups, and the wood is available for group bookings. The facilities include heated bedrooms and sleeping lofts, indoor group room, camping area, compost loos, good showers, and a hot tub.