There’s a lot of recent noise in the media about our lack of connectedness with nature: children suffering without tree-time, eyes locked to their smartphones; depression at the keyboard due to lack of green space in the city; a general decline in awareness of and respect for countryside.
I’m not certain the picture is so bleak. My own experience – from showing York Steiner School children our old estate sawmill and commercial woods back in 1991 to working with Abacus Nursery at Pinderfields Hospital in our tenth year of forest school in their own forest garden – people continue to crave nature and derive deep pleasure and reward from it.
“Sloyd” is, loosely, handicraft. Making things. Using hands and eyes and tools with purpose.
Of course, in our automated, silicon chip world, hand-crafting as work is mostly redundant. In our first world young children no longer need to plait straw for hats (as my own grandmother did) to help augment the family income.
However, the mind and body’s need for the pleasure and reward derived from becoming good at a physical task remains, and is often not fulfilled by modern life. For some people, learning through doing can be fulfilling, therapeutic.
We run educational woodcraft programmes for children, young people and adults. Our work is clearly focused in three strands: use of work tools; working with natural materials; sculpture outdoors.
Craft skill is said to kick in at around a thousand hours of tool use; proficiency at around one hundred hours. We can’t therefore claim to make everyone we work with skilled, but we can help to point them on the right road.
From one-day family spooncarving sessions to term-time in-school nature programmes to year-long drystone walling training projects, we can tailor what we have to suit most needs.