‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it’s happened’
Wise words from my friend Niki this morning while tears stung my eyes as we drove to my woods for the final time. For those that don’t know I grew up in a wood, a beautiful ancient woodland on the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire border near Newark. I also grew up in Derbyshire, but my dad’s home for the last 21 years has been at Hill Holt Wood.
To say Hill Holt Wood is a special place is an understatement. It is a beautiful, unique, trailblazing, sustainable, memory-filled home and tonight we say goodbye.
My dad and step-mum bought Hill Holt Wood 21 years ago when it was nothing but a rhododendron, bramble filled woodland with one track running through it and very little else. Fast forward to now and it is both a thriving environmental social enterprise and an incredible home that we are about to pass over to its new owners!
I’ve shed a few tears today and am certain there will be more tomorrow, but as the title and quote at the top of this post suggest I am so honoured to have had many many experiences here. What a rollercoaster of fun it has been.
To celebrate the last 21 years we have been here, here are 21 of my favourite memories from living in the woods…
- Life in a caravan for 10 years (yes 10 years) while we waited for planning permission… including that time I was looking after my baby brother and he fell out the caravan and knocked his head… think he turned out ok though!
- The time the cat gave birth on dad’s lap to three beautiful kittens, all of which we decided to keep. mama Pudsy Bear, Bumble Bee, Petra-fied, C-for Cat and papa Carlos Santana. All now gone but so many memories of them following us around the wood like a dog or snuggling up for bed in the bottom of Harry’s sleeping bag like a live hot water bottle
- Finding a scared baby rabbit in one of my rhododendron dens and nursing it back to health for a day before it hopped off back into the wilderness
- Harry’s three story tree house that dad built, seriously this is a place of dreams for any child growing up. Who needs a TV (we’ve never had one) when you have 34 acres of woodland to run about in?
- Many a movie night watching films on our 2.4 metre projector screen. Again who needs a TV when you have a huge projector screen and over 1000 DVDs?
- The ball in Newark to raise money for the woods which over 20 friends came to and after a night dressed to the nines in tuxedos and ball gowns we came back and slept on the floor in one of the straw bail office buildings. Always love a night of two halves.
- Boys in the boathouse – *ahem* What happens in the boathouse stays in the boathouse or something like that?! ?
- The woodland party when I *think* I played a dutiful/supportive big sister and got my little brother drunk for the first time. Sorry Karen and dad!
- Giant Perdy Pig, a legend at Hill Holt Wood who was with us for over 10 years. We ate some of her piglets but Perdy stayed with us until she died naturally in her pen in the permaculture garden.
- The woodland party where my friend Pete was convinced Perdy ate his flipflops… to this day we still don’t know what happened to those flipflops?!
- When my friends came up for a weekend from uni and helped build the house, two of those friends (Rachel and Niki) have been here today too, so it’s been lovely they were here at the beginning and again at the end.
- Working at the business for a few weeks one summer from university and getting more involved in some of the amazing work they do at Hill Holt Wood.
- The time Prince Charles came to visit and we ended up on a double page spread in The Sun newspaper.
- The time David Cameron came to visit (before he was PM) and the staff gave him a coffee mat with number 10 engraved into it and told him not to forget us when he became Prime Minister…
- Playing softball/cricket/rounders at Roman Villa Clearing with friends to get the party started.
- Hill Holt Olympic Traveller Bucket Woodstock – one of my favourite parties to celebrate returning from travels / pretend I was still in Thailand drinking out of buckets! Why has this not become a thing over here?
- Getting back off holiday with an ex to dog sit Baxter only to find he was gone so spending all night wondering through the scary woods trying to find him, only to ring dad first thing in the morning and find out he put him into kennels. Adam was definitely more scared in the woods at night than me! haha.
- The time we were on Grand Designs (only a small part of a special episode) so we can forever more say our house was on Grand Designs… perhaps one day a house of my own will be on Grand Designs?
- The peacocks, the sheep, the chickens, the dogs, the cats and the pigs we’ve had living with at some point or other, alongside the rabbits, the badgers, the deer, the foxes and the many, many more wild creatures. I’m a country girl and this home epitomises country life.
- Baxter the Legend who has been with us as long as we have lived in the house (11 years), who has given me hundreds of hugs and snuggles and ‘unfortunately’ has the Lowthrop tendency to adventure and has regularly caused angst running off for a few days at a time… including today! As I write this he is missing on his final ‘adventure’ in the woods and will hopefully return in the morning. Otherwise we may have a case of Homeward Bound on the horizon as he will have to make his way north without us if he doesn’t come back! eek!
- Tomorrow… saying farewell to our home, our past and saying hello to new beginnings, new opportunities and all the exciting new adventures ahead!
So there we have it, 21 memories to celebrate 21 years at Hill Holt Wood. It has been an incredible journey and one I am so proud and honoured to be a part of. My dad and Karen had a dream and they made that dream a reality. I have watched them build a successful business, a beautiful home and help so so many people in the process. I have been inspired and encouraged to follow my own dreams and am excited to make all my dreams a reality too.
Now as I settle in for a final movie night, followed by my final sleep in the house, I may still have tears stinging my eyes but they are tears of joy. Happy to have experienced something so incredible and excited for the new adventures that are yet to come.
Hill Holt Wood you will always have my heart, but now you will have a new family’s heart too. I wish the new owners the best of times in their new home and more than anything I wish Karen and my dad the best of times in their new home too!
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