Just over a week ago I wrote to you and pleaded for help. One of our brilliant and uniquely beautiful local businesses, Woodland Weddings was maliciously attacked by arsonists. Many of the natural structures built by the team were destroyed, the trees and woodland floor were badly burnt and the future of their business with only two weeks to go before their first weddings was looking bleak. In reality the effects of the fire if the actions of the Woodlands Weddings team and Emergency Services had not been so swift could have been so much worse. It’s actually hugely lucky the majority of the woodland remains in tact and that the fire didn’t spread to endanger nearby housing.
As it turns out however, this was far from the end for Woodland Weddings. In this world of never ending bad news, the initially horrific incident has lead to an inspiring story of community, humanity and the kindness of strangers that has left the business, and anyone involved in the clean up completely taken aback.
When Faye asked me to put together a blog for Woodland Weddings requesting help from the community, the answer without doubt was yes, I was keen to do whatever I could to help. While running the Blog I’ve found the local community and in particular the local businesses hugely supportive so was sure it would spark interest. Nothing however prepared me for the article being shared 178 times and being seen by over 21,ooo people! A pretty immense example of the powers of social media and also the generosity of human spirit.
The plan from the blog was to hold a community day on Saturday 22nd April when anyone that wanted to could come along to donate plants and help out with the restoration of the woodland and the wedding structures. The day took place as planned this last Saturday, but the volume of help, support and donations were more than ever expected. The team took a count of 100 people that turned up to help on the day.
“We were flabbergasted by the numbers that turned out to support us over the course of the week. We feel so happy and grateful that with almost a week before the first wedding we are very nearly ready for the guests. We are so fortunate.” — Faye Messenger, Owner
In terms of donations there were many and too many to mention specifically here but they varied from flowers to bacon sandwiches, crochet blankets and timber. (A full list of donors is given at the bottom as Faye and her team really wish to say a huge heartfelt thank you to each and every one of the people that helped and donated.)
The focus of the day was varied and required skills and materials from many areas. First off, several of the trees were left charred and their bark removed. Advised by experts they were told the trees could be saved, but they should try to cover the trunks to protect them. Faye came up with the brilliant idea to “yarn-bomb” the trunks to protect the trees but also give a fun, creative look. As you can see from the pictures they look amazing! Built in the centrally damaged tree was the incredible tree house, which sadly was entirely lost, so with donated timber and a skilled volunteer workforce they were able to re-build. The basic structure and start of the roof was in place by the time I left, so I’m sure it will be back to its former glory in no time. The roads which were only made for light vehicles were left damaged by the fire engines, so these had to be re-made with natural stone and alot of heavy labour. The woodland floor was damaged by being covered with petrol, so this had to be re-placed by natural wood-chip (also donated). Of course many donated plants were also given new homes on the site to help give the area a new life and beauty. Overriding this was enormous support from the community in terms of catering from chickpea curry, bacon sandwiches to cakes and gin, we did not go hungry or thirsty and it really made it a pleasure to work.
I turned up on the day with a wheel barrow, trowel and a willingness to lend a hand but feel like I came away with so much more than I put in. Of course there’s the incredibly beautiful setting — it felt such a privilege to spend time in this calm, peaceful place, and I was really impressed by the design and natural structures the team had created to enhance and maintain the beauty of the setting. More than that however was the immense love and community spirit of all those who turned up on the day. Almost everyone there were in effect strangers to the team and to each other, but had heard the story of the attack and wanted to do their bit to help. It’s hard to put into words exactly what that feels like but its a very rare and special thing and and an experience I will never forget.
The story of Woodland Weddings restoration continues as although the bulk of the work is done thanks to the incredible support of the community, they will still be putting together the finishing touches to the venue right up to the final minute. The scars of what’s happened to them will no doubt be there for years to come – the charred trees as a reminder, but I’m sure like me, they will never forget the way the community came together to support them and the generosity of the people that surround us.
I want to wish the best of luck to Woodland Weddings on their continued journey to rebuild and recover and also would like to give huge thanks to everyone who answered the call to action. You surpassed every expectation I could ever have had and should all be so proud!
All photos thanks to Sharon Grufferty — the Photo Booth Trailer Company
List of Donors:
PAUL RANCE — GENERAL BUILDER — REBUILD
KEN — CARPENTER — REBUILD
AYLESBURY TRAVIS PERKINS BUILDERS MERCHANT HUGE AMOUNTS OF TIMBER https://www.travisperkins.co.uk
FUNKY MONKEY TENTS WHOLE TEAM MARQUEE AND BELL TENT SUPPLIER — LABOUR www.funkymonkeytents.co.uk
CHARLES FOWLER THE TREE FELLA LTD TREE SURGEON — WOOD CHIP/LOGS WWW.THETREEFELLA.CO.UK
SUNNYSIDE RURAL TRUST -WHOLE TEAM CHARITY WORKERS AND HABITAT BOXES http://www.sunnysideruraltrust.org.uk/
RYAN LOVE FLOWERS FLORIST – WOODLAND FLOWERS AND BUSHES www.loveflowersrickmansworth.co.uk
JACK RIMMINGTON JDR TREE CARE TREE SURGEON -WOOD CHIP WWW.JDRTREECARE.CO.UK
SHARON THE PHOTO BOOTH TRAILER COMPANY PHOTOGRAPHER PHOTOGRAPHY/LABOUR www.photoboothtrailercompany.com
LEE CRAWLEY CRAWLEY FAMILY BUTCHERS BUTCHER — MEAT AND TRAILER
TIM WISE TREELIFE TREE SURGEON – WOOD CHIP www.treelifetreesurgeons.co.uk
DUCAN TOMBLIN DUCAN TOMBLIN TREE SURGEON TREE SURGEON — WOOD CHIP http://www.dtomblintreesurgeon.co.uk/
ADC ELECTRICAL ALEX COUCH ELECTRICIAN- ELECTRICS adcelectricalservices.co.uk/
ROB BRACEY ROB BRACEY SEPTIC TANK EMPTYING SEPTIC TANK SERVICES- TOILET PUMPING www.pootakenaway.co.uk
JAMES TOSSELL ENTERTEC LTD PROFESSIONAL AUDIO FESTOON LIGHT HIRE – CABLING www.entertec.co.uk
KATE AND BEN PUDDINGSTONE DISTILLERY BREWERS — GIN AND TONIC www.puddingstonedistillery.com
SACHA LEAKE BLACK GOO COFFEE SHOP- FUND FOR REFRESHMENT WWW.BLACKGOOCOFFEE.CO.UK
HOMEBASE AYLESBURY GARDEN CENTRE — BEDDING PLANTS AND HANGING BASKETS PLANTS www.homebase.co.uk
JEWSON BERKHAMSTED BUILDERS MERCHANT — WOOD DISCOUNT www.jewson.co.uk/
TRING WYVALE GARDEN CENTRE GARDEN CENTRE — BEDDING PLANTS AND HANGING BASKETS PLANTS https://www.wyevalegardencentres.co.uk/
TRING TESCOS SUPERMARKET- COMPOST AND BACON SANDWICHES https://www.tescoplc.com/tesco-and…communities/supporting-at-a-local-store-level/
DESMOND BYRNE — CATERING FOR 30 WORKERS
HAYLEE HYDE ELECTRICAL – ELECTRICIAN TIME hyde-electrical.co.uk/
TIM REA — TREES
STEPH ROWLEY NA TYPOGRAPHY — CHALK BOARDS
MARC AYLA TREE CARE TREE SURGEON — WOOD CHIP https://www.aylatreecare.co.uk
SAM ENGEL TREE SURGEON – LABOUR
LOTTI AND LU LOTTI AND LU CAKE MAKER/FLORIST — OFFERS OF REFRESHMENT https://www.lotti-lu.co.uk/
METCALFES HARDWARE SHOP – FREE SCREWS www.tringhardware.co.uk/
MIX 96 RADIO — EXPOSURE https://www.mix96.co.uk/
RADIO DACORUM — EXPOSURE www.radiodacorum.org.uk
BBC 3 COUNTIES RADIO – EXPOSURE www.bbc.co.uk/threecountiesradio