The story of Hazel Hill Wood, by Alan Heeks.
“I became the steward of this land in 1987, and since 1993 I have felt guided to establish it as a nature sanctuary and retreat centre. I bought Hazel Hill Wood simply following my intuitive sense that I would like to own and care for an area of woodland near my home. In my main work as a business manager and then consultant, I have often had clear visions I could act on. This has been different: more a slowly-unfolding, conversation with the trees and the land, which has taught me to respect their slower pace.
My own relationship with the wood came to life in 1993, when I first led a retreat group there. It was a vision quest for teenagers, and this was my first experience of Hazel Hill as a living entity whose wisdom and healing were being offered to people who would slow down enough to listen. Since then I have obtained planning permission for educational use of the wood, and for simple buildings to support this. The creation of these buildings has itself been a community process. We have celebrated, danced, sung and worked together. The cycle of the seasons and the Celtic and Christian festivals are woven into the activities at the wood, so that they renew the connection between people and nature.
Since 1993, there has been a wide variety of nature-based retreats and other programmes at Hazel Hill Wood. These have included: meditation and yoga retreats, many men’s groups, seasonal celebrations, women’s groups, rites of passage, and events for families, children and teenagers. The common thread is people deepening their sense of themselves and the bigger picture through contact with nature. Every gathering picks up on this quality, and develops it further.
The magic of Hazel Hill comes partly from its seclusion: the wood is surrounded by fields, and there is virtually no traffic noise. It is an ancient woodland site, with a rich variety of wildlife, wild flowers, and some rare fungi and fritillaries. The age and type of trees varies widely around the wood, creating a range of different habitats and atmospheres. These include mature beech and scots pine in the heart of the wood, hornbeam, oak and sycamore to the east, and oak, young birch and hazel to the west.
Hazel Hill is a community in many ways. Every group of people on an event at the wood becomes a community by being together in this magical place. There is an invaluable community of people who work with me to care for the wood, including maintaining, cleaning and improving the buildings; forestry and conservation work; tending the areas around the buildings; and liaising with, welcoming and briefing group users. The trees, wildlife and plants at the wood are a rich and diverse community, and offer a lot of lessons to us humans in living sustainably on the earth. Hazel Hill Wood has become my spiritual home, and has enabled many people to deepen their contact with nature, and to unwind and renew themselves. I hope it may do the same for you.”