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  • Nicola Schafer

Watlington Nature Festival

Remember how good it felt to be allowed to take that first walk in the countryside when we went into lockdown? The abundance of mouth-watering local food on offer when a trip to the supermarket was not a risk worth taking? Or simply getting back on your bike and enjoying the Chiltern cycle trails. These, and many other experiences we used to take for granted, were the inspiration for the Watlington Nature Festival, which is taking place this autumn.

The Watlington Climate Action Group wanted to hold on to that feeling and never take the world around us for granted again. A festival struck us as the perfect way to achieve this, but one with a difference as social distancing is now the norm and because now we need to draw on local talent and resources more than ever.

The festival is also a natural progression from the lively Eco Fair run last year by the Icknield Community College and with whom some activities will be run.

Safety is paramount

People’s safety is the number one priority as we are planning the festival. Activities will be staggered over a number of weeks so that people can take part in their own time or in small numbers. All the events will take place outdoors with social distancing and other protective measures in place at each.

Harnessing the talent of youth

One of the festival’s main objectives is to involve young people and students as much as possible in planning, organising and holding the events. There are a lot of very talented young people in Watlington whose lives have been put on hold as a result of Covid-19 and we would love to be able to harness that talent big or small for the festival. Most events will last for an hour or less, so commitment should be manageable. We’d be delighted to hear from you if you are interested in taking part.

So what kind of events are planned?

A whole host of different activities and experiences are planned to take place between the end of September and early November. There are three main elements: Nature, Local Food and Drink, and Sports and Health. A fourth element – the Arts – will run throughout the event.

There will be a small charge to attend, and an opportunity to give a voluntary donation. The money raised will go towards environmental projects that will benefit Watlington, as well as to cover some of the festival costs.

A full programme with dates, locations and booking information will be released during September, but here is a flavour of some of the exciting activities taking place:

Press your own apples

In development. Use your muscles, and wear any clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Bring apples and any containers you want to take the juice home in.

A local and vegan food trail

In development. The Orange Bakery and local food writers have started making suggestions for mini-workshops. Further ideas and contributions welcome.

Explore the connection between wellbeing, art and nature - in the Paddock

An hour-long workshop for teenagers and young adults with an open mind and a playful nature – no need to be good at art. Run by Frances Ackland-Snow, Head of Art at Claire’s Court School and Liz Wasmuth, a Fine Art student at Camberwell College of Arts.

'Stick' workshops The workshops, aimed mainly at primary school children, will be run by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield and based on their popular ‘Stick Book’. Bushcraft workshop for 6-12 year-olds in the Chalkpit In development. Organised by the Chiltern Conservation Board during half-term as part of the Walking Festival. A walk with archaeologist Kim Biddulph for primary/secondary school students Organised by the Chiltern Conservation Board during half-term as part of the Walking Festival. Kim will talk about the Watlington Hoard and Chiltern Chalk. A trail of Watlington’s watercourses Associating scientific and cultural information, this trail is being designed by James Fotherby, currently taking a master’s in Anthropology, Environment & Development. James is consulting closely with the Watlington Environment Group to optimise the trail. Keep an eye on the Watlington Town Noticeboard or the Watlington Climate Action Facebook pages and for posters around the town for dates and locations. And if you would like to get involved or make suggestions, we would love to hear from you at See you there!

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