Forest Sangha Newsletter April 1992

Ajahn Chah Passes Away; Venerable Thitapanno
50th Day Commemoration; Ven. Nyanaviro
A Noble Life: 17.6.1918 to 16.1.1992
A Niche in the Woods; Aj. Viradhammo
Life of a Forest Monk (Pt III); Luang Por Jun
Work in Hammer Woods; Mike Holmes
Staying Alive; Ajahn Sucitto

Being Nobody; Aj Sumedho
Why Are We Here; Aj Chah
Brightness; Aj Sucitto


Work in Hammer Woods, Chithurst

An update by Mike Holmes

It was in 1987 that Ajahn Sucitto and I were stuck in a traffic jam on the M25. The Ajahn produced a tape recorder and interviewed me about the Hammer Woods at Chithurst. That interview appeared in the Forest Sangha Newsletter. I would now like to tell you a little about the work that has gone on since.

You may remember that the basis of the management plan was to change areas of non-native tree species to those that grew in the old English oak forests. This entailed getting rid of large areas of our commercial chestnut coppice and replanting.

All through the South, the old Woodland Management ways, which disappeared after the Second World War, are beginning to start up again.

We now have about sixty acres of chestnut remaining, which is just right for our needs. Apart from producing our firewood, it is an important industry in the local area. It provides work for a number of people, who make fence posts, tree stakes, bean poles and many other forest products.

I have been able to find local workers who are interested in the monastery, respect the woods and have a love of nature. These people are great to have around and very different from those who worked here when I first arrived. We even have a 'bodger' who makes besoms from the birch saplings that grow so vigorously and often swamp the trees that we plant.

We have plantations of non-native conifers, which consist of Japanese Larch, Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Spruce. This winter, a market has been found for such timber and many of these trees are being felled. The area of Japanese Larch has already been re-planted with native broad leaves, part of the over one thousand trees and shrubs that I alone will have planted this winter.

In the forestry world we are being told that a market is starting in Sussex for the products of hazel coppicing. Such a market has existed in Hampshire for the last few years and it is growing. We have an area of derelict hazel coppice and with the help of the local British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, I am getting this into working order once again.

All through the South, the old Woodland Management ways, which disappeared after the Second World War, are beginning to start up again. This is great for wildlife and the countryside.

We have various schemes to help wildlife, which I shall list at another time. Suffice to say now, that we have in general been successful and things are well in the Hammer Woods.

Sunlight on Water

The turning earth obscures the sun,
night comes over England.
Vixens bark,
badgers trundle out,
mother calls the children in.

A breath of sleep and then
a skyful of stars as dawn comes.
Wake! Again!! Begin!!!

Hollow-legged, blinking;
emergence from oblivion
and the strange dream-logic
wherein vague feelings,
and half-remembered characters
balloon into huge reality
then fade
without a murmur.

Owl-calls echo through the woods;
dew drips,
clattering softly on chestnut leaves.
Pale violet, rose,
the sky fills with light,

Venus and the crescent moon
have given up their sparkle
to the dawn.

Colour and birdsong
wash through the hills,
the dark is over.

Amaro Bhikkhu