On a rainy August morning, the Chalk Cherries and Chairs team and our partners headed down to Wycombe Rye to set up the first ever Chilterns Celebration – a free festival including marquees, an animal show and all kinds of children’s activities. Made possible thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this special family event was developed as part of a week-long festival to celebrate the Chilterns landscape. But would anyone come and would the rain stay away?
Fortunately, the weather cooperated and by the time the event kicked off at 11 am, the rain (and the wind) had mostly dissipated, and the event was in full swing.
Festival ferrets before their race. Graham from Gamegoer got lots of kids involved in ferret racing, shouting across the green ‘will Sneaky Pete be the winner this time?!’ Families watched in amazement (and amusement) as the ferrets raced to a bowl of milk over several obstacles. Only the ferret who finished its milk would be victorious, and more than a few children left the show asking their parents for a ferret as a pet!
In a central marquee, the crafts and heritage of the Chilterns was on show, with local legends such as Stuart King on hand to discuss the history of the bodgers – the woodland woodturners who produced chair legs in the Chiltern Hills. Our Woodlanders’ Lives project had several volunteers demonstrating the craft of lacemaking and helping people have a go. Rosemary and Alex hardly got a break, as this activity was flooded with children of all ages, keen to have a turn and try to complete the lace ‘snake’ design which was worked on throughout the day.
A woodturner and craftsman, Alistair, came with his pole lathe – and the mesmerising action of this captivated onlookers. Wycombe and Amersham Museum were also present – Amersham arriving in full force in their mobile museum ‘Anthony’ – a vintage vehicle whose loud, ‘hooter’ proved very popular with younger attendees, and Wycombe Museum offering families the chance to build their own lolly-stick chairs and decorate them.
Learning the art of lace making
Of course, the conservation and local wildlife of the Chilterns was not forgotten, with BBOWT, Chiltern Rangers and Friends of the Wye on hand to offer fascinating insights into life in the river, life in the hedgerows and more local crafts such as paper making and willow weaving. A crayfish was even found in a river dip by Friends of the Wye, who was shortly named Graham by a young boy who kept running back to check how he was doing (and perhaps to make sure he hadn’t been eaten!)
Katie from BBOWT shared news of Rough Around the Edges and built lots of bee houses with children (and some keen adults), some of which were then proudly hung in the trees around the Rye. Steph from Chiltern Rangers and her volunteers were absolute troopers, taking no breaks and sending lots of young conservation enthusiasts’ home with their own piece of willow weaving or homemade paper.
At the height of the day and into the afternoon, the site was abuzz with families of all ages enjoying their free ice-cream, face-painting, the animal shows and all the free activities on hand. Many went away with a new appreciation of the heritage and landscape of the Chilterns, with more than a few asking ‘when will the next event be’?
The team couldn’t be happier with how the event went and want to say a massive thank you to all those who were involved in making it such a success, with over 600 people in attendance during the afternoon!
Our Chilterns Celebration Food Festival will be running from October 24-31 to celebrate the local ingredients, recipes and eateries of the Chilterns. There will be lots of opportunities for family fun at this festival, and we hope to see many of you there again!