Xmas Gift

40 tonne loads of timber pass our door on an regular basis. Extracted from the country’s biggest man made forest the stripped conifer trunks are on their way to be chipped for board or for burning in a new power station. Once a year though, since 2000, three specially grown trees from Kielder are spared this mundane destiny. A 45 year old, 40 foot high Sitka Spruce along with two smaller specimens are felled, carefully wrapped and loaded onto one of the local contractor’s flat bed lorries. The boss himself drives the precious load all the way down to London. Very early the next day he delivers them to officials of the Palace of Westminster. A crane then winches the biggest tree into its prominent place in the square outside Parliament, where it is decked with lights. The middle size tree goes into the great medieval hall while the smallest ends up in the Speaker’s apartment.

Trees from the forest also featured in another star turn last week. We went to see ‘Robin of Sherwood’, the mass cast Christmas show from our remarkably talented amateur drama company which they stage for four nights in the Town Hall of the biggest village in the valley. Both sides of the spacious auditorium were lined with conifers from the forest, while scaffolding on one side allowed the players to run through the dense greenwood above us. AV back projection on the stage allowed more forest to be projected while town scenes saw the rolling in and out of painted flats. Nottingham Castle being burnt down by Robin and his men was vividly created by fiery stage lighting & stage fighting. Unlike many other amateur companies nationwide there is no shortage of young men hereabouts willing to take roles and many children too had parts. Brilliant community production that created a memorable immersive experience.

I also loved the themed bar at the back of the hall that they used for scenes involving Friar Tuck. The tent like structure had beer taps dispensing a local brewery’s fine products, with names like ‘Merry Men’s Delight’ and ‘Friar Tuck’s Tipple’. Home made mini pies and pasties were also on offer. In the raffle at the interval we won one of the play’s spare props – a leather purse of gold wrapped chocolate coins! All in all a lovely heartwarming and laughter filled way to launch the Yuletide festival.

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