"Wol" Nests at the Harris Center

Hancock’s Hundred Acre Wood

Wol's Nest campers head into the woods.

Wol’s Nest campers head out for an adventure in the Harris Center’s “Hundred Acre Wood.”

In the summer of 1974, while still a naturalist for NH Audubon, I began teaching for the Environmental Studies Department of Antioch University New England. At that time, the campus was located in Harrisville, at what is now Aldworth Manor. But by year’s end, the decision had been made that more departments would be better served by moving to the city of Keene.

Such was not the case for an experimental summer day camp program run by the Education Department and called “The Wol’s Nest” — named for Christopher Robin’s friend Owl, who misspelled the sign on his home (“Owl’s Nest”) in the classic A.A. Milne book, Winnie the Pooh. The consensus was that “Wol” would not be happy in the city, so the search was on for a new Hundred Acre Wood for the camp to call home. By March of 1975, I had connected the camp staff with Harris Center Director Cecil Lyon. After a brief meeting and a look around the premises, there was an informal handshake and, in July 1975, the Wol’s Nest summer camp began its long run at the Harris Center. (For the first decade or so, it was run jointly by Antioch and the Harris Center, but eventually it became solely a Harris Center operation, although the camp director position continued to be held mostly by Antioch graduate students or graduates.)

Across the Generations

A photo of Harris Center summer campers in "Wol's Nest" circa 2005.

Summer campers in a “Wol’s Nest” of their own construction, circa 2005.

Over the decades, the camp built quite a reputation as the place to go in July, particularly for 6- to 10-year olds. And, as time went by, more and more campers were children of former campers, who came back to Wol’s Nest while staying with grandparents during the summer sessions. There are many stories about camp connections that carried through to adulthood. I’ve picked one group of camp buddies as a fun example:

I believe it was July of 1981 when Robert Feldstein of Hancock, Noah Sobe of Peterborough, and Amy and George Shuffelton, from Rochester, NY, found themselves at Wol’s Nest together. George and Robert became lifelong friends, and as for Noah and Amy — in 1995, they got married and held the reception at the Harris Center!

Fast forward to the next century, and George’s children (James, Hal, and Hazel) all attended camp. Amy and Noah’s two children (Philomena and Maisie) also came to camp, and in 2010 both parents and children came to our Wol’s Nest Reunion, celebrating the camp’s 35th year at the Harris Center.

A Note from Philomena

I’ll end by quoting a letter received from young Philomena, dated August 24, 2012, which included a check to the Harris Center for $17.97:

Summer campers gather in a circle at the Harris Center.

Opening circle: a Wol’s Nest tradition.

Dear Harris center,

Here is some money to prevent global warming. We (James, Hal, myself and my future walsnester sister maisie), raised this money ($17.97) through a art show and auction. We gave this money to you because we thought you worked very hard to 1. teach kids to like nature, and 2. to teach them how nature works. We think you deserve it.


Philomena Shuffelton Sobe

This money is also from James, Hal, and Maisie, But I wrote the letter.

Three cheers for tradition! And many thanks to the greater Shuffelton clan for help with this story. The Shuffelton and Shuffelton-Sobe children have continued to return every summer to the Monadnock Region — from Chicago and Minnesota — and the word is, to this day, all continue to be good fund-raisers!

–Meade Cadot