Posts Tagged ‘Herefordshire’

You can’t judge a tree by looking at its bark!

Ash trees in Meephill coppice

I had last set foot in Meephill Coppice in May 1999, when it was up for sale. It had been planted mainly with conifers but it also contained some fine young ash trees which were a mixture of coppice and natural regeneration. As it turned out, it was eventually purchased by my former colleague, Gudrun Leitz along with the much larger, neighbouring Childer Wood (see ‘Living Wood’ pages 41 & 42). As I started setting up for my fourth year of courses at Greenwood Cottage, very nearly 20 years later, Gudrun invited me to look through some of the ash logs that had been felled over the winter by our mutual colleague, Crunchie together with his wonderful horses.

Crunchie and Mike coming back from the woods in 2015

A collection of logs ready to be picked up

The logs loaded for home.

I measured the volume of each log and after arriving home and cleaving them, I sorted the good chair-making logs from the inferior wood, which was valued as firewood (there is no such thing as ‘waste’ in the greenwood world!)

A log with a rotten centre

This log looked straight with no obvious knots but was very slow grown (which in ash is a bad quality), so mostly went as firewood

wispy fibres – a sign of tough chair-making wood

These whispy fibres signified that this wood would have the elastic strength for which ash is renown. Because the pith was off-centre, it wasn’t ideal for cleaving the long slender back legs of chairs, so it was cut into shorter lengths for the other chair parts.

Good, straight, tough, fibrous ash-wood

a straight, symmetrical log, ideal for back legs of chairs

This log, wasn’t so fibrous but it was more regular in its growth and would prove good for cleaving in metre lengths for back chair-legs

half of each of these two logs.

Despite thirty years working with this stuff, it is still difficult to ascertain the specific quality of a log by looking at its bark.

The logs, cleft in half and stacked under cover by the stream

So, log by log, I stacked them in a cool, dry, shady spot between my workshop and the adjacent stream.

Since then, they have been used with varying success over seven 5-day courses to produce 27 unique heirlooms for their delighted makers.

May 24th

June 7th

June 26th

July 5th

july 19th

August 9th

August 23rd

That will do for the moment!

Spring in the Woods

At last! After a mainly cold,wet summer last year followed by the long, cold winter, we started our first course of the year this week.

I think the miserable winter must have put people off the idea of a week in the woods, so we only had four bookings on this course but it gave me the opportunity to train up this year’s assistants. Stephen has returned as the main assistant, having worked with Barn as an assistant in 2009. Johnny, James and JoJo will be taking it in turns to work alongside Stephen in guiding this year’s students through their chair-making courses.

Stephen carefully sighting Hans as he locates where to drill into his chair legs

Stephen carefully sighting Hans as he locates where to drill into his chair legs

Yesterday the sun shone non-stop from the dawn chorus until sunset, so having made all the parts for the chairs during the first two and a half days, we moved some benches onto the field at the edge of the woods to start assembling the chairs.

James helping Ian assemble his side panel

James helping Ian assemble his side panel

We were also able to use the magnificent dining table built last year by Owen, Steve and the other volunteers. As well as using it at lunchtime, it also serves well as a woodwork bench with a view across the valley to the Malvern Hills in the distance.

Hans cutting a mortice while JoJo and Fransisco squeeze together a chair frame

Hans cutting a mortice while JoJo and Fransisco squeeze together a chair frame

By lunchtime our simple solar water heater had warmed 7 gallons of water to just the right temperature for a shower.

Fransisco replacing one of the water containers back into the solar heater after his shower

Fransisco replacing one of the water containers back into the solar heater after his shower

The next two courses are about fully booked but we still have places for the course from June 10th to 15th. After the dry cold March and the showers in late April, I fully expect a blazing June, so book a course place soon and you will hopefully be able to spend a creative week,  basking in the Herefordshire countryside.