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tales from the wild wood

Rob Penn, lover of bikes and woodlands (you may have seen his cycling and woodland shows on the BBC) approached us recently with some pieces of a beautiful Ash tree that he’d felled in his woods by the Welsh border. If you’ve seen his BBC4 series Tales from the Wild Wood, you may remember him felling a couple of large Ash trees, then attempting to find a use and suitable home for the hardwood they had yielded.

Rob had told us he was writing a book that details all of the practical uses and benefits that a tree such as the ash can yield (working title of Touch Wood – the story of the ash tree, it is out in 2015, published by Penguin) – and he proposed that we make some boards and spoons. Being big fans of wood – and Sascha also of bikes – we immediately loved the idea.

ROBPENN_ASH_1

In the spring, Sascha went down to pay him a visit and pick up the timber; have a chat, enjoy the peace and quiet, and discuss trees and bikes.

He came back with some rough pieces of ash and we set about the transformation. Such a lovely timber to work with, ash has a certain creaminess to it; a steady and regular grain, its also surprisingly hard.

We managed to yield 7 boards and 5 spoons from these pieces – as with our usual approach to board-making, almost nothing was wasted; the boards took on varied shapes to maximise the material we had.

ROBPENN_ASH_3

Once rough cut, the shaping and sanding begins – after many hours we ended up with these gleaming beauties!

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We’ve been inspired to work more with this favourite of British hardwoods – a future Hampson Woods Ash range? You never know!

If you’d like to know more about Rob and what he does, please look him up on Twitter (he tweets avidly!) or see more of him here;

http://www.robpenn.net/

A Note on Woodland Management

In Tales from the Wild Wood, once the ash was down, Rob brought an artistic turner, a commercial turner and a furniture maker out to have a look. Of those three, all were happy to take some off his hands – yet on a regular basis the commercial turner imported from abroad, and it was only the smaller-scale artisans who always bought British. The commercial turner just couldn’t afford to.

Sadly, woodland management in this country has been long ignored, and it is only lately that we are starting to plant and manage properly again. As a result, much of the timber used in this country is imported from europe and beyond, its provenance often unknown; sometimes its environmental certification dubious.

When sourcing timbers, we’ve found English Oak, for example, hard to find and often twice the price – we are almost always offered french oak, much more readily available. The difference in size between countries plays a big part, so too the clear-felling of the UK’s forest during WW1; but it is largely due to France’s consistent management of their hardwood forests, an old and patient approach that we sadly let slip – and which takes several generations to re-instate.

Thankfully there are people like Rob bringing this to our attention, and there are woodland managers all over the country doing justice to the beautiful hardwoods we have out there for our use. If the momentum continues, the future of British woodland could well be looking brighter!