On a bright but chilly Friday morning a group of welly clad Londoners consisting of UK journalists, bloggers and the Heal's furniture team gathered outside Heals HQ. Ready for a woodland adventure into the Kent Countryside.
Reminiscent of a school trip we piled onboard a minibus; excited with the prospect of clean air and green fields. We were blessed with one of the first dry days of the year; the sun even poked out behind some clouds.
The purpose of our little excision was to join Designer Seb Cox and representatives of Grown in Britain, to learn more about our neglected British woodlands and how they can be sustainably managed to save our native woodland animals alongside harvesting a useful and exportable commodity.
We learnt that Ash is the new oak in furniture production and ranges like the new Cranborne collection, manufactured by UK company Benchmark are just the beginning.
One of Sebs beautifully crafted Suent Chairs were in pride of place near the hearth, this chair uses the same techniques as the Heal's Oak and Hazel Collection.
But we were just in the woods to learn there theories behind the husbandry of Woodland management we we're there to graft too. Part of Sebs long term commitment to this cause is buying and managing his own area of woodland by the ancient process of Coppicing. - which is cutting back the old growth to allow space for new straight rods to grow back. Clearing light to the woodland floor for the flowers as well as producing beautify straight pieces of timber that can be used from fences to furniture.
Wrapped up in multiple layers and fuelled on a big bowl of porridge we then we're put to task (after a short safety introduction about our tools for the day; a Bill Hook and Bow Saw).
The blue sky and warming rays were very welcome.
Smoke from our mountainous bonfire, created from the unusable treetops.
Huge tree scared by lightening.
Plenty of coat hooks for hanging those unwanted layers.
After several hours chopping away and using muscles I forgot I had, we stopped for a well deserved lunch break. Lovingly prepared by Sebs Nanna (and amazing cook) soup, homemade Scotch eggs and sausage rolls. Suitably full and spoilt we cracked on with the last felled tree of the day.
Curious of some other tools of the trade Seb had brought along we then had a spoon making demonstration; it looks much easier than it is in practice!
Sitting back to admire our achievement for the day by the crackling bonfire; over a cool bottle of beer and celebrating we still all had 10 digits!
Above; the fruits of our labour ready to be turned into furniture.
The cleared area of woodland, after our team effort.
As the sun began to disappear over the horizon we headed back to the minibus; a little more exhausted and muddier that us city dwellers are used to.
Rather like toddlers after a busy day we then promptly fell asleep on the way home!
A fantastic and educational day, big thankyou to everyone who made it possible.
For More information about Coppicing watch the video of Seb Cox below:
Sebastian Cox Furniture | Video