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Friday 4 July 2014

Meeting Tim Gatfield at the Cherry Wood Project, a centre for green woodworking, practical woodland management and education

The Cherry Wood Project is situated near Marshfield in South Gloucestershire.

Eight years ago, Tim Gatfield began the sustainable woodland management project and he and his family live onsite, together with apprentices who stay and work alongside them.

The project has a strong emphasis on living with minimum impact on the environment and also on education, especially in using woodland products. There are several green woodworking courses run there every year and guests can stay in cabins next door.

Thursday is volunteer day and I travelled to Cherry Wood along with my friend Alex Arthur, an expert charcoal burner based around Bristol. Alex is regular visitor there and on this trip was planning to move and set up a charcoal kiln for a burn.

The morning was spent levelling an area for the kiln to sit on, then moving it down the slope from a previous site. It was hard work in the hot sun, but there was a very infectious enthusiasm amongst all the volunteers and I didn't hear any complaints.

It was clear that the people helping really enjoyed being there and the hard work was repaid by a great lunch of chilli, rice, bread and salad and also tea and delicious cake later in the day. The food was cooked in the wood-fired cob oven and hob on site.

After lunch, a group of disengaged young people helped with the kiln and there were plenty of people there, so I lent a hand cutting timber (milled on site from larch trees that grew in these woods) for a reciprocating roof on the new roundhouse.

After a while, there seemed to be enough folks to help there too, so it seemed like time to wander back towards where all the woodworking is done.

Tim (on the left in the picture below) and Charlie, one of the apprentices, were busy sharpening tools for an upcoming green woodworking course and it was definitely a good opportunity to help out. Sharpening carving knives is something that I can happily do all day!

It was also very interesting seeing Merlin nearby, bringing an old two-man saw back to the correct set and sharpness for use on hardwoods. Many of the folks there on Thursdays are obviously also fellow tool nuts and really enjoy discussing sharpening methods etc. I felt right at home!

When the saw was ready, he and Tim put it through its paces and it cut beautifully.

It was a great way to spend a Thursday and thanks to Tim and everyone else for making me so welcome. If you would like to volunteer, visit or are interested in a course, contact details can be found on the Cherry Wood website. I hope to be able to drop by again soon!

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