IF YOU GO DOWN TO THE WOODS TODAY
As part of the team that has created the Grown in Britain Tree to Table autumn season in Heal’s Tottenham Court Road store, I have to keep pinching myself that it’s actually real. Why so? Well it is has been hard to imagine, let alone find, a high street retailer willing to have logs, boards and wood chip spread across their beautiful shop floor.
But of course Heal’s has been alongside Grown in Britain from the start of our campaign just a few short years ago and they remain a strong advocate for our cause that promotes home-grown wood products from the UK’s well managed woodlands and forests.
Having been born and brought up under the enchanting woods that endlessly traced the western edge of the Cotswolds my connection to trees, forests and wood as a material was engrained into my DNA.
My first work place was the wonderful tranquillity of the woods of the Blackdown hills in Somerset, with lime, ash and oak trees swirling around me in mixtures with the magnificent Douglas fir as I removed bracken from around the young trees planted in the glades created by earlier harvests.
It was at that point that the importance of the virtuous cycle of: create, tend, harvest and recreate came alive for me alongside the flowers and insects that thrived in the sunlight clearings.
I feel privileged to have had a full career in forestry but I am acutely aware that many in society struggle to link the wood products in their daily lives to the management of woodlands and many will never ask “where is this wood from”.
However, I suspect the customers of Heal’s have a more enlightened view on such things. The Heal’s stores oozes with connections to nature and the materials in the products often get equal billing to the profile of the ultimate design.
Then there is the focus on the people involved in crafting the products and especially the wooden furniture that glows with the understanding and respect that they have for the material. When battling the elements to grow quality trees for them to use, it’s rewarding to know the material is in good hands.
As part of Grown in Britain Week 2015 Heal’s is showcasing its new Tree-to-Table project and telling the forest to furniture story in a thought provoking window display. It includes a story of the ash tree to ash table. You can see the round logs cut from the stem of the tree, and in sequence, the sawn boards with the bark on ready for drying, followed by the square edged planks clean, creamy in colour and ready for the furniture makers skilfully held tools.
The Heal’s celebration of wood is further augmented by items harvested from Scottish Larch, Sussex Oak and Dorset Beech, to name but a few. The flagship store is full of amazing wooden furniture and other items beautifully designed and crafted.
So if you go down to the woods today, take a look around you there is plenty in disguise. The oaks are tables, floorboards and beams and the conifers are houses, windows and shelves. Relax in the setting and enjoy your picnic, with or without teddy bears, and should you hear the sound of a forester at work …just smile and remember it’s part of the Tree to Table virtuous, sustainable and renewable …….circle of life.
Dougal Driver is a Forester and a founding member of Grown in Britain