Benches from branches – 1st May 2022 volunteer day

Sunday’s volunteer day fell on May Day, around halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Spring showers and a warm breeze punctuated the morning as our volunteers arrived slowly and steadily to join in the day’s work.

There were two main tasks for the day: crafting benches for use around elfwoods, and making the new fire pit fire safe. Dylan, elfwoods’ woodland manager and Built by Artizans boss, joined us to lead volunteers in creating benches out of elfwoods sweet chestnut roundwood. After splitting logs we learned how to peel the bark and sapwood using a drawknife; and then how to affix the legs using mortise and tenon joints. As always children were welcomed to join in the day’s activities, and they were as keen to get involved in the woodwork as the adults. The timber had been felled some time ago and was somewhat twisted and knotted, so wasn’t the easiest to work with, but even so our volunteers did a superb job, and we now have some lovingly crafted benches to use around our new heathland fire pit.

A couple of the benches were completed in time for testing at lunchtime around the long established communal fire pit, where we shared a large pot of brown lentil dahl and rice while admiring our work. We always take breaks and chat throughout the day, but lunchtimes are a great chance to get to know new faces, catch up with other regular volunteers and build the elfwoods community.

More important overall, but with less tangible results was our work in making the new heathland fire pit fire safe. Heathland habitats house a particularly valuable ecosystem, and are especially susceptible to wildfire; so doing all we can to protect against fire risk is an essential task. Our volunteers worked to dig and clear the area around the fire pit to ensure that there’s no flammable organic matter such as peat and larger roots within spark range of the fire pit.

The day’s work slowly came to a halt late afternoon after volunteers peeled off home or regrouped around the fire for a rest and chat, which went on well into the evening. Logs that we processed and didn’t have time to finish off into benches were stored ready to be assembled at a future date so they can be used around our woodland campsite.

If you enjoy spending your free time in a stunning natural setting engaged in satisfying work with like-minded others, why not join us? Contact us if you’d like to come along to the next elfwoods volunteer day, or join our mailing list below to find out about future volunteer days.